According to a report on November 9th, 2020 from Reuters, Nigerian Immigration Authorities have recently returned a passport to one Modupe Odele. Odele was a lawyer, who arranged for the legal defenses for protestors in the recent October Nigerian police brutality protests. The returning of Odele’s passport and the subsequent ending of Odele’s detainment marks a positive change in the Nigerian government’s recent authoritarian response to the protests. It is important to note, however, the immigration officials provided no new details with the return of Odele’s passport and have declined to give a response or comment on their recent action. All this means, that while the end of the detainment is a positive action, it would be wise to continue to view the Nigerian government with caution and skepticism.
In order to fully grasp the significance of this situation, we must look into the past events that culminated in Odele’s unjust detainment. Odele is a lawyer, responsible for organizing the legal defences for protestors who were arrested in the recent October Nigerian SARS protests. The Nigerian SARS unit, or the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad, was a rogue police squad that has multiple allegations of robbing, torturing, and even killing innocents who the officers think could have money. The push for these officer’s accountability ultimately culminated in a series of protests throughout Nigeria. Unfortunately, many of these protests became violent resulting in the deaths of protestors. One such incident occurred in the nation’s capital Lagos, where Nigerian security forces opened fire upon protestors and hit several people according to witnesses. While the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, attempted to quell the protests by announcing that he would be disbanding SARS, others such as Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu have speculated that the mostly peaceful protests are being hijacked by “criminals and miscreants.” All of these events, as well as a 2,000 inmate prison break from correctional facilities in Benin city, have led to an ever-escalating situation that contributed to Odele’s detainment.
It is undeniable that on first appearance the situation surrounding Modupe Odele’s detainment appears morally dubious. Upon closer examination, however, the circumstances surrounding the entire Nigerian government make it a bit difficult to discern the intent and nature of the government. While the detainment is certainly alarming, we clearly are looking at a government that appears unable to regulate itself, as well as adequately serve its people. While government officials are largely declaring unifying messages and taking steps towards peace, the police and more frontline level government operatives are taking brutal approaches that contradict their government’s actions and statements. The subsequent detainment and release of Odele is just another clear example of the unpredictable nature of the government and the larger failures of the overall Nigerian system. While some might be calling for the resignation of President Buhari, I would argue that these events are more indicative of a larger systemic failure. The Nigerian government and African governments, in general, have long suffered due to a lack of proper resources, as well as adequate control over those resources. While the bloody past of colonialism is no secret, modern-day corporate colonialism is still a very real issue, with many nations and corporations effectively taking advantage of these developing nations, and draining these countries of their resources to better sustain their own people and profit. Solving the historical and modern-day effects of imperialism is no small task, and it would be foolish of me to pretend to know the answer. With that being said, however, there are a plethora of nations with more than enough wealth to spare, and I thus call upon these nations to offer their wealth and services in bolstering these struggling nations such as Nigeria. One of the oldest anthropological theories on Indigenous American economies is the concept of gift-giving and the power that a gift has in developing allies and bonds. I, therefore, would encourage wealthy first-world nations to offer a modern day interpretation of these “gifts” in the form of their wealth, resources and support. To any skeptical readers who are more transactional, I would encourage these readers to view this “gift”, as an investment into the powerful allies that Nigeria and other struggling nations can become when we begin to develop a more altruistic global mindset.
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