Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Thursday rendered an unreserved apology to Ndigbo over the July 24 deportation of 72 alleged destitute to Onitsha, Anambra State, by his government.
Speaking at the Aka Ikenga 25th Anniversary Symposium under the distinguished chairmanship of Senator Ike Nwachukwu, held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, Fashola said his action had been misunderstood.
Appreciating the support he got from the Ndigbo during the death of his late father, Fashola said: “I have no problem with the Igbos and the know it. It was easier for him to ask Ben Akubueze to represent me here I’ve decided to come in person. The highest number of cattle I during the burial of my father early last month came from the Ndigbo.”
Fashola said those who had spoken about it in the media were merely provoking ethnic and political sentiments and were not addressing the problem but speaking about themselves.
?There were people who did not clearly understand me and they have misunderstood words said or misrepresented actions taken in the way that it has pleased them to do so. To those people, I owe an explanation, not a defence of what has happened and that is partly why I am here. We have built a relationship based on tolerance, based on mutual respect, based on trust and love.
?That relationship was started by our ancestors, it was handed over to us; we have nourished it with a lot of trust, with a lot of understanding and with a lot of fidelity. Those who misunderstand that relationship, who think that there is value in that relationship; I have come here to correct that because I place a lot of value on that relationship.”
Giving an open apology, Fashola said: “And so, if those people have misunderstood me or they have misunderstood actions taken by our government, here, now and today, I offer an unqualified and unreserved apology.?
However, he said, the apology does not take away the real issue that provoked the misunderstanding, saying that the real issue lay in the reason or reason why some sections feel compelled to migrate from one part of the country to the other.
?There are questions that caused the misunderstanding and it is those questions the Aka Ikenga must address if it must continue to fulfil its purpose?.
Recalling to the remarks of the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Ighariwe, Fashola said: ?As he began to distinguish between the Igbo in Lagos and the Igbo at home I knew there was a real issue; that those at home don?t look like those of you here and you don?t look like them. They are questions that I think the Aka Ikenga should address.”
He said, there was a need to raise certain pertinent questions. ?Is there one part of this country that is less endowed whether with human or natural resources? Is that the problem? Is it the case that, perhaps, some parts are so endowed and not well managed? Those are the honest debates that we must have.
?How can development be so difficult in the part of Nigeria that gave us Ike Nwachukwu; that gave us Chinua Achebe, Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ekwueme and so on and so forth? How can development be so hard in that part of this country? I think those are the real issues,? he said adding, ?And as I listened to talks about Ndigbo, perhaps, we should reflect deeply more about the issues that Bishop Kukah?s speech has provoked here. Are we more Igbo than Nigerian or are we more Nigerian than Igbo.?
However, he urged Aka Ikenga to always use its influence as a foremost Igbo group to debate and address the real issues that could arouse such decisions and actions by government.
Restating his commitment to the wellbeing of Lagos residents, Fashola said if other state governments could commit to developing their states and making life better for the rural communities, the issue of people being compelled to migrate from their homes to other states, without any concrete plans, would be reduced.
Meanwhile, Fashola has called on all residents in Lagos state to embrace the Lagos State Residents Registration scheme.
Furthermore, he called on people to shun politics of divisiveness and ethnicity for selfish ends, saying, ?As the political storm gathers, yes President Clinton says that politics is like pro-football, is a contact sport and if you don?t like to be hit you stay on the sideline. I agree; but even contact sports has rules, you can?t tackle from behind and you can?t hit from behind. And to that extent, therefore, those who are victims of our own inadequacies and shortcomings as professionals in and out of government should not be pawns on the political chess table.”
Praising the Guest Lecturer, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, he said: ?When I looked at the programme and I saw that he was the Guest Lecturer, it was obvious to me that really there was no need for any one of us to attempt to make any long speech here. We were here to come and listen to him and I think he has done justice to his subject?.
In his goodwill message, the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, paid tribute to the Igbo socio-cultural group saying, ?For 25 years, you have successfully negotiated the interface between your dictates of care for the Igbo nation and the duty of your unflinching loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
?Remarkably in doing so, you have found and learnt to respect the precarious balance between power and principles, between personal ambitions and group obligations, between professional interests and political intrigues.
?This explains why this group has never had any confrontations with the authorities or even any internal squabble that come to public light. It is, therefore, not surprising that in a short period of 25 years, Aka Ikenga has emerged as one of the most respected and articulate socio-cultural think-tank.”
Others who gave goodwill messages were the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who called for a road map for the development of Igboland.
Also, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Ighariwe in his goodwill message praised the transformational agenda of the Lagos state government.
?When I came in here and saw all of you, I remembered the Igbo at home. I do not say you should leave Lagos and relocate to home but you must extend what you have here to those at home. You must go and develop the home?.
In the lecture delivered by the Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, he raised issues of lack of focused leadership and the inability of the powers that be to commit themselves to addressing the problems of the nation expressing regrets that the various political alignments and realignments going on in the country were not for the benefit of the ordinary Nigerians.
Among those present at the event were the former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, Professor George Obiozor, General Ike Nwachukwu, who was the Chairman of the occasion, Professor Pat Utomi, Chief Chris Asoluka, former Finance Minister, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, the Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Ben Akabueze, Traditional Rulers, members of the National and State Assemblies, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Onyeka Onwenu, Clarion Chukwura and other prominent Igbo men and women from all walks of life as well as top government functionaries.