MeridianThe Igbo PVC Ordeal In Lagos: Speak, Igbo Leaders Speak

The Igbo PVC Ordeal In Lagos: Speak, Igbo Leaders Speak

Fidelity Bank Plc

By Comfort Obi

Just so I don’t jump the gun, I have simple questions which answers I urgently seek.

Has the Igbo leadership heard of and/or watched the viral video of the humiliation of the  Igbo  who do their businesses at Alaba International Market Lagos? And, if so, do  the Igbo still have leaders?  You know, Governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, respected Traditional Rulers, real Religious Leaders?  – not those who see visions everyday and perform “miracles” every second.

If they do, as I sincerely believe, such people should speak up now. If they don’t, there is no other conclusion to reach than to say they play to the gallery when they talk about the marginalization of the Igbo, the unfairness and the injustices meted out against the Igbo. It means they just talk for the fun of it.

It is not that this is the first time the Igbo will  be humiliated, and/or discriminated against in Lagos, but what happened on Thursday to the Alaba International Market Traders stinks to high heavens. It is scandalous. It is an unprovoked attack against a people.

I have never been to that market before in my over 20 years in Lagos. But its reputation precedes it. It is the melting point of all electronics in Nigeria and, I understand, West Africa. Any electronic  one does not find in Alaba, one should forget it. The traders there, “big boys and girls”, make an obscene amount of money every day. The money they make helps to keep the Lagos State economy running.  They are responsible citizens.

I understand that they are mostly Igbo. Hard working, they don’t know about sit-at-home orders which would, definitely, affect the economy of Lagos just as it has grounded, almost, the economy of the South-east where they are from. Even if they wanted to observe it, they will not be allowed to.

The Lagos State Government would probably, and rightly tell  them: “Close your shops and lose it.” They don’t want to lose their shops. They have invested so much in those shops, in their businesses, just as they have invested in the economy of Lagos State. So from Monday through Saturday, they are in their shops, hustling, contributing  to the economy of Lagos.

But on Thursday, they decided to answer to the patriotic calls by the Nigerian Government. They decided to deepen democracy in their fatherland. They decided to hearken to the voices of Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. And what were the voices telling them.

Simple. Perform your civic duties. Go to the INEC registration centres, register, get your PVCs and take part in electing, and so deciding, who takes charge of your country.

Excited, the leadership of the market decided to make a big sacrifice – for fatherland. To do that, they needed to shut-down the market. They chose Thursday to do so.

In a notice, widely spread, the leadership said the market will be shut down on Thursday to enable traders register and get their PVCs.

Apparently one Registration Centre was either close-by or, they arranged with INEC for one.

But it was not to be.

As they assembled in their hundreds for the exercise, thugs invaded the venue. Their mission: to stop them from the exercise. The aim: to stop them from owning PVCs. The result: to stop them from exercising their rights to vote. The fear: that, being mostly Igbo, they could vote for Peter Obi of the Labour Party, the only serious candidate of Igbo extraction running for the office of the President in 2023.

So, the thugs pounced on innocent people who left their businesses to perform their civic duties. They chased them away with clubs and bottles and every other weapon they could lay their hands on. A number of the traders were hurt.

In the viral video where the traders told their sad story, at least, two of them were seen bleeding. One could seen the confusion and helplessness just looking at the faces of the traders. It was like: Are we really Southerners? Are we Nigerians? What have we done wrong? Worse, there has been no “pim” from and/or by anybody. The Police. Lagos State Government. Igbo Leaders.

So, the questions again: Where are Igbo leaders? Where are the five South-east Governors? Why are they suddenly deaf and dumb? Who is the Chairman  of the South-east Governors Forum?

Let’s swap places.

Can you imagine the Governor of Ondo State, the tough-talking and courageous Rotimi Akeredolu, keeping quiet if the Yoruba were treated this badly or discriminated against anywhere? “Who born monkey?”

He could have, since, issued a strongly worded statement condemning it. He could have called the Governor of whichever State, and complained, strongly. Which South-east Governor has placed a call to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and complained about the brazen assault launched on these traders because they wanted to perform their civic responsibility?

Or, can anybody imagine a Pa Ayo Adebanjo keeping quiet if it had happened to the Yoruba anywhere?

Where are even the Igbo leaders in Lagos? Where are the many who answer Eze Igbo in Lagos? Is it just for mouth?

This other day when Sanwo-Olu banned Okada in some parts of Lagos, and closed down a market known to be, almost, the exclusive of Northerners in Lagos,  former Governor of Kano State, now the Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPC, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, stormed Lagos to listen to his people. Thereafter, between him, Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, and Sanwo-Olu, they sorted it out. The order for the closure of the market has since been rescinded. The market remains open. That’s how it works.

For the records, this is not the first time the Igbo have been treated as this badly in Lagos. During the 2019 Presidential election, the votes cast where there is a high population of the Igbo were rendered useless. In the Okota area, the Ballot Boxes into which votes had been cast already, were “assembled” and set on fire – in broad day light. Why? The suspicion that may be they voted for an Atiku/Obi ticket! Till date, nothing has happened. No arrests. No prosecution. Just nothing. It is like: “You don’t matter. What can you do?”

For the records, the disruption of the Voters Registration Exercise on Thursday which prevented the Alaba International Market Traders to perform their civic responsibility is a crime against the Nigerian State. And, it is a corruption of the Electoral system. And it amounts to a rigging of the 2023 elections even before a single vote has been cast. When votes to be cast in an election are deliberately suppressed, it is rigging. It is the worst form of rigging.

This discrimination against the Igbo needs to stop. They are no orphans. They are from somewhere. They are Southerners as well. And they are Nigerians!

Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine),  Email: [email protected][email protected]

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