Since the end of the Civil War, the calls for secession hasn’t gained much traction as it has been getting in recent times. However, I do not believe that a breakaway Republic is the answer neither do I buy in to the core argument of marginalization as the basis of breakaway agitations. If we really want to be honest with each other, there has been no region, ethnic group or tribe that hasn’t been marginalized in one way or the other. Even within these ethnic groups, the marginalization of certain sub-groups or tribes is clearly evident.
In many states in the country that comprises of different ethnicities and tribes, there are unwritten and informal laws that a person from a certain tribe, no matter how trustworthy or efficient or capable he or she is, the person simply because he is from a particular tribe or creed will never hold certain positions in the state. There are many instances whereby a person from a particular tribe or creed within a state can never become Governor.
This ethno-religious consideration has even permeated places of worship. The recent Bishop’s rejection saga in Imo state is a quintessential example of ethno-religious sentiments at its best. The Bishop, an Igbo man from Anambra state, was rejected because he is not an Igbo man from Mbaise, where the church is situated in Imo state. It took the Pope’s intervention for the matter to be resolved (if it really is).
A major bane bedeviling Nigeria is our undue ethno-religious sentiments. The recent controversy behind the medical outreach programme annually performed by the Nigerian Army is not unconnected to ethno-religious sentiments. However, it is the children who are to receive the free medicare, particularly the ones from poor homes who cannot ordinarily afford it, are the ones who are at a loss. Not the people who started spreading the rumors of an ulterior motive of the Army.
Many of the political elites have since noted this, and have been using it to their advantage and to our collective detriment. In most cases, they whip up ethno-religious sentiments within the populace, thus dividing us along ethno-religious lines in an attempt to gain power or cling on to power. Let’s even peruse the perceived marginalization that is supposedly the root cause of many of these ethno-religious centered agitations.
Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, we’ve had President’s from the Southwest, Northwest, South-south and Northwest. Now, how did the South-west fare when the President was from that zone compared to now? When the President was from the Northwest, how did the region fare? When the President was from the South-south how did the Niger-Delta fare and as the current President is from the North-west how is the region faring?
The simple and honest answer to these questions is that these regions that have produced the President have been in literally the same state and condition as it’s always been. Some were even deteriorating when they had a President in power. If anything, history has taught us that despite having a President from the same ethno-religious grouping doesn’t necessarily translate to the development of the region.
Instead, what often happens is that a few people from the President’s ethno-religious grouping as well as cronies from and outside his ethno-religious zone suddenly become inordinately rich and greatly influential. In many cases as we have observed, many of such people would be so influential as to become the de-facto President, becoming known as the faceless infamous “cabals” around the seat of power.
Consequently, the yearnings and needs of the Nigeria people are mostly relegated to the back burner. The mentality of “it is our turn to chop” takes precedence to the detriment of the populace. Then, a previously unknown individual masquerading as an ethnic champion, seemingly fighting for his perceived ethnic-religious group’s marginalization takes center stage. Most of the public discourse will become centered on their motives and supposed agitations.
The transformational agenda’s and infrastructural development’s proposed by the government in power slowly slides into oblivion. In time, these previously unknown individuals become “statesmen”, wealthy overnight and part of the elites. Aside from getting rich through suspicious circumstances, another major means of gaining admission into the exclusive club of political elites is to become or be seen as an “ethnic champion”.
The political elites having perfected the “divide and conquer” strategy unleash prejudice, bile and hatred. We start to relate with one another based on the prism of ethnicity and religion, instead of trustworthiness, character capability and honesty. However, if we can be united, regardless of these sentiments, we can actively engage those at the helm of affairs and the political elites to reverse the status-quo. We can all speak in single voice and demand that the country be properly restructured.
If any group or region has been or is being marginalized, in my opinion, the whole of the country is marginalized; particularly by the elites (political). We have been marginalized in terms of adequate power generation. Which region in the country is enjoying 24-hour power supply? We have been marginalized in terms of proper health care facilities. Which region in the country can boast of affordable and efficient health/medicare facilities?
Which region possesses good road networks connecting every area particularly the rural communities? Every region’s populace in the country, particularly the youths, is suffering from lack of jobs and gainful employment. Every region in the country is suffering from the absence of basic amenities. States within every region of the country cannot pay salaries unless they get bail outs from the central government. States within every region of the country have consistently been unable to harness and develop its natural and human resources, instead depending on revenues shared by the central government.
I can go on and on… however, the truth is that, every region within the county is suffering from similar difficulties and hardships. Every region is recording high levels of poverty, suffering from high rates of maternal mortality deaths, a reduction in life expectancy rates, poor human development rates, etc. Making matters worse is that majority of Nigerians are suffering despite having huge natural/mineral and human potential/resources.
Our woes can be summed up into four words; RICH COUNTRY, POOR PEOPLE! Only an exclusive few (which comprises of individuals form every tribe, ethnicity, gender and religion) have been benefiting from the country’s resources, riches and status-quo. Now if this is not marginalization, what is?
Abdulsalam Jubril is a Public Affairs Analyst.