By Tony Udemba
Stakeholders in Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos chapter has added it’s voice to the wide spread condemnation of the fire outbreak that occurred recently at the Akere Motor Spare – parts Market, Ajegunle in Ajeromi – Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos. In a well attended press conference held at Ritalori Hotel, Surulere yesterday, the group gave kudos to the Labour Party’s gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes – Vivour for his prompt and timely visit to the scene, as well as his gracious financial donation to the victims to alleviate their huge losses. The group also acknowledged the empathy shown by Governor Babajide Sanwo – Olu when he visited the market, and tasked him to make good his promise to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the fire outbreak.
Speaking on behalf of the group at the press briefing, it’s leader, Chief Fabian Onwughalu said, ” while we commiserate with our brothers who lost their goods and resources in the fire outbreak which occurred recently at Akere Motor Spare-parts market, Ajegunle in Ajeromi – Ifelodun Local Government Area, we are greatly saddened by the incident which is obviously man-made. More worrisome is the fact that we lost the life a man who in his bid to stop the hoodlums from burning the market sacrificed his life”. Onwughalu, a former Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos State, stated that it was unfortunate that the Police who were severally informed by the traders of plans by hoodlums to attack the market, failed to prevent the situation from happening, even as they dismissed the fears of the traders and urged them to carry on with their business. According to him, ” strictly speaking, from information gathered from the traders and residents of the area, the Police were severally informed about plots by some hoodlums to attack the market, but regrettably did nothing to prevent it. Rather they assured the traders that nothing would happen, and that they should go about their business. But unfortunately, this ugly incident is obviously as a result of the failure of security”. While laying the blame of the fire incident on desperate political actors, he says ” taking a dispassionate view on this fire inferno, we lay blame on desperate political actors, and anybody who says that we should not give political undertone to the fire incident is simply not being sincere”. Speaking further, he maintained that the market has been there for a long time until after the presidential election, when the traders started experiencing threats, insisting that, ” the fire outbreak has something to do with politics, and it is not unconnected with what has been happening across the state, since after the presidential election, which the traders reported to the Police, but nothing was done, and now it has resulted to this ugly situation”. He stated that since the presidential election, when majority Nigerians spoke in one voice with their PVCs, on their choice of candidates, the blame has been on the Igbo nation who are being used as the escape goat for the defeat of APC by the Labour Party in Lagos State. The Ohanaeze chieftain averred that the outcome of the election was propelled and ignited by long years of sufferings of Nigerians, by the brutal attacks on EndSars protesters by security agents and the obvious failure of the government to provide the dividends of democracy, as well as the biting effects of cash crunch and perennial fuel scarcity in the country. In his words, ” in view of the long years of sufferings meted on the Nigerian masses by the ruling APC government, a lot of Nigerians cutting across all tribal groups such as the, Hausa/ Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Ibibio, Effik, middle belters, and others, out of frustration, were unanimous in voting against APC during the presidential elections. Therefore, it would be wrong and foolhardy for some tribal bigots and trouble mongers to now turn around and accuse the Igbo nation of being the cause of the defeat of APC or plotting to take over Lagos or some other mischievousness. I’m quite sure that there are some Igbos who voted for APC, just as we have people from other tribes. I don’t really know why the blame for the defeat of APC should be placed on the door steps of the Igbos”. Onwughalu called on the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo – Olu, to fish out the arsonists without delays and specifically address the political actors in APC to call their street urchins to order, even as he bemoaned the way people were injured and many shops looted and destroyed in different parts of Lagos, including Ijadodo, Maryland and other areas.
He opined that as the nation keeps itching forward on its bid to make meaningful progress on its democratic journey, Lagos State, as the center of excellent should put into proper practice all norms of democratic culture and the rule of law, where no one would be molested or discriminated against, on the basis of ethnicity, religion or political views and affiliations.
He further urged Igbos to remain calm and to go about their businesses peacefully, and not to retaliate despite the attacks on them, saying ” the advice to our people is to remain calm, peaceful and law-abiding, as it is quite clear that these attacks are merely provocative aimed at making us to escalate the situation”. On the forthcoming Governorship and State Assembly elections, he called on Ndigbo , not to feel intimidated by anyone, but to come out en masse and vote wisely for the candidates with capacity, competence and integrity in order to move the state forward for the overall benefit of all residents of the state. He also charged all the law enforcement agencies, including the police and military, to provide adequate and watertight security for both electoral materials and
those who would come out to exercise their civic obligations to cast their votes. Onwughalu posited that, “the law enforcement agencies must be alive to their responsibilities. What happened during the presidential and national assembly elections, must not be allowed to repeat again. It is regrettable that during the last election, some voters were intimidated, beaten up and people from a particular tribe prevented from casting their votes. While in some instances, electoral materials were either destroyed or burnt or ballots boxes hijacked and taken away to unknown places by political thugs recruited by desperate politicians”.
On the issue of endorsements by various factions of Igbo groups, the former Chairman, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos State, emphasized that, ” Ohanaeze Ndigbo is a socio – cultural organization, and non partisan. While it’s leadership has a right to chart a political direction for Ndigbo in the state, such right in Lagos State, must be premised, contingent and supported, by the decision of Ohanaeze Worldwide in Enugu.Therefore, if any leader of Ohanaeze in the state has made any endorsement now or even in the future, of any candidate whatsoever, that person is obviously doing so on his or her own personal accord. The person does not have the mandate of Ndigbo to do so”. He added that the only credible and authentic endorsement from the group must be in accordance with what was written, agreeand signed by Afenefere, South South, Middle Belt and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Speaking at the occasion, Amaobi Moghalu, leader of the Igbo Leaders Forum, reiterated that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and it’s chapters are socio -cultural organization and non – partisan, even as he noted that it was an aberration and baseless for any chieftain of the body to embark on the endorsement of anybody irrespective of his or her status without following the rules and regulations of the parent body. He also called on Gov. Babajide Sanwo – Olu, to come to the aid of the victims of the fire outbreak at Akere spareparts market, since in his words , ” these traders have totally lost their means of livelihood as a result of the inferno, and therefore badly in need of assistance from the State government”.While tasking the governor to arrest and prosecute those behind the burning of marketing, he stated that the spate of attacks on Igbos by tribal bigots was regrettable and condemnable. According to him, ” for so many years now, Igbos have been living and doing business very peacefully in Lagos. We have been law-abiding and paying our taxes as good citizens in this state. But, the amount of hate-speech, tribal bigotry and outright violence directed against the Igbo these days is what baffles me. It is rather disappointing that since this has been going on, none of the top functionaries of the state government has spoken out in condemnation of this negative trend”.
Similarly, Prince Agubataofia Markus condemned the illegal activities of “agberos” which to a large extent has being responsible for several accidents, and deaths on Lagos roads, even as he called on the government to urgently arrest the ugly situation.
In his contributions, another chieftain of the body, Pastor Patrick Nwanze, called for the reorientation and overhaul of the operations of the state traffic management, LASTMA, to ensure that the bye – laws and regulations guiding the operations of the agency were in tandem with the nation’s Constitution. He further berated the agency for it’s unwholesome practices, particularly the illegal seizures and auction of citizens’ vehicles, and wondered why the Lagos traffic laws which forcefully confiscates and auctions people’s vehicles for a mere traffic offense, should be at variance with federal laws.