Lagos state, Nigeria
People navigated through the waterways of the Makoko slum in Lagos. The Igbo ethnic group in Lagos has been threatened with death over the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria’s Igbo ethnic group in Lagos state was told Sunday to vote for governorship candidate Akinwui Ambode of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in an upcoming election or risk death in a lagoon in the southwest. Oba of Lagos Rilwan Akiolu threatened the ethnic group with fatal consequences if they voted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the April 11 election.

“On Saturday, if anyone of you, I swear in the name of God, goes against my wish that Ambode will be the next governor of Lagos state, the person is going to die inside this water,” Akiolu said Sunday, according to the Sun News in Nigeria. The oba, or king, of Lagos, has no political power over the state but is sought as a counselor and patron by Nigerian politicians who pursue support from Lagos residents.

Akiolu had invited Igbo leaders and monarchs to his palace over the weekend to discuss the upcoming governorship elections, which are scheduled to be held Saturday. The Igbos in Lagos voted for PDP candidates in last week’s presidential and national assembly elections, and they are expected to vote for the PDP governorship candidate Jimi Agbaje Saturday. Akiolu said he was not ready to beg the Igbos but that Lagos belonged to the indigenous peoples of the southwest state.

“[President Goodluck] Jonathan is my son and I speak to him every day. By the grace of God, I am the owner of Lagos for the time being. This is an undivided chair. The palace belongs to the dead and those coming in the future,” Akiolu said Sunday. “I’m not ready to beg you. Nobody knew how I picked Ambode. Jimi [Agbaje] is my blood relation, and I told him that he cannot be governor in Lagos for now. The future belongs to God.”

Akiolu added that anyone who voted for Ambode was for the well-being of the state and the Igbo people would be rewarded if they voted for the APC candidate. “I am for the progress, growth and development of Lagos. Ambode is highly cerebral, he’s a symbol and he is going to deliver the message which I, the oba of Lagos, have said. And he will govern the state for another eight years,” the first-class monarch said Sunday. “If you do what I want, Lagos will continue to be prosperous for you. If you go against my wish, you will perish in the water.”

Gordian Dimojiaku, the eze-ndigbo of Amuwo-Oraide, responded to Akiolu’s tirade and promised the Igobs in Lagos would support Ambode in the governorship election. “The mistake of last Saturday was caused by everybody, not only the Igbos. It is not only the Igbos that were responsible for the votes. But we have learnt our lesson. Saturday’s election is going to be a different thing and Ambode is going to win,” Dimojiaku said, according to Nigerian newspaper ThisDay.

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari of the APC narrowly won Lagos, a key swing state in the presidential election. The opposition candidate took 792,460 votes, while Jonathan of the PDP won 632,327 votes, according to the Vanguard newspaper. But Jonathan won with a landslide in the southeast states of Imo, Anambra, Enagu, Ebonyi and Abia. The Igbo ethnic group, which predominates much of southeast Nigeria, was seen as largely responsible for the PDP’s victory in these areas on March 28 and 29.

Last week, former Gov. of Anambra State Ogbonnayu Onu appealed to the Igbos in southeastern Nigeria to support the party-elect All Progressives Congress and incoming President Muhammadu Buhari. “The Igbos must support General Buhari to secure their lives and property, to secure their prosperity and guarantee their progress in this new journey to build a new Nigeria,” Onu said on Thursday, according to the Premium Times. “Southeast people need Nigeria just as it needs them. Igbo is the only ethnic group in Nigeria whose people cannot be found as indigenes of any other country in the world. Nigeria is the only country the Igbos know.”