Sunday, January 9, 2011

Place of Origin Versus Place of Residence: A Time To Decide

Nigeria has been bleeding for the past fifty years of her existence!It has been enduring an internescene struggle between the constituent ethnic groups. It is a struggle that has, to many sane observers, threatened to destroy the country. Somehow, the country has managed to ride through it all. But for how long, how much more can this potentially great country take?

The struggle has been over a very simple, what, in some places,is an insignificant matter: the issue of a person's state of origin!
There is this atavistic,primordial, almost insane attachment to where one comes from! It was very useful in the now gone days of inter tribal wars, slave raiding, and tribal mark dominated hunter-gatherer era!

The question that begs an answer is this, should this umbilical attachment to a geographical entity still relevant in these days of remote citizenship! I will explain what I mean by remote citizenship! It is the phenomenon that has been engendered by our economically enforced nomadic lifestyle. It is a lifestyle where we do not live in the villages we claim ancestry of, but rather in places, sometimes hundreds,and even thousands, of kilometers away, the places where we can make a living!

Doing away with the state, or place of origin: a piece of information usually required in many government forms, would solve a lot of problems! I do not see the practical function it serves, apart from highlighting our disunity-inducing differences, the things that weaken our always tenuous union,one not broken yet!

Instead, I believe the government should ask for the place of residence. This is a better statistic for realistic planning, rather than the obsolete,retrogressive, and inconsequential, state of origin!

People use the state of origin factor, to deny merit, and promote mediocrity. They do this under the guise of euphemisms like federal character,balancing, and equitable distribution!

The state of origin issue is used by many to ring fence resources, and appointments, for themselves! If we redefine the qualifications for appointments, and running for elections to just place of residence, many people who seem to be in contention now, would loose out! If we say that residence in a place for a minimum of six months, for five consecutive years: and fulfillment of all legitimate civic obligations like payment of taxes, and voting in elections, qualifies one for all the rights and benefits due under the previous state of origin regime, we would truly become a great nation!

Right now, we are witnessing  monumental bloodletting in places like Jos, as a result of people jostling for the resources which can only be gained through origin status. These ethnically motivated socio-economic,and religious conflicts would,if not checked, tear our nation apart one day!

In advanced democracies, people no longer talk about state of origin, they now talk about place of residence! This argument has been taken further by the European Union where people do not even talk about their states, but their nations, and this is done only for purposes of verification! They understand better, that it is not where you come from that is important, but where you are right now.

We need to know that as long as we all hold on to where we come from, and refuse to embrace where we are right now, we will always remain in the past, doomed to be behind those who no longer see ancestral places of origin, as the true index of a person's worth!

I hope this happens soon, because we deserve better than we have set ourselves up to receive!


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