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Deportations, ethnic jingoism and political opportunism

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I THINK Femi Falana’s well-argued piece on the on-going hysteria in the face of the forced repatriation of 72 Nigerians of Anambra state origin, by the Babatunde Fashola administration in Lagos, has been the most informed analysis of the core issues so far.

While representatives of both sides of the deportations locked themselves into a frenzy of heightening ethnic jingoism and posturing to extract political mileage, with an eye to the 2015 elections, Femi Falana provided a convincing historical tour-de-force, about the use of internal deportations of Nigerians as a weapon of political and security control.

Falana also laid bare the CLASS CONTENT and CONSEQUENCES of these deportations. But knowing the warped nature of Nigerian ruling class politics and the opportunistic content of the actions of members of the political elite, it comes as no surprise, that they have been successful in reducing the unfolding scenario to a deadpan rehash of old inter-elite rivalries that were played out on the turfs of ethnicity.

Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi and Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola
Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi and Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola

So almost on cue, the most chauvinistic vermin crawled out of the darkest crevice of ethnic jingoism. The action of the Lagos administration became elasticized into a demonstration of the hatred that the Yoruba had always allegedly had for the Igbo.

In turn, residents of the lunatic fringes of political society reminded us how Yoruba Lagos was, and they would not brook any revisionist reinterpretations of recent history, which acknowledge the shares of the Igbo and other Nigerian groups in the building of Lagos’ economic success.

None of these chauvinist groups acknowledged the generations of honest toil by working people from all corners of Nigeria as well as intrepid entrepreneurs who laboured honestly and with purpose, to develop the city that has become without question, the most vibrant in tropical Africa! Those labours were not measured nor given on ethnic scales, but those exploiting passion for political ends now have a field day and in the process, are muddying up the waters of national integration.

But as Femi Falana reminded, there is a deep class content to the removal of the poor; beggars and other déclassé elements, that remain central to the depredations of Nigeria’s inhumane form of capitalism. It is in the nature of capitalist development, that there must exist in society a relative surplus population of tramps, lumpen, destitutes and riff-raff. Underlining that is the historical purpose of capitalism to depress the wages of working people and to hold in hand a mass of scabs to threaten attempts to organize in order to better the living conditions of the working people.

In the construction of capitalism in Europe and America, there were titanic battles within this context. Ours is a neo-colonial capitalist society, where islands of enterprise and economic success co-exist with an ocean of the poor and desperate. Lagos is the most successful island of capitalistic success in our country attracting people escaping the poverty and despair of rural Nigeria, as well as the mass of the young, unemployed in urban areas of other Nigerian states, to its promises.

Lagos therefore is permanently bursting at the seams, making and administration or provision of good governance an enormous challenge. But where Fashola in Lagos got it wrong, is to assume that there can be an answer to the challenges posed to Lagos’ search for development, in the deportations of those that the Lagos Police Commissioner, Umaru Manko, described as having constituted a nuisance to Lagos State.

The Nigerian Constitution protects the right of Nigerians to live wherever they so choose. But for those who rule Nigeria, the rights of the poor and destitute are not part of those the constitution protects. It is the class posture of the political elite that we must dispassionately interrogate in order to expose the hollowness of the ethnic posturing in the wake of the deportations from Lagos state.

This is because there have been deportations and expulsions of Nigerians even within the same ethnic configuration, as happened in the Southeast, with the tit-for-tat expulsions of workers, in the past few years.

Those who steal Nigeria blind are located within the ruling class; it is the same group that steal crude oil; they creamed off trillions of naira in petrol subsidy payments and these elite groups systematically under-develop Nigeria; sowed the despair leading to the dispersal of desperate citizens away from what used to be the comfort zones of ancestral homelands and states.

Politics will carry the expected weight only when the Nigerian state and the political elite genuinely begin to respond to the yearnings of the Nigerian people. It is going to become a reality only when our rulers appreciate that the people alone must be the central focus of the development process.

If the elite consensus is to build capitalism, then it must be realised that the capitalist mode of production is the most revolutionary social force in human history. It revolutionised society’s productive forces and tore asunder the trappings of the old as it pushed billions around the world towards modernity and even a post-modern world. The tragedy of the Nigerian space is its very fractured and irresponsible ruling class unable to discover the weight of expectations that history calls upon it to carry.

Locked into mutually antagonistic ethnic laagers, they fan the embers of hatred from the a-historical settings of these laagers. So a major issue of class discrimination, which ordinarily must so be addressed, problematized and addressed, then becomes a platform to tear the Nigerian people further apart.

It is significant that the best responses to the scenario have come from individuals forged within the crucibles of leftwing, radical movements in Nigeria. We have spoken about Femi Falana’s illuminating analysis.

It is equally significant that Issa Aremu, Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress also made a noteworthy contribution to the debate, by staying within a class prism to expose how these expulsions and deportations target the poor and destitute in our society.

Issa, early this week in Ilorin, said the Nigeria Labour Congress will be forced by a combination of these class actions of the ruling class, from the immoral salaries paid to members of the National Assembly; the unending thefts within the executive arm of government to the discriminatory deportations of the poor, to consider a movement of strikes.

If the Labour movement can walk the walk and organise such strikes, it would have killed many birds with one stone: deepen consciousness of the Nigerian people about the class character of the deportations; and help remove wind from the sails of ethnic entrepreneurs posturing to extract mileage from the plight of the Nigerian poor.

The politics of ethnic chauvinism and the irresponsible opportunism of the past week or so does grave injustice to the Nigerian poor that are being deported around the country.

 PDP vs APC: Looking very much the political part

TOO much is happening inside political society, that we need no reminders that Nigeria is hurtling head-on, towards the politics of the 2015 elections. Gari ya waye, as the Hausa say; It is political day break in the land. The All Progressives Congress (APC)’s registration raised the din of politics by several decibels.

People are excited by the fact that the PDP now has a reason to look over its shoulders (or more appropriately, look through the torn gaps on its umbrella!), because the putative opposition that it regularly coopts and disperses as it saw fit, since 1999, somehow found the métier to build an inclusive party. It is a Nigerian first, and one that will certainly influence permutations within political society.

So when denizens of the PDP gathered at the International Conference Centre, last week, to celebrate Chief Tony Anenih’s 80th birthday, they were not only celebrating the most consistent political dinosaur of modern Nigeria, they were also fronting a picture of a house able to unite its disparate forces.

The Fixer-in-Chief, Tony Anenih, fixed up everyone that mattered at a birthday bash, showing that in politics, appearance can be everything. And today’s PDP needs appearance. For an afternoon, in utmost respect for Tony Anenih, the godfather of cloak-and-dagger, all sharpened daggers trained to the backs and hearts of opponents were momentarily sheathed!

When TY Danjuma was found within the same vicinity as Obasanjo, and IBB was as present as Abdulsalami Abubakar, it can only be Chief Tony Anenih that pulled the stunt!

The five Northern PDP governors holding consultations around the country, seemed to have morphed into six, with the latter day inclusion of  Kwara’s AbdulFateh Ahmed. But can it be a coincidence that Bukola Saraki is being quizzed for alleged fraud during his controversial eight year administration, by the EFCC?

The young man still nurses a presidential ambition (and that seems to be reason the EFCC suddenly found the liver to take him in for interrogation); meanwhile, deluded followers of Kwara’s tin god Bukola Saraki, say he might end up the presidential candidate of the fledgling APC! Such talk in Ilorin go together with allegations that the chap has been at the receiving end of stoning within the city that he assumes was conquered by his father and bequeathed to him!

Similarly, how will positions in the new APC be shared that will not tear the party at the seams? The moles and sleeper cells embedded within the APC could stir into action, if things are not well managed.

There are rumbles already in Oyo state, while a friend of mine in Ilorin wondered aloud how Lai Muhammed’s ill-concealed ambition for governorship in Kwara will sit with Dele Belgore’s or how Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq can be persuaded to work other party chieftains. Extrapolate these thoughts into the remaining states and you will get an idea of the task the APC faces. These are interesting times indeed!

 


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