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On bigotry and ethnic jingoism

The last few weeks have been terrible to deal with on Nigerian social media. From the trending “Lagos is not a no man’s land”, which…

The last few weeks have been terrible to deal with on Nigerian social media. From the trending “Lagos is not a no man’s land”, which is basically a dog whistle to some ‘purer’ Lagos from which all non-Yorubas are excluded, to an increase in belligerent, outright ethnic jingoism, the likes of which I had never noticed before. If there ever was a time I felt completely crushed by Nigeria, it’s now. Were I smarter, I’d have muted all mentions of elections and Nigeria on my social media feed. Or perhaps I am a glutton for punishment.

My heart is so sick from the sheer amount of vitriol I’ve read from young and old(er) people alike who have determined that these elections were a referendum on who is qualified to rule Nigeria and who belongs, particularly in Lagos. It feels like most of what I want to say, I have said already, and I was going to let this go until I saw two tweets: one by Mr Bayo Onanuga and the other by Mr Reno Omokri (retweeted by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode).

Tinubu’s campaign spokesman and veteran journalist, Mr Bayo Onanuga, co-founder of The News magazine’s incendiary tweet was this: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigerian state. It is not No Man’s Land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business.” And then a few hours later, he doubled down on it.

First of all, what does he mean by “Igbo interference in Lagos politics?” The Labour Party gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Gbadegbo Rhodes-Vivour has an Igbo mother and an Igbo wife, and those seem to count against his “Yorubaness”. I read tweets from even young people who threw his Igbo name, Chinedu, at him as if it were an accusation of wrongdoing.

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So, is Igbo interference that GRV was running for governor? Is it that Igbo people wanted to exercise their rights and vote? So Onanuga was in support of Igbos and “Igbo-looking” people allegedly being kicked out of voting queues and being disenfranchised? What stupidity is this? What dangerous stupidity is this? And what business are Ndi Igbo supposed to be minding that precludes them from voting and living in whichever part of Nigeria they choose to?

In this 21st century where Nigerians abroad are enjoying the full rights of the citizens of their new homes, including voting and running for political office, it is wild to me that as a Nigerian-born Belgian, I could successfully run for a political position; that as a Nigerian-born American, I could imagine doing so again in the US but as a Nigerian in Lagos? If anyone had told me before these past elections that even to vote as an Igbo in Lagos might be problematic, I would have laughed the person out. And yet this is where we are.

Reno Omokri, aka Mr Gold Nugget, posted “Don’t stay in Lagos and benefit from the leadership, infrastructure, and economy Lagosians built over time, yet carry resentment towards them. You threaten violence and de-market Lagos on social media. You have options. Behave or relocate.” And FKK not only agreed with him but wrote a whole treatise I wasn’t in the mood to read on why.

How are Lagosians determined? Who are the Lagosians who developed/are developing Lagos if not the ones who live there and are paying taxes there? How do these small-minded men think the city developed? Imagine asking Nigerians to “behave or relocate” for asking that they be allowed to exercise their rights? Make it make sense biko.

And for those interested in history, in 2017, the Oba of Lagos wrote on Lagos (not being Yoruba land at least,) “Modern day Lagos was founded by Prince Ado, the son of the Oba of Benin, Prince Ado was the first Oba of Lagos, the son of the Bini King, Prince Ado, named the town Eko until the Portuguese explorer Ruy de Segueira changed the Maritime town to Lagos, which at that time from 1942 was Portuguese expedition centre down the African Coast…About 1450 AD some Yorubas who hailed from Isheri in Ogun-state and Ekiti were allowed by the King to settle in Eko during a war, they came in very large numbers thereby surpassing the numbers of the Awori’s and Bini’s. (Hence Yorubas claim to own Eko due to their numbers).”

Despite the pain of these past few weeks, the Nigeria project is one I am still committed to. I will not tear my passport like I’ve seen some folks do on social media. I will not renounce my citizenship. I will not give up on Nigeria. I will not allow the dangerous and divisive rhetoric of some hateful individuals to taint my love for the country I call home. Instead, I will focus on the good that Naija produces and continue to speak out against hatred and bigotry. One day, one day, we will sha get it right. 


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