Within the past week, the social media was awash with stories and pictures of the demolition of shops belonging to Igbo traders at Alaba International Market, a market in Lagos, dominated by Igbo traders, by the Lagos State Government, after they had been served quit notice. Although government can serve quit notice to anyone, the Lagos matter had taken another coloration owing to events before and after the General Elections in the country.
Following the loss of Lagos to Labour Party, LP, in the Presidential Election, some Yoruba elements has started flying the ethnic flag and threatening to deal with Ndigbo in Lagos. This was even after perceived Igbo People had been beaten or intimidated on election days in the same Lagos.
Thus, when it was reported that the Lagos State Government had given a quit notice to Igbo traders at the said Alaba Market, tongues had started wagging, describing the development as a ploy to pay the Igbo population in Lagos back in their own coin for ”trying to take Lagos from the indigenous population”.
While we cannot readily ascertain what is playing in the mind of the Lagos State Government over the demolition of shops belonging to Igbo traders in Lagos, we believe it is time for the Igbos to begin thinking of relocating home, owing to the harsh treatment they have been receiving in certain quarters in the country.
Such treatments did not begin today but have predated the Civil War. At the slightest excuses, be it political or religious, the property of Igbo People in the north have always been attacked, while in many cases Igbos have been killed.
But amazingly, more Igbo People have continued to migrate and invest in the north. As true Nigerians, they are free to go to anywhere in the country, settle and do business. However, the sad reality in the country has been that the nationalistic disposition of Ndigbo has not been acknowledged but rather perceived as an attempt by Ndigbo to take over their home land. A very sad development indeed.
Because of this turn of events, there have been calls on those Igbos living outside and doing business to return home and do their businesses there. But is it as easy as that?
We all know how many of those who have been home to do business were frustrated; either by government bureaucracy or by the activities of those known as area boys who extort money from them with government and the various communities not protecting them.
Currently, the security situation in the entirety of Southeast has deteriorated to the point that some of those who are doing business in the east are relocating outside the zone.
When therefore government call on Igbos outside to return home and invest, such calls are seen as jokes, given that the enabling environment is not there.
The main issue of the moment in the Southeast Zone being insecurity, it more than makes sense that this should be immediately and holistically tackled by not just one Southeast Government, but all of them, in order to totally arrest the situation and encourage investors to return. No one invests in an insecure environment and unless this is resolved, any call on Ndigbo and others to come and do business in the East will be an exercise in futility.
The issue of the menace of area boys is another thing that should be crushed by the Southeast Governments and communities. The activities of youths in many Igbo communities and cities leave much to be desired and it is fast assuming an alarming proportion. In some instances, land developers are extorted by different youth gangs for them to be allowed to develop their land; such that often, one can end up spending half of the cost of the land on the demands of these youths. This cannot be allowed to stand as it is one of the biggest threats to people investing at home.
Lastly, having tackled some of these basic problems, it will be a nice idea for the Southeast Governments to map out areas in their various states to be known as industrial and commercial layouts for people who want to return. Such people will be given certain concessions to encourage them to return and develop those areas, devoid of government bureaucracy and harassment by youth gangs.
It is only when such is done that the calls to Ndigbo doing business outside to return home can make sense. It is indeed time to walk the talk by the various Southeast Governments.