|A Rejoinder: On The Igbos – Of Femi Fani-Kayode’s Ignorance And A Proud Display Of It By Ayokunle Odekunle|
Through the course of my stay on this earth, albeit short, and my interaction with people both good and bad, I have learnt one very important lesson: IGNORE IGNORANT PEOPLE.
However, in as much as one might be tempted to ignore the ignorant, it is imperative to call them to order for some reasons. Firstly, ignorance could be contagious. Once an ignorant person basks in the euphoria of his ignorance and is proud of it, others are tempted to emulate him; thus, ignorance spreads. Again, I know I will be accountable to God on judgment day and if I fail in my duties to call an ignorant person to order and stop the spread of ignorance, I will have committed an infamita (heinous crime in Sicilian language).
I read Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode’s article titled “Lagos, The Igbos and the Servants of Truth” with mixed feelings. At the same time I was sad at the way he derided the Igbos, angry at his proud display of ignorance, irritated by the arrogant tone which swept through the write-up and then a strong urge to ‘educate’ him a bit.
I felt worse with the feeling that Mr. Fani-Kayode would have given himself imaginary pats on the back for that poorly written write-up which is devoid of logic but instead laced with half-truths and vexatious fallacies.
Before going further, I should state here that I am Yoruba like Mr. Fani-Kayode and I have no Igbo roots whatsoever. I however have a strong aversion for distortion of facts and injustice. To me, his piece is just a subtle continuation of the injustice, ill treatment and maltreatment the Igbos have been made to undergo in Nigeria right from Independence till now.
Perusing through his article, I have only been able to decipher one message which is that ; THE IGBOS DID NOT DEVELOP LAGOS.
Before I distill my issues for determinations and go into the nitty-gritty of my argument, I have to inform my dear readers of the background facts that led to his infamous write-up.
Sometime last week, it was reported that 76 Igbos were ‘deported’ from Lagos to Onitsha, Anambra State. The Lagos State Government felt that as destitutes, they should go back ‘home’ but the 76 ‘deportees’ still claim that they do not qualified to be called destitutes.
While arguments have gone back and forth on this subject, I refrained from joining issues with anybody in as much as I am so disgusted that one can now be ‘intra-deported’. It means Governor Ajimobi of my state can now deport Hausas back to their states? I find the idea utterly classless.
I expected Fani-Kayode as a lawyer to state his case as regards the deportation issue, only for him to start go on about ‘How Igbos did not develop Lagos’. To me, that is akin to acute ethnocentrism.
These following issues formed the basis of his write-up and I would attempt to showcase why his arguments and postulations should be dismissed with a mere wave of the hand.
- Are The Igbos not the most industrious people in Nigeria?
- What really have the Yoruba contributed to the growth of Lagos State?
- Was Lagos developed by Yoruba money?
- Should The Igbos consider it a ‘favour’ from the Yorubas that they were allowed to claim back their properties after the civil war?
- Is Lagos a no-man’s land?
Are the Igbos the most illustrious and industrious tribe in Nigeria? Without thinking twice or mincing words, I will say YES!
I believe that only a deliberately mischievous person will question the illustriousness of the Igbos. The Igbos are so illustrious that they are capable of turning nothing into something. While they have their vices (like every tribe), the spread like ants wherever one of them settles and they bring nothing but economic development to the place.
Perhaps, no greater example of Igbo illustriousness abounds than the Civil war story. After the Civil war, Obafemi Awolowo who was a Minister in charge of the Economy under Gowon formulated a rather wicked, inhuman and obnoxious policy which was that Igbos, no matter how much they were worth before the civil war will only be given 20 POUNDS to start life with.
Still, the Igbos survived and within a short time, with the paltry 20 pounds aided with some uncommon common sense, the Igbos shot up back to the top of the Economic ladder and controlled major sector of the Nation’s economy of which Lagos forms the fulcrum.
What really have my fellow Yorubas contributed to Lagos State? What have they contributed to Lagos State that they have not been able to contribute to Ibadan, Osogbo, Ekiti and Akure? Apart from being Academicians and brilliant administrators, I dare say that the Yorubas have not contributed anything of note economically to Lagos State.
From the Big Banks in Victoria Island, to the Computer Village in Ikeja, to Ladipo Spare Sparts Market, to Alaba International Market, the Igbos hold the reins of the major economic activity in Lagos State. My Yoruba brothers are more of ‘subsistence business men’.
Was Lagos developed by the Yoruba money? No! Let us not forget that Lagos has always been the major city in Nigeria right from when the Europeans found their way into West Africa. Lagos has always gulped majority of Nigeria’s budget which has been used to make the State a major one.
Let us not also forget that Lagos State was built was oil money. As Capital city of the country, special attention was paid to the aesthetical growth and infrastructural development of the state.
The Igbos with their uncountable and numerous investments in the State have also made the State’s economy particularly buoyant. If I may refresh our memories, Nigeria’s first Millionaire, Late Sir Louis Ojukwu had majority of his investments in Lagos (many of which are still in Apapa) ,while the Yorubas were still doing small-scale business.
Till now, Lagos gets the bulk of Federal allocations and is also home to many Multi-Nationals, many of whom have Igbos as core investors. Mr Fani-Kayode’s claim that Lagos was built “through our (Yorubas) hard work and money” is both spurious and outrightly laughable.
In the 3rd paragraph of his article, he said “Meanwhile the Yoruba of the old Western Region and Lagos were very gracious to them and not only allowed them to return after the civil war to claim their properties….” I find this particular assertion appalling.
What is the gracious act in allowing me take back what is mine? What was the favour the Yoruba people did to the Igbos by allowing take back their properties in Lagos after the civil war? So if the Yoruba people were not going to be ‘gracious’, what would they have done? Seize the properties? Claim ownership of property that they did not work for?
Again, Mr Fani-Kayode while trying to appear as overly smart has only succeeded in putting in Italics a question mark over his claim to be a ‘Nationalist’. Nationalists don’t come up with the above quotation as it negate everything a Nationalist and non-biased Nigerian should be.
Is Lagos a no man’s land? Yes… and No!
I said No because Historically, Lagos State is a Yoruba state and a Yoruba State it shall remain. No matter how long visitors stay in Lagos, they will at the end of the day go back home while the real indigenes will stay behind.
However, I am saying Yes because due to the influx of Nigerians from all tribes into Lagos and also due to the massive investment they have made in Lagos, it will only be fair to say that Lagos cannot be called a Yoruba State per se. I believe Lagos is Nigeria’s center where the bulk of money is made and expended on. You cannot keep calling Lagos a ‘Yoruba’ state when it was built to its current enviable state through the efforts of ALL Nigerians and also with the generous input of Oil money; Money made from the improvished Niger-Delta.
I make it bold to say that Mr.Fani-Kayode with his write-up has only cemented the wide notion that he is an unrepentant ethnocentric and eccentric, who believes his race to be superior to all others. While a little ‘patriotism’ is not bad, one should not close his eyes to the truth and cold hard facts.
I also believe that as a one-time Federal Minister, he should know better than to insult the sensitivity of a particular ethnic group. In as much as Mr Fani-Kayode is short of people who see him as role models, it will still be a gross disservice to the very little who see him as role models because all they will be gaining from their role model is pure, crude, unrefined and undiluted ignorance.
On a last note, I affirm the theme of my write-up which is ; The Igbos do not deserve what was meted on them in the past, what is being meted on them now by the Lagos State Government and Mr. Fani-Kayode. I believe Nigeria owes a lot of its economic development to the Igbos and they should be honoured, not dishonoured.
From Chinedu who left Abakaliki to sell spare parts in Lagos, to Nnamdi who has decided to be the majority shareholder in a multinational which has its headquarters in Lagos and which pays tax to the Lagos State Government, to Eloka who left Anambra to become a film Producer in Lagos, to all countless Igbos who are toiling hard to make it in Lagos, while contributing to making Lagos what it is today, they deserve our utmost commendation and not condemnation.
Ayokunle Odekunle tweets from @0ddy4real