Citizenship vs Indigeneship—Should Mama Chukwudi Vote in Lagos?

By: Samuel Olowolayemo

Words excerpts of MC Oluomo, NURTW Chairman, Lagos.

“We have begged them, if they are not voting for us, please it’s not fight. Go and meet them that— Iya Chukwudi, if you no wan vote for us, sit down for home o.” 

In a gathering that seemed like a political strategizing or re-strategizing to checkmate what I will describe as an early ‘check’ move of a queen on a chess board, the above uncouth verbal intimidations were one of the reactions by the young, middle-aged brash party loyalists to the loss earlier suffered by the All Progressive Congress, APC in the Presidential election in Lagos.

This I feel was to reap the gains off their mate going forward into the Governorship elections by the disenfranchisement of a certain ethnic group(s) or people they feel will not do their bidding or support their candidates.

Over the past two weeks, the argument of many, including those you will consider very educated is appalling. How can you place it when literates, even within the university setting see no bad in attempts to disenfranchise certain ethnic, religious, or tribal groups tagging them migrants/settlers who should have no contribution in the politics, power, and governance of a place where they reside and pay taxes. This narrative, aside from its unconstitutionality, is pseudo-democratic and the ideology by her proponents is garnished by mischievous sentiments. 

To start with, the unity of a country, like Nigeria, is threatened if indigenship is lauded over citizenship and there are certain rights deprived of individuals, for example, the ability to vote in your state of residence, which contradicts the constitution. And many times there are restrictions on opportunities for individuals as a result of their affiliations, state of origin, or ethnic group which belittle inclusivity and integration that should foster unity in a country.  

It could be a very tough task to define the origin of an individual considering the fact that there has been a mass movement of people over time, across culture and space. But the truth is that many so acclaimed aborigines have a rich history of migration and integration mostly for survival through violent conquest or natural prosperity in what they now call “our land”. For example, Eri-Osun is founded by migrants from Erin-Ile who left their abode to escape Fulani militia rampages in their region. While I understand that there are clear out characteristics and ways to easily rule out the ethnic affiliation of an individual, it is important to note that many who now live where their origin is threatened, find it difficult to associate and blend with their distant sources because their progeny have long migrated from where they came from and there is no other area natural to them.

But the fight against the danger that indigeneship discrimination can bring is beyond the inter-ethnic group scenario. We have instances where a Yoruba is deprived of attaining power because he is not the Yoruba of their type. More than inter-ethnic, intra-ethnic discrimination is greatly employed as a political tactic to push selfish agendas via divide-and-rule politicking.

But our reality, still, is that in places like Lagos, where their past Governors — like Lateef Jakande hailing from Omu Aran, Kwara—and other influential players are majorly migrants, development is not lacking and indigeneship consideration there over citizenship is purely a political antic.

To be fair, I understand the fears and hostility of certain individuals who see a particular group of people as a threat to their existence because of crime patterns observed in their lineage. In 2021, the attacks by some militia on the Igangan part of Oyo State brought to remembrance the historic conquer by some Fulani militia that led to the overthrow of political and traditional establishments in Ilorin, Kwara state.  Nonetheless, it is worthy of note that there are criminal elements within all ethnic groups and that to uncomplicate issues as sensitive as security, crime should not be treated in affiliations to ethnic, religious, or socio-political leanings.

The evil about this discrimination is that it expresses itself beyond politics to business and institutions and tears them apart. Government appointments in schools, parastatals, and institutions are highly marked with tribal and ethnic favouritism among others like religion, denomination, etc.  As a student, written and unwritten indigene clauses at my level exist and could be painful when you cannot participate in bursary, grant, or scholarship opportunities from the government of the state you reside in or because you are not from an oil-producing state.

To promote citizenship and discourage segregation, the indigene clauses in the Nigerian constitution should be expunged. Everyone should have equal opportunity to the Nigerian cake. Everyone should be able to exercise their civic duties and even run for a position in a state where he/she is established. Nothing much about the political thugs who are the instruments for the mischief of disenfranchising the likes of Mama Chwukudi. It’s often said that when the gown is sane, the town will be safer and by then we should have saner people at the helm of affairs who will not flare the emblem of discord.



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