Politics of Deportations: Where Are the Northern Governors?

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Religion and nationalism are the most powerful forms of indoctrination and, in the name of these two, many injustices can be done so that our idea of a shared humanity [in terms of religion and nationality] is thus contradicted and ridiculed. Nationalism is theoretically the healer of a colourfully diverse country possessed by the ghosts of hatred along the lines of the things that highlight differences, from the shapes of our places of worship to the colour of our skin. And where nationalism fails, where the love for country and appreciation of its diversity are dominated by our allegiances to personal and private interests, conflicts set in, sometimes irredeemable ones, other times those repairable through diplomacy. But where the latter fails and the former is unanimously understood, cartographers are invited to demarcate the geography of our conflicts. Like the split of India and Pakistan. Like the split of North Korea and South Korea. Like the Split of Malaysia and Singapore. And, yes, like the attempted split of Nigeria into two unequal halves.

If our history of the last 50 years is not a memo on how not to run a country, I wonder how this growing sectionalism can be tamed. What’s happening in Nigeria today is a repeat, though reversed, of those dark years where a set of people became the scapegoats for an atrocity carried out by a few aggrieved or deluded citizens who are members of a persecuted ethnicity or region. This is what made the deportation, over the week, of 84 “northerners” by Imo State government very devastating news. On suspicion of terrorism, they said. The deportees, who were in Owerri to study at Imo College of Advanced Professional Studies, ICAPS, had reportedly camped on the premises of a newspaper house while awaiting their registration procedures before their identity became pronounced as the enemies, northerners, “terrorists”, and thus they had too be deported “for fears that they might be members of the dreaded Boko Haram.” A few days before that, it was the case of Igbo youths attacking Hausa traders in Onitsha. Their crime? “(A)lleged killing of a staff of the Anambra State Transport Agency, ASTA, by a trailer driver of Northern extraction (sic)” – Vanguard Newspaper (15/01/2015). Isn’t this, this careless scapegoating, the root of our deepened sectionalism?

The earth almost folded when Lagos State’s Governor Babatunde Fashola, in one of his anti-people policies, deported some Igbos to their home state. The streak of condemnations and especially the screams of marginalisation among Igbo political and intellectual elite and the compliant masses, was deafening, and I must add, frightening. The Igbo deportees have dragged the Lagos State Government to court, and this week they declared their demand for a billion naira in damages. None of us supported Fashola. Interestingly, none of these “human rights activists”, who had shown us the shade of their ethnic activism, bothered about the ill treatments of perceived northerners in the hands of the same Igbos. Only the empathy of a bigot functions is such a manner.

And when some of us stepped out to highlight these issues, there are murmurings about attacks on the Igbos too in the north by Boko Haram insurgents. Is Boko Haram a legitimate advocate of the north, Hausa-Fulani or the Muslims? Isn’t it an enemy of state, against any people, organisation or interest averse to its heavily flawed and misrepresented ideals of Islam? In the lash of its many crimes against humanity, has Boko Haram not killed uncountable innocent Nigerians, as it targets churches, mosques of non-cooperating Muslims, schools of both Muslims and Christians, boys and girls and also public institutions where religious affiliations are not tattooed on workers’ foreheads? Permit me to ask: is the emir of Kano, a frail old man who escaped death in gun attack and now living in fear of the terrorists, a Christian – and an Igbo? Are the young men here in the north called “Civilian JTF” who have risen to fight the terrorists also Igbos – and Christians? Were the murdered retired military officer and elder statesman, General Mohammad Shuwa, and all the northern elite and technocrats lost in this madness Christians and Igbos? And was the father of Kano State’s Governor Kwankwaso who was attacked just last week a Christian and an Igbo? If Boko Haram has enjoyed the backing of the north as is being touted by hate-mongering commentators who do not even know that the north is a region of 19 expansive states, why are indigenous northerners and Muslims also targeted alongside the Christians?

Now where are the northern governors? And where are the so-called representatives of the northern interests, especially the Arewa Consultative Forum? So there is no screaming and calling for Governor Rochas Okorocha’s explanations and apologies, and, threatening to retaliate? Our Governors, especially Katshina State’s Governor Ibrahim Shema from whose State the “terrorist” suspects hailed, must carry out a needful a measure, in the fashion of Anambra State’s Governor Peter Obi’s confrontations of his Lagos counterpart. They must prove to these boys that they are indeed elected to represent them. If those prospective students have been suspected to be of the Boko Haram militants and potentially considered threats by the clairvoyance of the security personnel in Owerri, why weren’t they handed over to the “appropriate authorities” as our bail-abusing policemen are called in friendliest references?

Well, the next election is just a calendar away, you may chant “Sai mai sallah” again in abusing your franchise having been hoodwinked into sectional alignments. What have these political “masu sallah”, those representative of your own religious values and ethnic identities, done for you now that you’re being hauled as worthless third-class citizens with no political representatives? Thank you, Governor Okorocha for exposing that the Boko Haram insurgents from the republic of northern Nigeria now carry identity cards around. We thank you, sir. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

GenVoices: Of Our Monotony and Their Harmony

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I’m happy that I was not a distant witness of Generational Voices. Having been closely involved, and in a deep thought, I see a movement about to be built on the foundations of OccupyNigeria, that deferred revolution. But as beautiful as its grand visions are, we have to resist ideological indoctrination and correctly understand that GenVoices is not OccupyNigeria. This is where our task commences!

Last week, I was in Lagos for the GenVoices telethon and the experience was one that assured me of a will to infiltrate the ranks of the owners of Nigerians by what a speaker at the event called “a threatened generation.” Our predators are the all-powerful families, cliques and friends whose idea of “development” has cost us a sane nation. GenVoices is an audacious rescue mission, exploring the anger of a generation denied an opportunity to be meaningful! Still, GenVoices is not OccupyNigeria. While the former is a stationary car about to embark on a journey, the latter was a moving car that had no idea of where it was going and thus we lost our way when more enlightened passengers in the struggle hijacked the movement for, well, filthy lucre we may charge. OccupyNigeria failed because we were ill-prepared for the cause, and also because we couldn’t harmonise our demands beyond the initial grievance against the removal of fuel subsidy. Some argue that OccupyNigeria was hijacked by the labour union; I prefer to simply refer to it as a revolution deferred. This is my highest uncritically expressed optimism in the young Nigerian. A revolution deferred.

It was easier to sell OccupNigeria. A sentence or two shared on Twitter and Facebook and an offline demonstration inspired a generation to stand up and fight for their rights. That was not magic; it was because what we set out to challenge affected the grassroots in even worse measure. It’s easier to convince a man that fuel price hike is a sham. But if you go to the average Nigerians and begin to tell them of a possibility of complete social change, I fear it wouldn’t be so easy to find sympathisers let alone followers. And that is the slippery ground of mutual incomprehension our generation needs to tread on in this clamour for collective decency. Yes, the generation is polarised. And I’m not even talking about the clichéd thesis of religious, ethnic and regional disharmonies here. Our voices are already monotonous, and unless we seek and amplify the distant voices, the sound of our revolution may be uninspiring. As we’re about to start the car for this rescue mission, we must make attempt to bring the “Us” and “Them” of this generation together; the “them” whose voices are never heard, those in parts of Nigeria where Twitter and Facebook are not known at all, those to whom all of “us”, privileged and educated, are seen as accomplices in the looting of a nation. What about them? How do we assure them of the possibility of a needed change without being seen as agents of delusions and hypocrisy? What’s this generation really without those Nigerian youth outside cyberspace? The last time I checked Facebook had just about 11 million Nigerians, and we have almost a hundred million who, by virtue of age, ought to be registered here.

GenVoices is not anybody’s project; it’s an ideal for which all of us must be stakeholders. I understand that it sets out to rouse a definite political consciousness among the youth of this generation who may otherwise be perpetually reduced to “youth” by a clique whose families and friends have been in charge since October 1, 1960—until they’re in their fifties. And, as you know, the life expectancy of a person born here, surrounded by poor healthcare and explicable crises, does not favour such a long process to maturity! So now is the time to drop our escapisms and excuses to unify the voices of this generation if we’re actually ready for a joyful ride into history, as some speakers and panelists highlighted.

Wait, I have to address this: during the telethon, I find the view aired by a certain young panelist, who introduced himself as an aide of a senator, very disturbing. His take was, as an aide you have an advantage to practically be in control of your boss, citing his own records as a senatorial aide. This is, to be polite, ridiculous! There’s a limit to the extent you can influence a politician. If I had been on that panel, my response would have been to ask the young man to go ask the senator-he-controls to “move a motion” against the scandalous wages the lawmakers earn. Well, that may cost him his job. That 469 federal lawmakers defraud the nation, gulping 25 percent of the nation’s budget, which means the basic salary of an individual lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person of $1,600.00, is the height of ridiculousness. For the Nigerian lawmaker has been ranked by the Economist magazine as the highest paid in the world. Congratulations, Nigeria. This is the only record in our history that no country has ever beaten. And yet we gave a senatorial aide a platform to insult the sensibility of the nation? Ridiculous!

So GenVoices is to end that tradition that reduces the youths to mere aides. We deserve more, more presence as substantial and influential leaders, not as adjunct and inconsequential servants. For this shared belief, we’re all “comrades in struggle” and we must welcome all, including the critics of the movement, one of whom has already attacked me for merely honouring an invitation to the telethon at all. My critic, a blogger named Chukwudi mentioned me in a comment on Facebook where he wrote: “I’m surprised why my good friend Chude Jideonwo like (sic) isolating the core Nigerian youths from the scheme of his programs. Was even surprised to see Gimba Kakanda at the event. The same Gimba kicked against Future Award and wrote long essays to that effect. For Gimba to identify with elitist Gen Voice organized by the same person he criticized his hustle in the past left me mouth agape. Well Gen Voice without involving the core Nigerian youth is an effort in futility and at best show off. The last time I checked, the mainstream of Nigerian youths are not the social media champions.”

Thank you, Chukwudi. And while you have not even read my take on this movement, it’s understandable that you have criticised my participation to that effect. Listen, my criticisms of The Future Awards remain unchanged, purpose of which was to remind Lagos Blogs and mainstream media that Nigeria is bigger than the size of their blogs and televisions, and puncture the delusions of these “social media champions” of which you and I are members. Yet here, I applaud your observation. I was in Lagos to share my views on the divides in our generation, but you have to know that GenVoices, unlike The Future Awards, is not a celebration of “achievements”, rather a mere sampling of our generation’s monotonous voices. I was there simply because I write – a faint voice seeking more notes to amplify. The next phase of our campaign should be to assure ourselves that voices of this generation goes beyond the musicians, actors, politicians, bloggers, activists, and writers. The voices of this generation are also the harmonies of anguish, dejections, and disappointments expressed by fellow citizens outside our media coverage; they’re represented by the fraternities of peasants, artisans and non-union workers across the country. Their voices are harmonised because they’re melodies of the same subject: poverty. Unless we ally in this struggle, this revolution may be dismissed as another of our generational noises. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

My Case Against Abuja

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I don’t have to spell this out, even to non-residents to whom this city is only understood as just the headquarters of political thievery: Abuja is a cheap fraud. It’s a city built upside down, and recklessly so, perfect for several poorly orchestrated federal crimes against common-sense. On a distant view, Abuja is Nigeria’s ape of London or Washington DC. “It’s a small London,” they’ll say in Potiskum. But that is just what it is – distant!

On a close shot, you may discover a pretend city not actually struggling to be true. My grouse today is specific, my anger on a target whose operations are the metaphor of an anarchy called Nigeria. This is the “Park N Pay” policy of the FCT, meant to check traffic congestions and violations. The irony of being frustrated by a system that sets out to save you from the same frustration has stirred up uncontrolled hatred towards the notorious traffic management marshals!

I don’t like Lagos, this you need to know, which is why I endorse timely traffic regulation systems that may protect us from disorganised population growth likely to decongest Abuja roads. But this ‘Park N Pay’ policy is not meant to be true. It’s exactly built to extort, and harass – an inhumane business organisation. The areas marked for this scam are not even understood, and there was no attempt at sensitising, no signposts bearing instructions where such are much needed, turning their operations into a lotto that favours just them. Inhumane is what I call paying fines for what isn’t actually one’s fault, and making the penalty fees so exorbitant, one has no more doubt on the insensitivity of our government.

The government has been unfair to the poor in its reconstruction of this madhouse, and I’m sure this does not need any more rant from a marked populist. We have also built a beautiful city with expansive roads and dysfunctional streetlights, ever tempting you to run into the bumper of another car, a feeble pedestrian or even death itself. Once I wasted almost an hour on Aminu Kano Crescent waiting for the traffic light permanently set to Red to blink Green. It was late in the night. It didn’t. We all had to contravene that rule. This is what Nigeria does to us: it creates a mess in which obedience is not always possible. And the faulty light remained so for days, perhaps it’s still so till now, it’s their pride to not fix mess of viral impacts!

I was a victim of the “Park N Pay” scam this week, my third experience in two months. My first experience was on a visit to a posh district of Maitama where, for parking in the front-yard of my host’s house, I found a wheel clamped when I returned. I parked so because the road was too narrow, and because the design of the house had no space for cars – and the fact that the building plan was even approved by the city planners is criminalising. The second encounter is one all residents have either experienced or witnessed – the absence of ticketing agents. I parked and waited for the agents, even walked far in search of them but couldn’t find any, and realising that the cars parked around there weren’t bearing parking tickets on the windscreen, I took my chance and left. Again my car had been locked, and again I had to pay another fortune as penalty. The third, my experience this week, left me mortally upset and being charged fifteen thousand naira of which the fraudsters eventually settled for ten for “wrong parking” – that the tyres were on pavements, an extension of Jabi Lake that was obviously not a pedestrian walkway. In all the times I was there park, cars were always parked that way, and because there was no notice forbidding that, having one so mercilessly fined is despicable!

That the government actually partnered with these corporate racketeers in this organised crime still beats me. First, residents don’t even know where exactly are the controlled areas, places marked as legal for parking on payment in Abuja. The indicators are the signposts bearing “Park N Pay”, which are not reliable because ticketing agents are not found in many areas where the same signposts are planted. These irregular presences of the elusive ticketing agents and the supervising traffic marshals turned the system into a cat-and-mouse race, with all unsuspecting motorists, residents and visitors, vulnerable. One, from these, sees a city desperate to keep the system less understandable, all for the cash flow.

The worst modes of their operation is having a car towed to their office for contravening traffic rules while the owner is still away, without any notification that one has even flouted a law. Some victims even went on to declaring their cars as missing. Visitors and expatriates have been worst hit by this. An expatriate friend told me a story of how he parked his car to attend a meeting only to discover that his car was gone. He was new in Abuja and there was no signpost telling him that he had flouted a law. Another friend, also an expatriate, has similar story: he couldn’t find ticketing agents, and he also returned to find his car clamped. And for a visiting friend whose car was towed away for “wrong parking” only to finally find out, after a frantic search and several phone calls, that he was a victim of the marshals, his misery was multiplied by his lack of money to pay. This is a story for another day!

Having testified that the parking ticket management system is a trap that reveals the pretence of Abuja, many questions bug my mind: is it fair to charge citizens for breaking a law they didn’t know? What does it take to have signposts serving as cautions planted in areas controlled by the marshals? Unless such are done, this system remains just a deliberate ploy to extort. It’s a cheap fraud, a fraud taken too far. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)