EMBRACING OUR COMPLEXITY AND DIVERSITY, THE LAGOS EXAMPLE
By OKI SAMSON
L-R: Secretary, All Progressive Congress, Lagos State, Hakeem Bamgbala, Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Wasiu Sanni Esinlokun, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, Prince Tajudeen Olusi and Chairman, Surulere Local Government Area, Tajudeen Ajide during the Lagos Central Senatorial District Town HallMeeting.
Recently, Nigeria has been drifting into the precipice due to agitation of various ethnic groups. It is no news that the Arewa Youths just reversed its 1st October ultimatum for Nigeria citizens of Igbo extraction to depart the north, the IPOB was proscribed by the Federal Government while the situation is not different in the Niger delta as the youths also issued quit notice to Yorubas in the oil-rich region. Restructuring is the new singsong all across the country as a result of the socio-economic and political problems in the federation. However, why should the polity be excessively heated when Lagos, the economic hub of West Africa and the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, has proven over time that peace and stability is possible in the Country.
It is a known fact that all the over 250 ethnic groupings are well represented in the megacity of Lagos. The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos is undisputed and the entire nation can take a cue from the city-state. The developments and unity can also be as a result of the progressive state government administration approach over the years in successfully appointing and engaging non indigenes in the schemes of the state affairs.
Sen. Oluremi Tinubu
Politically, the government of Lagos from the tenure of Sen. Bola Tinubu in 1999 till date has instituted a system that ensures every Nigerian feel a sense of belonging. It would be recalled that the former Commissioner of Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Akabueze under the Tinubu administration is from the South-East while the current Lagos House of Assembly boasts two of its members from the same region and three members of the federal house of representatives are from the South-East and South-South. It should also be noted that the one-day governor policy of the state which reward winners of the Annual Spelling Bee Competition has produced, without sentiments or prejudice, young leaders from various parts of the nation.
Economically, Lagos is home to businessmen, market trader, artisans, and professionals from all parts of the country and beyond. All the major markets in the megacity like Alaba, Mile 2, Mile 12, Trade Fair, Katankowa and so on are well represented by all tribes with their respective market leaders going about their businesses peacefully while paying their taxes and observing other legal duties in the state, which shows the unity in diversity of the land. Lagos state has thrived well in upholding unity and high pace development despite the large ethnic groups and tribes that reside and trade here-in.
It can be clearly stated that every resident of Lagos, irrespective of tribe, creed, gender and religion, are living in harmony which is a proof that same can be replicated in other parts of the federation.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu, former First Lady of Lagos state and member of the National Assembly, representing Lagos Central Senatorial District during her 23rd edition of the Town Hall Meeting in Lagos, tagged ‘‘Embracing Our Complexity and Diversity’’ recently as part of her efforts toward bringing governance to the people, promoting transparency and accountability.
“The interactive session was used to evaluate, highlight and discuss the activities of the Senate and success recorded so far since the inauguration of the 8th Assembly. She started her speech with the quote of Mahatma Gandhi; “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization”.
Speaking further, Oluuremi said, “the theme of this meeting ‘Embracing our Complexity and Diversity’ is apt in the face of alleged eviction notices purported to have been issued in certain quarters demanding that fellow Nigerians vacate their region as a result of ethnic disparity; and discussions about restructuring and the way forward for Nigeria.
Our identity as Nigerians is complex and dependent on the diversity of the different groups that form the whole. With this comes the potential to greatly benefit – inter-tribal marriages, opportunities to travel, positions and employment opportunities that will have been otherwise unobtainable, other traditions, cultures and languages abound and are accessible to us.
Comprising over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups and over five hundred (500) indigenous languages, Nigeria came into being in 1914. Contrary to belief however, we were not alien to one another before the amalgamation. Historical accounts show that the various groups that currently make up Nigeria related through trade, commercial endeavors, and occasionally, inter-marriages. Thus, all notions of how different we are, that we cannot coexist must be entirely dispelled.
It is my opinion that there is nothing wrong with ethnicity. It can make and create avenues for healthy competition in economic development as exemplified by the period after independence that witnessed robust competition when the South-West led in cocoa production; the North in the production of groundnuts, cotton and cereals; and the production of palm products and root crops dominated the economy of the South-East; and where properly harnessed can be gainfully employed for the wellbeing of all.
Over the years, Nigeria has been faced with ethnocentrism, religious intolerance and allegations of marginalization of minority groups. The result has been the absence of unity and a viable Nation. The situation has been increasingly stoked by the readiness of our political class to manipulate the people riding on tribal animosities, sentiments and differences to access political office, gain constituents support and fulfill personal political ambitions.
Amazing and perhaps amusing is the existence of dichotomy even among ethnic groups. I have heard certain Yoruba people discriminate or refuse to intra-marry with some other groups of Yoruba people. I have also heard of certain Ibo communities refusing to intra-marry and being weary of dealing with others due to certain preconceived notions. Would you buy a faulty car from your kinsman? Or would you rather buy a good car for good value from someone from an entirely different community or ethnic group? That is the question.
We must re-evaluate the perception of ourselves and others around us to adequately benefit from the diversity of ideas and experiences that are important for the development of our society. Thus diversity in all facets of our lives – education, sports, governance, economy etc. must be encouraged to ensure that all citizens participate, contribute and perform optimally.
We must be and raise a new generation of compatriots – Nigerians united in the need to embrace diversity while creating a blueprint for the younger generations to follow, educating our children and unlearning stereotypes.
She emphatically pointed that Lagos has been a good example in embracing our diversity and complexity for a prosperous and united society, “Lagos State, with all the different ethnicities that make up Nigeria residing within her boundaries, has proven that indeed, it is possible to coexist peacefully. This is only possible because of the practice of all-inclusive governance by the Lagos State Government; and provision of opportunities for all regardless of ethnic groups, social standing or religion. Nigeria and other States have a lot to learn in this regard. I urge everyone to continue, in supporting the various initiatives of the Lagos State Government and the Governor Akinwumi Ambode Administration. The Lagos of our dreams is closer than ever.
Respondents spoke with New Telegraph at length on the classical example of Lagos and the prospect for the rest of the country. Hon. Princess Adu Rasheedat Abiodun, Chairman, Iru/V.I Local government area said, “The success story of Lagos state in handling the complexity and diversity of her citizens can be traced to the leaders here; Lagos is a place that welcomes everybody that is coming from any part of the country. Even people that are coming from abroad, the first place they come to is Lagos. We embrace everybody here. Oil refineries, international companies, industries, they all use this state as their base, it’s because they know the fact that the state is very accommodating and allows everyone to thrived.
The 62 years Federal House of Representative member, representing Amuwo Odofin federal constituency and a former Local government Chairman in the State, Hon. Oghene Egoh Emmanuel explains that, he has spent majority of his life in Lagos and that, the state has achieved great feat because of her accommodating nature, “Lagos is unique place, some years back doing the colonial period, we had Igbo, the Ijaws and others already doing their business in Lagos. Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe popularly referred to as Zik operated from Lagos and was supported by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Lagosians are very supportive, not tribalist, any idea you come with is possible to be achieved.
Despite moving the Federal capital away, the state have continued to develop in all phase and is welcoming. The Oba and traditional leaders are not discriminating, despite riots in time past, they have handled the situations peacefully.
The likes of Dangote started in Lagos, Billions of naira invested by the People from the Igbo land, delta and rivers people have their Oil companies head quarters here in Lagos.
Lagos granted equal opportunities to strive. Successful administrations have been very kind to all and boldIy supported peaceful coexistence. I attended Lagos state university, i was a former local government chairman in Badagry today, i’m now in the House of Representatives because of the support i got in Lagos.
We can make our states greater; i appeal to other governors to learn from Lagos, most of the citizens from these states are coming to invest here. This is what Lagos state is all about, land of possibilities” he declared.
In his view, the chairman representing Apapa local government, Hon. Adele Owolabi said, “Lagos is a cosmopolitan city and it embraces all tribes and religion. So there’s strength in diversity. Like what senator Oluremi said, that by the time we rub mind together, we can achieve a lot. There’s strength in unity and Lagos has been at the head of affairs, leading by example. For me, for the northern youths to have withdrawn the mandate given to the Igbo, shows that there’s strength in our diversity.
It will be recalled that the Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode stated recently at Lagos House in Ikeja during a meeting with members of the Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs led by the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu.
He said as a state, “Lagos remains home to all and will continue to support every effort made to keep the unity of the country”.
Despite citizens’ divergent views, beliefs and practices in the society, tolerating each other can help peaceful coexistence. A house divided against it cannot stand.