I find it difficult to comprehend how from time to time we hear the cry of marginalization from one ethnic group or another in this country. This is because those who should be crying of marginalization are not the ones crying while those who should not be crying are currently the ones crying. But the truth remains that we have all been marginalized in one way or the other by the ruling class in this country.
It beats my imagination to hear people utter statements like ” the Igbos are the most marginalized ethnic group in this country”. This thinking is obviously borne out of a poor knowledge of Nigeria’s history or an attempt to live in self denial. Since the introduction of the elective principle in 1922 with the adoption of the Cliffords Constitution which paved the way for elections in 1923 into the Lagos City Council, the Igbos had a near commanding control of the enterprise called Nigeria. They produced Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor General, first Senate President, first President, first Republican President all in the person of the inimitable Owelle of Onitsha, Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe. They also produced the second Senate President in the person of Dr Nwafor Orizu. Jaja Nwachuku became Nigeria’s first Speaker of the House of Representaives, the first Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the first Minister of Foreign Affairs. Major General Johnson Thompson Umunnakwe became not only the first indigenous Head of the Army but also Nigeria’s first military Head of State. 3 out of the 5 battalion commanders in Nigeria at that time were from the Eastern Region including Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who was the commander of the 5th Battalion in Kano. They also held strategic positions in the Army like Quartermaster general, head of Intelligence unit, Armory, Signals corp e.t.c In the academia, the produced 3 Vice-Chancellors out of the 4 existing Universities that we had at that time including the University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan. Igbos won elections in Lagos in pre-independence Nigeria and if not that the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo employed the wisdom of the gods, an Igbo man would have been the first Premier of the Western thereby giving them control of 2 out of the 3 regions in Nigeria. Other accomplishments of the Igbos include domination of the federal civil service, first black man to be appointed as a World Court Judge, first Commonwealth Gold Medallist, richest black man in the world and control of the commanding heights of the economy through the ownership of business enterprises with global acclaim. But all that was to change in the wee hours of January 15th, 1966.
The coup and counter-coup of 1966 led to a chain of events that eventually culminated in a 30-month fratricidal civil war which the Igbos lost. The victors of the war which was the Hausa/Fulani in alliance with the Yorubas became the new hegemons in Nigeria’s political life. With the exception of General Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Ernest Shonekan, the Hausa/Fulani produced 8 leaders( both military and civilians) who governed the nation for about 30 years in quick succession. They created states and local governments which favoured the North. They also changed the principle of allocation of funds to the federating units from the derivation principle to based on population and size of the states. They ran a unitary system concentrating power at the center. They also dominated the security agencies such that Hausa language became the de facto lingual franca of the Army.
The return to democracy in 1999 heralded a new dawn in Nigeria’s political life.Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. the new President was said to be totally devoid of ethnic or tribal bias as he won votes in all regions of the country except in his own region where he lost to his opponent Chief Olu Falae. But we cannot deny certain facts. The heads of the Police and the DSS throughout his 8 year tenure were Yorubas. The Central Bank Governor, the GMD of NNPC and other sensitive positions in Nigeria were allocated to his kinsmen. He also appropriated the office of the Minister of Petroleum to himself throughout his tenure in office. Through some strange shenanigans, Ondo state suddenly became an oil producing state and he proceeded to domicile a multi-billion dollar gas project there. The Niger Delta people cried out about marginalization but nothing much was done to appease them other than few acts of tokenism.
If the truth is to be told, there is no geo-political zone that has not produced a President in Nigeria. The South West produced Obasanjo and Shonekan( Ogun State). The South East produced Azikiwe and Aguiyi Ironsi( Anambra and Abia). The South South produced Goodluck Ebele Jonathan( Bayelsa). The North Central produced Yakubu Gowon ( Plateau State), Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar (Niger State). The North West produced Umar Musa Yar’adua, Muhammadu Buhari( Both men are from Katsina State)and Murtala Muhammed( Kano State) while the North East produced Sani Abacha ( His father is from Borno while his mother is from Kano). Therefore, It is safe to say that no geo-political zone has been truly marginalized. But the same cannot be said of ethnic nationalities. Many minority ethnic groups like the Urhobo, Efik, Edo,Etche, Igala, Idoma to mention a few have never produced Nigeria’s President. Are we saying that these ethnic groups lack presidential materials? Are they doomed to eternal servitude in the Nigerian state just because of their small numbers? These are the people who should be crying about marginalization and not the Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba who have benefited from the Nigerian enterprise at one time or the other. Moreover, i believe that the time has come when the oppressed Nigerian masses will rise up as a collective and say no to the oppressive political class in Nigeria who like to dress themselves in the garb of various ethnic colourations so as to deceive the oppressed masses. The only marginalization that i know of is the marginalization of the oppressed Nigerian people by the ruling corrupt political elite.