Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has expressed fury and disappointment over the threat by the Baale of Igbara community in Etiosa Local Government Area of Lagos State, who vowed to deal with any Igbo resident in the area that fails to vote for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the forthcoming polls.
Ohanaeze in a strongly worded press statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, reminded the monarch that Ndigbo were never scared by threat or intimidation.
It also called for the arrest and prosecution of the monarch as a deterrent to others.
“The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to remarks made by one Baale of Igbara community, Jakande, in Eti-Osa LGA of Lagos State to the effect that “only residents who have their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs and and ready to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) would be allowed to do business with them in the community.”
“He made the remarks while addressing his cabinet on Monday, January 30, 2023. The traditional ruler added: “We are ready to fight; yes, I am not hiding it; I have narrated everything to you. In Nigeria, there is Lagos; in Lagos, there is Eti-Osa; within Eti-Osa, we have Igbara community and by the grace of God in Igbara today, we can take our decision.
“The Baale went on to say: “You want to vote for PDP or Labour Party? Not here…,”among others.
Ohanaeze recalled that in April 2015, the Oba of Lagos, His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu was quoted to have threatened the Igbo living in Lagos that “anyone that fails to vote for the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), would perish in the lagoon.”
“Although His Majesty was able to restore the Igbo confidence in him when the late Ambassador George Obiozor, the former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide led an Igbo delegation to pay him a visit with respect to one spurious and frivolous allegation against the Igbo in Lagos State, yet the remark by His Majesty is to say the least, most unwarranted,” Ohanaeze said.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation said that “although the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Benjamin Hundeyin, is quoted to have stated that “the traditional ruler will be invited for questioning.”
Ohanaeze called on the presidential candidate of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, security agencies and indeed the lovers of democracy in Nigeria, to caution the Baale “for such unreflective, provocative, incendiary and inflammatory remarks by a Baale in Lagos State.”
The statement further read: “The Baale should be made to understand that Nigeria has gone beyond such careless and inciting rhetoric as: “We are ready to fight; yes, I am not hiding it…”
“The Baale and his cohorts may know why the fight will begin but will surely not know how, where, when and in whose favour the fight will end. In other decent climes, the said Baale should be arrested and detained until the election is over. This will serve as a deterrent to some other ethnic chauvinists, crises entrepreneurs, hoodlums and low opportunists.”
Ohanaeze noted with detest that few days ago, hoodlums in Lagos State attacked supporters of the Labour party said to be on their way to Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) — the venue of the party’s presidential campaign rally.
“The hoodlums were said to have targeted the supporters to prevent them from attending the Labour Party rally. Some of the supporters had their clothing torn to shreds, while others sustained various degrees of injury during the incident. The report further indicates that lives were lost. This is one of the outcome of the Baale incantations.”
It further noted with deep concern that “most recently, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Mr. Segun Agbaje, stated that the reason the Igbo in Lagos cannot have their PVC is that they are from the South-East part of the country, inferring that they are immigrants; in what Dr. Bolaji O Akinyemi criticized as a “Conspiracy against Democracy: INEC REC; Segun Agbaje’s Outburst, Other Matters Arising,” and thus accused the INEC REC of being complicit in a plan to disenfranchise the Igbo in Lagos.
“The erudite Akinyemi asked: “How can the head of the umpire be the echo of the unreasonable voice of street touts against the Igbo.
“In Segun Agbaje’s mindset the Igbo aren’t citizens of Nigeria in Lagos, but immigrants who must be denied access to rights of citizens in Lagos. Segun has joined force with market touts and Area boys demanding that Alaba traders should return to Onitsha.”
The statement said that the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador Okey Emuchay, had expressed disappointment that some people would descend so low at this level of our national development.
“One would expect that soliciting votes in a democracy requires the greatest public relations skill such as persuasion, entreaties, lobbying and the like. Nigerians are informed that there is this spirit that emboldens and stirs the passion, soul, and attitude of the average Igbo, which once it is sufficiently provoked, becomes irrepressible.
“For instance, the first major freedom march in America’s history was by the Igbo. Known as the Igbo Landing, the Igbo slaves in 1803 chose to die than live a life of misery and slavery. They took control of the ship conveying them from a Spanish captain, Joseph Cinqué, and drowned everybody including the captain at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia, USA.
“In other words, self-esteem, achievement motivation, resourcefulness, hard work, forthrightness, tenacity, friendliness and cosmopolitanism are the hallmarks of the Igbo persona, but to threaten the Igbo is to embolden them to the contrary.
“Intimidation is not only antithetical to democratic norms but a source of allergy to the natural Igbo reflexes.
“In spite of all the orchestrated conspiracy, machinations and deprivations against the Igbo, and now the Labour Party and Mr Peter Obi, the initiated will easily realise that there is a mystic wind blowing across the land; a wind that does not recognise the rigid human barriers of ethnicity, religion, gender, class or creed; a wind of redemption from poverty, corruption, inequity and other pathologies that have held Nigeria down for several decades; a cosmic wind that attracts the virtuous as it overwhelms the vicious.
“In the words of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the blessed memory, “only the deep can call to the deep.”
Ohanaeze, therefore, urged the Igbo in Lagos and indeed everywhere “to ignore all forms of retrogressive subversive shenanigans and stand up for your rights.”