Atiku’s ‘Dual Citizenship’ Suit Against Iwu Will Affect Millions Of Nigerian Diaspora
Anyone who surfs the thriving Nigerian Blogs (internet media) would have noticed these admirable and muscular debates of issues that concern Nigeria and Nigerians – both at home and abroad. One issue that may as yet take primetime in cyberspace is a little noticed suit filed by Abubakar Atiku and Action Congress seeking to have Maurice Iwu removed as Chairman of INEC on the basis of Iwu’s alleged dual citizenship. By implication, the suit also seeks to bar millions of Nigerians with dual citizenship from holding certain offices (elective and appointive) in the motherland. Prof. Iwu of INEC is the defendant for the time being but the entire Nigerian Diaspora - first generation and their off-springs are collectively the defendants-in-chief. That includes this writer, Philip Emeagwali and a certain Godwin Akinwande, who claims to live in the United States (a Diasporan for sure) but who turned ‘sabo’ on his fellow Diasporans by seeming to support the suit through a rambling essay he somehow managed to get published in some Nigerian national dailies in the month of May. I assume Akinwande to be sadly ignorant of the fact that he is also a defendant-at-large in the suit; otherwise he wouldn’t have agreed to write the clumsy piece he did for any price in defense of the very people who are intent on watering down his Nigerian citizenship. But most puzzlingly, this Godwin Akinwande who says he is reverend possesses and uses this email address email@example.com. So, I assume he also goes by the name of Dan Okereke. You can see that from his article published in the Leadership.
That said, the suit (if it succeeds, and it has real prospects) will: (a) bar Nigerian citizens of full blood/by birth who have naturalized in other countries and their children from being appointed to most federal jobs in Nigeria or even qualified to run for certain elective offices; (b) stigmatize Nigerians with dual citizenship as a people who ought to be hounded and held suspect by their compatriots; (c) partially denaturalize millions of Nigerians with dual citizenship by redlining them; (d) effectively discourage millions from seeking the citizenship of countries of their domicile, thus making them vulnerable to deportation and shutting them out of lucrative life-changing careers that require citizenship; (e) force resignation, removal or impeachment of any Nigerian Diasporan currently holding any of the offices Atiku/AC claim are constitutionally off-limits to them (they may also be forced to refund all emoluments they earned, as Atiku/AC also insist Iwu must do); (f) strip every Nigerian Diasporan of full and unfettered citizenship of Nigeria – a country of his/her birth and ancestry; (g) create two hostile sets of citizens – Diasporan against home-based (brother against brother); and (h) compel every Diasporan who had held the offices at issue to cough up every Naira he earned or dare the consequences.
Granted that the action has Maurice Iwu as the sole defendant but that does not mean that the ruling of the court when it comes will impact on him alone. The opposite is true, and that is absolutely true – no exceptions, no man-know-man. In other words, it will impact each and every Nigerian Diasporan in Prof. Iwu’s position and those are, again: millions with dual citizenship and many more yet to acquire same. AC and Atiku filed the action as part of their strategy geared to seeking nullification of the presidential election on the legal rationale that the election was null and void as having been umpired by a ‘foreigner’ – Iwu, allegedly a US citizen by naturalization. I might add that the way the pleading hammered on Iwu having sworn allegiance to the United States and being a registered voter there makes it sound like any Diasporan who falls into the same category has committed something like treason against the Federation of Nigeria. For those who don’t know it yet, swearing allegiance and registering to vote are ordinary matters of routine in the naturalization process that is never intended to replace the allegiance you have to your country of birth as of natural right. The suit also seeks a declaration that Iwu’s tenure is unconstitutional and therefore he should vacate office forthwith and refund his salaries/emoluments; and to be sent to jail if he fails to budge. Thank God, expulsion (or deportation) from Nigeria was not pleaded to boot. But who knows if someone becomes suddenly emboldened and decides to haul all Diasporans before Nigerian courts to be deported back to their adopted countries.
Much as I can understand why some people may not want to get involved in Atiku/AC’s scorched-earth battles with Prof. Iwu on the other fronts, this one about seeking to shut Diasporans out is way overly and taking matters too far. It is no longer about whether the elections were free and fair – that one has been discussed much already; it is about the future of the present generation of millions of Nigerians who naturalized in other countries (mostly Europe ad the United States) and their children borne in the countries of their domicile; and then their children’s children, not to talk of the millions more in line to acquiring foreign citizenships. It is also about the disparate impact this suit portends for broad sections of the Nigerian Diaspora. Disparate in the sense that, by credible estimates, more than 80% of the odd five million Nigerians domiciled in foreign lands have origins in the southern parts of Nigeria, especially the South West and South East. And to think of the talent Nigeria holds (and is bound to lose) amongst her Diaspora ranks makes it even scarier. And then this suit is coming in an era of unprecedented global enlightenment when Arnold Schwarzenegger (an Austrian) is Governor of California today and Barrack Obama (a Kenyan) is about becoming president of the United States. Yet, a whole body of teeming Nigerian Diasporans is just about to be barred from holding a job in their motherland. Can you dig it?
What to do? Well, for starters, a friend of the court brief (amicus) is in the offing to interplead the Nigerian Diaspora as a class party-by-consequence; and the National Assembly will surely be pressured to amend the constitution to remove any consequences of dual citizenship for those who are Nigerians by birth. It is so sad that from demanding absentee voting rights, the Nigerian Diaspora has come full circle back to just about losing it all. The way the average Diasporan sees it, is this: we cannot be remitting over $4 billion Dollars into the Nigerian economy (according to World Bank) and be timid about our basic citizenship rights. That doesn’t add up. And in the United States, a Nigerian Diasporan can walk into an American court and walk away with top Dollars if he has been discriminated against based on national origin. So, why would anyone expect him to remain silent when some politician is trying to visit him with much worse in the land of his birth – the land of his ancestors from the beginning of time? No way.
If I may add, it is dubious of anyone (a Godwin Akinwande or any other) to harass any Diasporan who has spoken out against this suit. Akinwande tried to do that by resorting to some time-worn allegation that Iwu or INEC encouraged the Diasporan backlash against the suit. Such tactics will not work to back-off Diasporans from tackling a lawsuit that portends real danger to all Diasporans presently in service of the motherland and those still aspiring to serve. This is why I am dead certain that the essays before this one were all propelled by nothing else but fear – real fear that the odds are good that Atiku/AC might prevail to the partial disenfranchisement of Nigeria’s multitudes sojourning hard in foreign lands. Fear is a greater motivation than money and partisanship combined.