Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director of Enough is Enough (EiE), an organisation focused on championing the course of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through active citizenship, has cautioned against stoking the ethnic fire ahead of the March 11 governorship election in Lagos State.
Adamolekun made this appeal on Tuesday during an interview she had on Arise TV. She insisted that some members of the ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), were deliberately promoting the flame of ethnic tension in the state as the governorship election gets even closer.
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“Lagos is playing with a very dangerous tone with ethnic baiting,” Adamolekun said. “The candidate of the Labour Party is partly Igbo, and he is married to an Igbo lady. We have turned this narrative around. Lagos has been hostile to Igbos; Igbos have not been welcomed, and his heritage has been a subject of conversation.”
She reminded all that the political elite don’t see anything wrong with tribe when it benefits them; they only use tribe as a tool to create much disaffection among the masses and to further their selfish objectives.
“Might I remind members of the APC that Mr. Bola Tinubu is married to an Itsekiri lady and his son Seyi is married to a Lebanese lady. So if we want to talk about who people are married to as having legitimacy to be Lagosians, it’s a challenge,” she said.
She added that even Tinubu is not from Lagos. The president-elect is from Osun State. Even after he left office, some reports claim that the states of origin of his successors, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, are still questionable.
“Mr. Tinubu himself is not from Lagos, and neither is the current governor, and I am saying this particularly because if we are not careful, we are all in this Lagos together, and if we are not careful how we frame this conversation, it will affect all of us on election day,” she explained, insisting that members of the APC stop using ethnicity as a new basis for political intimidation and warning that chaos or feelings of alienation could arise because of this anti-Igbo sentiment.
“I might also add that for APC, which wants to make Igbos their challenge, let’s not forget some of the things that have happened under this administration that are part of what people are reacting to—we have had ENDSARS, forced evictions, impounded cars that were auctioned off. So there are enough grounds for people to be upset, but I raised that because we need to be mindful,” she said.
Apparently, before the announcement of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the 2023 presidential election, video and audio clips of thugs intimidating and harassing voters from the Igbo-speaking part of the country from voting went viral. The majority of these people reside in places where the APC lost to the Labour Party, whose candidate, Peter Obi, is an Igbo man from Anambra State.
People had accused the APC in Lagos State of stoking ethnic tension because they believe that the Igbos are either “anti-APC” or “anti-Yoruba,” so they do everything to overheat the political and social fabric of the state.
A clear incidence of such anti-democratic tendencies had played out even before the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections through unpalatable and uncharitable statements from the Oba of Lagos, who said that he would throw Igbos into the lagoon if his then-candidate for the governorship position didn’t win. Another is a statement from a traditional ruler in Eti-Osa Local Government Area instructing residents in his domain to vote for the APC or be kicked out, and many more.
However, the most glaring evidence of ethnic tension is when Musiliu Akinsanya, alias Mc Oluomo, founder and chairman of the Lagos State Parks Management Committee, with police escort, stopped Igbos from voting in his ward. Many condemned this act and questioned the rationale behind not only his making this inciteful statement but also getting police protection as he deliberately stopped Igbos and perhaps those who wanted to exercise their civic right to vote.
Another disturbing scene is the post-election riot that happened in some parts of Lagos after the presidential candidate of the APC lost Lagos State. Thugs and street urchins loyal to Tinubu and the party went on rampage as they attacked shops owned by Igbos, blaming them for Tinubu’s defeat in Lagos.
As the election draws nearer, there have been some unconfirmed reports about the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, making an appeal to the members of the Igbo community to vote en masse for him and not the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Patrick Rhodes-Vivour, whose party surprised everybody in the presidential election.
The most disturbing case of ethnic tension championed by these selfish, and tribal champions is the “My Lagos, not your Lagos” slogan. This is an unfortunate situation of how a cosmopolitan city that welcomes all irrespective of tribe, race, colour, religion, and economic status has fallen.
Also, the South East Human Rights Situation Room has cautioned stakeholders in Enugu State politics against inflammatory statements ahead of Saturday governorship and State Assembly elections.
The group made the call in Enugu on Tuesday in a statement signed by its convener and Senior Advocate, Prof. Joy Ezeilo.
“Let us be mindful of weight of comments we make or information we share likely to cause disunity and spark violence before, during and after the elections.
“Let us all consume social media information with caution. The tension in Enugu politics is too high, hence should not allow it to degenerate to violence,” she said.
She called elections devoid of violence and encouraged voters to exercise their franchise freely.
Ezeilo also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure it conducted free, fair and violence-free polls for posterity sake.