Kusa, Ndigbo in Lagos and politics of ethnicity – Part 2
In my own writings from my work in South East Asia, I have also referred to an “Emigrant Economistic Ethnic” to explain why migrant peoples tend to be economically successful. In my view, they are often shut out of th politics of the land by the indigenous people, and often out of high society, and so their passions become uncommonly focused on economic pursuits. They invariably tend to thrive and that creates new irritation with the indigenes. How newly arriving Vietnamese Boat people in the US outperformed African Americans was a favorite example of mine.
Understanding these phenomena, and a little maturity keeps cooperation and progress on the roll.There is a daughter of the Oba of Lagos who reminds me that when Oba Rilwan Akinlolu was under fire during the 2015 elections for remarks about Igbos being drowned in the Lagoon I was the only one that stood up for him. All I did was a simple offer of maturity. First he had no capacity to enforce such a thing, and secondly, I know he speaks jokingly, in such tones. So seeing it for what it is, the kind of remark many make in their living rooms but do not really mean, helped diffuse what could have boiled over.
Many wars have been sparked off by little deeds that mature handling could avert. This is why I am pained that Femi Kusa should have known that it is a duty of his education and exposure to avoid comments that can be termed hate speech.
I have been both loved and abused for making myself available to support the work of every government of Lagos. That disposition has never made me any less Igbo. Neither has the fact that I was born in the North and have such close friendship with friends from across Northern Nigeria but that did not manage to get in the way of my championing resistance after the annulment of elections of June 12, 1993, which was pitched, by some, as a North/South-West cleavage. Exposure, experience, and education confer privilege of a moral authority.
Femi should have exercised that moral authority. Sadly, Nigeria is more divided today on ethnic, religious and other parochial cleavages than when we experienced a civil war 40 years ago.
Leaders have a duty not to pour petrol on emotions of people yet to have enough information about their neighbours to improve understanding and cooperation. Policies ought to promote balanced development so there are enough centres of thriving economic conurbation to reduce such tensions .
Sadly, the poor politics of narcissism that dominates the Nigeria landscape with individuals in pursuit of self-interest, in the name of politics, provokes the fear of neighbours where good leadership would hav focused on our shared humanity and how to cooperate for the advance of the common good.
My experience has taught me that the stereotyping of any ethnic group by politicians anywhere is a true measure of their weakness, whether it be in the United States, Indonesia or Nigeria. I long learnt that no group of humans were created by God better or less bad than the others. This is why I often make the claim that there are no more than six of Nigeria’s 36 states that I can arrive in and not have a friend so close that I will get an invitation to spend the night in their home.
Whether it be Maiduguri where Mohammed Hayatudeen has a home or Biu in the same Borno State where Ahmed Kuru, Ibrahim Usman and others have hosted me; or Abia where I have several dozen options including the Ohuabunwas, Ottis, Ogahs; or Ekiti where I can go from the Fayemis to the Onis and Falanas or Sokoto where the Sultan himself has provided accommodation for most of my visits there and I have enjoyed dinner in his tent with him and Bishop Mathew Kukah, the classic example of ethnic and religious tolerance.
I have never understood that Ndigbo are attacked for investing outside of Igboland. Canvassing for them to return home to invest, had that been done would have been attacked and criticised as parochialism. Perhaps this is the opportunity for th governors of Igbo bearing states to lay out a regime of incentives and run a campaign promoting think home.
If those governors are really clever, they should take the campaign further, and welcome people from the South West, and North to move to Igbo people majority bearing states. A fair number of Hausa Fulani colonies already exist in Igbo states.
Asari Dokubo already made the point that many Yorubas fly into the oil fields of South-South and South East, make their fortunes and leave no development behind. Strangely it is those who add value that are being vilified. This is the 21st Century. A new slavery in which people are denied their fundamental human right and citizenship rights cannot be accepted. That is why CNN runs its freedom project. Politicians and intellectuals who promote such are working their way towards the International Criminal Court. They may do well to first visit the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.
In this twenty-first century you cannot actively, by subterfuge or directly, deny people their rights and insist you cannot leave them alone to go their way when you do not have their time. That is slavery. The doctrine of self-determination emerging in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights at its founding, which began to unwind the sovereignty and none-interference doctrines which began with the Peace of Westphalia in1648, rejects that. As the lawyers say, you cannot probate and reprobate. You cannot celebrate what Igbos helped build as Lagos and deny their humanity.
For those who try to prove that historically Lagos is a “no man’s land” or an outpost of the Benin Kingdom and those who make the point that if Lagos desires or aspires to a global megacity, the cosmopolitan nature of such ambition means that like Paris, London and New York it has to end up as belonging to no ethnic group, my take is that all just play into the hand of a group of selfish politicians. Nobody told the original Londoners that London was no man’s land. The nature of the course of things just sorts things out. A little maturity can buy all of the peace we all crave for.
The trouble with Nigeria is that many of the truly mature do not care to act and the politicians who thrive in bringing to conflict people who ordinarily live in peace as neighbours, but are lacking in maturity, are the most vociferous in expressing their points of view.
•Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship, founder, Centre for Values in Leadership.
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