LAGOS — AS outrage greeted the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu’s alleged death threat and curse that Igbo will drown in Lagos lagoon within seven days if they did not vote for the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, the Oba, yesterday, said he was misquoted and clarified what he told Igbo leaders, who visited him.
In a statement by Chief Lateef Aderibigbe Ajose, Opeluwa of Lagos, the traditional ruler said he called on Igbo chiefs to show appreciation to Lagos State by supporting his candidate, Ambode, for continuity of excellence as they had earlier promised.
The statement read: “My attention has been drawn to a publication in a national newspaper where HRM Oba Rilwanu Akiolu was alleged to have threatened Igbo in Lagos to make them vote for Ambode.
“Last Sunday, all honorary Eze Ndigbo in Lagos paid a courtesy call to HRM Oba Akiolu. At the meeting, the visitors praised the Oba for his fatherly support for and co-operation with Igbo in Lagos. They assured him of their continued good neighbourliness with other tribes in Lagos and to support everything that will further strengthen that harmony.
“Oba Akiolu on his part acknowledged the enviable performance of Governor Babatunde Fashola and his contribution to the growth of investments in Lagos. He gave the assurance that he is not disturbed or angry with South-East and South-South votes for President Goodluck Jonathan as perceived by the Eze Ndigbo.
“The Oba, thereafter, called on the Igbo chiefs to show appreciation to Lagos State by supporting his candidate, Mr. Ambode, for continuity of excellence as they had earlier promised.
“He assured them of his continued support and assistance and the meeting ended with the traditional breaking of kolanuts, alligator pepper, bitter kola and pouring of libation. It was within this context that the tradition of Lagos with regard to the lagoon came up. It was noted that whoever works against the throne and the interest and peaceful co-existence of Lagos would end up in the lagoon as per tradition.
“Oba Akiolu stated further that the Igbo people have not betrayed the throne. Lagos has also not betrayed the Igbo people. Lagos has done so much to make the Igbo comfortable and to prosper. For this, we expect reciprocal respect and understanding. The Oba of Lagos prays that the Lagoon and the throne will continue to bless and protect all those who reside and visit Lagos.
“Oba Akiolu is the father of all, irrespective of tribe, religion or political persuasion. In Lagos, we have an old traditional proverb that relates to the Lagoon. The lagoon is unique to Lagos. The proverb stresses the need for unity and understanding when you do business in an environment and in this case when you live and do business in Lagos. Oba Akiolu prays for peace for the land of Lagos and prosperity for all its inhabitants.”
Outrage greets threat
Meanwhile, the polity was awash with outrage, yesterday, over the Oba’s reported threat. The umbrella body of Igbo socio-cultural organisations, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, went into an emergency meeting yesterday over the issue.
Dr. Josef Onoh, son of former governor of old Anambra State, late Chief C. C. Onoh, vowed to drag the Oba to the International Criminal Court, ICC, over the alleged threats, even as Ohanaeze Youths Council, OYC, gave the Oba 48 hours within which to retract and unconditionally apologise to Ndigbo in Lagos over the threat.
Condemnations and criticisms also came from Chief Olabode George, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, Mr Tony Nwulu (Oshodi-Isolo Rep-elect), the Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Afenifere, Igbo Youths Movement (IYM), Aka-Ikenga and Igbo Professionals Lagos (IPL), Oodua Youths Congress, Oodua Democratic Coalition, Yoruba Thinktank, Oodua Nation in Diaspora and United Self-Determination Platform of Oodua, among others.
We must build Lagos together — Ambode
This came as Ambode restated his commitment to lead a government of inclusion where every Lagosian, irrespective of tribe or ethnicity, is carried along in the quest to make Lagos greater, if elected.
He spoke, yesterday, while receiving a donation of buses from the Nigeria Progressive Ambassadors at an event held at the APC party headquarters in Ogba, Lagos.
He said: “Every group in Lagos is safe in my hands as governor. I will not discriminate against any religious or ethnic group. It is our Lagos and we must build it together.
“In my acceptance speech after the primaries, I made this note that I will be a governor for all and Lagos will be safe in my hands. I want to build on the foundation of unity, peace and progress and development laid by my predecessor.”
Ohanaeze, Igbo leaders meet
Disturbed by the issue, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo went into an emergency meeting to take a stand on the Oba’s threats to allegedly make life unbearable for Ndigbo, if they did not vote for his candidate.
President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Gary Igariwey, said: “All the Igbo leaders in Lagos will meet tonight (yesterday) on the issue. Once they are through, they will communicate me and an official stance will be made known.”
Meanwhile, political groups and individuals in Enugu State have lashed out at Akiolu over his comments, insisting that the royal stool had become political.
Reacting to the Oba’s stance, Commissioner for Inter-Ministerial Duties, Enugu State, Mr. Beloved-Dam Anike, said:
“What this simply means is that the Oba is a political father. Igbo are true Nigerians and have the right to live and eke a living anywhere they like. Igbo have contributed over 70 per cent of Lagos economic growth.”
A political think-tank, Enugu Unity Forum, EUF, spoke through its chairman, Chief Tahil Ochi, saying: “Igbo and Yoruba have had cordial relationship. The issue of election should not bring the relationship to a halt. The Oba should remove politics from the relationship and preach peace, unity and not war. As an Oba, he should be the father of all.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Josef Onoh, son of former governor of old Anambra State, has vowed to drag the Oba of Lagos to the ICC over the alleged threats.
Describing the Oba’s utterance as a grievous incitement against the Igbo in Lagos, Onoh said: “Let it be known that whether Oba Akilou’s threat comes to fruition or not, I have concluded to take him to the ICC where he will keep company with the likes of Charles Taylor and answer to human rights charges that will be preferred against him.”
He stated that Oba Akiolu, by his threat of sinking Ndigbo into the lagoon if they voted against APC in the April 11 governorship election for Lagos State, should be condemned.
He, therefore, urged his fellow Igbo brothers and sisters to exercise their fundamental right and vote for who they wanted, irrespective of the threat.
On its part, Ohanaeze Youths Council, OYC, gave the monarch 48 hours within which to retract and unconditionally apologise to Ndigbo in Lagos.
The group in a statement signed by its National President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said it was a despicable insult on the Igbo nation, home and abroad, lamenting that the statement was least expected of a royal father in the rank of Oba of Lagos.
The group said the Oba must come out to apologise, failing which the Igbo would take his statement as a declaration of war.
The OYC also warned that should anything happen to Ndigbo or their business interests in Lagos in the eventuality of APC’s defeat at the Lagos governorship race, the Oba should be held responsible.
The group said: “In as much as we do not want to get involved in Lagos politics, we want to sound a note of warning that no Igbo should be vilified or persecuted for his or her electoral choice in Lagos or any part of Nigeria. Every Nigerian has the constitutional right to reside in any part of the country and participate in the electoral process based on one’s convictions, and electoral choice is not a crime.”
Lagos threat, a plunge to anarchy —PDP
Also reacting, the national leadership of the PDP condemned “in the strongest possible terms the emerging height of political recklessness in Lagos ahead of Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections and calls on all Nigerians to stand up against such anti-democratic tendencies.’’
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the PDP said the Oba’s threat is barbaric.
His words: “Our response to the Oba of Lagos is that he cannot play God and can never be God. God owns the universe and every part of it and can never share His glory with any human no matter how highly placed.
“We, therefore, call on all Nigerians in Lagos State, all Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and people of other tribes, all northerners and southerners, all Christians and Muslims to turn against this unpatriotic stance, by coming out enmasse to vote for the PDP candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, on Saturday.
“Undoubtedly, this anti-Nigerian position reminds one of the 2013 inhuman and callous arrest, detention and eventual ‘deportation’ of non-indigenes by the APC-led government of Lagos State and confirms fears that the APC is indeed on a mission to destroy our national unity, balkanize the nation and obliterate the personal freedom Nigerians enjoy today.
“Already, the APC has started terrorizing supporters of the PDP with vows to make life unbearable for them when it eventually assumes power. Our investigation reveals that many of our prominent supporters have been marked. The process has already started with threats to the life, family and business of the Chairman of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, for supporting PDP candidates and helping non-indigenes win some Lagos seats in the National Assembly on the platform of our great party.
“Indeed, if these threats on a duly elected state governor and innocent Nigerians constitute the picture or foretaste of the order of the day when the APC finally assumes power at the centre, then the nation is in serious danger. However, the PDP states in very unambiguous terms that Nigerians would not accept such under any guise whatsoever.
‘’This is more so because in the last 16 years, our citizens from all walks of life have seen civility and decorum under the PDP-led administration and would not accept any attempt by anybody to institute a reign of terror in the country.
“We, therefore, urge General Muhammadu Buhari, as the leader of the APC, to call his members and supporters, particularly in Lagos to order, especially bearing in mind that it was the peaceful atmosphere and the level playing ground nurtured by the PDP-led administration that created the room for his emergence at the presidential polls.
“Our country cannot at this moment afford to slide into anarchy, reign of terror and deliberate schemes to divide the people for selfish political reasons. The PDP will completely resist all anti democratic forces from any quarters.
“We, therefore, charge Nigerians, especially those in Lagos State to stand up fearlessly and reject the unpatriotic stance of the Oba of Lagos.”
Oba crossed the line –Afenifere, Yoruba groups
Faulting the comments credited to the Lagos monarch, a coalition of Yoruba groups said Akiolu had crossed the line.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Afenifere spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “We say with all sense of responsibility that if these were truly the words of Kabiyesi, he has clearly crossed the line of royal decency, desecrated the royal stool and violated the electoral laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and engaged in promotion of hate speech capable of fuelling ethnic tension and clashes which are against the spirit of peaceful co-existence which we have achieved in recent years.”
Odumakin, however, assured Igbo and other non-Yoruba in Lagos that the conduct of Oba Akiolu is “totally strange to Yoruba culture and a negation of our democratic character as a people.”
He noted that one of the most cherished values of proper Yoruba people is the respect for freedom of choice.
His words: “We respect the right of Oba Akiolu to drop the crown at Iga and become Director of Mobilisation for the leader of his party if he so desires, but we detest his hiding behind the throne to fan the embers of disunity which could put Yoruba people in harm’s way wherever they are living as settlers.
“Yoruba people are too civilised to support the primitive intimidation of fellow Nigerians just as we will not accept such action being visited on our people in any part of Nigeria.”