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As a Kenyan and a fellow african,I laughed in amazement shortly after an otherwise
well-informed Nigerian friend living abroad telephoned to alert
me about a serious political crisis about to burst in
Nigeria.
He said that the Igbo people of the south-east and
the Yoruba of the south-west were smarting for war
over alleged maltreatment meted to some Igbo
people residing in Lagos, the commercial capital.
He said the matter was already dominating social
media sites.
I asked what the meat of the matter was. My anxious
friend explained that some Igbo persons were
“deported” from Lagos to the south-eastern town of
Onitsha in Anambra State and abandoned at a
dangerous roadside.
My friend said that the angry governor of Anambra
had sent a strongly worded protest letter to President
Goodluck Jonathan over the matter.
“All Igbo people were angry,” he added.
“Is that all,” I asked? “You too have been conned,” I
told him and burst into laughter.
He was surprised. “So that’s all you will say,” he
demanded to know.
‘Integration’
I then told him that I heard the story when it first hit
the airwaves two weeks earlier. The accounts
available from Anambra were so disjointed that I did
not find them credible.
Were the “deportees” 62 or 73? Did they travel in a
passenger bus or a goods lorry?
Where exactly in Onitsha were they driven to – a
roadside or motor park? They arrived at 03:00 or
thereabout and by day-break they were being
attended to by Nigerian Red Cross officers in front of
press and TV cameras!
Suddenly, it occurred to me that there would be
elections for governor of Anambra in two months’
time.
The governing party at federal level, the People’s
Democratic Party (PDP), had launched a strong
campaign to oust the All Progressives Grand Alliance
(Apga) of outgoing governor Peter Obi from power in
the state.
Also, a new opposition party, the All Progressive
Congress (APC), had joined the fray.
So, the governor fell back on a line which was sure to
resonate with the justifiably angry electorate: Igbo
people were being persecuted in Lagos and he was
standing up in their defence! I don’t know of a better
election winner.
The governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola, who
ordered the evacuation of the people, has since come
out with his side of the story.
According to him, the number of people involved was
14 and he listed them.
‘Rich versus poor’
He said that the state had been in correspondence
with the government in Anambra since April over the
issue.
He described the action of his
government in transporting the 14
– described in reports as beggars
and people who were destitute – as
“integration” with their families
and not “deportation”.
And now, as I was sure it would, the
matter has died down in the media.
The ethnic warriors have stood
down. Mr Obi’s Apga party is
cruising towards the election with some more
confidence.
Meanwhile, the more important constitutional issue
of the freedom of Nigerians within Nigeria has been
swept under the carpet.
Soon, the federal government will “abduct” poor
people and the destitute from the streets of the
capital, Abuja, and send them away.
State governments – all of them – are doing this in
the name of urban renewal.
As it is, only the rich and comfortable are guaranteed
the enjoyment of freedom of movement, of residency
and of speech stated in Nigeria’s constitution.
The rest of us are at the mercy of the various
governments.
Ethnicity has little or nothing to do with it. It is a case
of the elite versus the rest, the rich versus the poor.

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