The presidential result in Lagos State was very confounding. Nobody expected it to be “too close.” The All Progressives Congress (APC) scored 792, 460 while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scored 632, 327. The difference between the two rival parties was 160, 133. But this may not be as serious as the loss of six House of Representatives seats by the APC to the PDP. The All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the federal constituencies in Amuwo Odofin, Ojo, Oshodi/Isolo, Surulere 1 and Ajeromi/Ifelodun to the PDP, while Accord Party, a seemingly insignificant party in Lagos, trounced the APC in Mushin. The greatest shocker was the emergence and victory of two Igbo candidates, namely Mrs. Rita Orji (Ajeromi/Ifelodun Federal Constituency) and Mr. Tony Nwoolu (Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency). Both of them are members of the PDP.
This emerging scenario in particular has thrown up a mind-blowing political configuration in Lagos politics with the Igbo becoming the beautiful bride that is being toasted by both the APC and PDP. The Igbo votes have become so crucial and critical to the victory of Akinwunmi Ambode or Jimi Agbaje. The political space is now being shared by the indigenes and the Igbo, which means political power no longer lies in the hands of the indigenes alone.
Perplexed by this outcome, Lagosians in both parties have found themselves lobbying the Igbo, whose major objective for coming to Lagos was to explore business opportunities, to use their votes to either stabilise or destabilise extant political arrangement. While the APC is satisfied with the existing political order, that is, progressivism, the PDP is calling for the installation of conservatism, a political philosophy that is not progress and development friendly. By sheer providence, the Igbo are now actively and practically involved in the process and debate for a new political order. In fact, they have become a critical factor in the discourse on progressivism and conservatism. Ordinarily, the indigenes, irrespective of the parties they belong, should have reached an agreement that will engender cooperation on the issue or even decide to allow a new political order to evolve based on local templates and models. However, things have changed.
Theoretically, the people of Lagos seem to have identified themselves with the progressive ideology, but now, the intervention of the Igbo is likely to cause some disequilibrium in ideological denomination. The danger in allowing third party interference in an existing political arrangement is the possibility of a conflict erupting between contending political forces.
Emboldened by the electoral power conferred on them by their large number, the Igbo appear to have some kind of intimidating political cohesion that is making the two parties to look for how to appease them. As an aside, in his desperation to appease the Igbo in his private capacity, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu 1, at a gathering with some select leaders of the Igbo in Lagos State, was said to have issued what appeared to be a “death threat” to the Igbo. Though the Oba has denied the statement saying that his anecdote of the lagoon, which should have put what he said in its proper perspective, was mischievously omitted from the context expressing the supposed “death threat,” why should the APC be held responsible for a statement that was made by a man who is not a card-carrying member of the party? The personal expression of the traditional ruler possibly made out of passion and concern for his domain and his people does not carry any political authority nor does it have the power of fulfillment. As far as I am concerned, the Oba is on his own. If he speaks with excitement about APC, it is just his own way of convincing people about the need to retain the party in the state.
Talking politically and away from this cultural distraction, the major party in the state is the APC, a party that is known for its progressive politics and ideas. The state has always been ruled by progressive leaders, hence the reason for its rapid growth and development. The only time Lagos was developmentally stagnant was when the National Republican Convention (NRC) ruled the state between 1990 and 1992. The NRC was a conservative party decreed into existence by Ibrahim Babangida and hijacked by reactionary agents.
The same way the Igbo had shown in the presidential election in the South East that they are predominantly PDP, Lagosians have also consistently demonstrated, over a long period of time, that they are predominantly APC or progressive politicians. If, therefore, the Igbo were intolerant of any other party making any in-road into their domain, Lagosians too are not ready to accommodate political incompatibles. It is even more odious that this whole confusion is happening at a time that the progressives in the state are about realising their dream of enjoying good working political relationship with the centre that is also an APC government.
If it was the collective decision of the Ndigbo that the Igbo at home and in the Diaspora should all vote for President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP in the presidential election, I am of the opinion that the Igbo leadership should let their people exercise their discretion in deciding who to vote for during the governorship election since local politics has its own special peculiarities and local heroes and heroines. For instance, in Lagos State, progressive politics has significantly attracted substantial development and it would be ungracious for the Igbo to stop this flow through grand conspiracy with the opposition. The Igbo are daily trooping to Lagos not only because of the hospitable nature of the indigenes but because they are attracted by the level of infrastructural and social development that progressives politics had brought to the state.
Some malicious and mischievous elements anchoring PDP’s propaganda machine have ascribed the Igbos’ action in the presidential and national assembly elections to the resettlement of 67 people from Lagos to Onitsha, Anambra State, by the Babatunde Fashola administration in July 2013. Explaining his government position on the issue, Governor Fashola who linked the incident to the 2013 Anambra election, stated that the propaganda was meant to tarnish the reputation and credibility of the APC.
Fashola said: “It was unfortunate that my colleague governor (of Anambra State, Peter Obi) made this a media issue…This is a political season and Anambra State would be up for contest and in a political season, unusual things happen…It is really important to say that our hospitality in Lagos State is legendary. It is a global legend that the people of Lagos State are hospitable people. And so is the present government of the state and previous administrations.”
If the governor was not referring to the naming of a major park in Lagos State after Ndubuisi Kanu, he probably was referring to his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose relationship with the Igbo is incomparable.
As a bridge-builder, Bola Tinubu’s association with Igbo leaders is not a recent development. He was close to Arthur Nwankwo, Polycarp Nwite, Orji Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige, and so many others. Stimulated by his desire for national integration and undaunted by possible local opposition, Tinubu appointed Ben Akabueze, a prominent Igbo pastor into his cabinet in 2003 and Joe Igbokwe as the publicity secretary of Lagos APC. In addition, Igbokwe is the General Manager of Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA). I am not aware of any state in the South East that has reciprocated this generous gesture.
These two Igbo sons have been in government for the past 12 years. In fact, Ben Akabueze, who is the commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, is reputed to be one of the most powerful members in Fashola’s government. If the Igbo still go ahead to vote for PDP in the gubernatorial election, then one must question the electoral value and the political relevance of these two government officials. If these people have been in government for the past 12 years and their people in Lagos are fraternising en masse with the opposition, it is either they are anonymous to their people or that they have not been spreading the dividends of democracy they are enjoying in the government to the Igbo people living in the state. Should the APC win the election, with or without the support of the Igbo, and still feel obliged to appoint Igbo into the cabinet, the criteria and mechanism for selecting who represents the Igbo should be reviewed. There is no point appointing people with no electoral and political value into cabinet position if such appointments were incapable of pacifying their people or preventing their people from conniving with the opposition against the established political structure.
In appreciation of what Tinubu has done for the Igbo, it is now their (the Igbo) turn to show gratitude to Tinubu by using their number to help him consolidate his political base rather than joining hands to paralyse his political machine. Though Tinubu’s political influence extends to every part of the South West, Lagos being his operational base must be protected against incursion. It is indeed, an irony that the same Igbo that Tinubu has been promoting and protecting their interest all through his political life are the same people conspiring with the opposition to threaten his political ascendancy.
Lagos should serve as the micro space for the Igbo to start playing politics of integration. And the right time is now when they have a nationalist personage like Tinubu with tremendous political power both at the state and national levels fighting their cause. Without being patronising, I do not think there is any other person that can protect the interest of the Igbo in Lagos State more than what Tinubu has been doing for them. If the opposition had promised them anything more than what they are currently enjoying, it is sheer political cajolery. The promise of a desperate man is rooted in deception and dishonesty and the Igbo should beware of any promise that was made in moments of desperation. A vote for Akinwunmi Ambode of the APC would be a discretion that is loaded with wisdom and fraternal magnanimity. The Igbo should say no to vindictive and hate politics.