An Open Letter to Nigerian National Assembly
I write to your honorable selves while shedding actual physical and metaphorical tears.
This is because of the precarious plights and predicaments which our citizens face today. This is especially so, among the poorest citizens and those with disabilities. Nigerians at home and abroad, are literarily catching hell from “deportations” Our fellow citizens, are mostly, free of sins and infractions, and yet, they are roundly maltreated by various governments, including our very own federal, state, municipal and other subdivisions of our Nigerian government. And have really come to unfortunate crescendos in Lagos and Kaduna states.
Recently, I became aware of the kidnapping, bundling and dumping of Nigerian citizens who are afflicted with one disability or the other, including destitution and abject poverty. Nigerian citizens with disabilities who resort to meager subsistence through requests for alms or street begging, have in recent time bore the brunt of poor public policies, ineptitudes and sheer moral bankruptcies by various strata or levels of the Nigerian governments.
First, it was the government of Lagos state led by Governor Fashola, who though, a senior lawyer, saw it fit to engage in the thrashing of our constitution, with his illegal order to “deport” Nigerian citizens resident in Lagos by choice. Lagos “deported” these Nigerian citizens to Ogun, Oshun, Oyo and Kaduna states. At the time, I expressed the hope that Nigeria’s distinguished National Assembly would take this matter up as a matter of urgent national importance, upon which a threat to national unity and national security could ensue. These “deportations” by Lagos state were well publicized, and I had in good faith hinged my hope upon the fact that our National Assembly would have noticed the unsavory incident because of the publicity, controversies and complaints which attended it.
Here is an excerpt of the news reports “Lamenting on the exercise, some of the destitute who claimed to be indigenes of Kaduna State, said that they have been living in Kano Road Mosque for the past 30 years before they were provided with the Centre eight years ago after the Mosque was burnt during the last crisis in the state. Besides, a cripple who also claimed to be an indigene of the state, Mustapha Abubakar, said they participated in the campaign for the in 2007” The above makes it clear that the actions of Lagos and Kaduna are fraught with dangers. One of the “deportees” from Kaduna actually insists that he is from Kaduna state and had in fact, been a campaigner for Governor Sambo! Additionally, it is the news, in the excerpted parts, that some of these Nigerian citizens were actual residents of Kaduna state for more than thirty years! By any standard, these Nigerians have expressed and demonstrated their preferred state of resident, as Nigerians, for over thirty years!
Lagos state as I feared, have set a most unfortunate precedent! Lagos state has set the pace in constitutional backwardness and retrogression of Nigeria’s national unity efforts. And sadly, Kaduna has joined these backwards and retrograde actions which are a whack in the face of preachment of unity in diversity. State governors are now spearheading the clannishness and ethic separations. State chief executives are now emphasizing distinctions between Nigerian citizenship and state citizenship? State political leaders are creating and enforcing state of origin, and the vexatious indigene versus settler dichotomies, which is what led to the intractable internecine crises in Plateau and other states in the past.
The latest news from Nigeria is that, Governor Alhaji Mohammed Namadi Sambo of Kaduna state, has also engaged in the illegal and barbaric act of “deporting” Nigerian citizens to Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa states etc! My information is made even sadder by the fact that Lagos and Kaduna states respectively, have used a “means-test” in implementing their dastardly actions against our fellow citizens. First, the actions were taken because Nigerian citizens in question are citizens with disabilities. Secondly, another basis of these “deportations” was that these Nigerian citizens are unemployed and poor. But how could any subdivision of our government do this, in particular, given the fact that there is currently rampant and pervasive graduate unemployment in Nigeria. Would Lagos and Kaduna states resort to deporting unemployed college graduates soon?
Governor Fashola of Lagos state and Governor Sambo of Kaduna state, respectively, should be sanctioned and censured by all and in particular, by Nigeria’s National Assembly. As a matter of fact, I rather surprised that our National Assembly has not weighed in and waded into this matter. The political leaders of Lagos and Kaduna have earned our collective rebukes and reprimands for their ill-treatments of Nigerian citizens.
I am a Nigerian by birth, in blood and in full spirit. But I live and work in New York City, and for that, Americans call me and regard me as a New Yorker, and it worries me to think that I have more rights in New York City, in the United States, than fellow Nigerian citizens in Lagos and Kaduna, just because they suffer abject poverty and physical disabilities, and so, Lagos and Kaduna, instead of seeking to protect the weakest and powerless in our society, Lagos and Kaduna actually determined that it is good public policy to settle political squabble with their political opponents, on the backs and at the expense, of our society’s most vulnerable citizens? What has become of my beloved country?
Why must Lagos and Kaduna states be allowed to play ping-pong with our citizens with disabilities? Why must Lagos, Kaduna, and other states which are likely to follow these bad examples, be allowed to think they can settle political scores with, perhaps the federal government, through the maltreatment of our most defenseless citizens? Would Lagos and Kaduna attempt to “deport” Iwuchukwu, Dangote or Adenuga? We all understand that 100 Senior Advocates of Nigeria would line up to freely defend these millionaires!
The extent of refinement of the Nigerian human condition, will be measured and determined by, what we do as a society, as a nation, to our citizens with disabilities; our citizens without abundant financial and material means. Hence our treatment of the most defenseless and must vulnerable amongst our citizenry. And these are the citizens being deported now, by Lagos and Kaduna and whatever state cares to join these wayward trailblazer states
It is my view that our home government, as any responsible government, should flinch and squirm, and then rouse to action, even if staggers sometimes, anytime there is news of a Nigerian suffering, anywhere on earth. Our government should spare no efforts in protecting and preserving our country, and our citizens, at home and abroad. It is doubly troubling, that Nigerians are being “deported” within Nigeria and our federal government has not as much made a statement, to admonish, advice, rebuke or explain, why these “deportations” are illegal, unconstitutional or otherwise. I take the view that there is a need for clarifications as to whether or not, states and political subdivisions in Nigeria can, without probable or just cause, summarily extinguish a Nigerian citizen’s choice of state or locale of residence? The Nigerian National Assembly should rouse the executive branch of government, by summoning the Internal Affairs Minister, the Attorney General of the Federation as well, as the governors of Lagos and Kaduna states respectively.
There is the other matter of Nigerians facing trials, in various legal troubles, including deportation. I am quite aware that Nigeria is doing better now, than we did in the past, when Nigerians outside of our shores face legal troubles, as it happens to citizens and other immigrants in countries where Nigerians may reside. And Nigerians
are, and Nigerians can be found in every country on earth these days, thanks to comatose and porous economy. All representatives of Nigeria abroad, should be acculturated and schooled to understand that Nigerians facing legal troubles are innocent until proven guilty, even upon proof of guilt, such Nigerian citizens remain Nigerians first and foremost, and extricating Nigerians in legal mess remains a core obligation. It is not the duty of our representatives in Foreign Service, to join, collaborate or collude in the diminishments of any Nigerian, under any circumstances! On this point, there is a lot, and a great deal of improvement which is necessary, and perhaps, we can borrow a learning leaf, from Mexico and other countries, who vigorously and robustly advocate the causes of their citizens, whether they murderers, or they have simply cross the borders illegally. Nigeria should no longer harshly judge, maltreat and humiliated Nigerian citizens who endure humiliations and double misfortunes of deportations from abroad. This is particularly so, in a tight labor market everywhere, which may lead to a spike in the deportation rates from different parts of the world.
I will also like to use this medium to invite the Nigerian National Assembly, our august legislative body, to permanently concern itself, with the fortunes and misfortunes of all Nigerians, and in this regard, Nigerians who are in economic dire straits. Nigerians who may out these sorts of economic hardships, sufferings and desperations, embark on foolhardy dangerous death defying deserts and oceans crossing, in, the too often vain hope, of a better life outside Nigeria. There are Nigerian young girls, who are reportedly beaten, raped and sexually abused all over Europe where these young girls voluntarily and involuntarily prostitutes themselves as the only non-choice choice or only game in town for survival.
I reckon that members of the Nigerian National Assembly are mightily worried over the plights and predicaments of Nigerians at home and abroad, but in particular, the plight and predicaments of Nigerian citizens with disabilities, who are not facing the brunt of bad public policies recently enunciated by Lagos and Kaduna states respectively. Even though I am a private citizen of Nigeria, here, in far away New York City, it worries me, each time I read about our society’s seeming cavalier treatment reserved for Nigerian citizens with disabilities and Nigerians who are poor, whose personal economic pressures and even misfortunes have compelled to Libya, Italy, Ireland, France and everywhere in between, where Nigerians are found these day. Places where a great number of Nigerians suffer in dungeons, or the fringes of host societies. Places where some of them get deported to Nigeria, with empty pockets and broken and or dead dreams!
There are many reasons why Nigerians live overseas these days; many of these reasons are non-choice sorts of reasons. Then imagine a Nigerians who lives abroad almost involuntarily, who then gets deported back to Nigeria, also, involuntarily?
Mass migrations by Nigerians whether to Libya or Europe and beyond is connected with Boko Haram and prostitution by young Nigerian women in Europe, and graduate unemployment and beggars and destitution in Nigeria—poverty, poverty, not of resources or materials, but instead, poverty of ideas! Nigeria in fact has abundant human and material resources for all Nigerians. Nigerians and Nigeria ought not to be mentioned in the same sentence!
Has our moral fiber so degenerated? It is my strong belief that our National Assembly should and make pronouncements on these matters otherwise the actions of Lagos and Kaduna are mere harbinger of worse things to come. Nigeria is entering a slippery slope of national disintegration. These first steps, are outrageously devaluing the meaning and worth of our national citizenship. These discriminations could come in larger proportions.
I call on the Nigerian National Assembly to as a matter national priority and in utmost urgency, to examine the recent spate of “deportations” of Nigerian citizens, by Lagos and Kaduna state governments respectively. Our National Assembly should as well, scrutinize the treatment, including the meting out of the capital punishments or the death penalty to tens of Nigerian citizens by Libya. Nigeria should put every country and the entire world on notice, that the lives of Nigerians are valuable. Protecting and preserving the lives, rights and properties of Nigerian citizens of every social strata is job number one for the National Assembly, and in fact for every level of the Nigerian government
This means that defenseless abjectly poor Nigerian citizens with disabilities should no longer be treated like used furniture. On the other hand in the foreign policy front, Nigeria should hold any and every country accountable and responsible for how such country treat or maltreat Nigerian citizens, and such, should be considered, contemplated and deliberated in Nigeria’s diplomatic, economic, trade and strategic relationship with any and every country worldwide. Nigerians matters, Nigerians, rich, abjectly poor and even with disabilities, are why Nigeria matters!