By Richard Odu

The initiative by Gov. Hope Uzodimma of Imo State to meet with his Lagos counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, over the recent demolition of some commercial structures in Lagos State owned by Igbos doing business in that state will go down in history as one step worth the while.

The move brought about a swift constitution of a technical committee to resolve the issues raised by the affected Igbo businessmen and a reassurance by the Lagos State governor that the safety of the Igbo people would be guaranteed in the state where generations of Nigerians grew up to see, first as the capital of Nigeria, and lately as the commercial hub of Africa’s most populous country since the administrative capital relocated to Abuja.

Prior to the visit, no one was listening to the cries of the traders who, reportedly, looked on, helplessly, as the bulldozers moved into the markets, uprooting buildings that hitherto housed most of them. The officials of the state had alleged that the buildings had been marked for demolition years ago because of defects they had and that the traders were adequately notified.

The traders, on the other hand, alleged outrageous fees that were slammed on them only lately.

Indeed, the festering rift between the Yoruba and the Igbo in Lagos came to the fore when candidates for the 2023 presidential elections in the respective political parties emerged. While the current president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, flew the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). These were the reigning parties before the emergence of Peter Obi as the Labour Party (LP) flag bearer changed the game.

As the frontline candidates got the nod of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the arena appeared set for an ethnic contest among the major groups in the country since Tinubu was Yoruba, Atiku was Hausa/Fulani and Obi was Igbo. But, those who had risen above the base emotions which had held the nation captive over time saw the 2023 polls not as an ethnic affair but as a battle to save the soul of a country badly brutalised by unbridled insecurity, nepotism, cronyism, corruption and warped economic policies of the last administration. This class that cuts across the various ethnic divides decided to listen critically to the candidates’ manifestoes and readily factored in their antecedents before throwing their support for whomever.

The election had come and gone, but records of altercations, incendiary remarks and physical assaults across the party supporters have remained vestiges of the venom that characterised the exercise, especially in Lagos State that is a multi-ethnic society.

Anyone conversant with the Adekunle Fajuyi and Aguiyi Ironsi story of the sixties would shudder at the state of affairs today regarding Yoruba and Igbo. A soldier of high morals and a good sense of justice, Fajuyi laid down his life alongside Ironsi who was slaughtered in his home. Original Africans know it’s inhuman to spill the blood of a harmless stranger in their midst.

From the results released after the presidential polls in February, Peter Obi swept the polls in Lagos, beating Tinubu’s who was the governor of the state. Ethnic jingoists believed that Ndigbo resident in the former Nigerian capital did the magic by voting massively for their own. Although there would be no available empirical data to prove this point of view as the balloting was secret, it was also common knowledge that a good number of Yoruba people rooted for Obi. Indeed, the leadership of the apex Yoruba cultural group, the Afenifere, did not mince words in their support for Obi, for reasons they gave during the campaigns.

Besides, we cannot overlook the influence of former President Obasanjo, the Doyin Okukpes, the Ayo Adebanjos, to mention just a few, in Yoruba land. In other words, many Yoruba people as well as other voters of diverse ethnic groups living in Lagos must have voted for Obi.

In the same vein, there were quite a lot of Igbo people and others that had love for Tinubu and voted for him, just as Atiku garnered votes for himself too. In any case, the voters reserve an inalienable right to vote for any candidate of their choice and it is criminal to antagonise them over this choice. It’s a democracy.
When the bulldozers attacked the buildings in question post-election, it became difficult to discern whether the demolitions were linked to the bad blood during the elections. After all, as the saying goes, the witch cried in the night and the baby died next morning.
Besides, there had been reported threats by so-called Lagos indigenes to the Igbo people since the election period. In some cases, shops belonging to the Igbo traders were set ablaze. Naturally, one was bound to feel the demolitions were the official versions of the growing unfounded antagonism. Of late, the Speaker of the state’s assembly had talked about new land laws that would emanate from the House, apparently targeted at non-Yorubas living in Lagos.
We discover that the rift had gone more than skin-deep and if allowed to continue, could lead to unpleasant consequences for both parties. The offence committed by these traders at the receiving end of the brawl might never be articulated and is unlikely to hold water in the court of equity and moral justice.
However, it was necessary to discuss it. What appeared a little lackadaisical on the part of the other four governors in the south east region, the ancestral home of the Igbo is that none of them found it worthy to accompany Gov. Uzodimma to give weight to the discussion. If the other three new ones would give the excuse that they were trying to get their feet firm on the ground in their respective domains, what of the Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo?
Rapprochement between the two major nationalities that occupy the southern Nigeria is necessary to prepare grounds for the much talked about handshake across the Niger. Seriously, the lingering differences among Yoruba and Igbo should be holistically discussed by the committee looking into the case in the interest of the national economy.

Dr. Odu can be reached through or SMS 08115711108


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