Noel A. Ihebuzor
I read Femi Fani-Kayode’s article and I am responding to the claims in the excerpts below. (I prefer to leave responses to other sections in his very revealing write up to persons with about the same skill sets and mindsets as he has).
“The igbo had little to do with the extraordinary development of Lagos between 1880 right up until today. That is a fact. Other than Ajegunle, Computer Town, Alaba and buying up numerous market stalls in Isale Eko where is their input”?
“for Chinua Achebe records in his book, and we can roughly confirm that there were not more than a few thousand Igbos in Lagos before the civil war”.
The excerpts are amazing and reveal a lot. One thing they reveal for sure is how much economics and history Mr Femi Fani Kayode actually knows. For one thing, he appears to ignore the fact that contributions to economic development can take several forms – hard and soft. Some soft contributions, in the form ideas and the projection of certain work ethics can and do catalyze development even more than the building of infrastructure. Secondly he does not recognize the facts of multiplier effects. Thirdly the claim that there were not more than a few thousand Igbos in Lagos before the war would be more meaningful if the reader was informed of the population of Lagos and the distribution according to ethnic groups during the same period. Were the other ethnic units in their millions in a geographical space where the total population was in its thousands? (The total population of Lagos was 272, 200 in 1952 and 665,000 in 1963 according to the Federal Office of Statistics). Fourthly, concerning the ethnic supremacist claim that one ethnic group’s efforts were largely responsible for what Lagos is today, were the industries in Lagos established in the industrial estates in Apapa, Mushin and Ikeja the work of one ethnic group alone? What of the Federal Government infrastructure that helped facilitate growth and development in Lagos – The Port, the Airport and the Railway – were these the work of one ethnic group alone? Fifthly and coming to the present, there are quite a number of institutions with Headquarters in Lagos which are either fully owned by persons from the South East or which have strong South East ownership. These include quite a number of successful high street banks and financial institutions. One can easily list a number of insurance, oil marketing and several South East owned SMEs companies operating in Lagos and making invaluable contributions to the development of Lagos State. These institutions pay taxes, provide employment and their presence creates secondary employment and a number of other ripple effects with net positive development impacts on Lagos State. Mr Femi Fani Kayode either failed to take such contributions into consideration when making his dismissive and sweeping statement or he was simply not aware of them.
I could go on and on citing such non-indigent contributions to the development of their host states inspired by the need to present commentators on public issues with information which could help them to push back the frontiers of bias and inaccuracies. Inaccuracies (half-truths and untruths) and bias in articles arise from a number of sources – one of these is the tendency to want to rush to be the first to publish, a tendency which causes quite a number of persons to leap before they look and to talk before they think. Sometimes too, they result from the fact, that over time, some people have become impervious to facts and truths and become resistant to the time tested methods of searching for them. There might not be any malice in such people. Such people deserve prayers and compassion, not condemnation.
Incidentally, Mr. Femi Fani Kayode is always at pains to inform his readers and listeners that he is a historian. He tells us so in this article as he also did in his comments on late Chinua’s Achebe’s TWAC. I am sure he also aspires to be a good historian. Good historians are “slaves”, not just servants, of truth and facts. Good historians are never servants or slaves to emotions. True, there is a role for emotions in life, but in contributions to discussions on important and sensitive matters of national importance, emotions should always be reined in and disciplined by facts and truths. To do otherwise would be to court folly.