First, I would like to advise that those of us who might have been looking at the unfolding issues from the standpoint of their living experiences in the United States, should remember that in practical social terms, Nigeria is not the same kind of nation as the United States although constitutionally (as this essay shall demonstrate), Nigeria aspires to be like the former. Nativism or indigenousness, statism and tribalism prevail in Nigeria and do impact significantly on the life chances of individuals. Whereas what predominantly matters in the United States is one's state of residence (although covert racial intimidation and ethnic intimidation, powered by racism and its institutional support structure, do still rear their ugly heads from time to time) due mainly to the immigrant basis of its national formation, in Nigeria, on the other hand, an important life-chances determining factor is one's state of origin or even one's local government. So, to that extent, Fani-Kayode’s essay merely reminded all of us of the social realities of Nigeria--realities that may strike those of us who have become accustomed to the US system of social organization as oddities.
Second, it's common knowledge that by and large, Nigeria's federation's resources were used in creating modern Lagos, which used to be the capital city of Nigeria up until 1991, when the capital was moved to newly-constructed Abuja. It’s also common knowledge that as a federal capital, Lagos was regarded by all Nigerians as a commonly-owned territory of the Nigerian nation even though there was a simultaneous understanding that Yoruba-speaking Nigerians are much more native to that land mass. Thus, even if one were to play a devil’s advocate of a Fani Kayode revisionist-history declaration of Lagos as an exclusive ethnic enclave-- given the territory’s history of being developed with Nigeria’s federation’s resources and simultaneously being vested in by Nigerians across ethnic and class lines-- Lagos, to Nigerians in general, is still not an Ibadan, a Kano, an Enugu, a Jos or a Calabar. To Nigerians in general—probably both in their short-term and long-term memories--Lagos is still more like Abuja even though the latter has taken the official place of the former as the federal capital territory. Its continued dual attribute of being both the most populous city in Nigeria and the nation’s economic nerve center, despite losing its erstwhile status as the center of the federal administrative machinery, is reflective of a historic place that it has occupied in the imagination of Nigerians in general as a viable source of life support in the form of jobs.
Be that as it may, Nigeria is indeed a country of profound contradictions—contradictions that keep her from realizing her full potentials. So, while Nigerians, in general, view their states as “states of origin” and remain psychically attached to their given ethnic groups, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not label or categorize any state as belonging to any ethnic group. Whether we like it or not, the idea of "nativity" or indigenousness is deep-seated in the Nigerian ethno-cultural ethos, and clearly, it transcends both statehood and nationhood. Each of us, don’t we, believes that we are a native or indigene of this or that town/village in Nigeria. In that case, we always distinguish "indibeanyi" (that is, natives/indigenes) from "indibialabia" (that is, residents or persons who came from elsewhere) no matter how long such residents have lived in our midst. Though culturally in vogue and deeply-rooted in the consciousness of Nigerians, there is no provision for an Igboland, a Yorubaland, an Hausaland, an Ijawland, or a Nupeland in the currently-operative 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. What that constitution says in chapter 1, part I (2) is that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.” Sub-section 3 (1) of that chapter then provides that “there shall be 36 states in Nigeria, that is to say, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.”
Earlier on, I noted that every government within Nigeria is responsible for the security and welfare of the people within its area of jurisdiction. I also noted that “people” does not mean only natives or indigenes of the affected area. Juxtaposed with that constitutional imperative is the fact that the formula for disbursing federal revenue to the states and local governments includes "population." The population in question covers all of the persons/people who are domiciled in a given state or local government area. So, it's hypocritical for a state to circumvent the constitution by engaging in statism—that is, the act or practice of focusing state resources on state natives or state indigenes--after collecting money from the federation’s account partly on the basis of the official population of human beings within its borders. In real terms, isn’t statism, what predominates in Nigeria? Isn’t statism—as opposed to constitutional federalism—the basis upon which Governor Fashola had his state agents round up and “deport” 14 or 70 persons, described as Igbos, to Anambra state? Is statism not the basis upon which Abia state government, not long ago, expelled fellow Igbos, who are not state indigenes, from his state’s public employment? Those of us who experienced the Nigerian civil war, even as teens, would have thought it impossible or unimaginable that a future Igbo leader would, someday arise, who would achieve a notoriety in history for dismissing fellow Igbos from his state civil service on account of the fact that such expelled Igbos belong to a different administrative unit called a state. What about some states’ practice of extending “contact-only” appointments to non-state indigenes? Are such non-state indigenes not, thereby, being treated as second-class citizens in their own country?
As America's President Abraham Lincoln once famously warned while condemning a dual labor system that prevailed in the United States during the era of slavery (wage labor in the North and slave labor in the South, prior to the 1865 termination of 250 years of African enslavement in the United States as a result of the North's victory in the civil war of 1861-1865), a country divided onto itself cannot endure. For how long will Nigeria continue along the deceitful path of full citizenship here and half-citizenship there--within the same country--for her own citizens?