A few days ago news filtered in that some ‘destitutes'(as they were described by the Lagos State Government) were repatriated from Lagos to Anambra State. They were said to have been picked up around the metropolis while loitering.
Those who support the actions of the Lagos State Government point to precedence and express shock at the uproar the recent ‘deportations’ (though within Nigeria) have so far generated, just because people of South Eastern origin (mainly the Igbos in this case) were involved, while citing previous deportations of destitute non-indigenes before and after this incident that generated nothing in the likes of what we have witnessed with that as touching the Igbo people.
The deportation of Igbos has however set some Igbos against Yorubas in Lagos (and indeed elsewhere within Nigeria) on the warpath, though mainly on social networking sites, coming on the heels of recent troubles at Ladipo market (where mainly Igbo traders sell motor vehicle spare parts) after the traders rejected the imposition of a ‘Baba Oloja’ (appointed by the government to Superintend over affairs in the market, which generally means to exact revenue from the hapless traders, which is most times at his own whim working with some thugs to enforce by coercion an extortionist agenda).
Lagos, as well as many states in Western Nigeria have over time become a safe haven for the Igbos after series of attacks where they had lost lives and limbs as well as property in many parts of Northern Nigeria, where their presence, way of life and antics are barely tolerated. Infact, Igbos who remain in some parts of the volatile North know they do so at their own risk and probably because they have nowhere else to turn to, or are afraid of the cost of starting over again in a New Place, or simply think they live a ‘Charmed’ life hence ‘No Weapon Fashioned Against Them Shall Prosper’.
The hospitality of the Yoruba towards the Igbo can be said to be exemplary, even during the trying times of the Igbos when Nigeria turned against them during the civil war. Not even their closest neighbours in the Niger Delta (especially in Port Harcourt) easily acquiesced them their ‘abandoned property’ as the Yorubas did for the returning Igbos after the war. In one particular case, a Yoruba rent agent collected and kept an Igbo landlords rent till after the war and simply handed it over to him when he returned.
It is unfortunate that relations between the Igbo and Yoruba in Lagos particularly has so far degenerated to the point where some Yoruba landlords now simply state their aversion to having Igbo tenants.
The most disheartening of this deportation saga is the fact that the so called ‘destitutes’ where simply dropped off around a Bridge in Onitsha, not at the Governor’s lodge, not at any rehabilitation facility (if there be any in Anambra State), nor were they left with their family, the pretext on which the deportation was carried out in the first place.
…and if we go by the claims of the Lagos State government, that most of the destitutes were lunatics, how then were they able to glean their state of origin from seemingly incoherent persons?
Inasmuch as it is the responsibility of State governors to develop the nooks and crannies of their states to stem rural-urban migration, it does not behove on the governor of a metropolis like Lagos to embark on a deportation spree of those it considers (by whatever criteria it may have relied on) ‘unfit’ for city life, for many of those who have made it in cities today started life just like those the Lagos State government and others who agree with their inhuman action, call ‘destitutes’ today.
Can you imagine the implication of this action if other governors decide to tow this line?
Did the Nigerian constitution not guarantee the free movement of its citizens to any place within its boundary without fear of harassment or molestation?
What is the difference between this act of the Lagos State Government and that of Nazi Germany in building a Super-Aryan race, while exterminating so called ‘weaklings’ from its society, or the propositions of early economists that ‘misfits’, ‘the handicapped’ and ‘never-do-wells’ be removed from the society for economic decline to be put in check?
Is it not on record that most of the policies of this Fashola administration in Lagos has not been geared towards alleviating the sufferings of the poor, rather to frustrate them out of Lagos?
It is true that the Igbos may have taken the hospitality of the Yòrùbá for granted, particularly in Lagos especially in demanding what even they wouldn’t give sojourners in their own land but then, are those things they demand not entrenched in Nigeria’s constitution as the right that should accrue to Nigerians regardless of ethnicity and/or place of origin, birth or residence? Couldn’t Lagos State represent the symbol of the much touted perennially present ‘unity in diversity’ slogan that we’ve grown to hear being mouthed by government and those in power?
It is very sad to note that while the debate as to the propriety and legality of the action of the Lagos State Government persisted, some ‘Lagosians’ posited that the contribution of the Igbo was infinitesimal to the overall GDP, while pointing to the presence of Igbos in the cabinet of Lagos State as evidence of the state’s unbiased attitude towards Igbos, while conveniently ignoring the fact that there’s an ongoing policy of preventing non-SouthWesterners from gaining employment into the Lagos State’s civil service, and if and when they make it, stunt their progress and deny them administrative positions in favour of ‘indigenes’.
It’s shameful that this event took place at all, moreso the fact that it will continue to happen going by the stance of the Lagos State Government and that of other governors who appear to have towed the line, and others still planning to do same.
The truth is the Nigerian cannot claim to be Nigerian, the same way an American can lay claim to being American. Nigerians are primarily nationals of their ethnic origins first and foremost, over and above being Nigerians, and their allegiance remains so, when push comes to shove. Only an idealist believes in Nigeria in the true sense of the word. Events like this deportation (as well as those before it and immediately after it) make that assertion all the more poignant.
We can only begin to address our Nigerianess when we put to rest the indigene-settler dichotomy that is currently tearing us apart in different parts of the country, in the many ways it rears its ugly head.