By **Angela Chen**
Nigerian critic Okey Ndibe is a man of many achievements. He’s a political columnist for The Sun, beloved Guernica contributor, visiting professor at Brown University—and apparently important enough to be declared a Nigerian enemy of the state.
Ndibe’s political views caused former Nigerian president Umaru Yar’A’dua to grant him the honor of being included on a list of critics and activists ordered to be arrested at any Nigerian point of entry. Yar’A’dua passed away last May, but the enemies list lives on. And this list is why Ndibe, innocent of any crime, was detained at the Lagos airport on January 8, during his first visit back to his native Nigeria since 2008.
Thus is the conclusion and explanation to the saga I blogged about a few weeks ago. A refresher: Ndibe, well-known for being an outspoken critic of Nigeria’s political system, had his American and Nigerian passports confiscated by the State Security Service upon arrival, was questioned about his writings, then ordered to return the following Monday.
The good news is that on this following Monday, Ndibe was assured that it was all a mix-up, he didn’t do anything wrong; it was all just due to that little issue of the enemies list. The SSS director even promised Ndibe that he would never be detained again. All well and good, and it’s heartening to see the outpouring of support that Ndibe has publicly received from newspapers like Nigerian Village Square, but Ndibe being absolved addresses the symptom and not the cause. Ndibe is lucky to be a high-profile international figure, but the list undoubtedly includes those whose detainment will not receive the publicity his experience has. Ndibe is right to say that, the quality of his citizenship is degraded when any citizen is mistreated.
Ndibe’s detainment is not an issue about affronting a prominent critic, but an issue that reveals a lot about a country that has enemies list, that has an SSS that carries out these orders, and has yet to learn from the very columns Ndibe wrote that branded him an enemy of the state.
Copyright 2011 Angela Chen
Angela Chen is an editorial assistant at Guernica.
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