Until recently, many Lagosians did not know that the Oba of Lagos, Riliwan Akiolu, could be very passionate and at the same controversial when it comes to issues that have to do with the state, whether politics, governance or otherwise.
His recent threat to the Igbo in Lagos, in which he insisted that they (Igbo) will die in the Lagos Lagoon if they refused to vote for Akinwunmi Amobode, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Lagos in the governorship election, scheduled to holding today came to many as a rude shock.
Many may have forgotten, before Ambode emerged as the APC governorship candidate, this same paramount ruler referred to one of the aspirants as an outcast that can never become a governor in the state.
Akiolu who bragged that he can’t beg the Igbos to vote for Ambode, whom he claimed to have picked, said “on Saturday, if any one of you goes against Ambode who I picked, that is your end. If it doesn’t happen within seven days, just know that I am a bastard and it is not my father who gave birth to me.
“By the grace of God, I am the owner of Lagos for the time being. This is an undivided chair. The palace belongs to the dead and those coming in the future. On Saturday, if anyone of you, I swear in the name of Almighty Allah, goes against my wish that Ambode will be the next governor of Lagos state, the person is going to die inside this water.
“For the Igbos and others in Lagos, they should go where the Oba of Lagos heads to. When they were coming to the state, they didn’t come with all their houses. But now they have properties in the state. So they must do my bidding. And that is the bidding of the ancestors of Lagos and God. I am not ready to beg you.
“Nobody knew how I picked Ambode. Jimi is my blood relation and I told him that he can never be governor in Lagos for now. The future belongs to God. I am not begging anybody, but what you people cannot do in Onitsha, Aba or anywhere you cannot do it here,” he said.
The Oba came under a very heavy attack after this comment as groups, individuals, even politicians criticised him for issuing such threat. Reacting, Aka Ikenga, an Igbo think-tank group, urged residents of the state to vote for the candidate of their choice without fear or intimidation.
The group in a statement by its President, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, expressed shock at the Oba’s statement, insisting that they will perform their civic responsibility without fear ot favour.
Also, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, through its Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (CFFN), reminded Akiolu that Nigeria remains a republic, not a monarchy, insisting that the statement be withdrawn.
Secretary of CCFN, Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey, in a statement issued in Abuja, said Akiolu’s comment amounted to threat and intimidation. “At the national offices of Caritas Nigeria and Justice Development and Peace Commission, we are totally shocked to read about the threat handed down by Oba Akiolu to the Igbos in Lagos.
“While it is understandable that a royal father would want his wishes carried out, we are deeply concerned that the royal father is missing the point that Nigeria is a republic and a democracy and not a monarchy,” CCFN said.
Also commenting, Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), the youth wing of Oha na Eze Ndigbo, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ndigbo, gave Akiolu, 48 hours to retract and unconditionally apologise to Ndigbo.
The group reminded him that democracy conferred on the electorate, the freedom of choice and right to dissent, describing Oba Akiolu’s statement as “a despicable insult on the Igbo nation, home and abroad, least expected of a royal father in the rank of Oba of Lagos.”
However, the APC had last Tuesday distanced itself from the Oba’s statement, saying that the monarch is not an APC member and cannot speak on behalf of the party.
National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, explained that he was the first Yoruba governor to ever appoint an Igbo commissioner, alleging that the Peoples Democratic Party, having lost the 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 ruling party in Lagos.
According to the former Lagos governor, “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,” Tinubu said. Chief Lateef Aderibigbe Ajose, Opeluwa of Lagos had also said that the Oba was speaking in proverbially and not literally.
Though, some Igbo groups have come out to still pledge their support to Ambode, observers believe that the comment is enough to jeopardize the chances of the APC governorship candidate on Saturday.
But despite the rebuttals political leaders in Lagos Island condemned the remarks credited to the Oba. The former Lagos Island Local Government Area Chairman, Mr. Lukman Ajose and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Babatunde Olorogun Etti both urged the monarch to stop using his power, position and influence to deepen the crisis in the state.
They urged that instead of teaching non-indigenes to hate, we must socialize with them so that they learn cooperation and peacefulness. They expressed the view that the Oba should stop politicking, arguing that “if he is interested in politics, he should remove our crown, keep it safely and join a political party of his choice.”
Ajose and Etti who spoke at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos Island said the action of the monarch raises concerns over rights and freedoms of non-Yoruba in Lagos State, as they accused the monarch of overstepping the mark and acting as a policeman, urging him to promote peaceful behavior.
“This is not a village where the head can tell his subjects to vote a particular candidate or political party. The people are determined to end Bola Tinubu’s reign in Lagos State. PDP has a bright chance. Even many All Progressives Congress (APC) members want Jimi Agbaje to be governor of the state.
Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) said that “If the statement credited to the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, is true, then it is very unfortunate. Threatening people all in the name of campaigning for a candidate or a political party is the highly reprehensible.
“All the necessary security agencies should sweep into action, investigate this threat by the Oba and prosecute him for encouraging violence, if found culpable.”