In Lagos every day we hear about the bombing of schools in the northern part of Nigeria, abduction, and kidnapping in the southwest, Fulani herdsmen and banditry in the middle belt region, and unknown gunmen and Biafra (IPOB) in the southeast. To some of us here in Lagos, it seems like all these misfortunes are happening in a faraway Nigeria and not the same Nigeria Lagos is in.
Except for the End SARS protest that happened right in the heart of Lagos in which Lagos as a state is yet to fully recover from the shock, every other happening in Nigeria seems to be just a Twitter trend to Lagosians. Although to be fair, without Lagos’ involvement in the End SARS protest, it wouldn’t have gained the popularity it had, hence the impact would have been minimal to be fair.
Many may argue that the alleged shooting of youths at the Lekki toll gate has not brought forth results and the panel that was set up to investigate the shooting has been staling. But truth be told, at least there is a panel set up to probe the alleged mass shooting by the Nigerian Military which is more than what can be said about what is happening in the faraway other parts of Nigeria.
When you think about allegations of how the military killed youths in their masses, think about Operation Python Dance in 2017. It was alleged that the troops deployed to the southeast geo-political zone killed unarmed youths in masses in the name of fighting crime and terrorism. To put this in perspective, most of these youths were just people clamoring for a referendum which is their rights. But they were allegedly killed in their masses unarmed and up till today, nothing has been said about it or done. Nobody is asking serious questions. In fact to Nigerians (including south easterners) residing outside the southeast region, things are back to normal. So setting up the panel alone to probe the involvement of the military in the Lekki Tollgate shooting is more than what the southeast got.
In order to justify the alleged killing of youths in the southeast, The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was declared a militant terrorist organization in September 2017. While the Fulani herdsmen despite the numerous bloodshed and terrorism are referred to as mere herdsmen or at most bandits (if it involves kidnapping). So also, the fact that the End SARS protesters are not being referred to as terrorists in order to justify the actions of the military is also an advantage youths in Lagos seem to have over youths in other regions.
In fact, even with the End SARS panel to probe the involvement of the military in the Lekki tollgate shooting, Lagos seems too calm and relax about it. We are only interested in flexing our financial muscles and influence no matter how little it may be. You hear arguments like where we go to take the most expensive bread and tea, the club with the most expensive bottles, the “who is who” in Lagos, and so on. We take pride in bragging about how long we spend our day on the road in traffic like it’s a normal thing. And when we finally make the money we claimed we worked so hard for, we look for the most expensive clubs, bars, and prostitutes to spend in on.
You hear a beggar or hoodlum residing in Ikoyi, Lekki, Island, and its environs looking down on a beggar or hoodlum residing on the mainland axis as a way of flexing their influence over them.
This reminds me of a story I was told growing up. There was a rich beggar who owned a spoon. Every time he goes somewhere where a free meal is being shared, he would bring out his spoon from his pocket and begin to eat immediately he gets his share of the meal. After eating, he would lick his spoon and put it back inside his pocket, stand up and walk out majestically as his way of telling the others “I am not in your class”.
This story depicts the way Lagosians view each other. It also depicts the way everybody in Lagos relates with other states and regions in Nigeria. Basically, whatever is happening in other regions and states in Nigeria has nothing to do with us here in Lagos because we are a class of our own. Including us living in the slumps of Lagos.
If truly Lagos is a state in a class of its own, then it must lead the fight for a better Nigeria the classy way. And this goes beyond mere Twitter hashtags and trends. We must be involved in what is happenings in other states and regions in Nigeria like it’s happening at our doorstep. Because the truth is, despite the fact that we can always close our eyes or look the other way, we must remember that if one of us is in chains then none of us are free because when they are done with them, best believe they will come for us.