The transfer of Nigerians from one state to the other has raised questions among Nigerians. The social status of these Nigerians is significant and of concern. Validly, this has raised the legitimate intersection between the social question (class, socio-economic issues such as poverty, destitution, unemployment etc) and the national question (nationality, ethnicity issues, federalism, citizenship, residency, indigene-ship, the most just and equitable formal structure to legally and lawfully organize a multinational and multi-religious country like Nigeria).
Some of these questions have been deliberately and sometimes unconsciously (out of ignorance) muddled up. On a closer look most if not all of these questions can be subsumed under what I call the rationality question in the Nigerian national and social questions.
First, I wish to make a public disclosure. I make this public disclosure to put a human face on what may appear purely formal and academic. I am a Nigerian Diaspora, an immigrant to the United States. In Nigeria, culturally and geographically I came from Ondo state. In the United States, given that my children have been enthusiastically, gracefully and warmly welcomed by the state of New York, my family decided to adopt this state and the city we live as our state and city of residency.
In the US national question, there are set formal rules to follow. Even when these are private issues that ought to remain personal but the private are becoming public hence there may be occasion where the surrender of the privacy of the personal is done to facilitate mutual enlightenment. So using the personal as a trope may help conversation at a RATIONAL level because things become more real when human faces are etched on formal rules.
In the practice of aspects of the national question in the US all states draw a distinction between locals and citizens who are out of state. State locals have privileges over out of state citizens. Because it is universal practice among all American states there is equity and legality to the practice for no one can be a state local in two states simultaneously. To claim such duality in status (if it is possible) is illegal. Americans see it as a moral cheat of the American federal system.
Taxation is a different ball game. The American tax collector-the American Internal Revenue Service- is a “celebrity” of some sort and will almost pass as the most famous American “celebrity”. No Hollywood celebrity can compete with the IRS and state revenue service. The federal IRS and the state taxation/revenue services are razor efficient in doing their job given the nature of the US society.
Default on tax and you are taken down. It is about law and ethics; it is about equity. Beside the clearly specified rules, a tax default especially by the upper class carries some immorality because the average American folk sees that as a cheat, a shame on the part of the upper class who ordinarily are more comfortable. Question the average folk asks the upper class that defaults on tax is: why do you want to cheat again? There is no question about this. The only question is that all Nigerian Diaspora accept this American practice when we are in America but many are unable to practice in Nigeria what they accept in America. I find this very strange. It is more tragic and sad when we input ethnicity into a simple and straightforward issue.
I am always intellectually alert and ready to contest any source that tends to claim or ever suggest that we Africans are incapable of rationality. But sadly our own internal conversations can be so depressing when we assess them using the criterion of rationality.
As an immigrant to the US, the first thing that I had to contend with when I heard fellow Nigerians use the word and concept “deport” to describe the actions of states which transferred poor Nigerians from one state to the other is to compare their situation to my situation before the United states warmly and lawfully accepted my family. In other words, before we were granted our status by the United States, we were non-immigrants under the laws of the United States. So? If we messed up, we would be DEPORTED back to Nigeria-full stop, no question asked. My social class would not matter. I break the law, I am a goner.
Since I did not see a similarity between our non-immigrant status in the US with the status of the unfortunate poor Nigerians who were transferred from one state to the other, I decided to check the dictionary once again for the meaning of “DEPORT” AND “DEPORTATION”. Readers should please permit my struggle to understand these issues. The name of the dictionary I checked is “New Oxford American Dictionary”. I checked for meanings and synonyms of the word “DEPORT”.
The dictionary I checked offers the following meaning-“expel (a foreigner) from a country typically on the grounds of illegal status or for having committed a crime…”
For synonyms the Thesaurus of the same dictionary offers the following: “expel,banish,exile,transport,expatriate,extradite,repatriate,evict,oust,throw out, informal kick out, boot out, send packing…”
Obviously, DEPORT could have other meanings in other dictionaries. Fellow Nigerians should please produce these meanings so as to enrich our conversation on this matter. But based on the modest inputs of the dictionary I checked my question is: is the word DEPORT which Nigerian people, journalists, politicians, lawyers and scholars have used to describe the actions of state government who have acted in this manner APPROPRIATE?
It is true that some of the meanings offered by the dictionary involves force and motion. But something X trumps that motion and force. The content of that X are (i) foreigner, (ii) country, (iii) illegal status, (iv) sovereignty. In other words, for the use of the word DEPORT to have rational legitimacy (I understand emotion, and that is part of life, there is nothing we can do about it, we as humans are emotional beings and emotions are also part of rationality), we may be obliged to combine its (i) meaning with either of its (ii) synonyms.
But “beautiful” and “loving” as Nigerian polity may be the justification for my claim here is not Nigerian polity. Rather the justification for my claim is the dictionary-a universal document. Based on a universal document it is erroneous to describe the actions of states that have transferred hapless Nigerians from one state to the other as DEPORTATION. Given our proclivity for abuse, I expect such. But a rational refutation of this claim will be more helpful and healthy to the Nigerian situation.
As Nigerians, we may add to the meanings of any word or concept including deportation. But rationality requires that meanings be universally acceptable if they are going to be universally applicable. In this regard, “patriotic” and “nationalistic” as we may be, a Nigerian meaning of “deportation” or any concept that fails the test of universality may surely be irrational.
In rounding off this part of my essay, I wish to explicitly state that if I were DEPORTED by the American state prior to my being granted my status, my situation will be conceptually, fundamentally and practically different from the situation of Nigerians who were transferred from one state to the other. Therefore, those Nigerians were not DEPORTED.
My position is not novel on how language bewitches, misleads, conceals and reveals. On the role of language in thought, I have only added to what have been said by better, more experienced and more competent minds. These are two African philosophers who have paid close attention to the behavior of language in thought and action. These African philosophers are Professors Olubi Sodipo (late) and Barry Hallen. Their book on African Epistemology may be of help to us to further understand how language bewitches, reveals and conceals. For those who are interested in this behavior of language and its relationship to thought from the standpoint of non-African philosophy, please consult Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Therefore the use of DEPORT to wrongly describe the action of the state governments involved in the transfer of Nigerians from one state to the other conceals intentions and reveals actions. The deliberate use of DEPORT is not only a damage to thought, it is a damage to attempts to further understand and resolve Nigerian national and social questions. Those who use DEPORT have wrecked serious chaos on thought, on our imagination and that of our children. If they are correct, then given the dictionary meaning of DEPORT, Nigeria consists of many countries. I do not accept this. I know they are wrong.
But if they insist on applying this concept, and if they claim that Nigeria consists of many countries, given the universal meaning of DEPORT, then they need to inform us about what is wrong if one “country” “deports” to another “country” within “Nigeria” as I could be legitimately “deported” from the US if I had failed to be law compliant? Those who deploy the word DEPORT cannot eat their cake and have it. They need to come out openly and tell us what they think Nigeria is-a country or a country consisting of many countries? Their wrong position in consciously deploying a word that conceals and reveals has wrecked our moral imagination and that of our children.
This is the first rational path through which to understand this issue. The next step is to understand what rationality is. I humbly request that readers give me the privilege to do this in as basic manner as possible. This is because we often use the word “rationality” in ways that need more understanding. The rational is that which is “based on or in accordance with reason or logic…able to think clearly, sensibly, logically…endowed with the capacity to reason…” From this since reason is presumably universal, rationality takes in the total and it is universal. It is often difficult to defend a rationality that excludes. Thus picking and choosing, developing amnesia about certain events while playing others up opens itself to a charge of irrationality for such position will lack the value and virtue of consistency which reason demands.
Yes of course, one can pick and choose but such exercise an historical amnesia will not stand the candid test of rationality which building a nation demands. This is because it produces a inconsistency that excludes. Sadly, the Nigerian state is a symbol of that irrationality. This is why it not only excludes, the operators of the Nigerian state consciously turns historical amnesia and exclusion to an art in governance. It is also one reason our country Nigeria does not attract foreigners or immigrants. Please let our division of immigration tell us how many foreigners have taken the residency and citizenship of the country in the last decade. A state that excludes its own “citizens” will never be attractive to foreigners and citizens of other countries beside those who see us and our environment as raw materials to be eaten by their companies.
The third step in examining the issue is to gather the data about states that have transferred people from one state to the other. Beside the countless acrimonies and sundry exclusive practices between and among states-North. South, East, West- on privileges dispensed to Nigerians that are caught in the middle, below are what I have been able to gather. Nigerians should dig out other exclusive practices-ethnic, religious, class, gender, state etc of different qualities and types.
(1)Between 2007 and 2011 Lagos state government transferred 3029 persons from Lagos. In the middle of 2011 they were transferred to the following states.
a. 196 beggars to Sokoto state. b. 83 beggars to Oyo state. c. 75 beggars to Kano state. d. 67 beggars to osun state. e. 21 beggars to Ekiti state. f. 7 beggars to Ondo state. g. 12 beggars to Niger Republic.(a West African country). H. 2 beggars to Chad (a west African country). i. 1 beggar to Cote d’ voire.
2. In April 2009 Lagos state transferred 129 beggars to Oyo state.
3. December 2011 Anambra state transferred 29 beggars to Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi states.
4. June 2011 the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja transferred 129 beggars to their different states of origin.
5. May 2013 another set of beggars was transferred from Abuja.
6. January 2013 Kwara state transferred beggars to their respective states.
7. August 2013 a few days before Lagos state transferred beggars to Anambra state, Akwa Ibom state transferred beggars to Lagos state. This is a shown in a letter dated July 23 2013 –communication between Akwa Ibom state and Lagos state.
8. August 2013 Lagos state transferred beggars to Anambra state.
9. August 2013 Rivers state transferred 113 beggars to their states of origin.
10. February 2013, Ile Oluji, a town in Ondo state woke up to receive 30 destitute persons. One of the destitute named Peter explained that he had been brought from Ilesa , Osun state.
11. Finally, every time states are created in Nigeria states transfer and sack Nigerian civil servants in the ministries in the former bigger state. Because I am from Ondo state, and I have lived both in Oyo and Osun states, I am fully aware of and I have been caught by the acrimonies between Ekiti /Ondo states; Oyo/Osun states. We are familiar with the fractious often unfriendly and hostile dispute between Osun/Oyo states on Ladoke Akintola university which today is geographically located in Osun state but was once owned by the old Oyo state which comprised of today’s Oyo and Osun. If we do not go into this history with some modicum of rationality, we will mislead Nigerian children, our children.
The preceding is the face of Nigeria. In view of the pervasive nature of this practice across all states, it has raised both social and national questions. It is important as we engage these issues to ask: why do we always “forget” one and raise the other? Why are we selective? I am concerned precisely because a rational engagement of the problems does not admit a selective approach, a historic amnesia that we have been caught in. Selectivity is basically irrational. It damages.
This selective amnesia does not do justice to the social question, it does not address the tragic economic fate of those we have unfortunately come to call “destitute” and ‘beggars”. This selective amnesia is a poor way of writing our history and telling our story. Our collective experiences show that it is becoming consistent. It is not good. It not only damages those we call wrongly call ‘destitute” it damages any rational path towards talking about and resolving the national question. We need to look this straight in the face and say the truth.
The fourth question I think this issue has raised for us is that of innovation and change to our situation. Sometimes people call this “modernity”. This is different from “modernization”. I am not inclined to use these technical words for they may not allow us to say what we mean comprehensively. I just want to speak about it in simple comprehensible manner as a common folk around the block, on the street.
So let us ask: what are the conditions for change and innovation to our situation? How do we imagine change and innovation to our situation? These same questions were asked in Europe and other western countries decades and centuries ago. It was called the age of modernity in Europe but forget the jargon and pay attention to the simple manner we want to talk about things. For answers in Europe in the age of modernity, in looking for how to re-construct their societies, they came up with answers that show commitment to (i) law both formal and substantive, (ii) reason and the rational, (iii) ceaseless quest for change and innovation, (iv) order.(v) justice and equity, (vi) capacity to universalize a practice any belief on grounds of equity.
In solving our problems we must therefore apply these to our situation with regard to the issues of citizenship, residency and indigene-ship. Some of the founding fathers and ideas of progressive peoples mass movements of our nation (Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Balewa, Awolowo and other mass organizations) started engaging these issues rationally before and after 1960s. So we are not intellectual orphans. Let us go back to them, and dig and go beyond them
Here and finally, I will like to call the attention of fellow Nigerians to something we have wrongly taken for granted. Given that this issue has raised the question of citizenship, I think it has been intensely aggravated because while there are Nigerian peoples, there are no Nigerian citizens in the strict rational, “modern”(that word again) and legal sense of the word and concept citizen. Obviously, given the way we talk of “Nigerian Citizen” there are two senses of citizenship. These are citizenship by nature and citizenship by nurture.
While citizenship by nature is by geographical accident, citizenship by nurture is cultivated citizenship based on rationally specified criteria. Rationally specified criteria may include nature but they go beyond nature and they can be independent of nature. Part of the rationality of citizenship by nurture is the fact of the portability and exchange of our citizenship and our residency on equal grounds. It will be problematic if there is no equity in the portability and exchange of citizenship and residency.
For example, it will be irrational and problematic if I coming from Ondo state, I can port my residency to Ekiti state and the Ekiti resident cannot port her residency to Ondo state. It will be irrational and problematic if I maintain a dual hold on Ekiti and Ondo by porting my residency to Ondo state and by keeping my residency of or claim over and in Ondo. In other words, it will be irrational and problematic if we cannot universalize our federal, citizenship and residency practices. So in the absence of a rationally specified account and application of citizenship and its local twin called residency, Nigerian “citizens” from the past till today in the 21st century are citizens only in the first sense of citizen by nature.
For example, in a false analogical sense we talk about Nigerian “citizen” the way Americans will talk about American citizen when there are no Nigerian “citizens” in the concrete, specific and rationally specified sense of citizenship and in the way we have American citizens and residents.
We all (including myself) loosely and emotionally use the word “Nigerian citizen” in the loose, nature sense. This is more common for those of us older generation Nigerians for we saw the promise of Nigeria and we cannot let it go easily. So yes there are “Nigerian citizens” in this loose , nature, emotional sense, and I accept it enthusiastically especially as an older generation Nigerian. Nigeria is all we have, know and love emotionally. And there are Nigerian peoples and indigenes, but rationally speaking there are no Nigerian citizens in the concrete, rational sense.
To illustrate this, beyond the “natural” on what rational ground is Nigerian “citizenship” based if there is one? Tax? Residency? Law? We are in a situation where neither of these is used to determine citizenship or they are inconsistently used in a chaotic manner by Nigerian states. We are therefore left with “nature”, the “natural” in us. But even the problem continues when we apply “nature” for sometimes we are inconsistent. In one situation we want to apply nature, in another situation we want to apply tax paying. This inconsistency creates chaos in thought and in practice-one of the consequences is what we just witnessed in the country. Thus our “natural” account of “citizenship” and its inconsistent application is at the core of the problem.
Surprisingly even scholars who you will expect to know miss that point. So how do you discuss residency and citizenship rights if rationally and legally speaking there are no Nigerian citizens in the nurture sense? And given our legendary history of telling lie and nationally bearing false witness against truth and brute facts on one hand; and national hypocrisy on the other hand how do we discuss residency and citizenship rights rationally?
We are not ready to have a rationally specified notion of citizenship and apply it consistently. Neither are we ready on criteria of equity to begin to create grounds towards having one. And that creates a muddle in the telling of our story and history. This may sound rationally cold, but that is the first task to contend with to prevent a muddle.
Rationality is the most enduring tool to resolve issues in a muddle. But rationality is precisely what is not available in the Nigerian story and the writing of Nigerian history. It is what is in flight. Those who engage the Nigerian story and history on rational grounds are labeled. This loss of rationality in our history and how we tell our story and write the history makes us tell basic lies against truth and rationality in order to sound good before the public.
To resolve this problem we need to return to the path of rationality as other nations and countries have done in centuries past and are doing now. A failure to do reduces our chance in relating to and solving this problem. We ought to be in haste to solve this problem for there is no time. The old saying that “Time waits for nobody” is applicable to Nigeria.
Let me end this on a lighter note as I love to do since it is a conversation among brothers and sisters. For me, my darling wife, children and family as Nigerian Diaspora we prefer to worship at the altar of the rational when thinking and talking about Nigeria. I hope other Nigerians and Nigerian families will say this. What about you?
Adeolu Ademoyo (email@example.com) is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
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