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Ambode is right on Soyinka


Akinwunmi Ambode

Akinwunmi Ambode

State chauvinism seems to be going to the extreme. In my opinion, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is on the right track in his choice of Professor Wole Soyinka to chair a planning committee. There is the need to be reasonably modest and not be extreme in whatever we do or say. The present generation of Lagos indigenes is guilty of incessantly claiming to possess exclusive rights in the state; other residents are, consequently, inferior or second class citizens. I am not averse to this arrogance, if it is based on real substance. But self-importance that is founded and dependent upon the contributions and achievements of others is clearly bogus. Lagosians’ claim is often shrouded in frivolities.

The backdrop of unguarded arrogance propelled members of Eko Foundation group to kick against Professor Wole Soyinka’s choice as the Chairman, Planning Committee of the State’s 50th anniversary. The group’s argument was that since Soyinka was not an indigene of Lagos State, he should not chair the occasion. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode constituted a 12-man committee ahead of the celebration of the creation of Lagos State on May 27, 2017. Alhaji Rasheed Gbadamosi is the co-chairman of the committee.

Arguing further, the Eko Foundation stated. “There is indeed a social disconnect because he (Soyinka) has no family house or compound in the geographical conglomeration of the state. He, Soyinka, does not speak any of the dialects of the indigeneous people and cannot connect with their sights and sounds. What then is the rationale behind his choice as the chairman of the (state’s) 50th anniversary?” The Eko Foundation urged Soyinka to reject his appointment as the Chairman of the committee.

The reasons that are proffered are excuses and puerile. That he is not an indigene of the state is untenable, because Soyinka is a Yoruba man who speaks Yoruba. Lagos is an integral part of South-West, from which the state was excised. In the pre-colonial and colonial era, Lagos was part of the South-west, performing economic, social and political activities in common. Being a Yoruba state, there is common language, and by extension the culture is identical. Soyinka is both Ipara-Remo (Ijebu) and Egba (Abeokuta). He speaks Yoruba and understands the culture. What other qualification is required? Is French, German or Spanish spoken in Lagos?

Most of Lagos indigenes may not be aware that Alhaji Rasheed Gbadamosi belongs to two states of Lagos and Ogun. The paternal grandmother was from Ode-Remo, with both ancient and modern compounds in Ode-Remo. Can it be argued that the son of Alhaji Sule O. Gbadamosi, a nationalist and political associate of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, would not be entitled to his due rights and responsibilities in Ogun State? Alhaji Rasheed Gbadamosi is the co-chairman. There are people of dual-nationalities in Nigeria; Everton Shyngle, a laweyer at Igbosere Road, Lagos; Herbert Macaulay, a surveyor and father of Nigerian nationalism, of Oyo origin: their status does not deprive them of holding important positions. Soyinka’s experiences eminently qualify him for the assignment; as a citizen of the world, he is an asset to the Planning Committee. He can utilize his international connections to invite dignitaries to the May 27, 2017, events. By the way, is Eko Foundation group making the public to believe that Ijebu are not constituents of Lagos State – Ikorodu and Epe?

Indeed, state chauvinism is being carried to the extreme. The claimants are paranoiac. Who are the original citizens of Lagos? They are about two per cent, who nearly become extinct, like the Maori aborigenes of New Zealand. The so-called indigenes must go back to schools to read history. In the pre-colonial and colonial era nationals came from as far as Brazil, (remember the Brazilian Mosque on Lagos Island), and West African countries to develop Lagos. Foreigners developed it to the stage that it is. Today, Lagos State is home to newspapers journalism, because of West Africans’ contribution of printing press to the profession. Lagos was once ruled from Sierra Leone in 1866. By 1874, it was again merged with the Gold Coast (Ghana) and did not regain her status as a separate colony until 1886. In the intervals, West Africans took up residences. Lebanese and Indians cannot be left out. Where are the fishermen who today claim to be indigenes?

On individual levels, non-Lagosians built the city, and by extension, Lagos State. Former Lagos State governor, Alhaji Lateef ‘Kayode Jakande, had his paternal ancestors from Ilorin, Kwara State; the late Oba of Lagos, Adeyinka Oyekan, once revealed that he was not only from Abeokuta, but also came from the same compound as the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Sir, Kitoye Ajasa of Olowogbowo fame was a legal luminary from Abeokuta, the Adebayo Dohertys, the great business mogul and barrister from Sierra Leone; the Soetans also a lawyer from Abeokuta; the Ajaos from Awe, near Oyo, the Georgeus Coles of Olowogbowo fame, was from Oyo, and a member of the landed gentry who owned greater portion of Akoka, site of Unilag Campus and Apapa; the Taiwo Olowos, an eminent merchant from Isheri, all built Lagos; the Darochas and the Doregoes of this world. This writer’s great grand-father, Oshinowo (Oshi splurges money) from Ilese, near Ijebu-Ode, fought in defence of Lagos in the 19th century. Oshinowo was an Ijebu Warrior. There are many of us from different places, who settle in Lagos to contribute to its progress. The current President of the U.S., came from Kenya. So, what are the arrogant indigenes of Lagos making us to understand? There must be cross-pollination for cross fertilization of ideas. If outsiders are permitted to serve Lagos, it makes for development.

About four Nigerians have places in the British House of Commons: Chuka Umunna, a 36-year-old Nigerian-British citizen was re-elected into the British Parliament on May 7, 2015. As a lawyer, he got job at the top city law firms, Herbert Smith. Others are Chi Onwurah, Helen Grant was a Conservative member and Kate Osamor. If Nigerians are making waves in foreign land, why should Lagos indigenes deny Ogun indigenes identical opportunities? State chauvinism must not be carried to the extreme, lest it is regretted. There seems to be ulterior reasons for rejecting Soyinka’s appointment. He is a stickler for discipline. Those Lagos indigenes are in fear of his Spartan discipline which they cannot cope with.

If Yoruba people discriminate against another Yoruba, under the same ruling political party, the future of Yoruba elements in the country is questionable. The situation shall be on all fours with the 1962 scenario in the House of Representatives when the late Chief Anthony Enahoro concluded, “Yoruba are the enemies of Yoruba”.
• Oshisada, a veteran journalis, lives at Ikorodu, Lagos

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  • abiamone

    We should guard against extremist tribalism. Soyinka is qualified to chair any organisation dealing with any aspect of the welfare of Nigerians anywhere and everywhere.

  • Babagordy

    Soyinka is indeed a world citizen and a member of every community where knowledge and honesty is highly valued.

  • Williams B Samuel

    Oshisada. . This piece is so lovely, I like the way you touched on a lot of issues and history to drive home your point. Very talented. It is objective journalistic articles like this we should push to the front burner and have intellectual discuss on. I hope the so called Eko whatever.. will take a read.