Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More on the census

From all reports, it looks like there has been a mass exodus from Lagos in the past week as Igbos and Hausas return to their State of Origin. The population figures for Lagos will likely be a considerable underestimate of reality. The obvious question is why people feel they have to leave to their State of Origin? It seems to me there are three reasons why this has happened:

1. The State of Origin law (which originated in the 1970's), which defines one's indigeneity in terms of patriarchal provenance. One may never have lived in Anambra or Kano States, however, because one's father was 'from' there, one's identity is deemed to be Eastern or Northern. Of course, one's father may in fact be in the same unreal relationship to origin as oneself (he may never have lived in Anambra/Kano/etc, but his father did). In other words, the State of Origin law acts as a barrier against cosmopolitanism (and a robust concept of Nigerian citizenship). It is surprising to an outsider how much Nigerians now identify with their imagined or real homeland (but not surprising given the weight of legal and bureaucratic apparatus that enforces it).

2. Obvious political reasons: people want their State/village to have higher figures than the reality, in the hope that this will increase funds appropriated to their local government area (or perhaps increase the number of LGA's stated in the next iteration of the constitution).

3. However, the deepest reason why there has been the exodus is that there is little sense of an urban or cosmopolitan identiy attached to living in a town or city in Nigeria. People inhabit Nigerian cities as if they were a large collection of villages. You could say the same phenomenon happens anywhere in the world - London can be seen as such for instance. People tend to know only their neighbours and those who work in local shops and people who frequent local amenities - all of which helps to form a sense of the 'locale'. The difference is that the village mentality in Nigeria is not simply related to making a village out of one's immediate habitat (that is perhaps the universal phenomena). Rather, the village mentality relates one's being-in-a-place to an identity that is elsewhere. Someone from say Ohafia lives in Lagos as an Ohafian, and only secondarily as a Lagosian. The State of Origin law perpetuates this linkage; however it is a legal framework that articulates a preceding structuration of identity. Unlike the mass exodus to the cities in 19th century Europe, which saw the linkages between one's rural origin and one's newfound urban location being severed (leading to urban alienation, anomie but also just as importantly to new political movements and new forms of politics), this has not happened in Nigeria. Perhaps the break with the past happened in a much sharper fashion in the West because of the rise of the Factory and rapid industrialisation. Urban useage patterns were disrupted and disciplined by the factory clock; whereas in Nigeria, industrialisation on any appreciable scale has yet to begin.


Anonymous,  4:57 pm  

Could it be that a lot of people see the time as holiday, much like christmas? This was discussed on a forum I belong to and this was one of the reasons stated

baba sala,  6:25 pm  

nigerians like holiday and the pounded yam and jollof rice that comes that. Panla, bokoto, egusi with palm wine or ice-guilder

Anonymous,  7:58 pm  

I hope the census happens, without too much agro, and without too much ojoro.

We need it, have done for a long while. Yes, people will complain, people will even seek to subvert it for reasons that might not entirely be clear to them themselves. But that's what people do.

Knowing how many of us there are, and having a clear idea of what the needs are, should theoretically help us spend our money better. Theoretically.

And, as you say, it might help us start to get away from tribal politics (a long long journey, but it must start somewhere). Even for me ("from" Ogun State, but I've lived in Lagos my whole life, and by any reasonable definition, I'm a Lagosian), the tribal slicing and dicing is hard to get away from.


Imnakoya 7:06 am  

This transition between "states of origin" and "states of residence" is against the logic of a census and a sad display of the ignorance of my people!

Regional/tribal affliations cannot be erased from the Nigerian psyche based on how the country is at present- an unreasonably strong central government will forever fuel and stoke the fire of ethic identity. I say make the regions stronger and have them control their own destinies and fate, this will, to some extent, take care of nepotic tribalism and ethnic affliations.

Akin 8:18 am  

I remember when we just had 12 states and it did not matter if you were from Ijebu, Ekiti or Ibadan.

You all came from the Western State.

Now, that the land is splintered with probably each tribe having a state rather than being part of a local government, in my absence I have lost count of how many fifedoms have been created - it was 19, years ago.

There is no doubt that the numbers would not represent the reality, the major towns would lose out to villages that usually have just one man and his dog.

When the elections come, villages end up having 10 times the number of regular residents voting with regards to the census and the towns, exceed the census figures, but everyone was physically there to vote. I dread the results of 2007.

In 1983, ´I´ had already voted (rather been voted for) in my village before we arrived from Lagos, all because the poison of tribalism and religion affirmed and accentuated by the so-called fathers of the nation as Awolowo, Azikiwe and the Sadauna of Sokoto continues to eat away at the core and fibre of the nation`s progress.

In a time long passed, just before Lord Lugard thought of getting the largest contiguous piece of land to rival the jewel of India in 1914, this Nigeria could easily have been 3 countries.

That is now in a parallel universe, one that is probably worth inhabiting.

We have a problem, I hope the census helps towards the solution.

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