Things Fall Apart is the title of the bestseller by celebrated Nigerian storyteller, late Chinua Achebe, an Anambra son. If he was alive today, he would have spoken against the recent shabby treatment of his people by Lagos.
So much has been said about the Anambra 14 saga. Figures are conflicting. This is the number of Anambra indigenes rounded up in Lagos streets, branded destitute, sent home by Lagos authorities, and abandoned at Onitsha city, Anambra State, in the wee hours of the morning, uncared for and unprotected. Ndigbo are aggrieved by this action, crying discrimination against their tribe. But the aggressors are screaming they are right. Lagos infrastructure is overstretched. It cannot be dumping ground of economic parasites. If you cannot take care of your people, the Centre of Excellence, the Megacity will send them back to you. What is excellent or mega about this action? I ask.
As Anambra son, I am outraged by Lagos action. Anybody whose kinsmen and women are maltreated that way in their own country will feel bad. Let’s examine the action with some objectivity though it does not deserve it. Anybody or place can rid its territory of unwanted matter. But people should be treated with care, respect and dignity.
Lagos authorities can make the city better, but at the right time in the right way. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced due process into governance in Nigeria. But our leaders are yet to imbibe it. A man follows due process to marry a wife, and same process to send her back when things fall apart in the marriage. If not, his in-laws will come after him.
Lagos claims it followed due process in Anambra 14 action. But the finishing was untidy. Were the destitute taken home by chartered flight, truck, luxury bus or air-conditioned shuttle buses that ply the Lagos-Eastern route? Was there any handover? Reports say they were abandoned in a lonely Onitsha street to the dangers of cold and hoodlums. This has not been denied. Everybody is talking about departure. Nobody is talking about arrival.
Protagonists and antagonists are singing from different hymn sheets backed by the heavy chorus of ethnic sentiments. Praise singers have taken over, pleading politics. That is begging the question. The ‘Nigerian factor’ is at play here. Find the meaning.
People deported from one country to another are put in an aircraft, cared for on board, and accompanied. On arrival, state officials are on hand to receive them via a handover process. Here we oppress our citizens and expect them to be proudly Nigerian. Not possible. Anambra 14 action lacked social responsibility. The leader behind it should become the Senior Advocate of People (SAP). Similar things happen in other states under various guises. We have to check this to restore the dignity of the people.
‘To restore the dignity of man.’ This is the motto of University of Nigeria, Nsukka my alma mater. The great Zik of Africa, an Anambra son and Nigeria’s first President, who founded the university in 1960, must have looked decades ahead to choose that motto. So, who will restore our dignity? Politicians? Forget them. They are causing pains. University lecturers? They are too busy with strikes. The Police? Haba. Are you alright? Clergymen? Never! There are many crooks among them deceiving and exploiting the people. Nigerians are under siege.
Anambra 14 action lacked human dignity. Defenders are blaming Anambra governor, Peter Obi for reporting the matter to the Presidency to gain political mileage from the forthcoming Anambra elections. Why didn’t Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola wait for the elections to come and go before acting? A simple, I am sorry, to Ndigbo, could have quenched the raging fire and show him as the humble statesman who can make amends we know him to be.
Instead he wore the toga of arrogance and griped about the Anambra governor not calling him on the matter. Hear him: ‘He has my number. He has called me on less important matters,’ as if Peter is his subordinate. Why did he not call first before taking action? He hinted of using the courts to resolve the matter. This is the mindset of our ruling class. Go to court even for matters that can be settled easily. Everybody wants to win no matter who is bruised.
As Babs talked tough, his kinsmen and co-travelers in the opposition train were beating their chests for a job well done. They oppose those transforming our economy on every count, but will never oppose one of their own. Lord have mercy. And town crier, Lie Mo Hard, had the temerity to tell the aggrieved to bow to the aggressor. How cheeky? Meanwhile, quicksilver, Mr. Fan, is fanning the embers of tribalism telling Ndigbo they can never be sons of Lagos soil no matter their quantum of investments in the city. They should go home. That’s the bitter truth.
Igboman, Onyebuchi Onyegbule in his BUSINESSDAY column of August 9 described the action as dumping. That’s a hard word. He spoke about issues at stake for Ndigbo in the megacity that lacks a mega heart and how to decongest Lagos. They made sense to me though it was Igbo sentiment at play. He ended by saying: ‘You take their tax and drive away their destitute. That’s APC doctrine.’ I don’t agree. Paying tax is the obligation of every working adult that should not stop any state action. And we should not drag APC into this tangle. Their drive for ‘Change’ is not to deport, relocate, or even port anybody. Unfortunately their chieftains are not helping matters, talking off point and dragging their new party into unnecessary controversy.
Counter sentiments were expressed by another BUSINESSDAY columnist, Opeyemi Agbaje on August 07. He described the saga as ‘relocation.’ That’s uncharitable. His submissions: Fashola appointed an Anambra son as Commissioner; named a housing estate in Lagos after a respected Anambra son; helped a dying Ndigbo daughter; and more. Clap for him. It is all begging the question
You cannot cover up bad action with charity. Some companies in Nigeria do this. They ruin our economy with sharp practices but deceive us with Corporate Social Responsibility. Is the Anambra man in Lagos cabinet waiting to be ‘relocated?’ He should resign. The other Ndigbo son serving Lagos is doing well as His Master’s Voice. We hear the ‘Voice of Jacob but see the Hand of Esau’ at work. We wish him well.
Our human rights activists have all kept quiet save for some feeble protestations. The Save Nigeria people are all silent. When fuel subsidy was ‘deported’ January 2012, they stormed Lagos streets threatening showdown with government. They can save Nigeria, not Ndigbo. Can our nation reach the Promised Land? Not until we change our hearts. The drivers of ‘Change’ should do so first before opposing those transforming our lives.
Igbo kwenu! Let’s go home now. In the North we are bombed in churches, homes, shops, and luxury buses. In the West we are deported, relocated, or ported. Ndigbo, let’s go back in Exodus 2.0 to our land. It includes me who came to Lagos in 1983 to join The Guardian as Senior Reporter. Now, at 58, in pains, I should retire to my hometown Abagana, in Anambra to author books and publish a community newspaper. We are scattered all over Nigeria, oppressed, suffering and complaining while our homeland is crying for development. I am crying for my people, the master traders, the Jews of Africa, who migrate to other lands, settle there, work hard, prosper, invest, increase and multiply, but assailed regularly by their hosts.
President Jonathan is transforming Igboland; building and upgrading infrastructure there; modernizing seaports and airports; building the second Niger Bridge; dualizing roads; declared Anambra the 10the oil producing state; honoured Anambra sons, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu and Chinua Achebe at their burial; and making life better for the people. Enugu airport has been upgraded to international status. So you can now jet out of the country from Igboland. This is our fair share of his Transformation Agenda. What more can we ask for? If we leave the modern infrastructure idle, we would betray our President.
Let my people go. Lagos infrastructure is collapsing under the weight of more than 10 million people. Let Ladipo market traders in Lagos move. Let Aspamda, Alaba, Idumota, Importers, Motor Spare Parts dealers, and other Ndigbo market clusters in the north migrate home. Don’t wait to be ‘relocated.’ If we go, Lagos traffic jams will disappear; house rents will crash, and the pressure on infrastructure will ease. One Igbo name I like a lot is Ikemefuna. It means, Let me not lose my strength; let my strength not fail me. Ndigbo, if we don’t go now, we will either lose our strength, or it will fail us.
The Way the Cookie Crumbles is one of the bestsellers of master thriller writer, James Hadley Chase, I read in secondary school early 70s. Ndigbo, let’s go now so we don’t crumble. And the place to start is Lagos. Eko o ni baje o.
(21 August 2013)
Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.
Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.