In recent times, as has always been the case with the thieving Nigerian ruling class, there has been a renewed, strident, and competitive cry of marginalisation by different ethnic and religious factions or fractions of the ruling class.
Northern elite elements have been making a case for the marginalisation of the ‘north’ since their extrusion from the presidency for most of the period since the 1999 return to civil rule.
Igbo elites from the South East, have of course been making a long standing case of a more or less ‘permanent historical marginalisation’ of their people since independence!
Not to be left out, certain elements within the Yoruba elite have also of recent been railing about the so-called marginalisation of the Yorubas in the present dispensation.
And before the Jonathan presidency, Minority elites from the South-South [Niger Delta] have equally made seemingly compelling case with regards to the marginalisation of the peoples’ of the Niger Delta.
Now let us critically examine these self serving claims of marginalisation by the different, but competing fractions of the treasury looting ruling class.
To set the context it is important to identify what the elite means by marginalisation. They quite often and very exclusively discuss marginalisation in the context of power and senior position sharing arrangements within the ruling class. Hence they prioritise such positions as the President, Vice President, Senate President [and the Deputy], Speaker of the House [and the Deputy], Chief Justice [and the various heads of the High Courts, and Court of appeal, etc]; the service chiefs, ministerial appointments; membership of boards of parastatals and commissions etc.
In order words they prioritise the interests of the elites, and access to and control of state power and by extension state treasury and resources. What they mean when they cry that they are being marginalized, and use our name to justify their marginalization, is simply their temporary absence from, or attenuated access to treasury looting opportunities and state patronage.
My take on this cry of marginalization, is that for all intents and purposes, shorn of its pseudo-populist toga, it is a cry that is quite selfish, self serving and motivated by greed; by the various sections of the ruling class; and even among the Yorubas for example, a quite sectional one at that! Why is this so?
A section of the Yoruba elite who have lost out at the home front are now trying to whip up sentiments in order to win concessions at the center. I do not think that those who have gained ascendancy at home consider the Yoruba to be marginalized! What real significant difference would occupying any of those positions by the political elite making the claim, make in or to the lives of ordinary Yorubas?
When under the OBJ presidency a section of the Yoruba elites occupied those positions, what significant difference did it make to the ordinary Yorubas and other citizens who lived in the south west?
In reality, has this so-called marginalisation led to the undermining in any way, much less fundamentally, the business interests of the Yoruba elites for example?
Is the southwest at this moment governed by non Yorubas? Has it at any time in its history been governed by non Yorubas? I can even make bold to stir the hornet’s nest and make what may be considered, a controversial assertion: ‘The Yorubas, within the context of the politics of Nigeria, have made ‘progress’ whenever they have been autonomous of the center because of being governed by parties who are in the opposition at the federal level; than when they have been governed by same party as that at the center or by parties in alliance with the governing party at the center!
This claim of marginalisation as in most of the cases of marginalisation pushed and politicised by the political elites, is at its heart thus very self-serving. And in this particular instance of the Yoruba, at this moment in time, even more self serving than most!
We heard a lot from the political elite of the Niger Delta before GEJ’s ascendancy about the marginalization of the Niger Delta [which is true in reality; but by which the elite meant their exclusion from access to the spoils of the federal center]. So is it that the fundamentals of the Niger Delta have been radically altered since GEJ? Is that why the Niger Delta is ‘No longer marginalised’? Will the marginalization return the moment the Niger Delta elite lose their current first class access to the spoils of office at the federal center?
Has there ever been a time in the post independence history of Nigeria, other than during military rule, when the Igbo states of the South East, the Minority States of the Niger Delta, the states of the North Central, or the states of the core North and all their LGAs have been governed by persons other than the elites from those places? Even under military rule, in cases where military elites from other sections were made to administer states in different sections; were the commissioners and managers and members of boards of parastatals not composed of elites from those states?
And if we may further ask; of what significant impact to the lives of ordinary people have all those decades of the domination of the Federal Government by the Northern elite been to the people of the North. The statistics are there to prove it. The North is still the poorest section of the country, with the highest incidence of poverty, food insecurity, hunger, out of school children, school dropout rates, and now highest levels of insecurity anywhere in the country!
Take the Niger Delta case, ironically the incidence of oil pipeline vandalisation and crude oil theft, with its attendant consequence on the Niger Delta environment and the livelihoods of the poor have seen the highest spikes under a Niger Delta presidency! The cumulative quantum of oil spilt into the Niger Delta environment, and of the devastating impact on the environment and livelihoods over the last 3 years of a Niger Delta presidency is much more than the combined total for the previous 3 decades before the Jonathan presidency.
In reality, the real marginalisation is of the under-privileged non elites, whose slum dwellings are routinely demolished; who are routinely evicted from urban centers; whose livelihoods sources are routinely criminalised; and whose living conditions have been permanently made hellish and unbearable.
Or take the youth, among whom unemployment and unemployability has reached pandemic proportions! These are the real marginalized; and it is these truly marginalized citizens across the country who need to come together and organise themselves politically and autonomously of this light fingered, treasury looting, state patronage dependent, thieving ruling class.
We need to do this, to organise and mobilise independently and autonomously of this ruling class, in order to be able to take the necessary political Action to Take Back Nigeria; and achieve our National Liberation as a nation, and our Social Emancipation as a people.
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*Gaskia [ this article initially written in late 2012, but revised for re-publication August 2013]