Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines Company Limited, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, on Friday in Lagos reminded the Igbo people that the occasional brickbats with their Yoruba neighbours is uncalled for.
Speaking in his remarks at the Second All Markets Conference of Ndigboamaka Progressive Markets Association at Festival Hotel in Lagos. Prof. Okonkwo said the Igbo must avoid merchants of violence who sow seeds of discord between the m and their Yoruba hosts.
Noting that one’s hosts is also one’ refuge, Prof. Okonkwo, who is also the National Grand Patron of the Association, noted that the Igbo.must pursue peaceful co-existence with their Yoruba neighbours adding that Igbo people must also invest in their homeland.
According to him, the thought of Lagos as a ‘no man’s land’ is vexatious and insulting.
He said that even in places overtaken by civilisation, there are still people listed as original inhabitants of those lands.
He appealed to Igbo people in Lagos to seeks good neighbourliness adding that Igbo people thrive better in peaceful and welcoming atmosphere.
Prof Okonkwo also used the opportunity to congratulate Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on his electoral victory reminding that Igbontraders in Lagos promised to stand behind him in his quest for a second term and did not disappoint.
He lauded Igbo traders in Lagos for keeping to their promise to vote Sanwo-Olu who he described as competent and capable, for a second term.
His speech reads: “Last year when we gathered at this same venue for the 2022 edition of the conference, under the umbrella of Ndigboamaka Progressive Markets Association, Igbo traders in Lagos State overwhelmingly declared support for His Excellency, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in his bid to win a second term in office. The governor was right here with us when that pledge was made. To the glory of God and the good of Lagos state, Igbo traders kept to their words and delivered massively for the governor.
“For this, I want to sincerely thank the entire membership of the Ndigboamaka Progressive Markets Association for keeping to the promise they made to the governor. In doing so, you have again underscored the spirit of Ekwueme- a key tenet of the Igbo culture and worldview.
“The promise that we made to Governor Sanwo-Olu was not born out of selfishness. Rather, it was made on our conviction that he judiciously used his first term to positively impact lives, irrespective of where those lives originally come from. He reached out and touched every community in Lagos state and proved by his actions that he was indeed the governor of all who live in Lagos. He promoted, and is still promoting, inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony in what is unarguably Nigeria’s most diverse and cosmopolitan state that many have fondly called the New York of Africa.
“In fact, the support Igbo traders gave the governor in the March 2023 governorship election was not because he is Yoruba. It was rather because of the great competence he showed in piloting the affairs of the state during his first term. The traders also saw in him a detribalized leader who eschewed discriminatory and divisive politics which Lagos, a melting pot of ethnicities, requires to excel.
“This is why some of us are very troubled by the occasional diatribe between the Yoruba and Igbo in Lagos state as is currently the case. It is not only unnecessary but also of no positive use for anyone to fan the embers of discord between the Yoruba and Igbo who have harmoniously co-existed in Lagos, along with other ethnic groups for well over a century. The only people, who foster, revel in and benefit from such conflicts, are crisis merchants and we must rethink our association with them if we must maintain a decent relationship with our host communities.
“Let me stress that political tensions are inevitable in every society; even in the most advanced democracies. A key driver of such political tensions are interest group politics wherein diverse range of stakeholders try to advance their interests which can converge or diverge. These battles are usually fought out in elections and subsequently in legislations and government policies. Like any other type of government, Democracy which we are trying to practice has its inherent flaws, more so in our own case in Nigeria. Yet, violence is never the solution to anything. That is why we must, as concerned citizens with constitutional rights, insist on good governance as we strive to build a just and democratic nation. It may not happen overnight but as the English Poet, Alexander Pope reminds us- hope springs eternal.
“As has been established over several decades, the Igbo, as traders and business leaders, thrive very well in peaceful and accommodating environments. It is only when the environment is welcoming and inviting that we best express ourselves building new businesses and communities through self-help programs and human capacity development. One of such is the famed apprenticeship program which the American-Canadian TED Talks organization described as the greatest Venture Capital scheme ever. We invest in any place that we are welcome. Lagos State welcomes Igbo people and that is why we are able to help develop capacities and expand the economy. However, that Lagos state welcomes the Igbo does not in any way suggest that the land called Lagos (Eko) belongs to the Igbo. Geographically, the Igbo people have their homelands and that is why the aku luo uno philosophy must also appeal to our hearts.
“So, I will implore our Igbo brothers living and operating in Lagos as in other states of the federation to always remember that ana enwe obodo enwe. While we live here, do business and make a living here, we should not in any way suggest that Lagos is a no man’s land. It is erroneous and insulting to think so. Archeology tells us that even in lands where civilization has supplanted races, there are still people referred to as original inhabitants to those lands. Therefore, good neighbourliness will only work for our good. We must therefore respect the laws of the land while making ourselves available to serve in any capacity the states invite us to. It is only when we respect the laws of the land that the land respects and appreciates us. It is always a reciprocal relationship.
“I will not end this welcome address without appreciating the efforts of Governor Hope Uzodimma (Onwa Oyoko) (Imo State), Governor Alex Otti (Abia State), and the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo under Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (Ahaejiagamba) in seeking better relationships and understanding between Ndigbo in Lagos and their Yoruba hosts. We should always remember that your host is your shelter. There is more to gain from a United Nigeria, which incidentally is the name of the airline I established a few years ago. We must keep working to unite Nigerians with their visions, their aspirations, their neighbours and other societies for the good of our great country. Nigeria must be united; but Nigeria also must be a just and inclusive society.
“Once again, I thank you all for turning out en masse for this conference and wish you all the best as you deliberate on the theme ‘Catalyzing Partnership with Traders through Innovation, Technology, Analytical and Sustainability’. I hope that our discourse here today will help us, as traders, to build stronger and sustainable partnerships with relevant stakeholders including regulatory agencies and government agencies for mutual benefits.”