Opinion: Lessons learnt from the Igbo deportation saga

by Ochereome Nnanna

Destitutes10

If the Governors’ Forum focused on the right things, Mr Peter Obi of Anambra State would answer the phone when Fashola calls him. Obi would not only come to Lagos and join with Fashola when he wants a grand national burial for Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and shut his phone on Fashola over this deportation saga only to complain to the President and threaten reprisal.

Some called it “deportation”. That was not quite correct because those removed from Lagos State by officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, to the shore of River Niger in Anambra State were Nigerian citizens. The state officials tried to dress it in nicer terms. They called it “relocation” and “re_unification with families”.

That, too, was clearly incorrect because the destitute citizens were forcibly removed and taken back to their perceived region of tribal origin; a forceful implementation of the “go back to your state” refrain that seems to have become a new chant among those who describe themselves as “original Lagos indigenes” and directed at those who do not speak their language.

Since there were no family members or government officials waiting to receive them (as they were brought back in the dead of the night), the use of the term “re_unification” was an outright lie. The fact is that the Lagos State Government, LASG, violated the constitutional rights of these people. However, I do not want to go so far as to agree that there was an ethnic cleansing agenda involved.

There are abundant evidences that KAI has done this to Northerners and even Yoruba people from adjoining states of the South West. That does not make it right though; it does not detract from the violation of the rights of Nigerian citizens to live in any part of the country.

However, to be fair, we must also see the point that the LASG seeks to make through these removals, even if done the wrong way. People are tumbling into Lagos from all corners of Nigeria and West Africa in an unprocessed, uncontrolled manner because Lagos is seen as a city of opportunity.

Indeed, it is. No particular ethnic, statist or political group can claim to have made Lagos what it is today: the economic nerve centre of West Africa. Lagos is our collective commonwealth, built with our federal money and our collective endeavours.

But Lagos is also a state under an elected government that has declared its intention to transform the metropolis into a modern economic and pleasure resort comparable to other big cities in the world. It has a duty to govern and secure the city.

It is its responsibility to remove eyesores (both human and non_human) from the streets, beautify Lagos and make it conducive for both residents and visitors from all over the world. The LASG has been doing just this, particularly since Mr Babatunde Fashola came to power in 2007. He has fought and won the battles of Oshodi and other dark spots, the battle of the okada riders on major highways and the battle of the street traders. Obviously, the removal of destitute persons is part of these battles.

In those other cities that we want to model Lagos after, destitute people are kept in shelters built and operated by city councils and voluntary, philanthropic societies. Every big society always has its share of citizens left behind in the usual economic rat race.

Government exists also for their benefit, through the provision of basic needs such as food, shelter and primary healthcare. But then, should we allow Lagos alone to shoulder the needs of hundreds of thousands of the downtrodden drained from all states of the federation? Is it fair?

This is one of the problems that the Governors’ Forum should confront, rather than wallowing in politics of destabilisation and betrayal.

If the Governors’ Forum focused on the right things, Mr Peter Obi of Anambra State would answer the phone when Fashola calls him. Obi would not only come to Lagos and join with Fashola when he wants a grand national burial for Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and shut his phone on Fashola over this deportation saga only to complain to the President and threaten reprisal.

Our major lesson from this experience is that citizenship issues are very fundamental and touchy. All of us are Nigerians before being indigenes of our various states. This is because Nigeria created and gave those states to us for more rapid development, not for them to be used against nation building. Nigeria can wake up tomorrow and abolish the states and create geo_political regions.

She can abolish indigeneship, empowering citizenship, which is what we have clamoured for. Our common citizenship is what makes us Nigerians, and we are fully protected by the Constitution. People should be careful before they tamper with the rights of citizens.

Secondly, we are operating in a political environment. The political implications of our actions should be carefully considered when policies are being made. Lagos is not a mono_ethnic enclave. The Igbo people, for instance, constitute about a third of the population of the state.

During censuses, voter registration and election periods, non_indigenes are enjoined by the LASG not to travel to their states of origin for those exercises. They are encouraged to stay in Lagos and do them. This is because the numbers help to bring more federal revenue to the state. It also helps to get the state more constituencies for political power. LASG, therefore, has a duty to all citizens in the state, including the destitute.

I have heard some People’s Democratic Party, PDP, elements saying they would gather all the videos of the “deportations” and use them as campaign material against Dr Chris Ngige in the November governorship election in Anambra State as well as against the All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2015. I say good luck to them.

But I am vehemently opposed to the threat not to allow the APC to campaign in Anambra State. Nobody has the right to stop any political party from campaigning in any part of the country. The electorate must be free to choose. The law enforcement agents must enforce the constitutional rights of Nigerians.

Besides, such political stupidity will not augur well for inter-ethnic relations.

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Read this article in the Vanguard Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (3)

  1. Am nt a politicians bt d truth is if you re a nig nd a good patrioth of dis u wn't come out nd be saying dis rubbish bt all d same, their is a God up who ll judge all of us

  2. Pls let this war end,it is most unfortunate.I live in lagos and I’m from Anambra state.let the truth be told,lagos state laws has been applied irrespective of where you come from.I believe there’s no negative agenda against the igbos in lagos.

  3. Good writeup.well done

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