Opinion: The bitter truth about Femi Fani-Kayode

by Obi Nwakanma


Lagos belongs as much to the ethnic Igbo as to the Yoruba, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, Efik, Idoma, Urhobo, Itshekiri, Edo, and so on who live in it, pay tax, identify with it, and settles in it. 

I read with a lot of amusement the piece of clap-trap circulated through the Nigerian blogosphere last week titled ‘The Bitter truth about the Igbo” authored by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode.

I thought for a minute: but they said the guy went to Cambridge! Then again, take a scallywag to Cambridge, he merely becomes a Cambridge-trained scallywag. There were many things Kings College Lagos and Cambridge University could have taught, and might have failed to teach Mr. Fani-kayode.

One of such things is felicity with truth. He does write about “bitter truths” and about the “Igbo” and his submissions were in fact more bitter than true about the Igbo. For one, Femi Fani-Kayode who claims to be “half-Lagosian” has not quite explained what that “half” means after the genomic mathematics that also locates and divides the Fani-Kayodes of Ife in another instance into “part Fulani” in the general scheme of things in Nigeria. I will not dwell on Fani-Kayode’s identity politics. I’m yet to understand it.

It will require one to be quite high on something to tease it all out, and so I leave that part to Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode. But I suspect that in situating himself to be “half-Lagosian” he means that part of his ancestry may be found among the “owners” of Lagos, that is, the indigenous settlers of Lagos.

For purposes of context, let me summarize Femi Fani-Kayode’s argument rendered in two parts, starting with the first titled “Lagos, the Igbo and the Servants of Truth”: to him the Igbo have basically no claim on Lagos and have made hardly a contribution to its development.

According to Fani-Kayode“The Igbo had little to do with the development of Lagos between 1890 till today and that is a fact. Other than Ajegunle, Computer Town, Alaba and buying up a few market stalls in Isale Eko where is their input? Meanwhile the Yoruba and Lagos were very gracious to them and not only allowed them to return after the civil war to claim their properties and jobs but we welcomed them with open arms and allowed them to flourish in our land. This is something that they have never done for our people in the east.

Now some of them have the effontry (sic) to call our land and the land of our forefathers (I am half Lagosian and was brought up in Lagos) ”no-man’s land” and others have the nerve to assert that up to 50 per cent of the development in Lagos came as a consequence of the input of the Igbo. This is utter rubbish.”

These are the very words of Femi, hot under his collars because Igbo Lagosians are staking their own claims to a part of the Nigerian commonwealth to which they have made enormous contributions both in material and in blood.

Fani-Kayode may deny it, but Lagos is nothing if not the result of an agglomeration of forces; a diversity of people from across the world and across the modern nation gathering at the epicenter and the margins of the metropolis in what Homi Bhabha calls “dissemination.”

But Mr. Fani-Kayode is still hung up on sterile nativism of the sort that makes it impossible for him to think clearly or rationally; he chooses to levitate on the illusory baloney that inspires him to declare Lagos to be the “patrimony of the Yoruba.” No. Lagos is the patrimony of every Nigerian who steps in it.

Lagos belongs as much to the ethnic Igbo as to the Yoruba, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, Efik, Idoma, Urhobo, Itshekiri, Edo, and so on who live in it, pay tax, identify with it, and settles in it. That compact was made the moment Nigeria became a single nation, and a successor power to the old principalities who were subdued and who ceded their sovereignty for the new commonwealth of Nigeria.

The Igbo did not beg to be Nigerians. First they fought for its freedom. When the Nigerian kitchen became too hot, they chose to leave. But a war was levied on the Igbo that forced them back to Nigeria. That war was fought to preserve “One Nigeria” even if the Igbo had had enough of “one Nigeria.” That war ended in 1970. The Igbo returned, and their return to Lagos and other parts of Nigeria was neither an act of charity nor kindness.

It was pragmatic. The Igbo had the skill and the industry, and Lagos was the seat of the Federal government of Nigeria and its major port. The Igbo have lived in Lagos since the 15th century when the Aro and other Igbo first settled in good number in a place we now call “Oyingbo” in the era of Benin and the Portuguese trade.

Igbo have been in Lagos, in other words, long before the first Fani-Kayode knew the road to Ilesha. So, when Femi Fani-Kayode writes that the Yoruba were “kind” to the Igbo because, in his words, “we allowed them to return to Lagos” after the civil war, he is not being a servant of truth. In any case, about kindness, he might wish to talk to the likes of Eze Okpoko N’Oba, whose property in Lagos was appropriated to this day by a prominent Yoruba as “abandoned property” after the war.

I do not wish to insult the intelligence and regard of the many honorable Yoruba people I know who do not buy into Mr. Fani-Kayode’s views, and so I will keep this simple: nobody, even of average intelligence, can deny the impact and contribution of the Igbo in the political, cultural, and economic development of Lagos as a great Nigerian city; the greatest of them in fact, in the modern era.

The arrival of Azikiwe to Lagos in 1937 from Accra after his studies in the United States, stimulated the political and cultural environment of Lagos as no other has before or after him. Zik literally resurrected the wizard of Kirsten hall from political death. Zik represented Lagos in the western house. The NCNC was the power in Lagos, and not the Action Group. The Igbo were prominent in the governance of Lagos in the Lagos City Hall.

The institutional development of Lagos – the railways, the ports and ship yards; the education and research facilities; the Banking and Commodities Exchange, the development of towns like Yaba, Surulere, Ebutta-Metta, Festac Town, Victoria Island, and now Increasing the Ajah-Lekki axis, and of course, the ghettoes along the Orile-Badagry axis, have profound Igbo imprimatur.

The circulation of the image of Lagos is to date best reflected in the cosmopolitan Igbo imagination of one of the greatest African writers of the 20th century, Cyprian Ekwensi, a thorough Lagosian if there was any. Igbo have built industries in Lagos and have been drivers of commerce and exchange.

Side by side with their Yoruba, Efik, Itshekiri, Urhobo, etc. neighbors, they have continued to negotiate the complex evolution of this city. The development had not much to do with the Western government; even then, Mr. Fani Kayode often forgets that the Igbo were part of the Western Region when it extended, until 1963, to the bridgehead at Asaba. Lagos is not the patrimony of the Yoruba.

If any should make such a vicarious claim, it might be the Oba of Benin, to whom Lagos paid tributes up until its annexation and colonization in 1861. Fani Kayode should read more and be driven less by sophomoric enthusiasm and braggadocio.

Read this article in the Vanguard newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (9)

  1. Born Again Christian my foot! For a man who calls himself a born-again-Christian to write such a hate-filled article towards a particular ethnic group is totally wrong. Unfortunately, we have seen this in history before; Adolf Hitler blamed the Jews for the ills of Germany in order to justify the near extermination of the Jews. I’m surprise Femi did not blame the Igbos for the lack of adequate power and water in Nigeria today. I’m glad Femi Kayode is speaking for himself and not the good Yoruba people. Shame on anyone who still attends Intercessionay Ministry of the Pentecostal Church. If Mr. Kayode is truthful to himself and his believes, he’ll know that you don’t hurt other people in the name of writing history or telling the “truth”. May the Lord give him the wisdom to realize his mistake and make amends.

  2. @Obi N.Woah, knowledge beget knowledge, if you think you are ahead, some one is ahead of you. Thrilling revelation to us non history students but pure science, though we try diging some historical archives to inform ourselves of the past to the time we became aware and alive to the happenings in our society.

  3. Igbo’s will never stop to amaze me for once with there greediness now claiming Lagos as there home land..lolz i wonder if the writer even know the truth about Yoruba’s i can underline some errors in your history which i think i need to point out, you said Lagos is not the Patrimony to Yoruba’s and it;s can only be claim by Oba of Bennin do you even know that the word OBA is yoruba? dumb ass do you even know the Bennins are not Igbo for once? there are Yoruba’s from Ife if you truly know what you;re saying faggot,i think Igbo’s should come out more realistic and set the Record straight, i even Wonder who is keeping you chip=munk as one Nigeria to hell with you with your commerce orientation you full of illiterates yourubas are too Kind and we already knows Igbos for there Ungrateful though but we Yorubas will not Entertain any of your shit any more lets Nigeria Break and every body to hold there ground and we shall all know who the Boss in few years Igbos go back to ABA OR ENUGU Lagos is for we Yorubas kill your self over it..

  4. ” lagos is not the patrimony of the Yorubas ” that’s really funny! ibo people hate Yorubas so much yet they love Lagos with a passion. They never miss an opportunity to insult Yoruba people yet you salivate greedily at claiming their land as yours. If Lagosians were like Ibo people who would NEVER allow non-ibo’s to buy and own land in Ibo communities would you be opening your mouth to say this nonsense. It is the generosity and open minded nature of Lagosians that is making the state develop not Ibo trade and investments!

    1. @bimbo you can see that the guy is only saying shit, as yoruba proverb, akki tori awi jare kito oootan leenu, we Yoruba’s know we own our prestigious city of Lagos it;s time for Emeka and chuckudi to return home, Enugu is where u belong…

  5. cos d igbos are part of d devpt of Lagos doesn’t make it a no mans land. Y r u people fighting for wat doesn’t belong to u. Diff ehnic grp hv contributed to d devpt of Lagos and dat doesn’t make it theirs. Go and develop ur state, so dat u will b proud of it someday and stop claiming wats not urs .

  6. It is quite unfortunate that people from the east are attaching sentiment to the matter. Can someone be deported within his country?. When a law is made to curb street trading & people flouted it, what comes next?. Other people going about their legitimate businesses are never molested. Pls dont let us legalise ilegality.

  7. I just thank you for this lecture/article,very profound and articulate.Fani-kayode is a man with no vision,after reading his write up,i came to conclude,that the man is demented.I pity the young people of my generation from his tribe that his deceiving with all his tantrums.If you are studying history and you are listening and absorbing the rubbish he’s been writing,you’ll fail as a historian.Cambridge/kings college does not make people smart,my uncle was the first Nigerian to landscape architect at oxford university,UK but that did not make him a smart man,rather he became troublesome like this former aviation minister.Somebody should advice FFK to grow up and stop his childish articles.When some people complain that ibos don’t accommodate people,i laugh because every tribe seems to be hostile to the other tribes but the difference is that the ibo man will stand and take all the jabs and still move on because he is seeing opportunity to make life better for his family and the entire country.

  8. Fani Kayode, an apostle of APC. Does it make any impression? OPEN YOUR EYES.

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