The other day, a truckload of men from Jigawa State made it to Lagos as they do on a daily basis in the constant flux of human beings in, around and outside Nigeria and all over the world. For some reason, someone alerted the Lagos State Government which swung into action and intercepted the truck. On board were 123 men and 40 motorcycles. Upon questioning, some of the men – many were teenage boys – said they came to Lagos for greener pastures, in other words, to ‘hustle’, as we Nigerians are known to do everywhere. The only problem is that our hustle has no structure or class, is almost always after peanuts and we end up falling into the underground economy. Some of the 123 men said they brought their 40 ‘okadas’ with them to do bike business in Lagos. The state seized the bikes, stating that such means of transportation has since been outlawed in Lagos.
A number of my friends who bear tribal/religious affinity with the Jigawa 123 have taken umbrage. Abba Hikima and friends have taken Lagos State Government to court, claiming N1billion on behalf of the 123 boys. The case is delicate, and Lagos has to tread carefully because of PR blowbacks. The basis of the claim however, is ‘freedom of movement of Nigerians within Nigeria’, and the right laws have been cited. But for me, I make bold to say Lagos wasn’t wrong in finding out why a truckload of men/boys will happen on it on any given day. People migrate everywhere within the country for business, educational, and economic reasons. But the idea of men and boys moving in magnitudes should be cause for concern for anyone, especially if we are running our nation the way nations should be run. If for example, these men were moving with their wives and families, it may not be a bad idea even though records should still be kept to know who is moving where, for what purpose, and in order to make adjustments that will allow for a balanced society. The fundamental flaw in Hikima’s case is that he and others assume that society is run in some sort of fluidity that with no accountability. Our people say when we are weeping, at least we should still be able to see our surroundings. The way most parts of Nigeria has been managed today, with no documentation, is certainly one of the reasons why we are still stuck in backwardness
And so before the right to free movement, is the right to a fair child care and basic education from the state. We are talking here of a country where in many parts, births are not registered, people don’t know how many children they have because some cultures forbid that you count your children, and especially in states like Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Yobe and others in the far north, there are no real borders between us and our neighbors in Niger Republic, Chad, and Northern Cameroun. In many of those societies, the concept of modern state is still alien. Maryam Abacha has her university in Maradi, Niger Republic for example, and I know many people from those states who feel more comfortable in those countries than they feel in Abuja. Jigawa is a border state with Niger and close to Chad. It is border with Yobe, where Boko Haram still has them on tenterhooks. Between 50%-80% of those boys who came to Lagos standing in a trailer, could have been from other countries. We saw how a man from Niger Republic was able to come all the way to Lagos, breach our airport perimeters, and climb into a plane’s engine as it taxied on the runway!
We have come to a point where peoples must take care of those in their charge. By suing Lagos state on behalf of those boys, and making a major issue around why a state will be worried that as much as it is trying to make life better for its tax-paying, law-abiding, long-suffering inhabitants, undocumented, untraceable thousands are pouring in daily who dive into the black economy – riding okadas, working as ‘alabarus’ in the markets, ‘maibolas’ (scavengers) or just being vagrants/vagabonds because their numbers outstrip the availability of even these menial jobs, we are allowing the state governors and leaders to get away with bad governance. We have heard many times, governors alleging that their people are poor and ravaged with diseases because of their (the people’s) sins. Some mention fornication even while they are completing their own hotels in Lagos, with bailouts meant for the people’s wellbeing. So I believe Hikima’s suit may actually be inimical to the long-term wellbeing and survival of the same people he claims to help. We need fair education for those people, and maternal care, and documentation, and guidance, and a chance to connect with and be useful to the modern economy. Indeed, we need them to have a sense of allegiance to Nigeria. Yes. If any of those 123 were asked about what they think about Nigeria, chances are that MOST – raised most probably as Almajirais – have no idea about loyalty to Nigeria. They only understand their tribes and their religion. Nigeria does not exist – even to a great many educated people anyway! Why then are we arguing about freedom of movement for people who are supposed to be Nigerians but have no idea of the concept of modern nationhood? Is Nigeria a nation, or a even country, beyond the confines of government offices? I say those who really hate those boys are those who use long grammar to deflect from what should matter most – that those boys should have a better, structured life, not travel everywhere for odd jobs.
Let me jump to South Africa. Whereas many of those who complain about the idea of RUGA at these delicate times (and I have my clear misgivings about that concept), are also complaining about xenophobia in South Africa, I am not one of those. Those who see it as odd and unhealthy for Jigawa 123 to be dumped in a trailer into Lagos, hold diametrically opposing views to the events in SA. See, we cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. I think the average Nigeria now needs to understand quite a bit about Emotional Intelligence. It is the lack of it that shuts our mind from seeing the effect of our actions. We don’t see, and don’t want to see, how our actions impact on others. Imagine a country like South Africa, built by the whites under the despicable practice of Apartheid. The whites have used their knowledge, technology and yes, black labour, to build a first world country in Africa. Other blacks from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia are rushing there because – as one of the Nigerians living there said – even if you rent a single room, your standard of living is like someone living in Ikoyi because of the infrastructure. The South African blacks are fighting back under whatever pretext and of course these things spiral out of control in the poorest areas. As I conclude this article, the native South Africans have launched another protest to insist that foreigners (their fellow black), must leave. Fundamentally, these events portend a great shame to black people. And both sides – south African blacks and other blacks – are to blame.
I ask; why do we have to migrate to populate the poorest areas of other people’s countries? Why aren’t we hearing of migrants from Angola and Gabon – oil producing, black African nations like Nigeria, in South Africa? What makes us think migration is about going to ‘hustle’ in other peoples’ lands? For how long do we think they would stomach us? What is it about that our argument of oppressing them to take their women? Are we wise at all? Do we understand their history at all? Do we know that the bloody history between blacks and whites in South Africa makes our struggles with colonialists here sound like child’s play? Are we aware of the likelihood that the whites in South African can and may have been using us as buffer between themselves and the south African black man, or to play games? Even if the black are ‘lazy’ should that be heard from a Nigerian living there, especially in their poorest areas? The rhetoric from most Nigerians against black South Africans of recent is most unfortunate, and shows how insensitive we are. I think we may now have reached a denouement in this matter; a time to take decisive action. Even we will not take what we are meting to South Africans. But we certainly aren’t as violent as they are.
South Africa is a very high crime society. Just yesterday, another Nigerian was killed in an unrelated case. Some said it had to do with drugs. South Africa is the only country I’ve seen, where armed robbers hijacked a camera crew while on live broadcast! People kill for $5 in South Africa. All these events show that we need to start appreciating our own country. Many who emigrate to SA talk down on Nigeria and are not ready to contribute anything to make their own country a better place. Some even call Nigeria zoo. But you cannot leave a zoo and try to make a zoo of another man’s land.
What is more? The idea of globalization is a scam. Globalization is meant to be a scenario where factors of production – land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship – move very freely. All the while, critics of globalization noted that only capital and entrepreneurship, and to a lesser extent land, seem to move freely. Capital was always in search of returns. Only capital (through interests and returns) could add to and multiply itself. We are only now seeing, that labor has not been and is still not allowed that free movement; especially, cheap, raw labor. Only well-trained labour is welcome in most countries, but we have to worry about brain drain.
Nigerians are not only running to South Africa, but basically everywhere else in the world, and we say there is no problem at home. If there is no problem at home, then people of other countries should be worried with the migration of Nigerians. There was a time when perhaps 15% of the Ghanaian population came to Nigeria – mostly men. Despite the fact that they came with skills and if you find a middle-aged Nigerian with fairly good spoken English today he/she may likely have been taught by a Ghanaian teacher, we ran them out between 1983-1985. The Indians also came around the same time, but left on their own. More than 1.5million Ghanaians were chased out of here and we weren’t charitable to them. After all, they had done same to us on a smaller scale, in 1969.
The clear bottomline is that we need to get our pride back as a people. And the first thing about getting that pride back – paradoxically – is that we need to first show humility. Then our leaders must stop faffing around in their luxury binge and see the revolution that is afoot so that they are not consumed by it; and alongside them, many innocent people. Seeing SUVs being randomly attacked during the week, I couldn’t get it off my mind what happens when wild animals like lions and tigers taste that slightly-salty human blood. Our street urchins, who used to ‘tuale’ for big cars, seem to have lost their innocence. Let us begin to think of the day when Nigerians will get their pride back in countries like Gabon, Angola, South Africa, Libya, Malaysia, Ethiopia, China, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, Italy and the rest of Europe, the Americas and so on. We are despised in almost every country in the world. I see why. Most people cannot see why we have such a huge challenge with corruption and our leaders are the ‘richest’ in the world, while we run to their country to hustle rather than fix our country. The other day we saw how congressmen sleep in their offices in the USA, because they cannot afford rent in Washington, while many of own congressmen own multiple houses in the same city! No, we cannot dump our crap on other countries.
It is beyond shameful that we are beset with bad, visionless leadership over the decades and we are now as orphans all over the world, ‘hustling’ for survival, with many of our youths doing some sort of crime or the other. Only two weeks ago, the FBI bust a syndicate of 77 Nigerians who do cybercrime in the USA. We have seen how our boys are being sold on the slab for $400 in war-torn Libya, where thousands of Nigerians still troop to. We have seen the number of our girls prostituting in Italy, Spain, Greece, Russia. So rather than this international nuisance, we should be thinking of increasing the population of our educated, smart folk who are earning top dollar plus respect, all over the world too. Pleading free movement, for me is an irresponsible rhetoric. It is the same theory being advanced by the supporters of the Jigawa 123, whom rather than call the attention of the governor of Jigawa, are craftily normalizing an abnormal situation, and kicking the can of illiteracy, poverty, vagrancy, and low productivity down the road. That is how we always miss the point. This is the time for serious governance. This nation is expiring. The bitter things we say about ourselves, the tribal/religious/ethnic/clannish affiliations, which are deeper and more entrenched than the loyalty to our Nigerian-ness, makes me wonder whether a day will ever come, when this country will save itself from disintegration. Nigeria is disintegrating. And no, restructuring will no longer solve this problem. It is no wonder that none of these Nigerians in SA are willing to return home even on a free ride. Rather than the vituperations and insults to our South African hosts, we should bury our heads in shame as a people.
All that sing-song about our sacrifices under Apartheid will no longer wash. We have shown the world that we are free spenders anyway, and so are under-appreciated. With this new onslaught, Nigeria should be ready to take a decisive decision like happened in 1983-85. I don’t see how we can insist on leaving many of our boys in that country.
Our focus should be far. We must find how we can fix our nation. Whether we are talking of Jigawa and the rest of Nigeria, or Nigeria and the rest of the world, what we are getting here is serious feedback. Nigeria is easily the most misgoverned country in the world. How long it’ll hold up hence, I cannot tell.