Columnist Fred Chukwuelozie says he has changed his mind about appears like a persecution of the Igbo in Lagos.

I have refrained from believing cries of persecution of Igbo people in Lagos, which got worse after the February 25, 2023 elections. I have written articles asking those who cry victims to check themselves. I have tried to be careful not to assume the persecution is an official decision of the Lagos State Government. I still believe it is not. But I add that allegations of it need to be investigated, and the act stopped.

From the demolition of properties allegedly built on unapproved lands and channelisation routes to denial of houses and rent shops, the cry keeps increasing. But I kept calling for caution.

Not anymore. It could be real and is being carried out by both government officials and social miscreants.

Although on the demolition of properties, some of us may have built on unapproved lands, but clearly, the demolition is done with so much vile in a manner of ‘let’s teach them a lesson’.

What informed my change of position?

Because of the traffic gridlock occasioned by the Christmas season and the presence of president Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos, I have been using Bolt to commute. I have heard stories from the drivers. They are stories of persecution by operatives of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). I heard from drivers of Igbo nation, Edo nation, and Yoruba nation. It goes like this.

The transport officials stop you for alleged traffic infractions and immediately initiate a conversation. The conversation is usually in the Yoruba language. If you respond in Yoruba, negotiations will start on the road. If you don’t speak Yoruba, curses and threats are issued in pidgin English.

A driver from Edo told me he has been arrested thrice. On each occasion, once the transport officials found out he was not Yoruba, they automatically labelled him Igbo and “ObiDent.” They seized his car, drove it recklessly to their station where they extorted N26,000, N15,000, N20,000 from him on each of three occasions.

“Shebi, you people said you want Peter Obi? Shebi, you voted for the Labour Party? We go show una for this Lagos. If una vex, make una go back to Biafra,” went the threat.

This was what the drivers who spoke to me said. The words were not used exactly for the three drivers I spoke with, but followed a similar line. The Yoruba driver who confirmed her own experience to me was kind to admit it exists. She told me her saving grace was that she’s Yoruba. So, they let her go after extorting N5,000 only. She confirmed the persecution exists and said her fellow hailing taxi drivers face this daily.

These are serious allegations. The drivers I encountered may be small in number to assume that the persecution is widespread. It is also not possible to conclude that the persecution of Igbos and those not of Yoruba nation is an official Lagos State position. But it is worrisome. And something needs to be done.

If we claim we are practising democracy, why should people be persecuted for their political choices? Are we saying because Peter Obi, labour party’s presidential candidate in that election is Igbo and many Igbo people voted for him, the Igbo nation has committed an ‘electoral offence’, which they must be persecuted for? Do we realise that Mr. Obi got votes from a cross section of Nigerians, and not just the Igbo? Do we also realise many Yoruba voted against president Tinubu? Why should these rascals be executing this vendetta?’ Who sent them?

Like I advised the Igbo drivers who laid the complaints, those who suffer in the hands of these reckless Lagos State Government officials and the unofficial area boys should file complaints with their village unions. The unions should, in turn, forward the complaints to the local Ohanaeze for onward transmission to the national body. The national body should take up the matter with our political leaders who should meet with the Lagos State Government. The government should caution its officials to refrain from this obnoxious and unwholesome act.

This is the year of our Lord 2023. Soon, we’d move into 2024. I think Nigeria has wobbled and fumbled enough that it is high time we began to think of things that would help keep us together as a nation, which would move the nation forward instead of backwards.

It is a terrible thing that in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos, people are being persecuted for their political choices, which the Constitution clearly guarantees them.

This is a recipe for anarchy. It must be discouraged by all means.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us think about our future. What sort of nation do we aspire to have? A nation that allows this pettiness or a nation that encourages representative democracy in which everyone should be allowed to exercise their voting choices without persecution by rascals who are emboldened because the state sits idly by and does not.

This persecution of the Igbo in Lagos must stop! It belongs to the primitive age and not this millennium.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Why are we mistreated this way?

Fred wonders why Nigerians are mistreated inside and outside their country, given last weekend’s Saudi visa treatment and the local polls.


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