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BUREAUCRATS AND INDIGENES: PRODUCING AND BYPASSING CERTIFICATES OF ORIGIN IN NIGERIA

  • Laurent Fourchard
Abstract

In the last three decades, the politics of indigeneity have led to discrimination against and marginalization of non-indigenes as well as numerous violent conflicts between indigenes and non-indigenes in Nigeria. This discrimination, which is based on a localized place of belonging, has today become bureaucratized: local governments produce ‘certificates of indigene’ to identify the origin of their holders. This article looks at the bureaucratic machinery of issuing certificates of origin in two local governments of Oyo State (in the south-west) and the everyday encounters between users and bureaucrats that cannot be reduced to practices of corruption. It looks at the complicated and ambivalent process of identifying a ‘true indigene’; this process is supposed to strengthen local citizenship but it also contributes to the daily functioning of the state and is largely accepted by the majority as part of the state's ‘insidious gentleness’. The article also seeks to understand why official discrimination against non-indigenes is poorly contested locally by assessing the role of these documents in accessing public employment, university places and basic services, and examining whether areas inhabited by non-indigenes are perceived as being neglected or abandoned by the state. Currently, discrimination policies are implemented unequally and in many instances client–patron relationships help sidestep these policies.

Au cours des trois dernières décennies, les politiques de l’indigénéité ont conduit à la discrimination et la marginalisation des non-indigenes au Nigeria et à de nombreux conflits entre indigenes et non-indigenes. Cette discrimination fondée sur une politique localisée de l’appartenance est aujourd’hui bureaucratisée : les gouvernements locaux produisent des certificats d’indigene qui identifient clairement les origines de leur détenteur. Cet article explore l’appareil bureaucratique chargé de délivrer ces certificats dans deux gouvernements locaux de l’Etat d’Oyo (dans le Sud-ouest) et les interactions quotidiennes entre usagers et bureaucrates qui ne peuvent se réduire, contrairement aux perceptions populaires, à des pratiques de corruption. Il examine plus particulièrement le processus compliqué et ambivalent d’identification d’un ‘vrai indigene’ censé renforcer le sentiment d’appartenance à une citoyenneté locale et qui contribue simultanément au fonctionnement routinier de l’Etat. Cette « douceur insidieuse » de l’Etat est largement acceptée par la majorité. L’article essaie aussi de comprendre pourquoi la discrimination officielle contre les non-indigenes est si peu contestée localement en évaluant le rôle de ces certificats dans l’accès à l’emploi public, à l’université et aux services de base. Il se demande enfin si les quartiers habités par les non-indigenes sont localement perçus comme abandonnés par l’Etat. Il s’avère que les politiques discriminatoires sont en réalité très inégalement appliquées et l’importance des relations de patronage permet en réalité de contourner nombreuses formes de discriminations.

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