Fashola Apologises for Misunderstanding over Relocation of Igbo

After weeks of open confrontation between the Lagos State Government and Igbo ethnic groups over the forced relocation of the latter’s destitute indigenes to Anambra State, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) Thursday, finally apologised to Ndigbo over the misunderstanding that arose from the action of his administration.
The governor, who said: “Ndigbo are my kindred,” however, lamented the depth of underdevelopment, which he said, had been a major challenge of the section of Nigeria that produced such prominent leaders as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Chief Alex Ekwueme and Major General Ike Nwachukwu, among others.
Fashola tendered the apology at the 25th anniversary symposium of Aka Ikenga, which took place at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos where he urged the Igbo indigenes to value the relationship, which he said, had been built over the years with mutual respect, trust and love as the cornerstone.
At the symposium attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, among others, Fashola offered what he described as an unqualified and unreserved apology.
But he expressed reservation at a part of Rev. Hassan Kuka’s speech when the Catholic Bishop said the governor had come to the symposium to settle his problems with the Igbo.
“I associate myself with most of what he has said. But the truth is that I do not have a problem with the Igbo. The largest herd of cattle I received during my father’s burial came from Ndigbo,” Fashola said.
According to the governor, if there are people, who have misunderstood me or have misunderstood actions taken by the Lagos State Government, I offer an unqualified and unreserved apology here, now and today.
But he said his apology “does not take away the real questions that caused misunderstanding. It is those questions that Aka Ikenga must address if it must fulfill its purpose. Why should people feel compelled to immigrate from one place to the other? Is there one part of this country that is less endowed, whether in human or natural resource?
“Is it the case that perhaps some parts are so endowed or not adequately managed? Those are the honest debates that we must have. The political storm is gathering and allusions have been made to the issues I address.
“I know there is a real issue that those at home do not look like those of you here. You do not look like them.
“How can development be so difficult in the part of Nigeria that gave us Ike Nwachukwu, Chinua Achebe, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme and so on? How can development be so difficult in that part of this country?
“I think those are the real issues. As the political storm gathers, President (Bill) Clinton says that politics is like pro-football. It is a contact sport. If you do not like to be hit, stay on the sideline.
“You cannot tackle those problems from behind. You cannot kick from behind. To that extent, those who are victims of our own inadequacy and shortcomings as professionals in and out of government should not be pawns on a political chess table.”
He acknowledged that Lagos State and Ndigbo “have been in the news of our relationship for all of the wrong reasons in the last few weeks. But if you listen to the voices of those who speak the loudest, you would see that they do not speak about us. They do not speak about the problems in anyway, but about themselves.
“The majority of us are concerned about how to make it better. That is what concerns us always in Lagos. It is not an easy decision for me. The pursuit of making it better makes us adopt policies which are always subject to the human test of fallibility.
“One of those policies is the Residents Registration exercise, which I urge all of you to embrace because if you live here, it will enable us serve you better if we know that you are here.”
Jonathan, represented by Anyim, charged the Aka Ikenga group to continue to chart a positive course for the Igbo race, which he said, would in no little measure preserve the enterprise, history, arts and culture of the Igbo nation.
Jonathan also reminded the group of their journey so far, noting that the group was formed by young Igbo professionals without any external influence or personal political agenda, urging them to stay true to their calling.