I live in Lagos, do business in Lagos and pay all my taxes here but I am told I am not a Lagosian meaning I am not a Lagos state indigene. I have raised my family here and have developed a network of relationships, a lot of which is in this city. If anything happens in this state, it directly affects me. I enjoy the progress Lagos state is making as a champion for development in Nigeria but also suffer from some of the challenges the state faces. When the drains built by engineers in the past drain nowhere and are only containers for floodwater, I feel the pain and misuse in the past of taxpayer’s monies. Every time I see the new drains being constructed, I hail the effort and wish it was done right the first time. When Lagos does well, the collective business well being of the people resident in Lagos improve. Lagos has become the theater of my living, the center of my concern and the space where I want to see the footprint of my contribution. When I pray to my God out of deep interest to improve my life and live in peace, I know I must first pray for Lagos and maybe Abuja (the seat of the federal government) before any other place.
I hardly understand the practical concept of an indigene. Even though I am a Citizen of Nigeria, Delta state (previously Bendel State, Midwestern state and who knows what it will be called if Anioma state is created) is the state of my birth. I am proudly Urhobo by tribe an indigene of Delta state resident in Lagos state and a citizen of Nigeria. I want to join a political party, naturally to contribute politically to governance that improves both the social well being of the people I interact with and the business community, my constituency. I will need the support of my friends, business partners who know me, a lot of them, while they reside in Lagos and desire for continued improvements here, they are indigenes from states scattered all over the nation, Delta inclusive. For those that are not in Delta, what will be their interest in supporting my political aspiration?
They know one major challenge I will face is that of not being an indigene of Lagos. It will appear that our culture has been molded, that to govern Lagos, only an indigene is qualified. My friends advise me that I need to go back to Delta state to join a political party there and seek the support of my people in a land my tax is not paid to neither have I stayed in for most part of my adult life. I know that this is the story of “most immigrants” in our own country. A Lagosian who has lived all his life in Warri and built relationships around Delta state can only dream of being active politically but not aspire in reality to be the governor of Delta state.
We are so used to this reality that we don’t stop and ask why? What will be the purpose of supporting me with their resource if my victory is only possible in a location where my friends have no real economic or social interest (except of course, if their intention is to get more contracts). This is discrimination on the basis of tribe. As a citizen of Nigeria why am I being discriminated against in any of our states on the basis of tribe? Why should an indigene that neither stays in a state or contributes to it through taxes be more qualified to vie for electoral office there? Are governors leaders of indigenes or residents of the state, which could be multicultural and tribal. If the governor governs every one in the state and not just indigenes why are only indigenes entitled to govern? Like religion, it will appear that we have accepted an ideology that we must not look for the best of what we have to rule and govern but the members of the tribe. Performance and competence solve a lot of problems.
We have made grave mistakes in our nation, which has heightened our distrust for one another. With a view of securing ourselves, we have chosen our tribal men over our competent men. Although our tribal men have served us badly we still believe the fool that we know is better than the capacity we have but can’t trust due to the difference in our language. I only wish for our good that we can let the betrayal experienced in our history through the coups and civil wars cease to hunt us, so our children may have a chance.
Tribe and religion has served to create a warped sense of judgment, instead of bringing us together as a people it has only served to divide us and emphasize our differences. Instead of stimulating our productive capacities, it has only served to make us lazy. “Wait for your turn, the position has been zoned” is the frequent argument in political circles when its time to cheat and deprive the people from their choice for competence. Recently someone on social media averred that Fulani cattle farmers killed some non-Fulani farmers. He advised that Christians should be watchful and defend themselves as a result. I asked how Fulani farmers killing non-Fulani farmers has turned to a battle between Christians and Moslems. I wondered why it was not being seen as just a criminal act, similar to when an armed robber from the south kills another southerner?
This is because before we can see a criminal, we first check his tribe otherwise we defend their criminality if they are from our tribe. You can imagine my concern when some governors of Northern extraction came out to say the cattle farmers were not Fulanis. What does it matter, if they are Fulanis or not? If they committed crimes then they become criminals and whether they are Fulanis’ Igbos or Yorubas, they are just described as criminals. There are a lot of criminal activities among northerners of all tribes and southerners of all tribes. We accept this as criminal but focus on the tribe when you cross the tribal lines. The government accuses a politician of fraud; the argument quickly changes from whether the process is being followed and fair hearing being given, based on the idea of the fight on corruption being selective. The argument beats me as it is akin to saying unless I bring all robbers to book, I cannot arrest one from an opposing camp if I find one.
How has tribe and religion helped our national development? We have had the North rule for so long leaving the people of the north more impoverished with each successive northern government. Today the North indeed in a lot of places is an example of what poverty really means. I am also not sure as to how the West benefited from one of their own being president. It was said during his tenure that despite all he did for Nigeria not much could be done on the road leading to Otta. Then comes Niger Delta into power and you would have thought the clean up for Ogoni land, for which we lost some of our illustrious sons will at least be flagged off or the much talked about iconic East-West road project completed. None of these happened; not even infrastructure to his own village was done. It would even appear that we fared worst under indigenes.
All around the world we experience people moving from the land of their birth due to harm orchestrated by their own brothers to distant lands to be received by strangers. Who is our brother indeed? Is it the one who is a member of my tribe but causes me only pain, deprivation and hunger or the stranger who comes to my rescue?