Abimbola Adelakun: How Northerners are teaching Southerners a lesson in arrogance

by Abimbola Adelakun


What is objectionable about the idea is ethnic profiling. For a country like Nigeria, where our ethnic divisions make for a precarious balancing, registering and identifying people based on their ethnic background is simply looking for trouble.

The public bill sent to the Kano State House of Assembly mandating the lawmakers to pass a law legitimising the registration of all southerners – domicilled or coming into the state – was a strident way of teaching southerners a lesson in arrogance.

If Nigerians ever needed to learn that mutual tolerance and respect are attributes we all have to cultivate as a consequence of migration patterns across the country, this public bill is a syllabus. The move came after a not-so-subtle threat that maltreatment of northerners in southern Nigeria would endanger the latter’s N45trn investment in some states. It was such a relief the Federal Government stepped in to quickly stop the purported exercise and hopefully put an end to a pettiness that was as silly as it was misguided.

The sponsoring group, Concerned Arewa Citizens, as new a group as any other mischief-making concern, cited its zealousness about the prevention of vices associated with southerners. The list includes but not limited to drugs, human trafficking, kidnappings, baby factories, armed robbery and pipeline vandalism. Bereft of the know-how of lawmaking, the CAC sought a world record fast track of its bill – to become a law by August 1. Whether realistic or not, the CAC made its point and pungently too: The hand of the southerners is not the only one that steadies Nigeria’s Ark.

The group’s rascality is a pushback against Imo State Government’s decision to register northerners in the state and issue them ID cards. The decision, attributed to the governor, Rochas Okorocha, (though, he later denied it), was necessitated in the wake of the gradual extension of Boko Haram insurgency activities into other parts of Nigeria. How a governor who belongs to a northern-dominated party like the All Progressives Congress would have successfully carried out that kind of exercise in the first place beats me. Yet, to be fair to him, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, Okorocha cannot be expected to fold his arms and watch his state become another Borno. Not even after bombs were found in a church in the state capital. And having joined what has been labelled a “Hausa-Yoruba” party, it is understandable he had to show his people he was not a complete sell-out. I have no problem with his efforts to create a surveillance culture that would ensure proper monitoring of movements within Imo State.

What is objectionable about the idea is ethnic profiling. For a country like Nigeria, where our ethnic divisions make for a precarious balancing, registering and identifying people based on their ethnic background is simply looking for trouble.

Historically, we know grave acts of man’s inhumanity to his fellow human have been preceded by such “We” versus “Them” labelling. It is one route Nigeria needs not travel for everyone’s sake. Our lives are already difficult as it is right now that it will be silly to add to our problems with poorly conceived ideas that will ultimately do little good.

How plausible would such a move have even been? Did the conceivers and supporters of the idea think about the changing nature of ethnic identity or they are welded to an essentialised image of who a “northerner” is and should always be? Did they propose that people would be selected based on their features or by their “northern” names? How long should you have lived in a place to be considered part of the place and avoid being classified as an outsider? Did they consider how undignfying it would be for people to carry ID cards around because they are considered stereotypes? Of course, the lingering question of state of origin and indigeneship would have cropped up in the course of the exercise and like most things Nigerian, would have been handled messily.

How would those who are products of intermarriage be even considered? And if the people were issued ID cards, would they be mandated to carry them on them all the time like the mark of Cain? Who has the right to demand they show their ID card and who doesn’t? Does that mean refusal to show your ID qualifies you to be harassed or what?

It is disappointing that some southeast groups and commentators supported the idea in Imo State, either through their words or their silence. It is even funny that some of those who support the registration are based outside the South-East states. One should ask them if they would support a similar move if Governor Babatunde Fashola should try to register easterners in Lagos State. Was it not months ago that the “deportation” of some “beggars” he carried out cause such a major hoopla that some Yoruba and Igbo elements practically ran out of insults to throw at one another?

Where are all those who were quick to cite the unconstitutionality of Fashola’s action then? Where are all those folk who took the Lagos State Government to court to demand damages to the tune of N1bn per victim (whatever became of that case?!) and called Fashola all sorts of names? Where are all the members of the lynch mob to put their feet down against any form of discrimination against northerners in the east? It is difficult to believe that they are all quiet merely because their forces are spent. Why are we quicker to see acts of injustice perpetrated against our tribe but we overlook the ones we do to others?

Let me reiterate that everybody has the right to protect the place considered their homeland from being eroded by insurgency attacks and degraded values. What we must all guard against is lack of tact in the process of securing our homestead otherwise we would end up with a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat in our hands.

For instance, you do not arrest 486 northerners travelling through Southeastern Nigeria pre-emptively and then declare you will carry out investigations later. It would have been far more prudent to complete investigations before making a public announcement. The shoddiness increased a notch when a surprise was sprung on everyone; one of those men happened to be a “most-wanted” terrorist kingpin whose picture and name were not in public domain prior to his arrest.

It is important we remember that none of us is totally glued to a location. We all move across spaces and places, in search of one thing or the other and we should learn to do as we would be done by. States that want to prevent insurgency attacks will do well to work with local ethnic populations and their leaders. Without their cooperation, nothing will succeed anyway.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

One comment

  1. Am from the southeast and i understand the pain of my governor but totally against the registration of Nigerians in Nigeria by a state, all in the name of security watch. you know sometimes we take certain decisions in a haste without in-depth analysis on the aftermath of our decision , which is consequent upon the lack of good advisers. since he joined APC his ideologies i must say has change drastically and to say that i am disappointed is to say the least. I urge him to seek counsel next time. I am from Imo state and my wife is from Borno state that means my wife or probably my children and in-laws who come visiting will need identity cards then what is the value of NIMC as an organization. wisdom is greater than strength and wealth. Nigeria is the will of God.God Save Nigeria.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail