Thursday, April 17, 2014

Igbos In Lagos State: My Experience, By Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe

Published:
Lagos State belongs as much to the ethnic Igbo as to the Yoruba, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, Efik, Idoma, Urhobo, Itshekiri, Edo, and so on who live in it, pay tax, identify with it, and settle in it. That compact was made the moment Nigeria became a single nation, and a successor power to the old principalities who were subdued and who ceded their sovereignty for the new commonwealth of Nigeria .
It was pragmatic. The Igbo had the skill and the industry, and Lagos was the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria and its major port. The Igbo have lived in Lagos since the 15th century when the Aro and other Igbo first settled in good number in a place we now call “Oyingbo” in the era of Benin and the Portuguese trade.
The arrival of  Dr. Namdi Azikiwe to Lagos in 1937 from Accra after his studies in the United States, stimulated the political and cultural environment of Lagos as no other has before or after him. Zik literally resurrected the wizard of Kirsten hall from political death. Zik represented Lagos in the western house. The NCNC was the power in Lagos , and not the Action Group. The Igbo were prominent in the governance of Lagos in the Lagos City Hall .
The institutional development of Lagos – the railways, the ports and ship yards; the education and research facilities; the Banking and Commodities Exchange, the development of towns like Yaba, Surulere, Ebutta-Metta, Festac Town, Victoria Island, and now increasing the Ajah-Lekki axis, and of course, the ghettoes along the Orile-Badagry axis, have profound Igbo imprimatur.  The circulation of the image of Lagos is to date best reflected in the cosmopolitan Igbo imagination of one of the greatest African writers of the 20th century, Cyprian Ekwensi, a thorough Lagosian if there was any. Igbo have built industries in Lagos and have been drivers of commerce and exchange.
Interestingly, I was born at plot number 8, Okoya Street , Idumagbo- Lagos, while the Ojukwu families were residing at number one to three on the same street. I grew up to know the father of Odumegwu Ojukwu. Chimbizie and Azuka grew up with us on the same street. Even the Chibeze small parking space at the end of Okoya Street is called Ojukwu.  I later attended St. Patrick Primary School , Idumagbo, where I had very amiable classmates of Igbo origin in the persons of Azubike Ezenwa and Damian, Ihekuna, both now professors and doctors of today. They were brilliant, resourceful and friendly.
When we were playing bamboo and Tene Felele at Orikoriko at Onola playing ground, the Igbo participated actively. In the area of sports, school football and athletes, Igbo were dominant at Kings College, St. Gregory school, St. Finbars, Akoka, Igbobi College and Ahmadiyya College, Agege. Such boys, Njokwu, George Amu, Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu, Patrick Noquapor, Peter Anieke and Sammy Opone were dominant on the field of football, while Asiodu, Empire Kanu were prominent on the field of athletics.
Anytime we went to watch football match at Onikan stadium, my darling team, Stationery Stores and our adversary team I hated most was the E. C. N, where the centre forward, Paul Hamilton, the National Team, Fabian the captain who bit the dust. Our greatest captain was Duru, Oduah Onyenrekwa, Onyeador Onyeali and Opel, the greatest outside right Nigeria ever had, Cyril Azuluka. So, during my early life at primary school, the Igbo were always there and delightful to watch, both in athletes and on the football field.
When I listened to radio at that time, both the commentary and drama series, the Igbo were there for you. The likes of Chris Ndaguba, Ernest Okwonkwo, Ralph Okpara ‘Alawo Sekiseki the traveler’. The episode will end with – The script was written by Ralph Okpara and edited by Yemi Lijadu.
Anytime I visited where I was born today in Idumagbo at Lagos Island , the entire place is covered by Igbo traders in their thousands. They were never troublesome but decent and accommodating. They have virtually taken over all properties of the indigenes. They succeeded in developing all our properties, married to most of our children even from the royal families. There is no single house you will visit without an Igbo man selling wares there.
So, who is saying something else? Only the strangers in our midst will not notice participation of economic development in our state by the Igbos. Most houses and shops in Lagos Island have been purchased, developed and occupied by the Igbos. The value of their investments in Lagos Island alone is in trillions of naira.
Instead of deporting the Igbos, whose contributions to the development of Lagos state are immensurable, you must keep on praising and encouraging them to keep on developing Lagos State .
•Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is a former Nigerian minister for Works and Housing.
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