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Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya, former Secretary to the Government of Lagos State, rues the flaring of tribal sentiments over the so-called deportation of some destitutes to Anambra State by the Lagos State Government, saying it is not the time to erect barriers where none is needed …
For a few weeks now, I have diligently followed the saga that has trailed the issue erroneously tagged “deportation” of destitutes to Anambra State. I have also read numerous comments and views of Nigerians from various walks of life – Femi Fani-Kayode; Femi Falana (SAN); my brother, Chief Ojo Maduekwe; Eric Osagie, Okechukwu Isiguzo, the Secretary, Ohaneze Youth Organization; Ogwuwike Nwachukwu. Also, the reaction of His Excellency, Governor Peter Obi, a gentleman I hold in high esteem, notwithstanding that we do not belong to the same political party.
The issue at stake is quite close to my heart for obvious reasons – while Lagos State is my state of origin; the other, Anambra – in the South-Eastern part of the country – for me is home. It is one part of the country I feel closely affiliated to. Sincerely, I have no apologies for this. I am also an incurable supporter of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola and totally passionate about Lagos
I have been amused by most of what I read and let me also add that I sincerely respect all the views that have been expressed because each and every one of the commentators and writers have a strong ground on which their respective arguments are premised.
In as much as I see myself as a huge supporter of genuine comments expressed on the grounds that individuals are entitled to their own opinions, I dare ask here and now – have we not honestly created a mountain from a little heap of sand?
In going into the fray it is important for me to make it clear from the onset that it is erroneous for some people to claim Lagos is a “no man’s land” or that “the Igbos developed Lagos” as such statements could be likened to making the truth stand on its head. I have heard several opinions on this issue over the years but never wanted to join issues. At this point in time, I must express my strong views on this. Whether people want to accept it or not, there are indigenous people in Lagos State and bonafide Lagosians for that matter. The Centre of Excellence has served the Nigerian nation well and the fact that the state has been so accommodating is no license to be labeled a “no man’s land”. I am an indigene of Lagos State and I am proud to be one; so was my father, the Late Otunba (Dr.) Adeniran Ogunsanya (SAN) and generations before him. Non indigenes come in here, make a success of their business enterprise as well as their political aspirations and at times go back to their state of origin to contest elections. Many make it a ritual to return home to spend the Eid-El kabir holidays; Christmas and New Year festivities. It is also non-indigenes who return home to be counted during census; it is also non-indigenes who return home to register for electioneering purposes. But as indigenes we remain here because, for us, this is our beloved home; we have no other place to run to and in all sincerity, we are proud of our Lagos.
One only needs to take a cursory look at successful indigenous Lagosians who have played prominent national roles to appreciate the fact that Lagos indeed belongs to some people; the late Herbert Macaulay; Ibiyinka Olorunnibe; Ibikunle Akintoye; Fagbenro Beyioku; the Bensons; the Johnsons; I. S. Adewale; S.O. Gbadamosi; Oba Adeniji Adele; Oba Adeyinka Oyekan; Alhaji Lateef Jakande; Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony; the Cardosos; the Gomez family; the Gbajabiamilas; the Tinubus; the Keshinros; the Shitta Beys; the Fasholas; the Animashauns; the Fasinros; the Obanikoros; the Alli Baloguns; the Anibabas; the Williams’; the Philips; the Ojoras; the Kosokos; the Dosunmus; the Oluwas; the Olotos; the Ajose-Adeoguns; the Taiwo Olowos; the Sasores; the Disus; the Kekere-Ekuns; the Durosinmi-Ettis; the Olusis; the Okis; to mention just a few.
Before this trend of argument is read wrongly, let me quickly point out that I share in the strong belief that once you live in a place and pay your taxes regularly, have properties and investments there, you have a stake in what goes on and are entitled to all the privileges in that environment.
There is something an uncle of mine told me before he died some years back and I have played it over and over in my mind since this saga started. He had said to me that if you visit someone’s home and your host tells you that you are free to explore the environment and feel free to do as you wish in his home, common sense and good behaviour will make it clear to you that this is not your home but the home of your host and you would know that his bedroom, possibly his study and his wife’s kitchen are out of limits. And I dare say you won’t go into his garage and start using his cars as you wish without his permission. It is just common etiquette. Simply put, what my uncle was trying to say is that any decent person would know his or her limitations.
Those who wrongly call Lagos a ‘no man’s Land’ must have probably based their argument on the input of the Federal Government to the development of Lagos, but even at that, the federal largesse was restricted to the Federal Capital Territory which does not cover the entirety of Lagos State. The same largesse was extended, simultaneously to other cities across the country – Kano; Jos; Kaduna; Port-Harcourt; Calabar (also once the capital of Nigeria); Enugu; Onitsha. How come these locations are not labeled ‘no man’s land’? Even in the present Federal Capital Territory, Abuja which is predominantly Gwariland, special attention is given to the indigenous people when it comes to nomination for elections, etc. Let me also say at this point, that if the truth be told, Lagos State has no indigenous representative in President Jonathan’s Executive Council as presently constituted. We only hope that this imperfection will be corrected in 2015.
It is imperative to stress that the Igbos and Lagosians have a long history. A good number of commentators who have had cause to join the fray have also gone down memory lane to dig up historical facts – Femi Fani-Kayode; the respected lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana; Akin Ajose-Adeogun; Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene; Orji Uzor Kalu; Tony Oganah (Ohaneze’s spokesman) have gone back into history to put the records straight. But for me, we need not go that far. If you grew up in Lagos, you would remember Madame Mercy Eneli; Ibezim Obiajulu and Moronu– all the three personages were councilors who won election into the Lagos Town Council and served Lagos. It is on the strength of their meritorious service to the city of Lagos that streets were named after them in Surulere (new Lagos). Several non-indigenes have contested elections and Lagos voted for them. It is also refreshing to note that Yorubas, Hausas and Igbos trade side-by-side in various markets and streets in Lagos. A few weeks ago, I visited a customer of mine in central Lagos. What amazed me was that when my customer discovered that he did not have what I wanted, he called out to one Bayo: “my customer wants to buy some discs but I have run out of stock”. I bought from Bayo and my customer Chike was happy. This, to me, is a clear case that there is no tribal discrimination; after all there were other Igbos in the vicinity who had what I wanted. Chike didn’t call any of his kinsmen who were near him but reached out to a Yoruba trader, called Bayo.
When the civil war broke out my friends and I did not understand why some of our friends had to leave. And when they did return, we were excited to see our friends back again; though I lost a very dear friend and still miss her till today.
When African Continental Bank (ACB) came into being as a result of the joint effort of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and some prominent Lagosians amongst who was Papa Abibu Oki. This enabled indigenous businessmen an avenue to access loans to enhance their businesses. Lagos has never discriminated against the Igbos – we enjoy the same facilities. Not even during the civil war did we go out to hunt down the Igbos. Over the years, we have intermarried and have lived side-by-side in harmony. I will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Igbos whenever I can – my heart will always be with Igboland; I have no choice because they vindicated my dad’s stance and bade him farewell in a befitting way. Besides, I have too many people from the South-East who are family to me.
While lessons have been learnt from this saga, it is my candid wish that this issue is summarily settled. I feel and pray that as we all go into the year 2014 and cruise along into elections that we are careful; that we do not spread tribal disaffections in the course of electioneering campaigns, the quest for political offices and people should definitely not take advantage of this issue because of personal beef. We must lay gutter tactics to rest and discuss issues. I repeat, the populace is becoming more and more politically aware and watchful. Therefore, there is a need to tell the people what we have to offer and desist from this verbal war politicians have embarked upon. For me, any disaffection between the South-East and South-West or any other ethnic group for that matter will be an uncomfortable and painful development for our nation. Nigeria has more serious and pressing problems at hand to deal with. Please, don’t let us blow this out of proportion.