Lagos State is too important for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to lose, according to the President- elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
The declaration on Tuesday came on the heels of anger over a statement credited to the paramount ruler of the metropolis, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, that Igbo people in the state should either vote for APC’s Governorship candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode, or face dire consequences.
The national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the party’s leadership in the state distanced themselves from the statement. However, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo given the monarch 48 hours to retract it. Senator Tinubu declared that the Oba is not a card carrying member of the APC, hence has no locus standi to speak on behalf of the party.
Both Buhari and Tinubu spoke at a rally in Orile Iganmu, Lagos, to assure the Igbo and Lagos residents generally that the state belongs to all. The assurance is coming even as the youth council of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo gave the monarch 48 hours to retract the offending statement.
Others who commented on the controversy are Joe Igbokwe, spokesman of the APC in Lagos and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who said Igbos will not be intimidated while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola to suspend the first class monarch over the issue.
The Daily Times gathered that the palace has since Monday when the story broke out been inundated with calls from within and outside the country from people who wanted to know the actual situation of things. Palace Spokesman said the monarch would not make any further comment, in response to the ultimatum by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Gen. Buhari, at the APC rally in Orile, appealed to Lagos residents to vote en-masse for the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos State. His words: “Defy all elements, whatever it may be, and vote for APC from top to bottom,”. According to the President-elect, Lagos, with its huge investments could not be toyed with. “Don’t attempt to be on the wrong side of the centre because we are now the centre. Tell your neighbours, your relatives and even the opposition party to please bury the hatchet and fall in line and vote for APC,’’ Buhari urged.
He assured residents that they stood to benefit a lot if they voted for the APC. Buhari said that he would prioritise investment in Lagos infrastructure, noting that the state is a “mini Nigeria”, adding, “Gov. Babatunde Fashola has told me how much the state has been spending to maintain Federal Government infrastructure, including roads, buildings and other institutions”. He told Ambode, “who will be the next governor of the state,” to “harass me sufficiently to honour my undertaking,” while also commending Tinubu for all he had done in terms of mobilising revenue to sustain development in the state.
Tinubu who also spoke at the rally said he was the first Yoruba governor to ever appoint an Igbo commissioner, saying the Peoples Democratic Party, having failed to win last week’s presidential elections, were desperately trying to pull the APC into the Akiolu controversy. He said the Coordinator of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, Ifeanyi Ubah, and the PDP leader, Bode George, were only making baseless accusations against the APC.
Tinubu said, “The oba is not a politician. His job is to accommodate all political parties, whether PDP, APC or SDP. So, what did he (Ubah) go and do at the palace? “To you Igbos, don’t we pay your children’s school fees like others? Or is it the palace that pays for it? When we conducted an exam and a spelling competition, an Igbo boy, Ebuka, from Anambra, came first and he became the governor for one day.
“Those that won the competition three times in a row were Igbo. Ebuka was sent to Switzerland computer school and then Obafemi Awolowo University. We did not say he was an Igbo boy and he would not enjoy. He became an executive in Oando and he is now in Canada. “Another boy, Felix, won and went to Switzerland and OAU. We paid his scholarship; we did not deny him because he is Igbo.”
He noted that “in the last 16 years, the state had been fair to all tribes. Fashola has performed tremendously well and has not been sentimental, especially against the Igbos,”
Fashola who also canvassed support for Ambode said: “Put ethnic sentiments aside, there will be no discrimination. As your governor, I have defended you every time you have been intimidated without discrimination”.
Igbokwe, who said the monarch spoke out of anger urged his kinsmen not to take out their anger on the APC governorship candidate, Ambode, who knew nothing about the incident.
He said Oba Akiolu of Lagos was not a card-carrying member of APC. His words: “He is not a leader in the APC. He does not speak for the APC. He did not speak for Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state. He did not speak for our national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He did not speak for the incoming governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode. His Royal Highness is at liberty to speak for himself and he spoke for himself only.
“Lagos APC appeals to Ndigbo not to take the statement as the position of the party in Lagos. We passionately appeal to Ndigbo not to carry the statement credited to Oba Akiolu too far so as not to put a knife on things that have held us together for more than 50 years now.
“If out of annoyance, you throw your cap away, a mad man will take it and use it forever,” he stressed.
Also, PDP demanded the immediate suspension of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, till after the governorship and state House of Assembly elections in Lagos State calling on Governor Fashola to suspend the first-class monarch.
It said this was necessary in order to guarantee free, fair and credible elections in the state.
In a statement, Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taofik Gani, said the party had also alerted the security agencies to hold the monarch responsible for any attack on non-indigenes or PDP members in Lagos.
According to the PDP, the silence of the governor of the state, Fashola, over 48 hours after such inflammatory statement and threat to life suggests that the king acted on behalf of the state government.
In his reaction, Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said Ndigbo will not be intimidated by the threats of Oba Akiolu on their political choices and voting patterns.
Ekweremadu, who spoke at a meeting with stakeholders of the party in Enugu West Senatorial zone stated that Ndigbo have nothing against the President-Elect,
adding that Igbos would work hand-in-hand with Buhari “in line with our regional agenda and overall development of Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, the youth wing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Oba of to “retract and unconditionally apologise to Ndigbo” over his alleged death threat to Ndigbo living in Lagos should they fail to vote for the APC governorship candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial polls on 11 April 2015.
The group said it considered the comments credited to Akiolu as “a despicable insult on the Igbo nation, home and abroad, least expected of a royal father in the rank of Oba of Lagos,” and called on security agencies to invite the Oba for questioning because of the grave dangers his current posture portends.
The National President of the group, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, stressed that “Igbo youths will not take this insult lightly, and unless he apologises within 48 hours he should know he is courting our wrath”.
It warned that should anything happen to Ndigbo or their business interests in Lagos in the event of APC losing the Lagos governorship race, the Oba should be held responsible.
“In as much as we do not want to get involved in Lagos politics, we want to sound a note of warning that no Igbo should be vilified or persecuted for his or her electoral choice in Lagos or any part of Nigeria.
“Every Nigerian has the constitutional right to reside in any part of the country and participate in the electoral process based on one’s convictions, and electoral choice is not a crime,” it added.
Isiguzoro said “nobody no matter what he thinks he is, has the right to command Ndigbo anywhere on who to vote for in a democratic setting”.
“Ndigbo have remained the most persecuted, hated and marginalised tribe in Nigeria , yet the most enterprising and highest contributors to the growth of its economy, peace and unity,”he said.
The palace has declined comments until a copy of the ultimatum is received.