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Who is a Yoruba? Much ado about Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and his Igbo heritage

I viewed a 2min 45 seconds excerpt from an extensive interview Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour had with Arise Television in Nigeria, this prompted my curiosity and search for his other interviews, followed up on his CV and his historical controversial comments on social media.

Sanwoolu and Oluwalambe Lodge

The Lagos Governorship election was expected to be a 2-horse race between incumbent Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of the ruling All Progressive Congress and Abdul-Azeez Adeniran popularly known as Jandor of the People’s Democratic Party, however Jandor’s choice of talented Nollywood star Funke Akindele as running mate torpedoed his campaign, becoming the butt of Jokes as Ms Akindele herself did not seem to take the campaign seriously. Jandour’s campaign turned out to be a replica of an episode of popular TV series Oluwalambe Lodge. A joke!

Against an unserious Jandour Governor Sanwoolu was expected to have an easy win and be re-elected for a second term in office. Oh well, that was the expectation until the shocking arrival of Hurricane Peter Obi. Supported by discontented young voters and a large proportion of Lagosian’ s who share the same ancestry as Mr Obi, remnant of the End Sars movement, they swept Lagos off the command and control of Governor Sanwoolu’ s political godfather, now President Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ruling party in Lagos under the supervision of Mr Tinubu were caught off guard and Obi’s Labour Party delivered one of the greatest political upset, despite the setback, Tinubu still went on to win the Presidency.

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The ‘Chinedu’ factor and Iragbiji Dog whistle

Tinubu’s defeat opened Lagos as a fair game for Labour Party and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.

Most communications I came across about Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour were mainly from opponents highlighting that he’d married an Igbo lady and his mother being Igbo thus he would not be ‘loyal to Yoruba’. Ordinarily this shouldn’t matter, but you must understand Nigeria’s intra ethnic suspicion and fault lines; these fault lines can work for or against a candidate, depending on the circumstances, with Tinubu’s defeat by Peter Obi and the perception that the victory was made possible by Nigerians of Igbo extraction who came out in large numbers in Lagos to vote Obi and taunted Mr Tinubu’s supporters on and off line, Mr Rhodes-Vivour Igbo links were seen as a fair game by his opponents.

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Conversation across social media focussed on Rhodes-Vivour mixed Yoruba Igbo heritage, his middle name ‘Chinedu’ became a political war cry for his opponents. This dog whistle campaign is rather unfortunate, considering same had been marshalled against Bola Ahmed Tinubu by so called “indigenous Lagosians” who consistently highlighted Tinubu’s Osun “Iragbiji ancestry”. They mocked his humble beginning and described him as the ‘son of nobody’, going further to mock Mr Tinubu and ordering him to go back to Osun State and leave Lagos for Lagosians. Thus, the irony that Rhodes-Vivour’s opponents, particularly Sanwoolu’ s supporters, are using the same dog whistle tactics against Rhodes-Vivour.

I am fundamentally against the dog whistle campaign against Rhodes-Vivour, particularly referencing his dual Yoruba Igbo heritage as making him less Yoruba. This approach is wrong, unacceptable, it is intolerant and a double-edged sword, if it is legitimised against Tinubu and now Rhodes-Vivour then it can in future be marshalled against the best of Yoruba, this behaviour should be discontinued. It enables xenophobia. This isn’t who we are as Yoruba. That others do it doesn’t make it right. Lagos is vibrant because of its diversity, regions who don’t welcome others have since seen their homestead deteriorate, largely underdeveloped, intolerant and closed, making the region unattractive for those who have ancestral links to those homelands. Lagos and indeed Yorubaland is home to talents from across Nigeria and should continue to be a melting pot if we are to continue on the path of development, other Yoruba states benefit from the unique strategic geographical location and economic impact of Lagos, this growth is not driven just by indigenous Lagosians but by ALL who have made Lagos home.

We can make a case for the lack of respect for Yoruba traditions, culture, and heritage by those who settle in Yorubaland and in Lagos without being xenophobic. A non-Yoruba takes a night bus into Lagos and turn his life around mostly through hard work and you blame him for the inequality that exists within our society? That regions in our federation attracts less foreigners shouldn’t mean Yorubaland should follow such retrogressive culture. In any case, indigenous Yoruba also disrespect Yoruba culture and traditions, we need to address how we got it so wrong that our cultural and moral values are being relegated and work towards restoring them without being unpleasant to others.

Safeguards should be put in place by custodians of our heritage, elected officials to protect historical assets that are of strategic importance to the Southwest, don’t blame an Igbo man for buying them up, blame your elected officials for being short sighted, if you have a large parcel of land and fail to give it to an investor for an estate that will yield generational wealth but chose to sell it to the first person who dazzle wads of Naira, you can’t blame the business person.

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Ghana (the country) made laws to safeguard its indigenous communities, it was done in a way that the rights of non-Ghanaians are not violated. The Ghanian Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning land in Ghana and limits them to renewable leaseholds of no more than fifty-years. Regional governments and Chiefs also have controls on Land lease and ownership are categorised with indigenous people having priority over others. If Southwest leaders make strategic Yoruba assets an all commers bazaar, why blame a genuine investor. If the Nigerian constitution does not allow a state government to regulate land ownership, then follow the examples of regions within Nigeria who hold dearly to landownership and find a middle ground. Whilst serving in Enugu in 1993 my host Okey Odunze offered half a plot of land in Emene, Enugu State. I rallied round funds with 2 other Corp members, they are still alive today, at the point of purchase we were told the land was not available to none Enugu indigene due to it’s proximity to the airport. We were offered another land so far from Emene, the new offer was located in present day Ohaukwu local government, we did not begrudge the Eze, we moved on. My experience may not be the norm, but I recognise it as a strategic move by the locals.

Gbadebo tweets controversy

Back to Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour I have read a lot of his past takes on IPOB/Biafra on social media. They are troubling, unacceptable and gives his opponents a lot of weapons against him. His campaign needs to clarify, disavow some of this worrying positions. He’s in a very difficult position but this are genuine and worrying takes. It is pointless posting some of these positions here.

Whilst I worry about Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour lack of working experience concerning I find his understanding of the challenges facing Lagos and his proposals interesting and well thought out. He’s not the “spoilt brat” as being bandied by his opponents. I encourage fair minded individuals to search for his interviews, particularly his very detailed interview with Arise TV.

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Lagos is a Yoruba city based in Yorubaland

Lagos is a cosmopolitan city, it is undeniably a Yoruba city based in Yorubaland and no one can take that away, thus this argument about being a no man’s land is nonsensical. It is a Southwestern Nigeria city bordered by Southwestern states. This isn’t even up for a debate. Those making comments about Lagos being a no man’s land are also contributing to problem, owning properties, business, lands are not enough licence to gaslight indigenous residents of a place you call your home. All sides must take the chill pill.

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Lagos being a Yoruba state should not make non-Yoruba less Lagosian. My mother and father migrated from Ikare-Akoko, a town in the northern senatorial part of Ondo State, Nigeria. I was born in Lagos, never lived in Akoko but always claim Akoko and can claim Lagos by birth. If I can, so should Nnamdi or Musa or Ekaite. This is settled by our constitution.

Let me also speak to the hypocrisy of both the Pro Sanwoolu and the Pro Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour campaigns. When a number of Nigerians opposed former Governor Babatunde Fashola and subsequently Sanwoolus treatment of poor Nigerians of Northern Nigeria workers (Okada riders) this opposing but elitist groups were united against the poor Northerners, they were united in xenophobic attacks against Northerners, they failed to see the class disenfranchisement and abuse of the rights of a Nigerian citizen to operate a business in any part of Nigeria, rather than regulate the Okada scheme, they were all united in praising Sanwoolu, social media was filled with choruses of ‘let them go back to their state’. It is a boomerang; the aggressors are now victims.

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Do I think Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour will defeat Governor Sanwoolu? I don’t think so. Is Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour a serious contender? Yes of course, even if he doesn’t win on Saturday, like Peter Obi they both have the wind in their sails, they can navigate through or sink the boat before another general election.

Since 1999 only one political party has governed Lagos, complacency has set in, demigods created and a sense of invisibility. I wrote about this several years back and recently but was called names. The Southwest Progressives need a rethink to survive.

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Tí ògiri ò bá lanu, aláǹgbá ò lè ráyè wọnú ẹ̀.

When you blame others for “buying up Lagos” ask yourselves what our current leaders have done to Oduduwa investments and all the assets left behind by Baba Awolowo and his team, what happened to Cocoa Board, Hotels, Cocoa house, Premier investments, agricultural settlements, foreign based assets belonging to the government and people of the old western region left in the care of today’s Yoruba leaders. Properties belonging to our commonwealth across choice areas have been appropriated by our political leaders, no one is asking questions, when did we become a race who can’t hold leaders accountable?

Have you looked at your neighbourhood recently, noticed the huge number of out of school children?

2nd Chance

If Governor Sanwoolu wins, he should call his colleagues Governors in Southwest to a retreat, away from ‘oraisa’ aides and sycophants so we can come tell them some bitter truth.

I wrote about how Yoruba leaders were distributing political positions and elective platforms amongst friends, family members and cronies, the entrenched political class in Lagos led by Asiwaju Tinubu created an army of disenfranchised Party members who now form the “ogiri” for the lizard to find a space in. This was replicated and resisted in Osun State leading to the divisions within the APC and its back-to-back electoral defeats.

Who would ever believe a mock coffin of Former Governor Rauf Aregbesola will be paraded across the streets of Alimosho, an erstwhile fortress of the Progressives, the power tussle within the Yoruba establishment at the expense of development is the core issue, not Ngozi vying for elective position.

Do I even want to mention multiple “Baba eto” in Lagos who act as gate keepers and allocate elective tickets like a bazar in the marker? Disgruntled market women? Disgruntled Party loyalists?

The handwriting is on the wall. If the “Progressives” don’t retrace themselves, the new generation of young Yoruba are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, what do they really have to lose that has not been either appropriated or left untapped, they will vote in any Mr/s Kukuyi from Kenya with Yoruba ancestry if they believe in his/her vision.

Our problem isn’t the so called “ajeji”, our problem and solution is within us. Yoruba Ronu.

Ogundamisi is a commentator on Nigerian and international affairs.



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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