By Obi Enweze
“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding. And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people” – The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When it comes to the constitution, Nigeria’s political class abandons discretion so stupidly. The legal impotence of the Nigerian constitution will likely rank first when compared to other developing nations of the world. Politicians, the corruptly enriched and powerful routinely find creative ways to simply side-step sections that they deem inconvenient or uncomfortable. The section dealing with fundamental rights of Nigerian citizenship had long been dust binned and completely forgotten. When convenient or supportive of some of their excesses, like the devil who quote the Bible to justify an evil scheme, these corrupt politicians recite the same constitution often violated at will.
Governor Babatunde Fashola toed this now predictable line, barely, twenty-four hours after trampling on the protected rights of ordinary Nigerian citizens. Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, sought refuge in the principles of separation of powers when protesting a call for the national government to review his reckless acts. The validity of contested provision is not in doubt, yes Fashola have state police powers. However, he has absolutely no powers on earth to deport a fellow citizen! The right of citizenship is inalienable and remains the fundamental principle of society. Today, with evil power-drunk dictators, like Babatunde Fashola, those rights mean little in Nigeria.
Somebody should whisper into the ears of Fashola that the ultimate purpose of separation of powers is to protect the liberty and security of the governed, as opposed to giving him the unfettered discretion to decide who to forcefully kidnap and deport to any place of his choice.
To understand the game that Fashola is playing, we may have to take a big leap to the past to see how our leaders, treat citizens (citizens is often viewed as a derogatory term by corrupt politicians).
DEPORTATION OF ALHAJI SHUGABA ABDULRAHAM
My first encounter with this ugly fact was as an eavesdropper in a conversation between my father and a gentleman. The man, a radical (a term often used by the government to discredit social critics), had then asked my father, the worst possible thing that the government can do to a Nigerian citizen. My fathers of blessed memories, was quick with his answer, denial of the right of citizenship. In complete shock and horror, I listened as my father narrated the story of Alhaji Abdulraham Shugaba.
During the years of “Shagari –Democracy” a one-party dictatorship similar to what we have now, NPN was in power. Shugaba, a member of the opposition party, GNPP was a strong opponent of the all-powerful NPN in Bornu State. He was a very flamboyant orator whose populist agenda appealed to his constituents. Shugaba, became too popular and could not be rigged-out by the NPN (then with a slogan, NPN-POWER!). Shugaba was a huge challenge to the power of NPN to rig in any politician of their choice.
Through a scheme and a series of political intrigues that will even baffle a hard-core Machiavellian, he was labeled a citizen of a neighboring country, Chad. Undeterred, he blasted the NPN rigging machines and called them citizens of Hell.
Black-market court injunctions were hurriedly purchased by the NPN, preventing him from contesting elections based on lack of, Nigerian citizenship! A determined Shugaba, painstakingly and successfully challenged most of the early injunctions. His success at the tribunals outraged the ruling oppressors.
His detractors became more desperate that he could have ever imagined. NPN, purchased another decision with a deportation order, without procedural due process. Before, Shugaba could say, “appeal,” Security agents were in his house very early in the morning, all armed to the teeth. Before the embattled Shugaba could say “what-up?” he was whisked away in his sleeping clothes (half-naked, barefooted) and deported to Chad. The protests of the Chadian government, that, Shugaba is not from Chad, met the unsympathetic ears of the ruling class.
The sensibilities and conscience of Nigerians were agitated, that was then, before the current state of hopelessness. A group of people with similar political interests mounted a legal defense. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, thank goodness, the apex court overturned the deportation order.
Monetary damages were awarded to the obviously rattled Shugaba, no amount of money can compensate one for such blatant and traumatic ordeal. The sad thing is that, Shugaba had to overcome high artificial obstacles before he was given a fraction of the court award. The result was again surprised, oppressive leaders found a weapon of choice, deportation.
DEPORTATION AS A WEAPON BY IBB – PATRICK WILMOT.
When a professor in ABU, Patrick Wilmot, became critical of the excess of Babangida, the man called Maradonna simply laughed. Nigerians watched helplessly when without any due consideration to his legal status, Babangida deported the hapless professor.
GOV. BABATUNDE FASHOLA’S FORCEFULLY SEIZURE, AND “DEPORTATION” OF FELLOW NIGERIANS THE HEIGHT OF CITIZEN ABUSE.
Now, the ruling class is moving it notches higher, of course in geometrical progression. Deportation based on poverty, is even worse that the above cases and that is exactly what Fashola is doing, period. What the man who at the bare minimum understands the meaning of human rights is doing is unreasonable or more obnoxious to Nigerian constitution which he once swore to uphold.
When Gov. Babs Fashola started his new wave of violating fundamental human rights of Nigerians, he did by deporting, Northerners. His rationale for the deportation was “to free the state of the destitute and beggars, and who are mostly from the northern part of the country.” Some of us cried out in shock. This argument remains the most heart-breaking argument proffered by any person anywhere in the world for an egregious constitutional breach. One of the most important duties of a government is to improve the welfare of the citizens, including the poor, rather than do that, Fashola is not only trampling of the rights of the poor, but committing mass-murder. Some of these people will die off out of frustration.
After listening for a while, and sensing that Nigerians have forgotten. Fashola then embarked on a new wave. This time just like in the first exercise, he looks at people faces, and decided that they are likely from Anambah State, and deported all of them.
Even if one grudgingly listen to Fashola’s belated argument of “Welfare,” what type of welfare is he providing by forcefully deporting them from a place they call home. Fashola is eager to welcome the rich who swell the huge purse of his godfather with monies taken through taxes, levies and penalties for unlawfully confiscated goods, yet he cannot even use a small percentage of the fund to provide basic amenities for the poor. The quick-fix is deportation.
THE WRONGFUL ACT OF FASHOLA IS NOT DEPORTATION BUT KIDNAPPING
Simple definitions with very little explanation:
The expulsion of an undesirable alien from a country! Therefore, to be deported, one has to be expelled from another country where he is an alien. Never in the history of mankind has a man been deported from his own country! If there is genuine dispute as to the citizenship of the deported, the court ought to resolve it, not the executive. That is exactly why we have anti-aggrandizement principle.
The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force or Fraud, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time. See http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/kidnapping
The situation even when viewed in a light most favorable to Babatunde Fashola, will still be kidnapping. The formulation of illegal deportation decrees in these type of cases presents problems of considerable complexity. Any public policy consideration of appropriate goal of freeing the state of destitute must necessarily be subordinated to the primary question — the constitutionality of a dictatorial state governor trampling in a most egregious manner, on the constitutional rights of Nigerian citizens. Such an act is a violation equal protection of the laws and the most basic right, fundamental human rights.
Obi Enweze was the Secretary General of NADECO –USA/Canada