A triangular war of words between two former Federal Ministers and a serving government official in the presidency has brought a comic dimension to the on-going cold war between Yorubas and Igbos over the ownership of Lagos in the South-West Nigeria.
Presidential Assistant on New Media, Reno Omokri, had intervened in a major standoff between former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, who both had engaged in a war of words over the ‘deportation’ of about 70 beggars to Anambra State by the Lagos State Government.
An intervention to calm both parties down to allow for a ceasefire by Omokri attracted an angry backlash from Ezekwesili who lamely threatened to report Omokri to the presidency. Already, Chief Fani Kayode
As the war of words raged between a cross section of the public due to a reaction over the deportation of the alleged destitute, Omokri had reacted, seeking to broker peace between the two former ministers. He had urged Ezekwesili to adopt maturity and tolerance rather than tribalising the deportation impasse.
He wrote: “Days ago, a bitter man used hate speech on the President. We kept quiet. Don’t tolerate hate speech until it’s directed at your own ethnicity. You can’t have selective disdain for hate speech. You either hate all hate speech or you’re communicating that it is okay till it affects you.”
But Ezekwesili took Omokri’s intervention personally threatening to report him to his “superiors” in the Presidency for being rude to her on Twitter.
She accused Omokri of ”perennially diminishing” the office of the President with his “pedestrian speak.”
She said, “Enough said, my young man. I shall send a note to your supervisors to call you to order. It may mean nothing but I shall do it. I advise you to learn to be silent when you have no value to add to a discourse. Quit dragging the office of President in the mud.”
Fani-Kayode, in an article titled, “The Bitter Truth About The Igbo,”which has circulated widely on the Internet, faulted claims by a section of Igbos who, according to him, “consistently lay claim to Lagos as being partly theirs.”
He said the Igbos “blame us (Yorubas) for all their woes, envy our educational advantages and resent us deeply for our ability to excel in the professions and commerce.” He added that they are not “grateful” to the Yorubas whose leaders have made “sacrifices” for them in time past.
“Lagos and the South West are the land and the patrimony of the Yoruba and we will not allow anyone, no matter how fond of them we may be, to take it away from us or share it with us in the name of ‘being nice’, ‘patriotism’, ‘one Nigeria’ or anything else,” Fani-Kayode had stated in the article.
However, Ezekwesili, who obviously felt uneasy after reading the article, took to Twitter to fight back on behalf of her tribe. She described Fani-Kayode’s article as a “naked hateful speech.”
She said it was unfortunate and appalling that her former colleague at the federal executive council would resort to spewing such “raw hate language” and “toxic treatise” targeted at her ethnic group.
The former minister of education lamented that it was unfair for the Igbos to be targeted with the “stoking of an hate flame” after once being “tragically massacred” in an avoidable civil war.
In a series of tweets, she noted, “The current slippery slope of our country cannot be allowed to worsen with the kind of hateful speeches that Fani Kayode has been releasing.
“As an individual and his former colleague, I have nothing but empathy and love in my heart to counter his toxic speeches but the Federal Government must restrain him.
“The relevant agency of the FG must take in Femi-Fani Kayode and restrain him from making further hateful speeches against the Igbo.
“Freedom of speech is not to be confused for freedom to stoke hatred for people of different ethnic, religious or ideological persuasions.
“Appropriate agency of the State must call in Fani-Kayode now and demand he stops forthwith any more hateful speeches that expressly target Igbos.
“We must stem the vitriolic urgently to avoid a repeat of tragic history when the civil was started on the back of hateful messaging.”
She added that with the latest outburst of Fani-Kayode, she has yet to be persuaded that Nigeria’s problem is ethnic, noting that Nigeria is battling with the ”curse of a crass elite class.”
“Hateful persons deserve our empathy. Their toxic words are really a loud cry for help. That’s why we lovingly pray rather than punch.
“I have no intention of engaging Fani Kayode. His hateful language is far gone from normal. In decent societies, governments respond to such,” she added.
But Fani-Kayode won’t let this go without a challenge. He took to his Twitter handle and said he was ready for Ezekwesili, in the event that she “wants a fight.” He argued that he was only expressing his constitutional rights to freedom of expression and challenged her to provide evidence of his alleged hate speech.
“When supposedly educated people run away from facing the truth they should be called to order. If Oby Ezekwezili wants a fight I am ready.”
Fani Kayode had earlier pointed out that if he hated the Igbos, he would not have had any connection with the tribe by engaging in romantic adventure with many of the Igbo ladies, making mention of al least tw of them he had had sexual dealing with.