Opinion: Deportation of destitutes is lazy, but Fashola is not an Igbo hater

by Steve Nwosu


I am not one of those who believe Lagos is a no-mans-land. It is insulting to the indigenes of Lagos to make such postulations.

I have intentionally steered clear of the leave-township notice that the Lagos State Government recently served and executed on some Igbo residents of Anambra extraction, simply because there are so many gaps in the story.

Gov. Raji Fashola has told his side of the story, even though he was silent on the decision to do the transfer at night (or why such vulnerable persons would be left on their own, without being handed over to some other relevant authority), but I feel Peter Obi’s Anambra has not told us the full story of its involvement – what it did, and what it failed to do.

However, when people, who ordinarily should know better, begin to bandy figures and percentages that even a motor-park economist would be ashamed of appending his name to, one is forced to do a rethink.

For instance, I was dumbfounded when my very good friend, Femi Fani-Kayode, looked all of us in the face and declared that Igbos did not contribute anything to the development of Lagos. But, I guess, he was also responding to claims by Igbos in the social media that Igbos contributed 85 per cent of all the developments in Lagos. Where did all the statistics come from?

We have recently caught the bug of statistics in this country – especially since these World Bank and IMF people began to run things around here. Now, if we talk of inflation, they give us figures. Unemployment? They give us even more figures. Poverty? More figures. Hunger? Some more figures. Electricity? Figures still. Agriculture? Figures!  Each new set of figures, more impressive than the previous. It does not matter that we see neither the food, light nor employment. Of course, nobody bothers to ask where and how the figures were generated. Only recently, I stumbled on a document that put the population of Nigeria at 50 per cent Moslem, 40 per cent Christian and 10 per cent other religion. Some senior government official was using it to back up a proposal he was sending outside the country. It did not occur to him that there was no provision for capturing religion during the last census – in fact, one of the gaffes a section of the country holds against NPC chairman, Festus Odimegwu, today is that he said he would try to capture religion and ethnicity in the 2016 census. But that is a matter for another day.

So, when Joe Igbokwe, in defence of Fashola, said Igbos carried out 100 per cent of the kidnappings in Lagos, it was taking the statistics craze to ludicrous height. Expectedly, the Igbo lynch mob on the Internet came after him. But as they attacked Igbokwe, only two or three of them took time to present evidence to fault him. The rest, like Fani-Kayode, merely whipped up emotions.

It is the same emotions that have beclouded the facts of the recent deportations from Lagos. I’m sorry for using the word ‘deportation’ again. In fact, Fashola did not ‘deport’ Igbos from Lagos. He only ‘reintegrated them with their families at their family house at Upper Iweka, Onitsha. And as every Igbo person, who has ever visited Igboland would know, the ancestral home of all Anambra people is at Upper Iweka. If you doubt me, ask Fashola or Joe Igbokwe. Even Gov. Peter Obi knows this fact – although it might not be politically right for him to confirm it now.

If you also observe, I have refused to state the exact number of those deported. For I know, not even Fashola can categorically say he knows the figure – neither he, Peter Obi, Aka Ikenga, Joe Igbokwe, Fani-Kayode nor any member of the pro- and anti-Igbo lynch mob on the Internet was there at that ungodly hour when the deportees disembarked from the vehicle (or vehicles). Fashola may have signed for 14 persons, but that is no guarantee that the operations people shipped out only 14, and not 72, or 68, or 74. What makes the Lagos governor think that those who carried out his orders did not hide under the umbrella of his approval to swoop on their business rivals, troublesome tenants and neighbours or even young women who had rebuffed their love advances and shipped all of them out of Lagos? The only people who could give us an idea are either the driver or the passengers. Now, if many of the victims are mentally unstable, as we have been led to believe, it is not likely that whatever figures they give us would be reliable. In fact, I’d love to meet with the social worker at Majidun Welfare Centre, who interviewed all of them to ascertain their state of origin.

My only regret in all this is that the men I sent out to go interview the deportees to ascertain their residences and places of work in Lagos have yet to turn in anything. Yes, I actually want to confirm the alleged claim of some of them that they were picked up on the street, initially accused of wandering, clamped into detention, and then, finally branded as destitute and deported. At least, if they can give us the true picture of their status, then we can confront Fashola with the facts. And if they were indeed destitutes, we would still confront Fashola to ask him what he’d be doing with the other omo onile ‘destitutes’ in Mushin, Lagos Mainland. And those other ones who do not beg but simply extort traders and passersby. After that, there are still the fair-skinned ones from our neighbouring countries in the North, to which states would Fashola deport those ones?

But in all, something just does not seem to jell with this deportation and re-integration thing. When I raised it recently with a top state government official from one of the Northern States, he confessed that his state has a bigger problem with destitutes than even Lagos. But deportation has never figured in all their calculations. This is because the problem of ridding the streets of beggars and destitutes remains a time bomb – as the Lagos case is proving to be. For the official from the North, that is one sure way to lose election because the Islamic teachers would come after you. The reasoning is that if Islam encouraged you to give alms and you chased away beggars, who would you now give alms to? They would brand you anti-Islam. It does not matter that even in Saudi Arabia, there are notices everywhere, warning people not to beg around the holy places. Like two or three other Northern states, he said, his state is presently toying with the idea of erecting government-run homes where it hopes to send the destitutes to, on clearing them from the streets. As a stop-gap arrangement, however, those state governments currently pay a ‘welfare salary’ to all documented destitutes. Interestingly, all these states do not have a quarter of the revenue Lagos State makes monthly.

For me, therefore, deporting destitutes is a lazy man’s approach to the problem although some other states are now copying Fashola. It would not cost any state government a fortune to cater for destitutes within its boundaries. In fact, if we check properly, chances are that provision is annually made for this in the budgets. It is possible somebody is pocketing the money or it is diverted to take care of political thugs.

If Fashola had opted for this latter option, chances are that he would not have created this window for ethnic jingoists, political jobbers and all manner of opportunists to seek to now score cheap political point at his expense. He too, would not have cause to suddenly remember that any Igbo critic of the action is in arrears of any tax or levy and move against such person’s interest

Now, people would set up NGOs to allegedly fight the cause of the deportees but it would all be for selfish interest. The question that we should be asking all of them, however, is: If you loved this your brother so much, what did you do for him all these years he was roaming aimlessly on the streets of Lagos?

Yes, the deportation was wrong but that does not make Fashola an Igbo hater.


I am not one of those who believe Lagos is a no-mans-land. It is insulting to the indigenes of Lagos to make such postulations.

However, I don’t believe any person or group that has as much stake as the Igbos have in Lagos should be treated as a second class citizen in such a place. I suspect this is the message that those who have been raising the battle cry over the deportations want to put across but have failed to properly articulate.

When a man becomes rich, he does not wish away his poorer relatives; instead, he looks for how to improve their lot.




Read this article in the Sun Newspapers


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


Comments (2)

  1. Serves us rigjt! Why can’t our leaders in the east map out and execute strategic ideas on how to develop and improve the eastern region. Yes,, we can have a dubai accrss the Niger, it will take sacrifice but it is not impossible. We are just busy helping others to build their land. This is just a start, we igbos should be able to live a lifetime in our land without thinking of migrating to anywhr for anything. Dat is our redemption. But for now, we can continue to be beasts of burden, getting butchered during religious crisis in d North or deported after slaving in d West. The choice is ours.

  2. Playing the devil’s advocate are u?

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