Beyond the politics of deportation
RECENTLY, Nigerians were riveted by the controversy over the deportation of Igbo destitute to Anambra State by the Lagos State government. The governor of Anambra, Peter Obi, vociferously denounced Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State for that rounding up,
transporting and dumping of Igbo destitute at the head bridge at Onitsha. His reaction to the deportation seemed normal. After all, some of the deportees are from his state and all the deportees were dumped in his state. But then, there was more to his reaction than readily meets the eyes. The Anambra State's gubernatorial election is around the corner. Therefore, this is a critical time for politicking. The deportation provided him a timely, handy and powerful tool for ethnic politics. But it behoves the people of the state to look beyond Peter Obi's politics of deportation and vote for the right candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
I am ambivalent about the deportation. I am not a lawyer and could not off-head discern its legality or illegality. On the one hand, my layman's gumption tells me that it must be unconstitutional because the right of every Nigerian, irrespective of his circumstance, to live in any part of the country of his/her choice should be inviolable. But then, state governments are constitutionally empowered to legislate and operate in furtherance of the public good (which includes urban
aesthetics and livability). What of if the public good demands the removal of elements - be them beggars and destitute - that undermine urban beauty and livability and environmental sightlines?
In a newspaper article, Femi Falana, a lawyer, wrote that the deportation is unconstitutional. But as Nigerian jurisprudence is not based on dialectic or argument for arriving at the truth but dominated by eristic or argument for the sake of winning a case or downing an adversary, other lawyers may disagree with him, insisting on its legality. Both sides of the issue are arguably; lawyers, from either perspective, can have a field day in verbal sophistry and lawyerly quibble.
Moreover, there were prior deportations of destitute to their states of origin by different state governments. For example, as governor of Anambra State, Chinweoke Mbadinuju, in other to keep the streets of Anambra cities clean and free of beggars, deported beggars to their states of origin. So, if deportation is illegal, Fashola is not the only governor culpable of the offence. So, if he is to be castigated and pilloried, other governors guilty of the offence should face the same fate.
In view of the anti-people policies of the different governments of Nigeria and earlier demonstrated anti-Igbo policies of the Lagos State government, the deportation was not outlandish. Earlier anti-Igbo actions of the Fashola administration, for the most part, did not irk the governors of the Igbo states and the Igbo leaders of Lagos State. However, this time around, for political reasons, Peter Obi is ostensibly disconsolate. This is because in the upcoming election, the most potent challenger to the gubernatorial candidate of Peter Obi's political party, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), is Chris Ngige, a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); the Yoruba dominated party that,
recently, coalesced with other parties into All Progressives Congress (APC). So, with his verbal attacks on Governor Fashola and portraying him as an enemy of the Igbo, Peter Obi is whipping up anti-Fashola, anti-Yoruba and anti-ACN/APC sentiments amongst the people of Anambra and whittling down the political support for APC and Ngige within the state.
A onetime governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige is a phenomenal public servant that left deep imprints on the politics of the state. Resolute, independent-minded and courageous, he dealt a bludgeoning blow on political godfatherism and its attendant depredation of the state resources by a privileged few. Consequently, his administration directed public funds to the remarkable improvement of the quality of life for the people of the state. His achievements as governor were
resplendently palpable. Consequently, the people of Anambra are nostalgic - longing for the past - the days when Ngige was governor.
On the other hand, eight years of Peter Obi's lacklustre governance has not made life any better for the generality of the people. With little to show for his eight years in power, he has few selling points for his political party for the November 15, 2013 election; thus, his need to restore to ethnic politics. Tribal politics skirts facts and figures and appeals to emotions and sentiments. It incites the passion and offers psychological satisfaction and discourages objective assessment of the political candidates.
Presently, Anambra State is hobbled by the status quo and business as usual: theft of public funds
by the power elite, government ineptitude and waste, the pocketing of billions of naira as security vote etc. Thus, the masses suffer from deficient health services, poor quality schools, smothering poverty, homelessness, etc. In the upcoming election, the people need to elect a governor that can tackle and resolve, or at least, significantly ameliorate these problems. To do that, they must look beyond Peter Obi's cheap politics of deportation and its associated sentiment-laden but issue- deficient tribal politics. And sift the gubernatorial candidates and choose the best.
That is, the best that has proven that he possesses the moral courage, political adroitness and political will to shake up the status quo and jettison business as usual and bring about change - sweeping, progressive change to Anambra State.
• Ezukanma writes from Lagos.