In December 2019, a few months after the sequential declarations of the Arewa Islamic Caliphate and the Niger Delta Republic, O'dua declared its independence from the chaos-ridden former Federal Republic Of Nigeria.
While the City of Eko had for long been home to a sizeable Igbo diaspora, the decade that led up to independence from Nigeria saw thousands of Ndi-Igbo settling in all major O'dua towns. In these, their new homes, they established themselves in enterprises that yielded quick turnovers (mainly small to medium scale retail and real estate).
Methodologies and results soon made differences in the general characteristics of both peoples apparent.
To the objective observer, it seemed that Igbo entepreneurs had a superior ability at exploiting the business environment. Anyone who went out in the early hours or, late in the day could not fail to notice the Igbo propensity for working longer hours as their shops would be open while those owned by Yoruba had either not yet resumed or, had already closed for the day. Evaluating how money was spent also showed that compared to Yoruba, the Igbo business-person returned a greater percentage of profits derived from his/her efforts into his/her business. Also, the cooperative structures that both communities used to nuture nascent enterprises were more efficiently developed amongst Ndi-Igbo.
All these inherent abilities soon saw them outstrip their Yoruba rivals. This commercial success however was never allowed to be translated into political influence and, in the years that had preceeded the complete breakdown of order in the former Nigeria, ultra-nationalists from both ethinicities played upon resentment and arrogance to fan embers of the mutual dislike, disdain, and distrust that had existed for long into flames.
It was not long before Ndi-Igbo's apprehensions of being detrimentally controlled by the Yoruba who formed a majority of the population transformed into a resolution to prevent the actualisation of their fears.
Ndi-Igbo therefore armed themselves and began to confront the Yoruba wherever these tried to assert their overlordship of O'dua's entirity. Eventually however, the few enclaves (such as Ikenne) where Igbo numbers had almost been equal to Yoruba were under the undisputable control of O'dua militias.
Except for Eko. Here, on March 1, 2020, acting on information that it was a purported peace rally was actually a ruse designed to allow easy entry for a Yoruba militia,
Igbo militants opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators approaching Ajegunle, killing at 8 and wounding 63. This began a phase of the war that was described as the worst seen in Africa since the end of hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
All roads leading in and out of Eko were blockaded, and the airport was shut down. Approximately 9,000,000 residents were trapped in the siege, and they were cut off from food, medicine, water, and supplies of electricity. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and wounded, and every imaginable offense against human rights was committed ranging from ethnic cleansing and rape, to mass executions and starvation. Residents came very close to complete starvation, and their only chance for survival weighed in the balance on the success of AU food shipments through the Apapa port that was re-opened in late August 2020.
In a short time, every building was damaged or destroyed, and no one was safe from attack. On October 1 2021, at least 750 people were killed and thousands more were wounded as a result of mortar attacks on a refugee centre on the outskirts of Badagry run by the Barack Obama Peace Centre. Red Cross trucks, which were given clearance to enter Eko through the border with the Benin Republic, were raided and destroyed, and maternity wards were hit killing mothers and newborns alike. On November 25 2021, 96 people were killed while in line for water, and on January 15 the following year mortar shells killed 582, and wounded 1,300 others another refugee centre in Magodo.
Hope had been prevalent for a long awaited peace at the outset of the new year with the embarking of a truce, but, on January 25, mortar fire rocked Eko as Igbo militants raided an AU-monitored weapons collection site.
This heightened hostilities to such an extent that not even an attack by NATO jets on Yoruba ammunition depots on March 7 dampened the intensity. It was not until August 17 that another cease-fire took effect. On September 17, the supervising AU Authority declared that the war in Eko was over. However, the scars of this once proud city that was a commercial and intellectual center noted for its multi-cultural tolerance will not fade soon. Its present population has gone from the 17 million of pre-war era to under 9 million and, even though there is still a sparse population of Igbo in the city, it is doubtful if these will remain once they acquire the means to depart from a place that they had once called home. As we head into another new year, we can only hope that the future of this city can take a turn for the more peaceful as the families and nations that once made up the Federal Republic of Nigeria find a way to live together in harmony.