Opinion

Is’haq Modibbo Kawu: Registration And Deportation Of Nigerians In Nigeria

Early this week, the National Security Council, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, and attended by the nation’s top security chiefs, directed states registering and deporting “non-indigenes”, “to stop the practice forthwith”.

The practice, according to the Council, is “more dangerous than the Boko Haram insurgency”. It expressed fear that “the registration and deportation of Nigerians in states could disintegrate the country”. And so serious is the development being viewed that, according to ItaEkpeyong, the Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS), “to show the urgency, the Council of state meeting will be held anytime next week to discuss these issues”.

It is good that the National Security Council eventually reacted, rather belatedly, to a trend, which took a frightening dimension of the profiling of Northerners and Muslims in parts of Southern Nigeria. But the issue commenced last year, when the Lagos state government deported Nigerians from Anambra state.

Even in the North, the Niger state government rounded up and deported FulBe nomads to Kaduna state, this year. While sections of the elite in Plateau and Benue states, allegedly including Governor Gabriel Suswam, wanted FulBe people removed from the “Middle Belt”.

But the heightened Boko Haram insurgency and its political manipulation, including often biased and irresponsible analyses and reportage in the media, has fed a frenzy in many circles in the South. Old prejudices along the country’s fault lines seeped to the surface helping to further a dangerous “Masada Complex” of suspicion and actions not thought through, in terms of dangers they portend for our country.

Northern traders were arrested in the East with the security alleging that a Boko Haram “commander” was arrested in the operation. Leading media commentators approved the action, without interrogating the unconstitutional detention of citizens who fitted the “enemy” profile.
They wrote approvingly of governors of Eastern states, planning the registration of Northerners in their states. An orchestrated profiling of Northerners has become central to anti-Boko Haram feeling in parts of the South; even the PDP exploits fears about the insurgency, with OlisaMetuh’s regularly unguarded utterances playing into this new form of hysteria in the land. Circles around President Jonathan also frame the Boko Haram insurgency as orchestrated against his presidency by Northerners, to further polarising the country.

Recently, the Igbo Leaders of Thought allegedly called for withdrawal of Hausa-Fulani/ Muslim police commissioners from the South East, because they are security risks, in respect of Boko Haram. There are also regular warnings by groups like OPC and MASSOB to Boko Haram, of retaliation, if it ever came to their “territories”!

Not surprisingly, a call for a tit-for-tat, retaliatory action has surfaceed in Northern Nigeria. Last week, a group called Concerned Arewa Citizens, threatened to initiate a bill for the registration of Southerners residing or doing business in Kano and subsequently, all over the North.

The group said it would take the step to protect Kano from “robbery, kidnapping and other criminal acts”. Even the Arewa Consultative Forum warned that if the South East goes ahead to issue identity cards to northerners, Igbos in the north would receive an equal treatment.

ACF Deputy Secretary-General, Alhaji Abubakar Umar warned that issuance of identity cards by the South East “could endanger the multi-billion naira investments of Igbo businessmen living in the north”. It was this threat, which forced the National Security Council to act.

As ItaEkpeyong stated: “The council discussed the reaction by some groups in Kano State and other parts of the country”. Frankly, government waited too long to react; it encouraged the deliberate polarization of the country, with an eye on short term political advantage!

Those exploiting the Boko Haram insurgency to push Nigeria towards the abyss of perdition,haven’t deeply thought through the consequences of their action. There are zealots and ethnic entrepreneurs, who see the disintegration of the country as answer to its problems.

There are those equally deluded that Nigeria can neatly be broken up into neatly defined ethnic entities, such as the faceless GBOGUNGBORO columnist of THE NATION newspaper. But ethnic entrepreneurs can only open the road to hell with their chauvinism. Registration and deportations are emblematic of fascist regimes, such as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. It does not fit a democratic society.

We should collectively resolve security challenges without profiling citizens on the basis of their region or faith. Northerners and Muslims have suffered most from the Boko Haram insurgency; and Northerners won’t destroy their communities just because they don’t like President Jonathan! Nigeria’s ruling class has managed to create one of the most unjust, unequal and non-inclusive countries on earth.

This is the root of the crises phenomena dogging Nigeria. Those who reduce these problems to irresponsible manipulation of fears about the “other”: North-South; Muslim-Christian, do a great disservice to all our peoples. That is why the call to stop the registration and deportation of Nigerians is welcome, even if belated!

Those Ilorin Ramadan days
I returned to Ilorin on Monday, this week. My reason is to take in the spiritual and cultural ambience of the city of my birth, during this Holy month of Ramadhan.

This is one of my favourite times of the year and the incurable traveller that I am (a Fullo carries the gene of travel!), every year during Ramadhan, I return home for a few days. It is a whole process that is wired into my memory.

The long days of fasting; the Sahur (early morning meals which I sadly don’t eat now); Tafsir sessions in mosques; long hours of devoted recitations of the Qur’an; those nightly Waazi (night time preachments) and the unending hours of cooking and preparations for Iftar(the break of fast) by our mothers! I think it was the incredible energy displayed by women during Ramadhan, that first conscientized me to the place of women in our society. Much later in life, I would become familiar with Marxist and feminist literature on the exploitation of women.

But I was talking about the spiritual and culture ambience of Ramadhan; and as a growing child, there were plays and simulations unique to this time of the year.
We constructed mini-mosques; attempted to copy our fathers/uncles who were Islamic scholars to preach too in those replica mosques, which used to be elaborate works of art wearing amazing colours and dotting neighbourhoods of the city.

There was an unspoken competition amongst young people to construct the most elaborate of those mosques. And I think the most fabulous was a game (EPA OKUTA), which employed a stone-like bean of many colour descriptions and which taught children basic strategy.

The game is no longer part of childhood today, what with the disjointed modernity. The same bean was also ground into a paste to prepare a delicacy of Ilorin, KANGU, that is sadly disappearing from the diet of most families today. I still love it and before my mother’s death, she would purchase and send to me in Abuja. And because it lasts for weeks, I would refrigerate and eat over and over!

The story was that as a growing kid, I cried through a night insisting that my mum got KANGU or nobody was going to sleep. And they did not! So early the following morning, one of my great aunts, who sold the delicacy, over-supplied me the stuff, sat by me with a cane and insisted that I finished the whole lot! It cured me of that longing for months and I didn’t disturb their nights henceforth!

Those spiritual and cultural tapestries conditioned the individual that I became, because so early in life, we were made aware of the traditions of scholarship, spirituality and power that we came out of and consciously, we learnt that we had to be touch bearers of our traditions into the future.

It is that deeply felt realisation and an appreciation of the heritage of scholarship and spirituality of my Fulbe ancestors that makes me cherish this return to source annually during Ramadhan. I take in as much of our communal ethos as possible; not forgetting to appreciate the changes that time and modernity have wrought on the community.

If we wait long enough, of course, everything changes. But I never lose the longing to reconnect with the living heritage of scholarship and spirituality of this homestead.

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