Fashola’s “deportation” action exposes Nigeria’s crisis of citizenshipBy Prof. Okey Ndibe
USAfrica, Houston: The debate over Lagos State’s deportation of some Igbo persons to Anambra State has done two things at once. One, it has underlined the shakiness of the idea of one Nigeria. Then, two, in focusing too narrowly on an ethnic explanation, the debate has obfuscated what is a much broader, and fundamental, issue.
Initial reports suggested that several Igbo persons were herded in one bus or several, driven across the Niger Bridge, and dumped in Onitsha. Late last week, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos stated that only 14 persons were removed. He also echoed other defenders of the policy by disclosing that the “deportees” were vagrants, some of them with varying degrees of mental problems.
The governor’s was not an excellent argument. For one thing, poverty does not – should not – vitiate citizenship. Nigerians who are psychiatric cases are still deserving of the same basic rights and privileges of citizenship, unless they pose a threat to others. If Nigeria translates as a nation, then its citizens, including indigent – even homeless – ones ought to be free to reside wherever they choose within the 36 states and the federal capital territory.
A policy that forcibly removes “undesirable” citizens from their state of residency to their state of origin does grave violence to the concept of national unity, to say nothing of the grave violation of the affected citizens’ right of movement. In that light, one is appalled by the deportations. And it doesn’t matter if only one person was shucked off, as opposed to, say, 100.
Having made that point of principle, it is meet to offer a corrective to the ethnic reading of the Lagos policy. It has since emerged that Lagos State had sent other ostensible undesirables “home,” to a number of northern as well as southwest states. If the “deportation” policy is at odds with the idea of one Nigeria – and I suggest it is – then Lagos State would be an equal-opportunity abuser of the rights of Nigerians, not just those from Anambra or Igboland.
If the particular removal of Igbo has generated the kind of heat not witnessed in the past, it is, in part, because Igbo – by their pattern of dispersal within Nigeria – most deeply embody the national spirit. Besides, they have shed more blood than any other ethnic group in the name of maintaining the unrealized, farfetched dream of a Nigerian nation. Therefore, any time it appears that the Igbo are being handed a red card in any part of Nigeria, the act of rejection reverberates, reminding us all that we occupy a space that falsely accuses itself of being a coherent, cohesive community.
It all brings me round to a point that begs to be made with regard to Lagos State’s shocking policy. That point is this: that we are shouting ourselves hoarse at an action that is a mere symptom, even as we fail to address the core of the problem.
That problem is an identity crisis, the emptiness of Nigeria as a nation – and, especially, with regard to the question of what it means to call oneself a Nigerian citizen. We have spent more than fifty years at the game of pretending to belong within the same nation. In fact, our ethnic identities remain dominant. Our ethnic ties easily trump any consideration of a national identity. It’s not as if ethnicity, as a rule, is incompatible with national cohesion. But Nigerians – at any rate, too many – have made an idol out of their ethnicity. For too many Nigerians, ethnicity is not merely a virtue, it is the sole virtue. It is a case of – to adapt a popular idea in political ideology – “My ethnic group, right or wrong.”
There are Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Ijaw, and so on who vehemently abhor embezzlement of public funds – unless the embezzler happens to part of their (ethnic) number, in which case graft becomes absolutely excusable, if not heroic. Besides, to read comments on any website frequented by Nigerians is to witness the savage verbal bricks that Nigerians – many of them holders of advanced degrees – hurl at each other across ethnic lines. Name any unprintable name, and you’d find that Nigerians use it against their fellows from other ethnic groups in daily verbal warfare. I fear that, should the occasion arise in Nigeria – God forbid! – many Nigerians would be quite ready to butcher members of the ethnic “other” with a genocidal glee that surpasses the horrors the world witnessed in Rwanda.
Again, it’s all proof of a country whose fault lines are numerous and turning into a maze of chasms, a deeply riven, fragmented patchwork of a nation. In today’s Nigeria, an Igbo who is born in Sokoto and lives all her life there would still be expected – indeed, required – to enter her father’s Igbo state as her “state of origin.” The same rules would apply to a Fulani man born in Onitsha. Nigerians must face up to their failure to found a nation within their shared space.
If the foregoing leaves an impression of ethnic solidarity, that impression is – on closer examination – a mirage. One or two Igbo governors have ventured outside their states to hire one or two aides. But you need only juxtapose that kind of tokenism against Abia State’s mass purge of civil servants from the other Igbo states – and the portrait of intra-ethnic resentment is writ large.
There’s some irony in the fact that Governor Fashola has done far more than most Igbo governors in recruiting people from other states, including Igbo, to work in his government. But that does not justify his government’s policy of seizing Nigerians in Lagos and deporting them to their states of origin.
To insist on the point does not mean that one dismisses the profound challenge of running a state whose dramatically exploding population is a strain on resources. If Nigeria is to be achieved as a nation, then the likes of Fasholas ought to respect the right of Nigerians to reside wherever they wish. Even so, some of Mr. Fashola’s critics must also decide whether they wish to commit themselves to build Nigeria into the semblance of a real community – or merely postpone the day when we would all need visas to visit each other’s ethnic enclave. •Ndibe, a professor of English at Trinity College in Connecticut and a novelist, is a contributing editor of USAfrica multimedia networks since 1995. Follow him on twitter @okeyndibe.
Lagos Governor Fashola’s deportation of Nigerians within their country is a cruel, unlawful absurdity. By Ken Okorie. http://usafricaonline.com/2013/08/02/usafrica-lagos-governor-fasholas-deportation-of-nigerians-within-their-country-is-a-cruel-unlawful-absurdity-by-ken-okorie/—–WHY I CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND WORKS OF NELSON MANDELA. By Chido Nwangwu http://usafricaonline.com/2010/07/15/mandela-why-i-celebrate-his-life-works-by-chido-nwangwu/
Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/ : IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary at USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/
• Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=USAfrica+Chido+Nwangwu+al-qaeda+terrrorism+nigeria&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 http://usafricaonline.com/tag/al-qaeda/ 310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com on July 28, 2009. www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html http://www.groundreport.com/World/310-killed-by-Nigerias-talibans-in-Bauchi-Yobe-n-M/2904584
Related and prior reporting on the Jos crises on USAfrica, click here: http://usafricaonline.com/2011/08/16/10-killed-in-renewed-violence-near-jos/
News archives related to Jos, here http://usafricaonline.com/?s=jos 310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com on July 28, 2009. www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html http://www.groundreport.com/World/310-killed-by-Nigerias-talibans-in-Bauchi-Yobe-n-M/2904584
Trump looks foolish and crazy screaming about Obama’s birth certificates, college records and Muslim connection. By Raynard Jackson
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa’s writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/chido.achebebest.html
• For seasoned insights and breaking news on these issues, log on to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica powered e-groups including Nigeria360 at yahoogroups and USAfrica at googlegroups. Follow USAfrica at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido , Facebook.com/USAfrica247 and Twitter.com/Chido247
USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin. By Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/
There’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique. http://usafricaonline.com/2013/07/18/mandela-95-hearty-cheers-to-his-footprints-of-greatness-by-chido-nwangwu/
President Barack Obama, an inheritor of the global fruits of the multi-racial, progressive and inclusive works of Nelson Mandela (and others like Mandela), will never meet a very physically fit and totally aware Mandela. As a student of history, leadership and communications, I believe that Obama’s handlers made an egregious error, a critical, even if symbolic failure to have planned and scheduled and executed since 4 years for the 44th President of the United States, the first African American to hold the most powerful office in the world to engage and fraternize face-to-face, to meet the same great man that the 51-years old Obama said he spoke to on the phone, a couple of times, in seeking his wisdom on a few matters. I think they waited 4 years and more, too late…. ———
CNN International profiles USAfrica’s Founder Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/2010/06/29/cnn-chido-usafrica/
Also, see Tiger Woods is no Nelson Mandela!
Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. http://usafricaonline.com/2009/11/01/chido-8lessons-rwanda-genocide/——Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfricaonline.com
——Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com
—— Forthcoming 2013 book: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary livesand friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, the author takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.” He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.”I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary http://youtu.be/G0fJXq_pi1c )ACHEBE Lives As an Immortal Writer In Our Hearts and Minds. By Chido Nwangwu.USAfrica, May 22, 2013:http://www.thisdaylive.com/
articles/achebe-lives-as-an- immortal-writer-in-our-hearts- and-minds/148550/
FULL text of this tribute-commentary at USAfricaonline.com click link http://usafricaonline.com/2013/03/22/long-live-chinua-achebe-by-chido-nwangwu/