On Lagos, The Utopian City Caught Between Criminality, Tolerance

"If anyone or any region is fighting tribalism, it would be SW. No other region save some parts of Niger Delta is as accommodating…..’’

As it always is on Twitter, a neutral or not-so-neutral conversation takes an ethnic dive.

The usual happens: It’s either a Yoruba tweep drags Ndigbo like a Tiger generator irrespective of the target tweep’s ethnicity, or an Igbo tweep drags the Yoruba over the words of a perceived Yoruba tweep, or a Far-North tweep drags Ndigbo or Southerners over an issue, or a Southerner drags the North and vice versa, or a regular Nigerian drags the Igbo for “victim mentality,” IPOB, and/or “arrogance.”

Well, in this case, this was the original ‘sin.’

“Igbophobia from the North, I get. There was a war, and we never fully healed.


Igbophobia from the South West, I don’t get it. Like, there’s no historical reason for it.


As someone who “looks Igbo,” it shocks me every time I encounter it in Lagos.”

Following the quoted tweet above by a lady that should be Edo, responses, as always, poured in from everywhere. It was Yoruba on one side and the rest of Nigeria on the other side. But it didn’t take time before the Igbophobia being discussed reared its head. However, I’m not here to discuss that.

That fight will only diminish when we stop having to fight for food in Nigeria. I’m here to discuss the longstanding opinion of the Yoruba, as shown in the tweet below.


“If anyone or any region is fighting tribalism, it would be SW. No other region save some parts of NigerDelta is as accommodating. Quite understadable to want progress, but damnit we also have experiences in your own backyard too.

They are often not good stories.”

I have always ignored tweets like this, as I do many tweets that abound on Naija Twitter. Still, with many tweeps dishing this piece of fallacy around, it’s beginning to gba ufufu. So I responded.

“I’m genuinely asking because this seems to be everywhere, what makes the Southwest/Yoruba the most tolerant in Nigeria? What evidence supports this? What is the basis of this claim?”

To which another gentleman responded.


“You can do à research or fact-finding to disprove this.

I am sure this was based on people’s experiences and has been proven over the years.”

Phew! I responded…


“Proven or regurgitated sir? The few research that exists only discuss tolerance in the Southwest with regards to religion. So do share whatever research or evidence you have.”


To which he came back stronger with…


“Wether proven or regurgitated, you are thé one trying to debunk à wide known fact, if you believe it’s incorrect show us your proof. One thing I know you can’t diasgree with is that it is à statement that is widely referenced. Whether it’s true or not that’s your job to disproof.”


Now it’s evident my gentleman tweep is either uninterested in engaging in a proper academic discussion, does not understand how that works, or already is set in his beliefs.

All of which is understandable.

I decided, as I sometimes do, to download my thoughts in a thread I knew no one was going to read anyway.

Here goes nothing…

Lagos is a “mega” African city, a melting pot of ethnic nationalities from across the world. The biggest is Yoruba and Igbo. Lagos’s demography does not suggest that the Southwest/Yoruba is more tolerant than any other group in Nigeria. In no other part of the Southwest would you see the situation in Lagos replicate itself. It’s like saying the UK is the most tolerant country in the world due to the demographic makeup of London, or the USA due to any one of NY, CA, GA, FL, or TX.


Despite this, Yoruba is the defacto, the official language in many public spaces. Residential areas and districts are almost split along ethnic lines. Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Indian, Caucasians, Chinese, and other groups live in clusters. Yoruba culture supersedes all others.

Despite the size of the Igbo population, which Igbo custom or festival is celebrated, let alone recognized by the city/state?

How about Hausa, Edo, Ijaw, Idoma, Indian, or Lebanese?

The only non-Yoruba elected office holders in Lagos to come from majority Igbo districts.

In no other part of Lagos can that happen. Despite the tolerance of Lagos, there have been many clashes between Yoruba and different ethnic nationalities (mostly Hausa).

The picture often painted is that Lagos is besieged by non-Yoruba because natives are tolerant. A rather unfortunate claim for a city that was a nation’s capital for almost eight decades.

Tolerance isn’t why the non-Yoruba Lagosians call Lagos home. Instead, it’s that need to hustle for food, whatever the challenge drives all life.

It’s the hustle that makes indigenes of Lagos sell their land to non-Yoruba who pour their investments into the land.


The same people have investments elsewhere, albeit not in the same proportion.

No one has ever been gifted a Kobo or an inch of land in Lagos or Southwest due to the tolerance of the indigenes.

If Lagos was tolerant as claimed, the controversial “No Man’s Land” would receive the same indifference Native Americans show towards the US mantra of “Nation of Immigrants.” Instead, three words that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things have driven many a Yoruba to the edge.

Then there’s the rest of the Southwest. What other town, city, or state has more non-indigenous people than Abuja?

I do not have the numbers, I am simply asking.

There has never been a clash between the Gwari and any other ethnic nationality in Abuja, at least to my knowledge.

If the answer is none, how is the Southwest the most tolerant region in Nigeria? In this situation, people often cite the religious differences. Now, it is a fact that the South-West has both Christians and Muslims in almost equal proportions.

But the same people who mention this fact seem to disregard the follow-up that comes with it, “in one FAMILY you can have a Muslim, a Christian, and an Ifa worshiper.”

Despite the various faiths, the people in question are mostly all Yoruba. No one would expect Yoruba not to tolerate Yoruba. They are family.


In other parts of Nigeria, where religious crises are rife, they are seldom just religious crises. There is almost always an ethnic coloration too.

It is always entirely different, be it in Kaduna, Plateau, or Benue. The usual formula is (Christian+This) ÷ (Muslim+That). Ironically, I have only known intra-ethnic religious clashes in the South-West.

This may have occurred in other places, but ‘my eyes never see am’.

From Kwara to Ekiti, Yoruba Christians are on record to have clashed with Yoruba Muslims.

However, this is not an indictment of the Yoruba.

No,not at all.

I’m simply asking, what makes the Yoruba/South-West more tolerant than any other part of Nigeria.

This claim has been regurgitated for far too long that it is taking a life of its own. It may seem harmless, but such a mindset often leads to trouble down the road.


Despite the murmurs of the Biafran war and the many unresolved pain between the Igbo and the many other ethnic nationalities in the East, there has never been an inter-ethnic clash between the Igbo and these many different ethnicities on the Eastern side.

There is yet to be a clash between Christians in the region with their Animist brethren.

Yet we do not have people from this region claiming to be the most tolerant in Nigeria. There is so much more to be said on this topic, but I will end it with the words of Sensei Tywin, “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”


For those that did not ghọta: Any ethnic nationality that has always proclaimed itself the most tolerant in the nation is never that which it claims. Just like in personal relationships, ‘make everybody check himself,’ all our faults are internal.

Until we fix them, we can never have any real relationship.




Onowu Alusi writes from Lagos.

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