On resistance to lockdown in Lagos

A lockdown was on March 10 imposed on Lagos by President Buhari as a result of the ongoing ravaging Corona virus pandemic. Last Tuesday, it was extended the by 14 days claiming the “repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable”.

The shutdown has no doubt left many who depend on daily wages stranded. But to mitigate the effect on the most vulnerable, the Lagos State government has been distributing food packages to about 200,000 most vulnerable households with plans to double the aid.

However, some privileged elites in exclusive residential estates who did not see any reason to make sacrifices have employed services of lawyers to enforce their fundamental human rights.

Others including bandits and hoodlums who similarly do not see the relationship between the health of state and their continued well-being have taken to robbing residents of some Lagos residential areas.

This development only confirms the fears of the owners of Lagos that many fortune seekers see only a city to be freely pillaged without giving anything back.

It is perhaps for this reason, that a journey back through history will show very clearly that successive fortune seekers driven to Nigeria by Britain’s 1873 depression and the Fulani and Igbo that have held Nigeria hostage over control of Lagos since independence, have only one thing in common –reaping without investment.

Britain, for instance, in a typical act of banditry, obtained a treaty of the cession of Lagos with King Dosunmu in 1861 only to depose Kosoko in order to take control of prime Lagos Victoria Island.

Of course, the Fulani, after conquering Gobir, the star city of the Hausa states in 1804, Ilorin in 1823 was set for Lagos until their caravan was stopped in Osogbo by the Ibadan army in 1838.

But it was a temporary set-back. Revealing Lagos was their ultimate goal, Ahmadu Bello in 1953 after an encounter with street ruffians who at Iddo train station referred to him and his northern delegates as British stooges for rejecting Enahoro’s “motion for independence in 1956”, swore when next he would be coming to Lagos, he would come with his sword to complete his grandfather’s interrupted journey to the sea.

It was instructive that when Lagos became a federal territory, successive ministers for Lagos affairs from Alhaji Ribadu, Yar’Adua, Kontagora, Barnabas Gemade and Adisa were all from the north.

Following her seizure by Igbo after January 1966 night of many knives, it was retrieved July 1966 by Murtala Mohammed, Danjuma and Gowon after paying Igbo back blood for blood in Ibadan, Abeokuta and Lagos.

Murtala Muhammed, their leader, after ferrying their wives and children to Kaduna in a hijacked British Airways aircraft threatened to sink Lagos with dynamite and pull the north out of the federation until he was talked out of his momentary madness by British and American diplomats who jointly convinced him that secession by the north from Nigeria at that period would be suicidal.

What else could have led a man who had enjoyed all the good things Lagos could offer including a wife and mother of his children to threaten sinking Lagos with dynamite but the fear of losing Lagos to arch enemy-the Igbo?

Between 1979-83, with plan to relocate the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja, President Shehu Shagari abandoned the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge just as he according to Jakande, second republic governor of Lagos State, derailed the take-off the Lagos Metro Line project by refusing to sign even after the counterpart funding had been deposited in the bank by Lagos.

Even with federal capital in Abuja, General Babangida, with the help of his minister of justice, Clement Apamgbo could not help coming up with Decree 53 of 1993 backdated to January 1, 1975 to confiscate choice Osborne land for himself and his cronies

There are historical facts to support the thesis that Igbo’s deadly struggle with Fulani since independence was over the soul of Lagos.

The Igbo’s desperate battle to take control of Lagos started with Dr. Olorunnibe’s refusal to step down for Zik to represent Lagos in the Federal House in 1952.

Ozumba Mbadiwe was to later move the motion to take Lagos out of the West, a motion ignored by Balewa. The 1952 false claim that Zik was cheated from forming the Western Region government was all about Lagos.

At the London 1957 Constitutional Conference, Awo was the only man standing against Igbo demand that Lagos be ceded out of the West.

Writing on History of Ethnic Tension and Resentment in his Trouble With Nigeria, Chinua Achebe on why Nigerians hate the Igbos had said “Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950.”

He was right. Awo and his AG manifesto for the 1951 election followed a survey carried out in the East which showed that the area had more secondary schools, more primary school enrolment, more hospital bed spaces and more tarred roads than the West. By 1959 however, the tide had changed as a result of resourcefulness of Awo and his Action Group and their free education programme.

In 1962, Igbo and Fulani came together to fight a common enemy by illegally declaring the state of emergency in the West. They imposed S.L. Akintola, rejected in the polls by the people on the region. The Yoruba concluded that “bi iku ile ko ba pani, tode o le pani”.

(It is better to first deal with the enemy within). Without posing any threat to the lives and properties of Igbo and Fulani across Yoruba land, they made the Yoruba nation ungovernable for Akintola with the whole region looking like a war-ravaged area with smoldering, burnt houses littering the streets of major Yoruba cities.

This was why many believe the January 1966 coup could not have been about saving Nigeria or serving the course of justice but designed to help to ease the takeover of Lagos by Igbo especially after the constitutional crises that forced both Zik and Balewa to approach the military for support.

Events during and after the coup support the thesis that the control of Lagos was the cause of all the killings. General Ironsi, according to Richard Akinjide, only needed to have sworn in the next most senior surviving minister as acting Prime Minister.

But he instead took over power and promulgated Decree 34 of 1966, turning the country from federal to a unitary state in order to consolidate his hold on Lagos.

Odumegwu Ojukwu even after securing his Biafra nation would not allow Lagos to go without a fight. His first action was to hijack British Airways aircraft with which he carried out the bombing of Casino Cinema, Yaba.

Instead of defending his Biafra, he was on his way to Lagos after overrunning Benin where he appointed Okonkwo as administrator before he was stopped at Ore by Yoruba hurriedly formed battalion.

To show Lagos was the ultimate prize, he did not forget to reassure Col Banjo that he would be appointed administrator of West while he, Ojukwu, would take the decision as to who to appoint administrator of Lagos.

The current resistance to lockdown by a few privileged elites and bandits is but a confirmation that fortune seekers in Lagos do not often behave differently.

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