By Law Mefor
Rapprochement is the word – reestablishment of a happy relationship or rearrangement. A peace treaty between warring parties is a kind of rapprochement. That is the real perspective to the mission of Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) in Lagos governorship election.
TAN hardly needs any introductions. It was a creation of the Senator-elect, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, since 2013 or thereabout, used to revive and rev again the ailing and vanishing Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. TAN played a key role in the buildup to the 2015 General Elections, and was perhaps the most vital factor in the efforts for Jonathan’s re-election bid. But since then, following the surprising loss of Goodluck Jonathan, the organization has remained silent.
TAN came alive again when its members addressed a crucial press conference this Monday, endorsing Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Governor of Lagos State. This has set some tongues wagging, querying both the expediency and motive. Judging by the antecedents of TAN and its National Coordinator, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, the expectation has been that such endorsement, if at all, would be for Jimi Agbaje of the PDP.
Those who argue as such argue amiss and haven’t examined the deeper reasons for this apt TAN endorsement. Yes, though only a political pressure group, TAN pushes the pendulum based on strategic calculations. Though TAN fought for PDP in 2015, it is not its appendage and does not have to stick to that Party’s interests ad infinitum. TAN aims to be a stabilizing force in the polity. This time around, their view is that the elections in Lagos are creating peculiar security concern that poses existential threats to Ndigbo in the State.
Without a shred of doubt, Ndigbo in Lagos are under threat and the security agencies have not shown interest or capacity to contain it. Unfortunately, this is coming when Ohanaeze leadership under Nnia Nwodo just managed to strike the right cord Afenifere.
The penultimate Saturday Presidential Election witnessed direct attempts to stop Ndigbo from voting in Lagos because of their perceivable preference for the PDD. Their inclination to PDP is understandable: one of their own, Peter Obi was on the ticket. Ndigbo in Lagos were not alone. It was actually a South and Middle Belt project, since they all endorsed the ticket.
On Election Day, many Igbos were hounded and manhandled. They were prevented from voting in many places. Even where they managed to vote, in many instances, the ballot boxes containing their thumb printed ballot papers were burnt to ashes and they were chased away by gun-tottering thugs.
After that election, more threats issued. Hundreds of social miscreants, popularly known as ‘Area Boys’ further attacked Igbo traders on Lagos Island for not voting for President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The miscreants, who were armed with dangerous weapons like cutlasses, broken bottles, clubs and knives struck at about 9.am at Oluwole, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tinubu, Bamgbose and Alli Streets. Some Igbo traders who were just opening their shops for business were beaten with the instruction that all their shops should remain locked.
The armed hoodlums were seen parading the streets, shouting “Igbo should go back to their States to do business. This is Lagos,” most them and those who sent them immigrants like the Igbos the chase.
As if that was not enough, one Adeyinka Grandson, a well-known Yoruba xenophobic and Igbophobic, issued threats of genocide against Ndigbo in Lagos. Predictably, the security agents turned blind eyes to this threat of genocide. Predictably also, one response from one faceless Igbo man counter-threatening to kill Adeyinka Grandson before he could kill any Igbo person elicited an excited action on the part of the Nigeria Police. The Nigeria Police quickly roused and launched a manhunt for the Igbo man without a word for the Adeyinka who provoked the reaction. The life of this xenophobic and Igbophobic Adeyinka is certainly so precious, more precious than the lives of millions of Ndigbo in Lagos that have clearly come under threat.
These grave misunderstandings between some Igbo and Yoruba during the Feb. 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections led to some people being injured. The governorship election in Lagos this Saturday casts a gloomy picture and presents no better hope to be violent-free.
There are drums of war sounding everywhere. Ndigbo are being cajoled to kowtow to the false sense of entitlement of their hosts or pay for it, forcing the police Commissioner to issue a statement assuring Ndigbo and others of their security. The IPOB leadership and even Asari Dokubo have equally issued statements threatening to avenge the deaths of ‘Biafrans’ in Lagos should the threats be made good.
This is the scenario, which prompted the TAN intervention led by Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah. An Igbo adage says that when enmity becomes too widespread, one may go out of the way to seek peace. This intervention is not isolated. Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos made the first move by endorsing Sanwo-Olu of the APC. Their strategic move is in tandem with that of TAN and only strengthening it.
TAN said that the endorsement had become exigent after extensive deliberations and consultations with key stakeholders in Lagos State while giving due consideration to the manifestos of the other contestants. They therefore activated their political structures and mechanisms, and have started mobilizing door-to-door campaigners, market groups as well as other key groups, the structures that TAN has used to achieve groundbreaking and historic feats in Lagos State in 2015.
This deft move by Ifeanyi Ubah and TAN is timely and commendable. Like Bob Marley once said: “He, who fight and run away, live to fight another day”. Ndigbo cannot be cowed. Voting APC in governorship is only strategic and not cowardice. It is a sacrifice to forestall inevitable tragedies like IPOB and OPC engaging in street fights in Lagos and dogs and baboons soaking in their own blood(apologies President Muhammadu Buhari).
What is more, if Lagosians are serious about ‘Otoge Lagos’ (Enough is enough), let them be serious about it like the Kwarans. They should not use the Igbo man’s head to crack their coconuts.
Ifeanyi Ubah is actually well-suited for this intervention. In 2015, he campaigned vigorously in Lagos for the PDP and the results were 2 or 3 Igbos winning from Lagos to the Federal House and Lagos State Assembly. Asking Ndigbo Lagos to vote for APC this time around for strategic reasons, will therefore make sense to them, coming from a man who has always stood with them. In politics, there are no permanent enemies and permanent friends; only permanent strategic interests.
Sanwo-Olu himself must reciprocate this great gesture if he wins by securing Ndigbo in Lagos and their businesses, unlike what has been disturbingly obtaining in the recent past where their businesses in Alaba and other parts of Lagos are suffering threats of extinction. This has to stop, lest this rapprochement be in vain and the newfound working relationship between the Yorubas and Ndigbo suffer irreversible setbacks.
Dr. Law Mefor, from Anambra State, is a Forensic/Social Psychologist, and writes from Abuja; e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.