ETHNIC HATE IN LAGOS ELECTION: A Further Evidence of the Bankruptcy of Capitalist Elite
It is time to build a mass political alternative that represents the genuine interests of the working masses and youth
The 2023 general elections followed a campaign season which saw all the capitalist politicians busy appealing to ethnic, religious and primordial sentiments, instead of trying to sell the ideas that they represent and the policies and programmes that they plan to implement.
By Gideon Adeyeni
The situation in Lagos was notably worse, despite or perhaps for the reason of the city’s historic and strategic place in the country. Lagos, being a former federal capital of Nigeria, is today a cosmopolitan metropolis with a population of over 24 million according to World Population Review, and it is arguably the most diverse in the country. The state has been governed by Bola Tinubu (presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress) and those he ‘anointed’ after him since 1999. This record, together with the widely believed Tinubu’s influence among the lumpen layers and street boys popularly called “agbero”, shows that he has ‘Lagos under his tight grip’.
But his hold on Lagos was breached during the 25 February, 2023 presidential election when the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) lost to the Labour Party (which by the way only bears the name labour but it is a makeshift electoral platform for capitalist politicians who cannot find space in the major traditional capitalist parties). However, the defeat of Tinubu in Lagos was followed by hate campaigns against Igbos among other cowardly moves sponsored by the APC in a desperate attempt to retain control of the state. Peter Obi, LP presidential candidate who won in Lagos is Igbo but he got votes, not only from Igbo but also Lagosians of all the ethnic groups in the state including Yoruba.
The days preceding the gubernatorial election in Lagos, which held on Saturday 18 March 2023, saw intense campaigns based on hate and ethnic sentiments aimed at dividing the residents and lining Yoruba who are the majority behind the ruling party. The level of hate that some segments of the masses were subjected to during the period is better imagined than experienced. One could easily draw parallels between these Igbo-phobic attacks in Lagos with xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and attacks on sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia
So, what happened on the Election Day with physical attacks on some areas of Lagos dominated by Igbo people was predictable from the trend of events of the preceding days. Just a few days before the election, the Akere spare parts market in Apapa, Ajegunle area of Lagos, occupied majorly by Igbo traders, got burnt and this was alleged by some of the marketers to have been carried out by arsonists. MC Oluomo, a top ally of APC presidential candidate and leader of Lagos transport workers notorious for political thuggery, was also caught on camera a few days to the election threatening the Igbos in Lagos, not to bother trying to cast their votes once they know that they are not voting for the ruling party. In a tweet that has had over five million views, Bayo Onanuga, a spokesperson of Tinubu tweeted: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigerian state. It is not No Man’s Land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business.”
Ethnic bigotry and tension arising from power struggle within the country’s ruling elite once led Nigeria into a bloody civil war — between 1967 and 1970, with its many needless deaths, a path which the political elites are again dragging down the country. The labour movement led by the NLC and TUC should come up with a program of struggles that could unite working people and the poor against their common capitalist exploiters who cut across all ethnic and religious backgrounds. This also includes building a mass working people’s party with socialist policies that can undercut the primordial sentiments usually exploited by different sections of capitalist elite to line ordinary people of their ethnic or religious background behind themselves for their own self-serving class interest
One outcome of the capitalist politicians entrenching their grip of government in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole is growing inequality, as is observable in capitalist societies. There is already a growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals and corporations, and this has led to a widening gap between the rich and poor, that has had serious social and economic consequences. This inequality has been exacerbated over the years by policies that favor the interests of the rich and powerful, such as tax breaks, privatisation and subsidies for corporations. Climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation are all crises that require urgent action from governments and businesses, which the capitalist politicians are ignoring. The president-elect in fact said during his campaign that “while they fight their climate change we would continue coal mining”.
The events of the past weeks show clearly that nothing is changing soonest. Working people and youth must be prepared to resist all capitalist attacks and exploitation and support the building of a revolutionary mass movement to take political power and overthrow capitalism in order, on the basis of Socialist policies, to be able to use human and material resources for the benefit of the vast majority.