By Donu Kogbara
Journalists are supposed to be formidably well-informed and are expected to know more than most about what is going around them, so let me hang my head in abject shame as I admit that I only recently became aware of the fact that state governments sometimes deport disabled, homeless or impoverished “non-indigenes” to their states of origin.
This issue belatedly came to my attention when a headline-hogging row erupted over Governor Babatunde Fashola’s recent decision to unceremoniously banish l4 Anambrarian beggars from Lagos and send them back to their roots in Onitsha.
I cannot believe some of the terrible things that have been said by some of the supporters and opponents of this controversial move. A whole bunch of bigots are using it as an excuse to heap vitriolic abuse on Igbos and/or Yorubas.
In a brilliant article that was published in this newspaper last Monday (August l2), Femi Falana (SAN), the distinguished liberal activist lawyer, pointed out that internal deportation is illegal and unconstitutional as well as inhumane, elitist and a violation of fundamental human rights. So why are state governments being allowed to get away with breaking the rules?
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because anything goes in this part of the world; and, as I said in this column a couple of weeks ago, too many Nigerians mean-spiritedly regard compatriots who don’t come from their backyards as “outsiders”…and lavish hostility on them, particularly if they
display any weaknesses, gain any benefits or try to participate in local politics.
Too many Nigerians, including educated and religious individuals who should be enlightened and compassionate, quietly resent or actively discriminate against their fellow Nigerians on geographical grounds…and carry on as if our 36 states are totally separate nations rather than segments
of the same One Nigeria.
So I guess it figures that if an “outsider” annoys the authorities in a part of the country that is not his ancestral terrain, a lot of people coldly turn a blind eye or enthusiastically applaud when the “outsider”
is thrown out and sent “home”.
Am I being too idealistic to feel that Nigerians should be allowed to feel at home in any state they choose to live in?…even if they live under a bridge?..And that if they commit offences, they should be punished where they have been living?…And that if they need help, it should be
delivered wherever they live?
When I discovered that my own State Government, Rivers, has just deported 113 “outsiders” who were deemed to be nuisances, I was very disappointed and complained to a cousin…who briskly informed me that he did not share my sorrow because he was tired of non-indigenous vagrants hassling him
for cash on the streets of Port Harcourt. He said he wouldn’t mind if they were Riverians.
I’m amazed by the view that vagrants are less irritating if they are sons and daughters of your own patch of soil! And I’m morally repelled by the notion that people should be forced to go “home” if they have problems or mess up.
As far as I’m concerned we really need to abandon our deportation mentality and train ourselves, psychologically, to stop caring about where people come from. And, by the way, even when “outsiders” are “respectable” citizens who have lived outside their home states for decades, speak the local lingo fluently and can easily pass for natives, they cannot assume that they will be left alone.
Last year, Abia State Government ruthlessly purged its civil service of non-Abians. And I can’t even describe this nastiness as ethnic cleansing because, bizarrely, some of the victims of it were Igbos from neighbouring states!
A reader who wishes to remain nameless, sent me this email a few days ago and I’m publishing it because SO MANY other Vanguard readers constantly express similar opinions. And it seems to me that their frustrations deserve to be heard.
It was a beauty to watch how the Egyptians, through massive street protests, succeeded, with a little help from the military, in driving away Morsi, their erstwhile president, who did not make any positive impact on their lives.
But here in our country, we are so docile as a people that our political class has been urinating on our heads since May 29, 1999 till date, through bad governance, without our rising up against them. I know that my views are subversive and treasonable, but they are based on bitterness and suffering.
I have been through so many inconveniences and pains, including no electricity for days on end. Meanwhile or politicians are swimming in oceans of wealth!