In the realm of Nigerian politics no word or phrase has been so abused as the word “marginalisation,” especially as it relates to groups of people or ethnic tribes of the country.
A combination of low productivity, excessive greed, breathtaking corruption and cluelessness in government and leadership, and a rising population has meant that the national cake was never going to be enough to meet all the needs of a population estimated to be over 100 million at the turn of the 4th republic democratic experience in 1999. To be fair the phrase of “we are marginalised” began creeping in after the annulment of the June 12,1993 election, widely believed to be the freest election ever held in Nigeria, and won by MKO Abiola, a Yoruba business man. Most Yorubas believed it was a deliberate oppression by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy to continue to dominate and achieve their “born-to-rule” philosophy! The Hausa-Fulani group quietly conceded, after the murder of Abiola, in prison, and let the two contestants in the 1999 elections be of the Yoruba ethnic stock.
But no sooner than General Obasanjo taken the mantle of leadership did the remaining two major ethnic groups ( Hausa-Fulani of the north and the Ibos of eastern Nigeria) began to shout “blue murder” at perceived marginalisation of their ethnic group in the share of the national cake- infrastructural development and government positions, including appointments as ministers and head of “juicy” ministries and government agencies. Unfounded as the claim was, it did thrive and then later, the Niger delta rebels took to militancy and armed struggle to protest their own marginalisation by the Nigerian state. For me there was indeed a clear case of marginalisation of the people of Niger delta, from where the only revenue source- Oil- is derived by the Nigerian state, yet their lot has been polluted lands and rivers, with no clean water to drink or promote their fish farming and agriculture, meaning more poverty and deprivation!
Years of military dictatorship has not helped matters, as the soldiers in government, with their civilian friends made several critical decisions, without consultations, to suit their ethnic groups and villages at the detriment of other tribes and towns who did not have the opportunity to be on the sharing table. And that is why you have double the number of constitutionally recognised local government areas in Kano state than in Lagos state, with its vast population, causing a lot of friction in the Obasanjo years with Bola Tinubu of Lagos.
My ethnic group has suffered severe marginalisation in the hands of majority and even powerful minority ethnic groups in, first the old Bendel state and now, Delta state. The Ukwuani/Ndokwa people of Delta state has never ever produced a minister, not even junior minister in the history of Nigeria, yet they are the second largest ethnic group in Delta state. All their neighbours- The Urhobos, the Aniochas and the tiny Ika people cheat the Ndokwa people for fun! At the end of British Colonial rule the whole expanse of land covering the area now classed as Ndokwa was called “Aboh division” while the eastern neigbouring area from Ika to Asaba- smaller area both in size and in population- was called “Asaba division.” Before the soldiers left governance in 1999, Asaba division had been balkanised into 6 LGAs whilst the larger Aboh division has only 3 LGAs. And so are government presence in terms of infrastructure to the extent that to this day, no tertiary institution, note even a campus of any state colleges, is in the whole stretch of Ndokwa land. So when an Ndokwa person cries of marginalisation, please give some hearing for his/her case is a fair shout!
However the bottom line of Nigerian marginalisation is corruption, injustice and selfishness of the ruling elite who refused to apply justice and fairness to all. Kleptocracy is at the root of all facets of marginalisation in Nigeria. But those who shout the loudest about marginalisation are the ones who will cause more havoc when they take positions in government or other critical posts where they will only feather their nest and those of their friends only. They play the marginalisation card when it has not reached their turn to “come and chop.” They use their tribes, religion and ethnic groups to shout about marginalisation but when they get what they want they start oppressing their next door villages and towns, as they carry everything to their villages, like James Ibori did in his eight years of maladministration of Delta where he took every development to Oghara-his village, including a stadium that will never pay-back, and denying even his fellow Urhobo towns of any such developments.
THE TRULLY MARGINALISED NIGERIANS:
As I said earlier, ambitious Nigerian politicians play the marginalisation card to get into power or privileged positions so they can start the looting spree. Marginalisation in Nigeria, if you ask me, has no ethnic, tribal or religious colouration. It is the norm everywhere and anywhere you go in Nigeria. It is caused by corruption and the refusal of the ruling elite, even down to the local government chairman, to act with justice and fairplay- to know that whatever resources you are managing, are been held in trust for the whole state and every town and hamlets in the local government, and not your money to be wasted and stolen with impunity and there won’t be consequences. Below is my list of the truly marginalised Nigerians:
· The Nigerian people as a whole, east or west, north and south, who have been persistently denied their fundamental human right to choose their leaders, even during so called bogus democratic rule. Their leaders, at all levels of governance had been imposed on them. The Nigerian people are powerless in the decision of who rules them and so they watch helplessly as a political cabal which includes their own sons and daughters steal their common wealth blindly and repeatedly rape them and they cannot do anything about it because their votes at regular elections don’t count. These are the seriously marginalised Nigerians robbed repeatedly by a clueless but powerful diabolical cabal.
· The 40 million unemployed Nigerian youths, some of them with second degrees, with no work to do and earning no income in their prime age where their productivity to the nation would have been greater, but are allowed to pine away with no hope and faith in Nigeria. The ladies end up as local prostitutes and those “lucky” enough become international prostitutes in Italy, Holland and other European cities. Many of them go through illegal emigration in desperation, some never seen or heard of again, probably dead of hunger and thirst in the Sahara desert, or dead as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea with ram shackled boats into Europe.
· The low paid Nigerian workers who are expected to live on a minimum wage of N7,500 a month ( about $50 US), many with nuclear and extended families to cater for their needs in a country where staggering unemployment statistic is hardly of any bother to the political leaders. And so the poor worker can earn these peanuts whilst the Senators and House of Representative members wants N15 million a month for rigging themselves to power and idling themselves away in Abuja in “bow-and-go” screening processes.
· The lower ranked military personnel- who have to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria and fight for our freedom on very low pay as well as, yes I do mean it, police officers- those who are forced to take N50 in road check-points, some of them illegally placed road blocks for extortion and oppression of mostly commercial road users and drivers. Their higher ranked officers are the criminals that steal even monies meant for their uniforms and sometimes deny them their low wages for months because of their greed!
· The vulnerable peoples of Nigeria: Amongst these are the children, many forced into child labour, out of school due to no fault of theirs, denied the innocence of their youth, especially those raped by rampaging male/female wolves (it could be both sexes); the old age people who should be enjoying a pension or some form of social security but are denied these by the excessively greedy politicians at all levels, at a time they were supposed to enjoy the remaining part of their lives.
· All other Nigerians denied basic infrastructure like a decent hospital for treatment of their diseases and ailments whilst the rampaging elites take themselves and their wards to foreign clinics at the berth of a headache; those denied a properly funded schools for their children and many Nigerians who die or are maimed daily on dilapidated poorly funded or ill maintained roads.
These are truly the marginalised peoples of Nigeria- not the political wolves that use “marginalisation” as a smokescreen to commit more atrocities on the peoples’ of Nigeria, and so long as these needs and abnormally are not addressed Nigeria will remain a failing state.
By Tony Ishiekwene
( London, UK )