I just read Chimamanda Adiche’s take on the statement made by the Oba of Lagos and the response to it by the various sections of Nigeria’s population. I have a few strong opinions on the matter that I have shared in discussions online and with friends at school.
First, I think Adiche has made the same mistake that a lot of other non-Yoruba have been making from the onset of this matter; that what the Oba said was a threat. I have watched the video recording of the Oba making that statement and what I heard was definitely not a threat. As a number of other Yoruba traditional rulers have said, the statements were made in the context of Yoruba traditional lore and beliefs. As Yoruba, we believe that going against the crown is a crime against the Gods and that punishment will be meted out by them to people guilty of such disobedience. Perishing in the lagoon simply happens to be the Lagos version of that punishment. In the Nigerian context, what the Oba said was a “curse” and not a threat.
My conclusion here was further buttressed by the reaction of the Igbo leaders present when the Oba made those statements. If like myself, you watched videos of the event after having read the torrent of reactions online, you must have been surprised to see the Igbo leaders beaming and clapping at intervals as the Oba made the supposed threats. I’d like to believe that it’s another example of Igbo adaptability and strong-mindedness to be able to smile and clap while someone threatens you with drowning in the lagoon, somehow though, I doubt it. What is more likely is that unlike the misguided ethnic gladiators online, they were able to read the Oba’s inflections and deduce that there was no threat in what he was saying.
Here, it is worthy of note that the Igbo leaders actually paid the visit to the Oba of their own volition in order to reconcile with him after voting contrary to his stand in the presidential elections, effectively apologizing for voting for Goodluck Jonathan, “their man.” Even after the whole hullaballoo from his “threats”, I read that they’ve paid another visit to him. What this tells me is that rather than being coerced or threatened to vote in a particular way today, the Igbo community is desperately making efforts to avert further political isolation by cozying up to the favored party in Lagos state. My point here is that there is no question of anyone trying to deprive the Igbo people of their rights to vote for whoever they want, rather, it was all politicking with its usual bluster and hot air. The Oba would never have gone to the Eze Ndigbo’s home to “threaten” him with the lagoon.
About being equal in Lagos, it is funny how it is in times like this that our brothers down south remember that Nigeria is one and we all have equal rights in it. When it comes to making noise about resource control, or threatening to blow oil pipelines if Jonathan does not win, the “One Nigeria” rhetoric becomes as invisible as the 2nd Niger Bridge. The Igbos do not need to be grateful to anyone for living and working in any part of Nigeria, but a level of respect for their hosts and their traditional institutions is called for. The old tune of “Lagos is no man’s land” is too puerile and insipid for me to engage in discourse about.
If I sound somewhat biased, it is because I am Yoruba, and I am offended. Nobody with even a little honesty can claim to have been oblivious to the venomous outpour of vitriol and hatred that has been launched against Yoruba people since the announcement that Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid. In the past few days, I have been insulted too many times to count by people of South Eastern and South Southern extraction. Words like betrayer, Yorubastard and Ndi Ofe mmanu have become daily staples of my interactions online. Add that to the insults being hurled at the Oba of Lagos and you should understand why I am very, very angry.
We are in Nigeria together, whether we like it or not, and it is the civic duty of every Nigerian to play his part in ensuring peace and stability. Provoking people from other tribes is a failure in this. The Oba of Lagos and the Igbo community in Lagos have equally failed. The time is right for both sides to shut up; go out to vote for their candidates of choice; wait for the announcement of the winner and work hand in hand with whoever that is to build Lagos to a better place for all Nigerians.