Being a Press Statement by Balogun Akin Osuntokun, Director-General, the Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation.
Good day gentlemen and ladies of the press.
Kindly permit me, as the DG of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation, to comment on the rising ethnic tension across the country, particularly.
There has been a contrived ethnic tension in Lagos State since the outcome of the last Presidential election, in which our Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmad, performed above the expectations of our critics and consequently set some political parties on a panic mode. This panic mode is accentuated by their knowledge of our real performance in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, not by the results announced by INEC.
Playing up the fear factor.
In Lagos, the fear factor being currently stoked and weaponized is that the Igbos would take over Lagos if Labour Party wins Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly elections. In their desperation, they are even shamelessly questioning the ‘Yoruba-ness’ of our candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, (GRV) despite the fact that he is from one of the best known families in Lagos, whose ancestral tree can be traced to over 200 years.
This begs the question of how exactly this taking over of Lagos by the Igbos would occur. Would the Igbos physically carry Lagos and transfer the city and its infrastructures to the South-eastern part of the country? Will the Igbos put guns on the heads of the Yorubas in Lagos and ask them to handover their lands to them because Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is the Governor? Will Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour as Governor denounce his father, grandfather, and his entire Vivour ancestry and find another father and grandfather from Igboland if he wins?
The world has moved beyond primitive communalism.
These desperate politicians have played up the changing demographics arising from the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos and falsely concluded that the huge population of the Igbo was responsible for the APC losing the state on the February 25, 2023 elections. The truth is that more Yorubas than Igbos voted for our presidential candidate on that day because they want good governance and for Lagos to be freed from the stranglehold of a criminal syndicate.
In our increasingly globalized world, it is difficult to find pristine communities or primitive communal societies in which everyone in the community is related by blood. Given the status of Lagos as the commercial capital of the country and its history as a former political and administrative capital, it is naturally a magnet for people and businesses looking for greener pastures. Let us bear in mind that all the state capitals in the country – from Kano to Abeokuta to Lagos and Jalingo – tend to have a high proportion of non-indigenes relative to the original owners of the place because people move to areas of better economic advantages.
As people and businesses migrate, they also become part of their new societies. This is why in the United Kingdom today several top politicians including the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Olukemi Olufunto “Kemi” Badenoch are all children or grandchildren of immigrants. The story is not different in the United States where several Nigerians are in President Biden’s cabinet, and the Vice President, Kamala Harris, has Asian ancestry.
Remarkably, those fanning the embers of ethnic discord in Lagos – just to avoid their party being humiliated a second time – are themselves non indigenes of Lagos.
Non-indigenes contribute immensely to development.
Let us imagine what Lagos would be without the Igbos and other non-indigenes.
Across the world, the role of immigrants in the development of the society is now being increasingly acknowledged despite the anti-immigration rhetoric of right-wing politicians. In the USA for instance, more than half of the most valuable startup companies were founded by immigrants, according to figures by the National Foundation for American Policy. According to their findings, immigrants have started more than half (319 of 582, or 55%) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more. The research also found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. billion-dollar companies (unicorns) were founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Similarly, in the United Kingdom, research shows that of the seven unicorns in the UK’s 100 fastest growing companies, five have at least one foreign- born co-founder. The desperate politicians playing up the politics of hate will never tell you of the employment the profiled ethnic groups provide, the businesses and companies they set up and the taxes they pay – all of which contribute to making Lagos what it is today.
Let us eschew politics of hatred and violence and celebrate our diversity.
The Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council implores politicians promoting and hoping to profit from weaponizing ethnic hatred in Lagos State to desist because the world has moved beyond their primitive antics. The world is changing fast. We must learn to live in peace and celebrate our diversity. For members of our party, the Labour Party, and the Obidient family, we urge that you remain calm and peaceful –even in the face of provocation. Being self-restrained and calm amid provocation is not cowardice or naivety but evidence of higher emotional intelligence. We should not play into the hands of those in panic mode who want to promote violence so that elections would become manipulable and fulfil their desire of claiming victory through the back door.
Balogun Akin Osuntokun
Labour Party presidential campaign council.