A Lagos socialite adopted Bola Ahmed Tinubu the second civilian governor of Lagos State, but his ‘roots’ are in Iragbiji in present-day Osun State.
For as long as anyone could remember, Lagos has been called the real Naija. Lasgidi as its millennials fondly named it is the only state that accepts all comers. Its rich history of multiculturalism is an enviable badge of honour for its residents and the envy of other states and towns.
It’s first executive governor, Lateef Kayode Jakande is a Muslim whose forebears hailed from Omu-Aran in present day Kwara State. After winning the elections under the UPN flag in 1979, Jakande ran what some have described as unparalleled government and people-impacting governance to date. His ancestral root was not a subject of electioneering.
A Lagos socialite adopted Bola Ahmed Tinubu the second civilian governor of Lagos State, but his ‘roots’ are in Iragbiji in present-day Osun State. As governor, Tinubu assembled the best hands he could lay his hands on. Tunji Bello one of his commissioners is my kinsman from Kogi State. James Faleke, another cousin and freshly minted representative of the ruling APC for Ikeja Federal Constituency has his roots in Kogi State. In 2015, Faleke contested elections into Kogi government house. Lagos has mostly politicked to the left of the political spectrum – from UPN to AD and now APC. Joe Igbokwe, an Igbo has lived in Lagos basically all his life, and held political and appointive positions.
Ethnic politics, the bane of many states that began pre-2015 could only destroy the cosmopolitan ethos of a vibrant city. You could describe Lagos as that state where white people could balance with tuwo, where a Lebanese could teach a Yorubaman to do justice to abacha and ugba, while the Hausaman could tutor the Chinese to devour amala and gbegiri, because Lagos is the human melting pot.
It diminishes Nigeria to hear arguments for and against Lagos as a – No Man’s Land. Of course there is no such thing even in Kano where such a quarter is so named. The ancestral owners of an area know themselves. The earth is the Lord’s as land belongs to those who live on it, admitted they don’t ‘own’ it.
The layman’s understanding of the Land Use Act gives ownership to the Omo Onile – those whose ancestors have lived somewhere. Only where a land is appropriated for government use are ownership divested. Even at that, those with ancestral claims to the lands are adequately compensated along with those with tangible and intangible stakes in it. There are no indications that the Igbo or any other resident of Lagos arrogate to themselves the rights to sell the lands on which they live but do not own. Even where people have acquired stakes in a piece of land with certificates of occupancy to prove, lease on lands expire in 100 years, subject to renewal or refusal. So, why are we in this destructive campaign that seems to pitch one ethnic nationality against the other?
In 2019, old-time neighbours, schoolmates and even in-laws are up in arms against each other for political gains. Politics is a recurrent game that is equally ephemeral. We have a federation, albeit a contrived one. It provides that citizens are free to go and live, work and thrive anywhere they please. That provision has not changed. The average human just wants to live, work and thrive wherever fate takes them.
Naija citizens born and bred in our shores have found residency everywhere in the world. Seven members of the current British parliament are Nigerians by descent, elected to serve in their own country irrespective of their ancestral links. In Canada and America, citizens of Nigerian descent are elected into municipal and other levels of government making laws for the order and good government of their adopted homes without losing their ancestral roots. Hordes of us are waiting for adoption as citizens of other nations that have never heard of our parental ancestry. Others constantly knock on the door of embassies in the hope of finding greener pastures while a few are so brilliant other nations are begging to naturalize them for their talents.
It is extremely shameful that at a time when the black race face racism and discrimination forcing them to look to Africa as their ancestral home, those living in the continent are fighting ethno-nationalistic wars. When was any party founded on ethnic lines?
It is shameful that those who condemn xenophobic attacks in South Africa are at the base of this Lagos-Is-Not-A-No-Man’s-Land debacle. It is disturbing that those who are quick to condemn the resurgence of extreme right radicalisation in Europe and the Americas; whose siblings hold dual citizenship of other nations join in fueling the embers of ethnic cant. It is disheartening that the ori ade, or crown heads who should embrace all humans are at the fulcrum of this debasement. It is shameful that those who ought to condemn this nonsense are either complicitly silent, or stoking it.
Lagos is big enough to accommodate its inhabitants, and people are free to vote as they please. There is no evidence that any ethnic nationality engage in block votes. The inalienable right of people to vote as their conscience dictates is not just a democratic right, it is a right guaranteed under international law everywhere. This nonsense should stop already.
Written for DailyTrust by Tunde Asaju