3 instances where tribal tensions have made the news


Once upon a time, the Oba of Lagos threatened to throw Igbos in the Lagoon if his wishes were not granted.

Ours is a very emotive society. The World knows Nigeria for being colourful, animated, diverse and opinionated.

However, in some instances, the mix of these traits have allowed us to turn on each other, sometimes in situations where we blame a particular tribe for problems that have simpler solutions, or attack members of a tribe based on stereotypes.

As part of our tribalism week, we will examine 5 recent instances where Nigerians have allowed tribal sentiment to come to the fore, thus starting conversations, inciting responses and in some cases, leading to violence.

(1) The Kaduna Declaration, June 2017:

While we thought all was well with Nigeria, we were reminded in June 2017 that we live in a country where people purporting to speak for a region can order a mass exodus of people from another tribe because they don’t like the way they behave.

On June 6, 2017, Northern youths gathered at Arewa House, Kaduna to issue what they called the Kaduna Declaration, instructing all Igbos to leave the North before October 1, 2017.

The declaration was made by ‘youths’ from 16 different politically-inclined groups, including most notably, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Students Forum, Northern Emancipation Network and Arewa Citizens Action for Change.

Faces of the Kaduna Declaration: President, Northern Emancipation Network, Abdul-azeez Suleima (left); President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Shettima Yerima (middle); Mohammed Eneji Abdul-hamiid(left) (Guardian)

The declaration was quickly disparaged by local and national authorities

While there was no resultant bloodshed, thankfully, it spurred conversations about tribal relations in Nigeria and our memories of the Nigerian Civil War.

As of the time of writing this, there are a lot of Igbos living in the North.

(2) The Northern Pogroms, 1966:

In 1966, Igbos resident in the North of Nigeria were attacked in a series of massacres across states including Kano and Kaduna.

The carnage happened in the context of the struggle for federal power and the January 1966 coup which had left many Northern leaders dead.

One of them was Sir Ahmadu Bello, the leader of Northern Nigeria who had made it clear that he was not a fan of the Igbos during a particularly offensive BBC interview.

The role of Igbo officers in the coup – four of the five coup plotters were from the East – was widely noted.

Months after the pogroms, Ojukwu declares the sovereign state of Biafra. (Phillip Effiong)

That, and the fact that the coup had put an army officer from the East, Aguiyi-Ironsi, in power, incited a wave of fear that the Igbo had set out to rule the country.

On 29 July 1966, a counter-coup led by Northern Officers was launched in which hundreds of Igbo officers were killed. The coup triggered a swell of violence against Igbos in the North, perpetrated in part by Northern soldiers.

The killings led to counter-massacres in the East where hundreds of Hausas, Tivs and Idomas and members of other Northern tribes were killed. It also spurred a mass exodus on both sides, and ultimately, the Nigerian Civil War.

(3) The Lagoon Threat, 2015:

The jury is still out on the subject of just how much influence Nigerian traditional rulers and monarchs have in a society where power is either political, financial or both.

The Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, would be a great person to ask.

In the lead-up to 2015’s gubernatorial elections, the Oba threatened that any Igbo man who did not vote for his chosen candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode, would be thrown in the Lagos Lagoon.

On Saturday, if anyone of you goes against Ambode, who I picked, that is your end. If it doesn’t happen within seven days, just know that I am a bastard and it is not my father who gave birth to me.”

Jonathan is my son and I speak to him every day. By the grace of God, I am the owner of Lagos for the time being. This is an undivided chair. The palace belongs to the dead and those coming in the future.

Oba of Lagos Rilwan Akiolu started a converation about indigenes and settlers in Lagos State. (PM News Nigeria)

On Saturday, if anyone of you, I swear in the name of God, goes against my wish that Ambode will be the next governor of Lagos State, the person is going to die inside this water.“, the Oba said.

The Oba also made a note of adding that while they could vote as they wishes in the East, the Igbos would do well to respect his wishes and theose of the indigenes.

The Oba was aggrieved after surprising voting patterns had led to the victory of PDP candidates of Igbo and Delta extraction in three federal constituencies during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

One has no idea how he planned to carry out his threat or whether he really meant to deliver on his promises in the first place.

After Igbos all over the country had reacted to the distasteful remarks, the Oba and most notably, Akinwunmi Ambode, doused tensions by saying that Lagos belonged to everybody.

Source: News Agencies

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