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Igbos and Lagos' politics of 'taxation without representation' is dangerous, unacceptable

By JOE IGBOKWE

Special to NigeriaCentral.com
USAfricaonline.com
USAfrica The Newspaper. Houston


I have been in Lagos since the early 1980s, and all my children were born in Lagos. I am educated enough and politically conscious enough to know the magnitude and significance of Igbo investment in Lagos. Igbos have not invested one twentieth of what they have invested in Lagos alone in comparison to what they have in the entire South East or the former Eastern region. (It is important to note that in terms of land area and population, Lagos is less than one eight of that region). There is no part of Lagos State that I do not know very well. I know what my people are putting up in all nook and cranny of Lagos State. They pay their taxes here, they pay tenement rates here, and if new property levy being proposed by the Lagos State Government is eventually accepted by all, Ndigbo will be taxed billions every year in Lagos State alone. You cannot be collecting billions from people and deny them their democratic rights of being involved in how you are spending the money. If Lagos has twelve commissioners and Nigeria is truly a nation state, there is no reason why six of such commissioners should not come from outside the Yoruba stock. If Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu who is not from Lagos State can be voted in as the governor of Lagos State, there is no reason whatsoever, why somebody from any part of Nigeria cannot be voted as governor of Lagos.... The criminal assertion that there is no vacancy for Igbos in Lagos Politics amounts to an open declaration of war on the Nigerian State and I know that other stakeholders in Lagos State will not go to sleep. And very soon, The Eko Pioneers' members such as L.O.T. Adams and Co will know that all the money used to build the roads and flyovers and other national institutions in Lagos, did not come from Lagos State. It is the sweat of all Nigerians.

Regarding a letter published in Lagos-based The Guardian newspaper of Monday March 25, 2002, "No Vacancy For Igbos in Lagos Politics'' by members of The Eko Pioneers, Lagos, and signed by its secretary, Mr. L.O.T. Adamson, I have some observation and comments.

The major thrust of the letter, according to The Eko Pioneers, is that "Although we are all Nigerians, the Igbos have no stake whatsoever in Lagos Politics." Buttressing the point further, The Eko Pioneers said: "In as much as Lagosians cannot be commissioners and chairmen of parastatals in any Igbo state, then it stands to reason that Igbos should not cause confusion through their unwarranted, ill-timed and ill-conceived over-ambition in Lagos State."

First, let me say that I have been embarrassed several times by some Igbo charlatans in Lagos who hide under Ohaneze or Ndigbo in Lagos to make provocative statements that cannot by any stretch of imagination, be the true position of Ndigbo. These are jobless people with limited education who have found new jobs in wearing Isi Agu attires, matched with red caps and with walking sticks, move from one media house to another, from local council headquarters to the Governor's Office at Alausa, mouthing worthless platitudes and renditions that do more harm than good to the dignity and psyche of Ndigbo. For the avoidance of doubt, let it be known that such clowns and impostors do not speak for Ndigbo, such people should not be allowed to trivialise a very serious matter regarding the status of Lagos State in contemporary Nigeria.

In his book, Nigeria Federation: A century Long Force, Barrister/Attorney Tony Anozia wrote: "From the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, and the movement of Nigeria's capital from Calabar to Lagos, all Nigerians had joined hands in developing cosmopolitan Lagos as their London, their Paris, New York, Berlin. Just as all British citizens developed London, and all Americans New York and Washington, and all Germans, Berlin and all French citizens, Paris. Lagos should be to all Nigerians what Washington DC or New York, is to the Americans - a home of every American, conferring equal opportunities and rights and obligations on all citizens irrespective of state of origin. But the evil geniuses in Nigeria thought otherwise. Thus under the headship of state of General Obasanjo, Justice Ayo Irikefe was appointed Chairman of a Boundary Adjustment commission and it appeared that the commission was instructed to merge Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry towns, hitherto part of Ogun State, with cosmopolitan Lagos to form the New Lagos State. There was a premeditated intention to thus make the new Lagos State the exclusive property of the Yorubas. Thus the contributions of all Nigerians for upwards of a century are a loss to non Yorubas. Today, Lagos is an exclusive property of one ethnic group of the 250 ethnic groups that developed it, and are still developing it. Consider the taxes that were paid from 1914 by all Nigerians for the development of their capital city, their London, their Paris. Consider the amount of oil money that had been lavishly spent on edifices and infrastructures and port complexes. Now, the governance of Lagos is in the hands of one ethic group to the exclusion of all others, even those from whose land the revenue for the development was derived and is still being derived. Other Nigerians can live in Lagos just like any foreigner can live in Lagos. It was the Americans in 1770s who protested: "Taxation without Representation Is No Democracy."

Anozia continued: "The North knowing that they have their own programme of imperial domination, could not oppose the craft. Justice Akinola Aguda Commission was instructed to move the capital from Lagos to central spot in Nigeria, which ordinary common sense should inform, is in the heart of the North. That place is called Abuja.

I have gone this far to show The Eko Pioneers and others who think like them, that Ndigbo understand the game being played in Nigeria. Today, Abuja is being speedily developed by all Nigerians. Igbo nation is leading other Nigerians in property development, where they must have invested billions. Abuja has more than a status of a state. From information released by the Federal Government recently, Abuja has received N40 billion since May 29, 1999. Within the same period, my state Anambra, received just about N22 billion.

Tomorrow, Nigeria may cede Abuja to the North and probably start to develop another capital in Osun State. The worse loser in all these criminal manipulations of the Nigeria system is the Igbo nation the highest investors in Nigeria state. After the war, a sizeable number of Igbo investments in Nigeria went to other Nigerians (the Victors) in the name of indigenisation. Should Lagos and Abuja be ceded to the Yorubas and the Hausa/Fulanis, the Igbo will be the worst loser.

I have been in Lagos since the early 80s, and all my children were born in Lagos. I am educated enough and politically conscious enough to know the magnitude of Igbo investment in Lagos alone. Igbo have not invested one twentieth of what they have invested in Lagos alone in the whole of South East or the former Eastern region. There is no part of Lagos State that I do not know very well. I know what my people are putting up in all nook and cranny of Lagos State. They pay their taxes here, they pay tenement rates here, and if new property levy being proposed by the Lagos State Government is eventually accepted by all, Ndigbo will be taxed billions every year in Lagos State alone. You cannot be collecting billions from people and deny them their democratic rights of being involved in how you are spending the money. If Lagos has twelve commissioners and Nigeria is truly a nation state, there is no reason why six of such commissioners should not come from outside the Yoruba stock. If Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu who is not from Lagos State can be voted in as the governor of Lagos State, there is no reason whatsoever, why somebody from any part of Nigeria cannot be voted as governor of Lagos.

May I again, take authority from Barrister Tony Anozia's famous book: "Lagos should have been a show piece in cosmopolitanism among Nigeria's over 250 ethnic groups instead of ceding it to one ethnic group by myopic, parochial, tribal jingoists who think that the world started with them and will end with them and they will take earthly wealth to their perpetual home. Mrs. Hilary Clinton is going to New York. All she needs to stand in a bid for senatorial seat is 'Residence On The Election Day' This is cosmopolitanism. This means that every inch of American soil belongs to any American in every sense of the word. Cosmopolitanism is the barometer of nation statehood. That Lagos cannot belong to all Nigerians is an indicator that we cannot be one. If Nigeria has not evolved to the extent that citizens can hold offices in the city where their forebears contributed for a century to build because of tribal balkanization, then we are not a nation state. Nigeria can as well pack up. Some people may jump and say that the constitution gives every citizen the right to stand for election anywhere in Nigeria provided the one establishes evidence of residence. With tribal sentiments burning like hell fire in the heart of the Yorubas and with more than one half of the population of the New Lagos State, excessively Yorubas with inclusion of Epe, Ikorodu, and Badagry towns, No miracle can make a non Yoruba win a gubernational, senatorial or House of Representative election in Lagos. But any Yoruba man not being a Lagosian, can. As a demonstration of this assertion, during the 1993 presidential election, MKO Abiola scored around one million votes in Lagos State alone and his opponent, Alhaji Tofa scored less than two hundred thousand, no doubt from non-Yoruba voters. Dr. Segun Ogundimu, the NRC co-ordinator a fullblooded Yoruba man described the result as a reflection of ethnic voting. Why should cosmopolitan Lagos not be subject to the provisions of sections 297 and 299 of the 1999 Constitution? In the quest to achieve justice and equity and assuage wounded feelings and move forward in fraternising as a united people, nothing should be swept under the carpet. The status of Lagos must be revisited. It is not a settled issue. Unless Nigeria is breaking up. It is hunting the present. The whiteman never intended that after using the resources of the entire country to develop Lagos as our London or New York, the administration of Lagos as our London or New York, the administration of Lagos will be handed over to one ethnic community. If the status of Lagos as of today is condoned, what is the guarantee that in future, Abuja will not revert to its original owners?"

This is indeed the fundamental question that needs to be addressed by the National Assembly and the Executive.

I am informed that Nigeria's President retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has set up a committee on citizenship headed by the Governor of Nasarawa State. I believe the committee will honestly and dispassionately look at the status of Lagos and Abuja once again. And if the Executive and the National Assembly fail to resolve this matter, let Mr. L.O.T. Adamson and members of The Eko Pioneers be prepared to face other Nigerians at the proposed National Conference.

Therefore, the criminal assertion that there is no vacancy for Igbos in Lagos Politics amounts to an open declaration of war on the Nigerian State and I know that other stakeholders in Lagos State will not go to sleep. And very soon, Mr. L.O.T. Adams and Co will know that all the money used to build the roads and flyovers and other national institutions in Lagos, did not come from Lagos State. It is the sweat of all Nigerians.
Igbokwe is a commentator on public policy and politics of Nigeria. His rejoinder, Why Obasanjo's minister Mrs. Dupe Adelaja should apologize to the Igbo nation and Nigerians for her bigotry, was published here on USAfricaonline.com in 2001.

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