The Lagos intimidation is the intermittent fights between the Igbo and Yoruba in Lagos. Whenever it erupts, it usually ends up as acts of intimidation rather than “two fighting,” to employ police speak. Its goal is always the same. Aggressors deploy fighting words to frighten non-Lagosians away from polling stations. Where the foolhardy among them attempt to join voting queues, street rascals are quickly mobilized to disrupt proceedings. The rascals snatch and whisk ballot boxes to “safe” thumbprint destinations or destroy the votes in situ. This barbarism repeats every election cycle and is unstoppable.
There are four major reasons why it is impossible to break these intermittent acts of barbarism and permanently nip them in the bud. The first is that this is not a real fight but contrived political ploys to catch votes during election cycles. Second, the antagonists, those who habitually provoke and escalate the fight, almost always have little or no vested interest on issues that propelled them into the fight. Third, it is a proxy fight for constituted authority –those whose responsibility it is to discourage or break up the fight. The fourth, and most impactful, is the aggressors’ fight rhetoric. Let’s quickly deal with the first three and return for a deeper look at the fourth.
We shall get better at resolving whatever issues there are when we recognize that this is not a real fight. What is at play is usually a little bit of rodomontade to spice up a well-coordinated propaganda aimed at rousing ethnic pride. Emotions are stirred and those sitting on the bench are roused into a proxy fight where no casualties are ever recorded. The braggadocio may extend to threats to gather and drown an ethnic group in the Atlantic. But this is not a real fight.
A fight is a struggle to overcome, eliminate or prevent. A real fight is a violent struggle that involves exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons. The worst that takes place are hoodlums charging into voting booths, shooting in the air to frighten voters away, and destroying ballots or making away with their boxes. After the votes are announced, the aggressors go back to their business partnerships, inter-ethnic marriages, entertainment collaborations, and sales of landed property.
The quick return to normalcy is made possible because the antagonists, those who habitually provoke and escalate the fight, almost always have little or no vested interest on issues that propelled them into the fight. What are these issues? Yoruba are incensed whenever an Igbo suggests that Easterners have vested interest in Lagos. The people who “carry the fight on their heads” are not Lagos landlords. As a matter of fact, the landlords are never consulted before they launch into their offensives. Neither have Lagos landlords ever complained about how members of a group, Igbo or other, have been annexing their property. The reason why they do not bother is simple. Majority of non-Lagosians do not own Lagos land in perpetuity. The best they do is to lease the property for 45 or 99 years while the landowners use this lease to provide for succeeding generations.
It is not as if the aggressors are not aware that they are launching intermittent stupid battles. They are. The bosses who stoke ethnic fights during election cycles arrange the proxy fights because they lost popularity. And yes, you guessed right – it’s constituted authority that owns the fight. In a way, this fight enables non-Lagos Yoruba to continue to lord it over the indigenous people. They are the problem with Lagos, as can be seen from the way they hold them down and appropriate their land using their perpetual tenancy at Alausa. Their chokehold will relax the day a real Lagosian ascends power.
To have an idea of what that day would look like, one has to go back in time to the era of the Wizard of Kirsten Hall when the Lagos gentry held sway in the affairs of Lagos. The bonding of Lagos Gentry with “strangers” particularly Easterners was such that, at one point, the Igbo mobilized to assist in creating a motorable pathway from Eko to Ikorodu through a thick forest. Lagos was kept at arms length from the Western Region and remained this way until the military incursion into the body politic. It also helped that the city was designated as federal capital.
It could have been easy to characterize the intermittent intimidation of non-Yoruba as an effort to ensure that the Lagos lives in the spirit of the western region. This is however not the case. It’s more of a tiny band of adventurers attempting to stamp an ethnic identity on the land of opportunity designated and developed by colonialists as home for returnee slaves and every other Nigerian, including the Yoruba.
The Yoruba that understand condemn the intermittent voter intimidation in Lagos, even as this tiny band blatantly promotes it. What is interesting is that when we think about it, both groups are actually exacerbating the tension with their rhetoric, rather than providing solutions. Of particular interest is the rhetoric applied by the peacemaker, the one who writes that it is not in the character of the Yoruba not to welcome strangers.
This narrative is somehow presented as the differentiator between the Yoruba and other ethnic nationalities that come into Lagos. It is constructed and maintained with a quicksand of falsehoods. One is that only the Yoruba sells real estate to non-Yoruba. Second, the built property and land exchanges are presented as if they were gifts to strangers rather than legitimate real estate transactions. Finally, non-Yoruba residents are presented as economic migrants, akin to those enduring the elements in the Sahara adventures to Europe.
Examined closely, accommodation of strangers is actually a Nigerian character trait, acknowledged by non Nigerians who had the opportunity to visit any part of the country. Therefore saying that this is peculiar to a particular group reinforces the narrative that non-natives want to take over Lagos by renting or leasing property in the place. It positions Nigerians as strangers in their own country. It draws the unwary into a needless fight that benefits only a tiny band of power mongers who, in fact, are the real overlords of Lagos, using political power to reap where they do not sow.