Just Send Them Away!

Posted: August 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Olusegun Adeniyi

When last year the Lagos State Government put some people considered destitute in a bus and dumped them somewhere at Onitsha (they sure love that town) in Anambra State, I found the action difficult to understand. But before intervening on the issue, I decided it was better to speak with those behind the policy to hear their

justification for such internal displacement of Nigerians. After getting the contact of the Special Adviser to the Governor who superintends the programme, I sent him a mail to which he replied. However, on the same day, I got a call from the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, who took almost 30 minutes to explain the policy to me. Notwithstanding my misgivings about the whole idea, it was not an argument I could possibly win against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

As it would happen, in the days following my discussion with the Governor, I learnt more about the programme which has already created a social problem in some Igbomina towns in my own state of Kwara with the junkies that the Lagos State has been dumping there. I am also aware about other states within the South West and the North who have also been receiving these unwanted guests. So while I consider the action of the Lagos State government to be morally indefensible, I fail to understand the basis for the hysteria that it is “another Yoruba agenda targeted against Igbo people”.

The way the whole issue is being presented and slanted in the media, you would think the Yoruba and Igbo people are at war and it is not helped by the fact that some political opportunists are capitalising on it to muddle the waters. The bigger tragedy is that from what is now coming out, this policy is being implemented not only by Lagos but by other states in the southern parts of the country and it is ethnic-blind since the authorities of some South-east states have also been sending “home” fellow Igbo. Whichever way one looks at it, this is an issue that poses great danger to citizenship in our country and we have to deal with it as such whenever the ethnic entrepreneurs are done with their political campaigns.

It is rather unfortunate that many otherwise respected people would always see ethnicity in every problem and that is why I hesitate to comment on this issue until the madness that is going on subsides. But I cannot agree more with Mr Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim who wrote on Monday: “Our federation is threatened by this development because if every state begins to deport non-‘indigenes’ on one pretext or the other, the federation will unravel faster than anybody can say Jack!”

For those who can see clearly, what is going on today across the country is a more sinister implementation of the Settler/Indigene policy that is specifically targeted at the poor, the mentally ill, the homeless, the drug addicts and the unemployed of our society. In some cynical attempts at urban renewal, the political authorities in a few states are of the opinion that the Eldorado they want to create have no place for the poor. Even when we concede that we have a problem with urban migration because our rural areas have been abandoned by the government at practically all levels, there must be a better way for dealing with such social problems than taking people from the streets and putting them in a bus to dump under some bridges at an ungodly hour.

The fact that is being ignored by the states that are implementing this policy is that it is the responsibility of a compassionate society to protect (by providing safety nets for) the weak and the vulnerable and not add to their woes. But, as I stated earlier, this is a serious issue we will have to deal with another day.

The Challenge Before APC

Political scientists are always preoccupied with the issue of succession. Incidentally, this is not a challenge associated with constitutional governments alone. Even in the old primitive tribal societies of kings and priests, there were always questions about what would happen after one ruler or how he could be replaced.

In his book, “Succession of Kings”, for instance, Sir James Frazer recounted a story from the ancient Congo: “The people of Congo believed that if their Pontiff were to die, the world would perish and the earth, which he alone sustained by his power and merit would immediately be annihilated. Accordingly, when he fell ill and seemed likely to die, his prospective successor entered his house with a rope or club and strangled or bludgeoned him to death.”

You could argue that the practice was barbaric in that the people tended to nudge fate in a predetermined direction but it was nonetheless one way of resolving the issue. In modern constitutionalism, however, this problem appeared to have been settled with the codification of a set of rules and procedures on how people are to get to power and how they can be replaced. The essence of the constitutional method though is that it tended to expand the space for reasoned elaboration. That perhaps explains the idea of multi-party system, which affords the electorate the opportunity to choose between a set of alternatives.

It is within the foregoing context that one should view the recent registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) which is set to effectively challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections. In the last 14 years of our democracy, we have had presidential elections with predictable outcomes because of the dominance of the PDP and the fragmentation of the opposition political parties. That then explains the excitement of Nigerians about the formation of the APC, notwithstanding the misgivings that many may have about its promoters and their anti-democratic inclinations.

Personally, I am excited about the prospect of the APC because I spent my year as a Fellow at the Weathehead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University, between 2010 and 2011 interrogating the issue of incumbent presidential elections in Africa. (http://programs.wcfia.harvard.edu/files/fellows/files/paper_adeniyi_final.pdf). My conclusion was that the narrative of elections on the continent is that of a process which presents little or no risk of defeat for the incumbent. “It is my contention that defeating the ruling party/incumbent in Africa would require the creation of strategic coalitions of political parties in which personal ambitions are sacrificed for group goals”, I argued. I then added: “While elections are indeed more transparent when the incumbent leader is not on the ballot-either by reason of death or expiration of tenure- it will take the formation of a broad coalition of opposition political parties to expect victory against a sitting African president seeking re-election.”

Now I want to see how relevant my thesis will be to our local environment. Because if the APC leaders can put their acts together, then we may indeed have a proper presidential contest in 2015. And that, I believe, can only help to strengthen our democracy.


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