Chinweizu adds a perspective on Igbo safety and Lagos politics in this open “letter to an Onye-Igbo friend in Lagos.”

Why is it the job of Igbos to rescue the Lagos Yorubas from the APC political machine they themselves created and that’s now grinding everybody down? Why should Igbos sacrifice themselves for others? Why shouldn’t Igbos look to their own safety first? Or is self-preservation no longer the first law of nature?


My dear CA, Kaa.

This letter is prompted by the situation in Lagos in this 2023 election period. Several factions among the Yoruba are fighting over power, and non-Yoruba voters, Igbos included, are having to decide how to use their votes. 

My concern is that Igbos, for their safety, should stop making themselves pawns in the fight among Yoruba factions, and stop offering themselves to be sacrificed as scapegoats by any unhappy faction.

A few days ago I sent out my recommendation for circulation to Igbo voters in Lagos. You wrote me and strongly disagreed with my recommendation. I suggested we agree to disagree on this matter, but you came back with a more elaborate statement of your position.

I think our disagreement is rooted in our different perspectives, and in the different models we are using to understand the problem. May I therefore invite you to join me in an examination of the models behind our different recommendations?

Mine is that of aggression, and specifically of the Territorial Imperative and its penalties for intrusion. Yours, if I understand it correctly, is that of inter-spousal violence, i.e. domestic violence. If I am wrong, please correct me.

May I briefly explain mine? I think Igbo behavior in Lagos violates the Territorial Imperative, and therefore is biologically incorrect. And it is triggering the response that intrusion naturally provokes in territory-defending species. (Besides humans, the many animal species that defend territory include Foxes, Termites, Howling monkeys, Rats, and Lions)

Intrusion is a form of aggression; and in these species, intruders are usually driven back across the boundary.  Or worse, are attacked, defeated and killed. Igbos in Lagos are behaving like intruders and are provoking the biologically correct response from those into whose territory they are intruding. And as they don’t seem to like the response, the question is how they should get out alive from the dangerous situation in which they have put themselves by their behaving (even if unconsciously) like intruders.

Your perspective is based on the model that Igbos in Lagos are like a wife battered by her bully of a husband. But are Igbos the wife of the Yorubas? How so? By what logic or curious imagination is that even a plausible analogy? That’s why I think your model is inappropriate and misleading. And like they say: If you don’t understand it, you can’t fix it. Hence any recommendation based on it can’t solve a problem it misunderstands. A flood is not a forest fire, and any attempt to use on a flood the measures that are appropriate for a forest fire, or vice versa, has little or no chance of success.

From the territorial imperative perspective, Igbos in Lagos are behaving like intruders, like aggressors. They may not be conscious of it, but they are doing so just the same. Until they become conscious of it, they can’t understand the response they are provoking, and they can’t save themselves from the biologically correct response to their territorial intrusion. If they dislike the response, all they need to do is cease and desist from their intrusive behavior and conduct themselves like good guests.

Let me give a historical perspective that shows that Igbo behavior in Lagos is also politically incorrect; especially given some of the reckless claims some of them make.  How can Lagos be “No man’s land” when Igbos met some people there when they first arrived?  How can Lagos be “No man’s land” when it was a Yoruba ruler, Oba Kosoko, who ceded Lagos to the British in 1861? That’s decades before Igbos started arriving in Lagos. When and how did it subsequently become “No Man’s land”?

Now, consider a man who goes from his village to another village and gets into a compound where he buys a piece of land in some corner and builds his house. Then he begins to ask to take part in the family meeting of the owners of the compound. He doesn’t stop there. Claiming that the compound is “No man’s land”, he proceeds to demand to chair the family meeting of his hosts. Should he be surprised if the offended hosts attack and throw him out?

Igbo Safety and Lagos Politics

How can the Igbo guests in Lagos insist on selecting the governor of Lagos? Isi odikwa ha mma? Is their head correct? The Naija version of democracy no go gree that kind of democrazy-o! Niaja no be America where, with the indigenes killed off, everybody is an immigrant and anybody can seek any office anywhere he lives in America. So Igbos need to come to their political senses if they want to live in safety in Lagos.

Furthermore, why is it the job of Igbos to rescue the Lagos Yorubas from the APC political machine they themselves created and that’s now grinding everybody down? Why should Igbos sacrifice themselves for others? Why shouldn’t Igbos look to their own safety first? Or is self-preservation no longer the first law of nature? You asked me to stop distributing my recommendation to the Igbos in Lagos. And I ask: Shouldn’t every Onye-Igbo in Lagos get a chance to consider the option I suggested before deciding what to do on election day? And if not, why not?

Let Igbos not get carried away either by human rights rhetoric or by the illusion that Nigeria is already a mature democracy where alleged citizen rights are respected and enforced.

Here is an instructive story about rights: A driver of a VW beetle came to a crossroads. The traffic light showed green for him. But he saw an elephant about to cross in front of him. Instead of waiting for the elephant to cross, he insisted on his right of way and drove on. And the elephant put its foot on the car and crushed him inside it. He died maintaining his right of way. But what good did it do him? Hence the saying: Whatever the traffic light may say, the elephant has the right of way.

I hope this helps us understand our difference in this matter. If it doesn’t, then let’s agree to disagree, and rest the matter here.

Ya gazie. Mma mma.


Chinweizu: Igbo safety and Lagos politics


  • Chinweizu Ibekwe, known mononymously as Chinweizu, and also by the pen-name Maazi Chinweizu, is a Nigerian critic, essayist, poet, and journalist. He is the celebrated author of The West and the Rest of Us (1975) and co-author of Towards the Decolonisation of African Literature (1983) among other books of essays, satire, poems, and anthologies.

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