Did Oba Akiolu’s threat work for Ambode? Yes and No!

Oba Akiolu of Lagos
Pa Ikechukwu Okonkwo, a septuagenarian, and his family stayed back in their three-bedroom apartment in Festac Town, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, to monitor reports from his large screen television while the April 11 gubernatorial election lasted.

Unlike the previous election, where the aged grandpa had encouraged all his children to vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election, this time, he handed down a warning to all members of the family never to be involved in the gubernatorial election in the state. His reason was not farfetched.
he fear of the pronouncement of a first class tradition ruler was the beginning of wisdom. Even though some people believed the recent Oba Akiolu’s tirade was only a mere joke, Pa Okonkwo did not want to leave it to chance as according to him, “When a king makes a pronouncement on what bothers on his interest and even swears to it, it is better to abstain than to take a risk.

“I will not take chances; traditional rulers are powerful. They can do anything in the name of culture and tradition.”

Okonkwo, without apology said: “What people don’t know is that if he meant it, it may not necessarily be dying in the lagoon. It could be a philosophical statement which may manifest in the form of ill-luck or inexplicable occurrence at a later date on those who go against his wish, especially when people said he swore by his throne. I warned my children to stay at home and watch how it will end.”

Pa Okonkwo may not be alone on this line of thought; other Igbo residents in the state had different ideas on how the Oba’s threat affected their voting pattern or contributed to the turn-out of the last election in the state. If the Igbo actually came out for the election, did they vote out of anger and emotion? Did it cause voter apathy among Ndigbo or spur them to vote against the Oba’s wish?

“Vote Akinwunmi Ambode or be drowned in the lagoon within seven days! The Oba’s threat came like a bolt out of the blue and it resonated throughout Lagos and the length and breadth of Nigeria and became the subject of discussion here and there.

Political observers believe that the pattern of voting in the presidential election, especially from the South-East, could have given the monarch much concern about how the Igbo in the state could sway the votes for Agbaje and therefore he handed down the threat.

Whether a mere joke or not, with the outrage that greeted the development, political analysts therefore expected protest votes from Igbo voters against the APC candidate. And scared of this the APC almost went on their knees to plead with Ndigbo to disregard the Oba’s threat and maintained that he spoke for himself and not the APC. The fear of protest vote swinging the pendulum for PDP’ Jimi Agbaje was palpable. Would the Igbo vote in Agbaje? Alas, that was not to be. Instead, not only that the Oba’s candidate won, the margin showed that many Igbo might not have voted.

And as a matter of fact, many stayed away from the voting centres. There were those who really felt threatened by the threat of the Oba and those who lost interest after President Jonathan was routed in the Presidential election.

Like Pa Okonkwo, many felt that the threat could not be treated with kid gloves, thereby abstaining from the process entirely.

Some of those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard maintained that the royal outburst of ‘drowning threat’ was just a media creation and a huge joke after all. They said that much as it was dismissed as a joke, it was inconsequential.

An Igbo domestic worker to one media executive, when asked why he refused to cast his votes said: “I wanted to vote for the PDP because I was tired of APC in Lagos, but I was scared of the Oba’s threat.” Even when reminded that as a Christian he needed not to be afraid of such threat, he maintained that it was safer not to vote than to be weighing the efficacy or otherwise of the Oba’s fetish dispositions. “Oga, we are all Christians but in a matter like this it is better not to give chances to anything,” said.

This was at Amuwo Odofin. “Many of my friends decided same way, just stay away,” he added.

An Igbo transporter at Volks Bus Stop, Ojo, also reacted: “I stayed away merely because I honestly believed PDP would win, and that there would be protests and violence. My family did not step out of our ‘yard’ till late in the evening, when we saw that the situation was calm.’ He however confessed that he thought of the Oba’s threat and the fear of drowning in the lagoon but not as much as he thought about the possibility of chaotic and inconclusive election.

Buttressing this point, a teacher, Kingsley in his 40s who resides in Oyingbo, Lagos, said, “The Oba’s threat was a major factor why most Igbo resident in the area refused to vote.’’ According to him, “it was an all Yoruba affair; Igbo had nothing at stake. I stayed back at home to monitor what was going on. So, I don’t see how the Oba’s threat would get at me or any of my family members if I decided not to vote. I consider the statement as careless but that did not affect my decision. I just stayed away, merely because I had nothing to lose,” he said.

A supermarket clerk at Amuwo-Odofin, who did not want her name in print, said she did not vote because her husband asked her not to vote. Even when we asked why her husband prevented her from exercising her civic duties, she retorted: “Are you asking me to question my husband?’ She however was indifferent on whether it was the Oba’s threat that informed the decision of her husband.

In another development, some other Igbo people were part of the process as they went out to cast their votes regardless of the threat. Anita Ihemba who hails from Anambra State and resident in Ajegunle, disclosed to Saturday Vanguard that she voted according to the directives given by their leaders at home. She stated that they were warned not to succumb to the threat of the Oba and not to vote APC in the state. “Since the outburst of the Oba, we have been inundated with messages from home that we should not vote for APC and my family complied.

Mr. Reuben Okafor is an Igbo trader at Alaba International Market, Ojo, and a resident of Ilufe, Ojo, said he voted PDP in the presidential/national assembly elections, but refused to vote in the governorship/state assembly elections. His reason was that votes did not count in the first elections. “I don’t think the votes counted in the presidential election. If the votes counted, I believe Jonathan would have won in Lagos. So, that was why I never bothered to vote in the governorship election.”

He dismissed the Akiolu’s threat, saying it was inconsequential. “No! The threat could not have caused it. Which threat? How can you cause all the Igbo in Lagos and say they would drown in the lagoon in this modern age? It is not possible,” he stated.

In his reaction, the Eze Ndigbo of Mushin, Eze John, commented that Oba Akiolu’s threat motivated them to come out and vote according to their conscience. “Every Igbo man condemned the threat totally. That is why every Igbo in my area was motivated to come out and vote.’’ “For me, I didn’t see the comment by the Oba of Lagos as a threat, rather, we saw it as not responsible and this actually motivated some people to vote according to our conscience. For us, it was a challenge for every Igbo in the state. Even those who travelled came back to Lagos to vote. I also rushed back to Lagos to vote regardless of the Oba’s threat. So, it geared us to come out to vote”.

John explained that the Oba Akiolu’s outburst only strengthened their resolve to vote and against the wish of the Oba in the gubernatorial election, adding that the results of the presidential election which did not go in the favour of President Jonathan had initially whittled down their interest.

“Before the Oba’s comment, immediately after the presidential results were announced, the Igbo in Lagos had decided not to vote in Lagos again because we believed our votes would not count. That had necessitated our initial refusal to vote, but we decided again to come out and vote according to our conscience after the Oba’s threat. So, it only galvanised our sympathy for Agbaje.

Meanwhile, Eunice Ugochukwu, a petty trader in Egbeda said, “In my own ward, most of our people did not come out to vote, not because of the Oba’s threat but because of the results of the presidential election” which according to her dampened her interest. According to her, “What I gathered from a lot of them was that they had premonition that APC candidate would win and so they did not bother to come out and vote.

“So, if there was voter apathy in the last election in Lagos state, it would not have been as a result of the Oba’s threat, but it could have been because the Igbo were not happy the way the last election went. In Lagos, we wanted a change in government, unfortunately, the person we voted for did not win,” she said. There could be other reasons why some Lagos Igbo residents stayed away from the polls last Saturday, but it will not be out of place to suspect that the threat from the Oba of Lagos could have played a major role.


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