Posted by News Express | 7 April 2015 | 4,643 times
Normally, when something as mind-boggling as the statement of Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, Oba of Lagos, happens, the first reaction is that of anger and surprise. But as time passes, people need to sit down to think over it and assess the implications of such statement. I have expressed in many words my sense of outrage over the Oba’s statement. For me, the incident came quite suddenly. I had just landed in the US after a gruelling flight experience. I had not even had time to send a message to our members about the end of my trip when I was shaken by the explosive events surrounding the statement of the influential monarch.
I have, since my initial reaction, given some analytic thought to the statement of the Oba and the following points pertain to the Oba’s statement:
WHAT DID WE KNOW ABOUT THIS OBA?
(1) He is probably one of the 12 most influential monarchs or traditional rulers in Nigeria. As the Oba of Lagos, he holds sway in the territory that is marked by the greatest concentration of wealth in Nigeria and the most expensive real estate in the country.
(2) He is a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, after being Commissioner of Police in one of the influential states, possibly Lagos. By virtue of his police career, he is deemed to be highly knowledgeable on the dynamics of power play in Nigeria. He is thus expected to be in a good position to pull strings that a monarch in comparable stool might not be able to pull.
(3) For the past 16 years, political leadership of Lagos State has been under the same set of people, who have been loyal to the Oba, thus ensuring that his influence in Lagos has gone unquestioned. He was therefore right in perceiving that “[this] chair is an undivided” chair. He feels secure.
(4) From stories told about this Oba, and which was confirmed when one watches the video clip, he is a fairly rough man with little sense of decorum. He operates in the abrasive manner you would expect of a thug or a motor park tout. He shakes down businessmen in Lagos and most of them, particularly, the successful Igbo businessmen, pay ransom and taxes to him. The Oba has never dropped any of the extortionate tendencies of the Nigerian police. The Oba has thus always seen the Igbos in Lagos as people that owed him personally. So, if you are an Igbo man and you are considered successful in Lagos, you must pay money and gifts to the Oba. Otherwise, nasty things could happen to you – Lagos State Government can harass you at the prompting of the Oba or the police could harass you whenever the Oba tells them to or some strangers and ruffians could attack you in the middle of nowhere.
If you are an Hausa businessman or from any other ethnic group, the Oba of Lagos does not feel as much need to subdue you. It is usually the Igbos that he reserves his greed and extortionate drive for. To the Oba’s it is okay to take and take from the Igbos. They are foreigners. They have no rights. They were defeated in the civil war. They do not have anyone to fight for them. The Oba is also sure that no Igbo Governor could challenge him or question the abuse of the Igbos in Lagos. Every Igbo man is vulnerable to the Oba’s machination. Remember when former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu tried to complain about the deportation of Igbos from Lagos, he received notice that he was owing property taxes to Lagos State Government. He had to back down. That is how the Igbos are perceived in Lagos.
(5) Oba of Lagos is not really alone in viewing the Igbos in such derogatory and suspicious terms. Another Oba was discovered by Wikileaks to have said that if you give the Igbos a yard, they would ask for a mile. And that was his disapproval of an Igbo candidate in a discussion of a possible Igbo man as a presidential candidate. So, there has been this culture of discrimination and suspicion about the Igbos. So, Oba of Lagos was sure that nobody would challenge him. But he is wrong this time.
WHAT ABOUT THE IGBO CHIEFS THAT WENT TO SEE THE OBA?
(6) It is important to understand the undemocratic culture that made the entire incident possible? Who are these chiefs? Who appointed them to go and represent the Igbos? If the Oba had given them money would anyone have heard about it? These men appointed themselves as the leaders of the Igbos. They went to another man who assumed he was the unquestioned leader of Lagos. Nobody actually elected either group to speak for the people it claims to speak for. And now, we are hearing that the Ohanaeze is wading into it and giving the Oba ultimatum. In this whole thing, one can see some self-appointed and self-seeking men parading themselves as representatives when all they wanted is their selfish interest.
WHY SHOULD AMBODE SUFFER FOR THE OBA’S STATEMENT?
(7) Ambode cannot escape the negative side of the Oba when he stood to benefit from the positive side. This is basic agency principal at work. When you enjoy the benefit of your agent, you also pay the price. It is clear that Ambode is the intended beneficiary of the Oba’s effort. When that backfires, he cannot escape.
(8) The fact is that both Agbaje and Ambode treat the Oba in the same way. They fear him, which is why they went to seek his blessing and support. They gave him the power to choose who should be the governor of Lagos. How could the Oba brag that he chose the governor of a democratic state? That destroys the essence of democracy. Ambode in his effort to explain never denounced the Oba. He could not even distance himself from the Oba, he basically says something impossible. He says he loves the Igbos. But it is clear that he intends to obey the Oba, and the Oba doesn’t like the Igbos. So, clearly, Ambode is in a fix.
WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE ISSUE AT STAKE HERE?
(9) The Igbo voting power is acknowledged, but the Igbos are viewed with suspicion and the Oba feels a need to control them. It is clear that the Oba believes that the vote of the Igbos could determine the outcome of the election. That is an acknowledgment that the Igbos are powerful in Lagos. However, the Oba will not beg them. He would just force them or compel them. There is no Igbo candidate running. The two candidates are Lagos indigenes. So, why should the Oba be worried about the Igbos when the successful candidate would still be a Lagos indigene, and possibly the blood relative of the Oba?
(10) The true outcome of all this should be the demonstration of the people’s power. We need to show that power does not lie with the Oba or with the Igbo chiefs that went messing around with him or with the Ohanaeze coming after the fact to compound the whole thing. Rather, power belongs to the people and the people now have the ability to use that power. They must vote and defeat this Oba. Next time, when he thinks of power, he would know it belongs to the people. It is not for him to choose a governor. Only the people, including the Igbo people, can choose the leaders in a democracy. Such vote will render these chiefs and Oba silent and irrelevant.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, lawyer and activist, whose photo appears alongside this piece, is the Group Founder/Principal Administrator of Due Process Advocates (DPA) as well as President/CEO at Eculaw Group.
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