Uneasy calm in Lagos ahead Saturday polls, as politicians, non-state actors stoke ethnic tension
Ahead of Saturday, March 18 governorship and state House of Assembly election nationwide, there is tension in Lagos following statements credited political interest groups and non-state actors threatening disrupt peace of the electorate.
This is further as some traditional rulers in the state have mischievously imposed festivals in their communities with hours to the governorship and State Assembly polls, as residents are forced to observe night time festivals now in broad day light across parts of the state.
While the Police Command in the state has traditionally assured of safety of voters, non-state actors have continued to brazenly threaten voters on the consequences of their choice of candidate in the election, as they vow to deal violently with those not for their preferred candidates in a particular ruling party in the state.
Matters came to a head, Friday, when the chairman of the Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, openly in a viral video threatened the lives of the electorate who refuse to vote for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, warning them to ‘stay at home during tomorrow’s (Saturday) governorship election.
“We have begged them. If they don’t want to vote for us, it is not a fight. Tell them, mama Chukwudi, if you don’t want to vote for us, sit down at home,” Akinsanya said in the video.
He went further to tell the party’s supporters that they know what to do if they discover they (APC) are losing in any area.
The APC has continued to accuse Igbo residents in the state of traditionally voting against the party, especially in the February 25 Presidential election which saw the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, trounce the party’s candidate and eventual President-elect, Bola Tinubu, in Lagos.
The result positioned Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the Labour Party’s candidate in Lagos State, as a major challenger to incumbent Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC.
However, the reported threat by Akinsanya has continued to draw condemnations from across the country.
Reacting immediately to the statement credited to the AP stalwart, the apex Igbo socio-political body in the country, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, lamented that South East indigenes resident in the state have become ‘an endangered species in Lagos, a situation the group described as ‘quite unfortunate.’
In a statement made available, Friday, the National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said ‘it was unbecoming that Lagos State Governor, Bajide Sanwo-Olu and the Nigerian police have kept quiet over the threat.’
“We are alarmed over the latest threat by an official of the Lagos State Government, MC Oluomo, who has invoked genocide against the Igbo in Lagos should they fail to vote for Sanwo-Olu.
“This is indeed a threat too many and we are not going to let it slide. The silence of the authorities including Governor Sanwo-Olu and the police show that they are giving tacit support to the political thugs who are maiming Ndigbo and burning down their properties in Lagos State.
“However, we want to sound this note of warning, we want to draw the attention of the international community that should any single Igbo man or woman be killed in Lagos State, either tomorrow or after the election, the governor should be held responsible as the Chief Security Officer of the state
“The police hierarchy, who have not only refused to arrest MC Oluomo but have maintained silence, will also take responsibility for any ugly fate that befalls our people.
“To the electorate, come all out and vote for candidate of your choice; be ready to defend and protect yourselves. Your vote is your right and nobody should stop you from using it effectively tomorrow against enemies of peace,” Ohanaeze said.
Also reacting to the APC chieftain’s threat, Mr Isaac Fayose, brother of former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, Friday, also berated Akinsanya, for threatening Igbo residents in the state ahead of Saturday’s governorship election, calling the motor parks chairman an illiterate.
Writing via his Facebook account, Fayose expressed anger over Akinsanya’s comments.
“Those clapping for him. If it is working for you, it might not work for you tomorrow – anti-democratic forces. So be careful what you clap for, or what you celebrate.
“MC Oluomo, I think your illiteracy is disturbing you. Everybody must be able to vote in Lagos. ‘Mama Chinedu, Mama Chibuzor’, everybody must be able to. MC Oluomo, respect yourself.”
Meanwhile, despite the damning video evidence at its disposal to effect an arrest, the Lagos Police Command, the threats by Akinsanya ‘are subjects of ongoing investigation.’
Speaking while featuring as a guest on Arise Television’s Newsday programme, Friday, the newly-deployed Lagos Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa, said the video clips are being reviewed and the threats are subjects of ongoing investigation.
“Yes, I can confirm that all the video clips are being reviewed. The statement, the assertions, the threats are subjects of ongoing investigation. And as we proceed, if facts are established against the provision of the law, nobody is above the law in this country.
“Our existence is regulated by law and we are bound together by law. The political process is regulated by law and nobody can be above that. So if these allegations are established, you can be sure that appropriate criminal and legal proceedings will be initiated against the specific actors,” CP Owohunwa said.
In parts of Lagos, traditional monarchs have continued to disrupt the peace of their communities, under the guise of observing traditional rites, as they unleash violent attacks on their innocent and law-abiding subjects under the guise of observing the ‘Oro’ festival.
The Ikate area of Lekki, Igando, Akesan areas in Alimosho were hotbeds of unrest as masquerades brazenly flogged residents in broad daylight, Friday, for being outside instead of indoors in compliance with warning they purportedly issued over the ritual.
According to Ikate residents who also expressed reservations over the timing of the festival, alleging it was a ploy to force the electorate to remain indoors all through Saturday’s election, which they further claim is traditionally performed at nights only.
Incidentally, the ruling APC party lost heavily in the Alimosho and Lekki areas of the state during the February 25 Presidential polls, a loss many observers fear may re-occur in the Saturday’s governorship and state legislature polls.
However, state Governor, Sanwo-Olu has moved to caution traditional institutions ahead of Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly.
The governor gave the caution in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, following news that some traditional rulers had scheduled Oro rites in their communities for Saturday.
Reacting, the governor urged the traditionalists to respect the rights of citizens who are not of their faith.
“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has assured Lagosians of peaceful elections tomorrow. There is no need for fear.
“Following the recent announcement of some customary rites by traditional rulers, the government wishes to assure all residents of the security of lives and property in the state.
“Residents are advised to go about their civic duties as the state government has called on all security personnel to guarantee the peace and safety of lives and property before, during and after elections.
“Whilst the state government reiterates the freedom of religion, it also cautions traditional institutions holding these customary rites to ensure the activities do not infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens, who are not of this faith, especially during the elections.
“Anybody planning to foment trouble will have the law to contend with. Our state is peaceful and it will remain so.”
Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party, through the Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation has accused the ruling party of ‘weaponizing ethnic hatred in Lagos State.’
A statement issued by the body, Friday, and titled; ‘RISING ETHNIC TENSION IN LAGOS,’ the group described the unrest in the state as ‘a contrived ethnic tension’ stoked by the politicians for their own benefit.
According to the group, in the statement signed by its Director General, Balogun Akin Osuntokun, the ethnic tension in Lagos is caused by ‘desperate politicians’ who he accused of playing up ‘the changing demographics arising from the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos and falsely concluded that the huge population of the Igbo was responsible for the APC losing the state on the February 25, 2023 elections.’
Continuing, Osuntokun noted that ‘those fanning the embers of ethnic discord in Lagos, just to avoid their party being humiliated a second time, are themselves non indigenes of Lagos.’
“There has been a contrived ethnic tension in Lagos State since the outcome of the last Presidential election, in which our Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmad, performed above the expectations of our critics and consequently set some political parties on a panic mode. This panic mode is accentuated by their knowledge of our real performance in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, not by the results announced by INEC.
“In Lagos, the fear factor being currently stoked and weaponized is that the Igbos would take over Lagos if Labour Party wins Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly elections. In their desperation, they are even shamelessly questioning the ‘Yoruba-ness’ of our candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, ( GRV) despite the fact that he is from one of the best known families in Lagos, whose ancestral tree can be traced to over 200 years.
“This begs the question of how exactly this taking over of Lagos by the Igbos would occur. Would the Igbos physically carry Lagos and transfer the city and its infrastructures to the South-eastern part of the country? Will the Igbos put guns on the heads of the Yorubas in Lagos and ask them to handover their lands to them because Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is the Governor? Will Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour as Governor denounce his father, grandfather, and his entire Vivour ancestry and find another father and grandfather from Igboland if he wins?
“These desperate politicians have played up the changing demographics arising from the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos and falsely concluded that the huge population of the Igbo was responsible for the APC losing the state on the February 25, 2023 elections. The truth is that more Yorubas than Igbos voted for our presidential candidate on that day because they want good governance and for Lagos to be freed from the stranglehold of a criminal syndicate.
“In our increasingly globalized world, it is difficult to find pristine communities or primitive communal societies in which everyone in the community is related by blood. Given the status of Lagos as the commercial capital of the country and its history as a former political and administrative capital, it is naturally a magnet for people and businesses looking for greener pastures. Let us bear in mind that all the state capitals in the country – from Kano to Abeokuta to Lagos and Jalingo – tend to have a high proportion of non-indigenes relative to the original owners of the place because people move to areas of better economic advantages.
“Let us imagine what Lagos would be without the Igbos and other non-indigenes,” he said.
The body, therefore, urged politicians ‘promoting and hoping to profit from weaponizing ethnic hatred in Lagos State to desist because the world has moved beyond their primitive antics. The world is changing fast.’
“We must learn to live in peace and celebrate our diversity. For members of our party, the Labour Party, and the Obidient family, we urge that you remain calm and peaceful –even in the face of provocation. “Being self-restrained and calm amid provocation is not cowardice or naivety but evidence of higher emotional intelligence. We should not play into the hands of those in panic mode who want to promote violence so that elections would become manipulable and fulfil their desire of claiming victory through the back door.”
However, in a sharp twist, Alhaji Akinsanya has denied the viral video which showed him threatening electorate in Lagos, as he claims he was quote out of context by ‘mischief makers.’
Akinsanya said he was only joking with his neighbour, Mrs Uche, otherwise known as Iya Chukwudi at a parley on Thursday as captured in the viral video.
According to Akinsanya, in the disclaimer, ‘Iya Chukwudi is my sister and good neighbour,’ adding that he has always been relating peacefully with the Igbos living and trading in Oshodi.
“At no point did I threatened anyone (sic). We’ve enjoyed a long harmonious relationship. Not at this point will I do that. I buy things regularly from Iya Chukwudi and was only joking with her.
“Mischief makers took our friendly conversation out of context just to label me as a bad person. Lagos State has been peaceful and we don’t pray for violence in our state,” he said.