While the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, delivered apparently anti-Igbo remarks Sunday, sparking fierce nationwide backlash, Igbo leaders who were part of Mr. Akiolu’s audience, helped prod him on, joining other listeners in applauding the monarch as he spoke, audio and video recordings of the event show.
Mr. Akiolu had told a gathering which had the Eze Ndi-Igbos (Igbo traditional rulers) of all the local government areas in Lagos State that they should cast their votes for his chosen governorship candidate or “perish inside the lagoon”.
The Oba supports the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Akinwunmi Ambode.
“On Saturday, if anyone of you goes against the Ambode I picked, that is your end. If it doesn’t happen within seven days, just know that I’m a bastard and it is not my father who born me,” Mr. Akiolu told the gathering.
“The one you have done before, he’s my son. Jonathan is my son and I speak to him every day. But, this Saturday, by the grace of God almighty Allah, I am the owner of Lagos and the owner of this…for the time being.”
As the Oba spoke, there were murmurs in the audience.
But Mr. Akiolu continued, determined to get his message across.
“Listen. Because this is an undivided chair. The palace belongs to the dead, the living and those coming in future.
“On Saturday, if anyone of you, I swear in the name of God almighty Allah, goes against my wish that Ambode, insha Allahu, will be the next governor of Lagos State, the person is going to die inside this water.”
The audience, including the Igbo chiefs, applauded.
The Oba went ahead.
“I’m not ready to beg, appeal to anybody o. And that’s why Asiwaju and the governor said, I said that is your own. Even the two of them they cannot disobey me. Nobody knew how I picked Ambode. Jimi (Agbaje) is my blood relation and I told him in a plain language he can never be governor in Lagos for now.
“The future belongs to God. I am not begging anybody to go, but you must not, I repeat… what you people cannot do in Onitsha, what you cannot do in Aba or anywhere…
Another round of applause erupted in the room.
“If you do what I want, Lagos will continue to be prosper for you. If you go against it, you will perish in the water. Finish.”
The audience responded with chants of “Kabiyesi o.”
When it was time for the Igbo leaders to respond to the Oba, there was uproarious laughter in the room.
Gordion Ojiako, the spokesperson of the Eze Ndi Igbos in Lagos, promised Mr. Akiolu that they would vote massively for the APC during Saturday’s gubernatorial election.
“Kabiyesi, we are promising you. Why we came all of us is for you to see our faces. If we say we don’t want (on) Saturday…we can’t come here,” Mr. Ojiako, the Eze Ndi Igbo in Amuwo Oriade, said.
The Igbo leader asked his colleagues, “By Saturday, all of us are going to vote whooooo?”
They chorused, “Ambode!”
“Ehen! And we tried. Even when we were trying for the national… Kabiyesi you can see this paper, this is the rally we did. This is the rally we did, commissioner can testify.
“So we are telling you that coming Saturday we are going to show you the way it used to be.
“And why we’ve come here today sir, Kabiyesi, is to come and congratulate and thank you for being our father in Lagos. We don’t need to talk much because after Saturday, Sunday we come for party before you do handover.”
The Igbo leaders then broke into a victory song, “Winner oooo winner oooo…”
The Oba joked that Mr. Ojiako should come to Sunday’s victory party with his “young daughter”.
There was more laughter in the room.
The monarch’s speech came under severe criticism with Nigerians lambasting him for his utterance.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, told him to apologise to the Igbo people in Lagos “without delay”.
On Monday, when PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr. Ojiako why they were not offended by the Lagos monarch’s statement, he said it would be wrong to challenge the king inside his palace.
“We will go back and convene a meeting of Igbo stakeholders and respond to him appropriately,” Mr. Ojiako said.