By Eric OKEKE
Things Fall Apart is the title of the bestseller by celebrated Nigerian storyteller, late Chinua Achebe, an Anambra son. If he was alive today, he would have spoken against the recent shabby treatment of his people by Lagos.
So much has been said about the Anambra 14 saga. Figures are conflicting. This is the number of Anambra indigenes rounded up in Lagos streets, branded destitute, sent home by Lagos authorities, and abandoned at Onitsha city, Anambra State, in the wee hours of the morning, uncared for and unprotected. Ndigbo are aggrieved by this action, crying discrimination against their tribe. But the aggressors are screaming they are right. Lagos infrastructure is overstretched. It cannot be a dumping ground of economic parasites. If you cannot take care of your people, the Centre of Excellence, the Megacity will send them back to you. What is excellent or mega about this action? I ask.
As an Anambra son, I am outraged by Lagos’ action. Anybody whose kinsmen and women are maltreated that way in their own country will feel bad. Let’s examine the action with some objectivity though it does not deserve it. Anybody or place can rid its territory of unwanted matter. But, people should be treated with care, respect and dignity.
Lagos authorities can make the city better, but at the right time in the right way. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced due process into governance in Nigeria. But our leaders are yet to imbibe it. Lagos claims it followed due process in Anambra 14 action. But the finishing was untidy. Were the destitute taken home by chartered flight, truck, luxury bus or air-conditioned shuttle buses that ply the Lagos-Eastern route? Was there any hand over? Anambra 14 action lacked human dignity. Defenders are blaming Anambra governor, Peter Obi for reporting the matter to the Presidency to gain political mileage for the forthcoming Anambra elections. A simple “I am sorry” to Ndigbo could have quenched the raging fire.
Instead, Governor Fashola of Lagos wore the toga of arrogance and griped about the Anambra governor not calling him on the matter. As Babs talked tough, his kinsmen and co-travelers in the opposition train were beating their chests for a job well done. Meanwhile, quicksilver, Mr. Fan, is fanning the embers of tribalism telling Ndigbo they can never be sons of Lagos soil no matter their quantum of investments in the city. They should go home. That’s the bitter truth.
Igboman, Onyebuchi Onyegbule in his BUSINESSDAY column of August 9 described the action as dumping. That’s a hard word. He spoke about issues at stake for Ndigbo in the megacity that lacks a mega heart and how to decongest Lagos. They made sense to me though it was Igbo sentiment at play. He ended by saying: ‘You take their tax and drive away their destitute. That’s APC doctrine.’ I don’t agree. Paying tax is the obligation of every working adult that should not stop any state action. And we should not drag APC into this tangle.
Other sentiments were expressed by another BUSINESSDAY columnist, Opeyemi Agbaje on August 07. He described the saga as ‘relocation.’ That’s uncharitable. His submissions: Fashola appointed an Anambra son as Commissioner; named a housing estate in Lagos after a respected Anambra son; helped a dying Ndigbo daughter; and more. Clap for him. It is all begging the question
You cannot cover up bad action with charity. Is the Anambra man in Lagos cabinet waiting to be ‘relocated?’ He should resign. The other Ndigbo son serving Lagos is doing well as His Master’s Voice. We hear the ‘Voice of Jacob but see the Hand of Esau’ at work. We wish him well
Igbo kwenu! Let’s go home now. In the North we are bombed in churches, homes, shops, and luxury buses. In the West we are deported, relocated, or ported. Ndigbo, let’s go back in Exodus 2.0 to our land. It includes me who came to Lagos in 1983 to join The Guardian as Senior Reporter. Now, at 58, in pains, I should retire to my hometown Abagana, in Anambra to author books and publish a community newspaper. We are scattered all over Nigeria, oppressed, suffering and complaining while our homeland is crying for development. I am crying for my people, the master traders, the Jews of Africa, who migrate to other lands, settle there, work hard, prosper, invest, increase and multiply, but assailed regularly by their hosts.
President Jonathan is transforming Igboland; building and upgrading infrastructure there; modernizing seaports and airports; building the second Niger Bridge; dualizing roads; declared Anambra the 10the oil producing state; honoured Anambra sons, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu and Chinua Achebe at their burial. Let my people go. Lagos infrastructure is collapsing under the weight of more than 10 million people. Let Ladipo market traders in Lagos move. Let Aspamda, Alaba, Idumota, Importers, Motor Spare Parts dealers, and other Ndigbo market clusters in the north migrate home. Don’t wait to be ‘relocated.’ If we go, Lagos traffic jams will disappear; house rents will crash, and the pressure on infrastructure will ease. One Igbo name I like a lot is Ikemefuna. It means, Let me not lose my strength; let my strength not fail me. Ndigbo, if we don’t go now, we will either lose our strength, or it will fail us. Let’s go now so we don’t crumble. And the place to start is Lagos.
■Okeke is a Brand Storyteller and Media Consultant