FEATURE ARTICLE

Lawrence Chinedu NwobuMonday, April 24, 2006
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UNDERSTANDING MARGINALISATION: THE IGBO PERSPECTIVE


here is no need for pretences. The Geographical space and people that make up the present day Nigeria have never really been one. Nigeria is a nation within which abound so many nations, the many contradictions inherent in pseudo nations like Nigeria led to a civil war within 6 years of independence, and has to date sustained ethno-religious strife, and unprecedented inter-ethnic hatred.


The multiplier effect of such, hatred, distrust, and suspicion among the different ethnic nations has led to each group seeking to dominate the other, and all forms of marginalisation both in strategic federal appointments, citing of federal infrastructure, and resource distribution. Specifically in the case of the Igbo, no Igboman has been appointed a Chief of Army staff, or Inspector general of police since the end of the civil war. Federal industries and infrastructure is almost non-existent in Igboland.All strategic federal investments that would improve the economy of the Igbo nation like ie.the dredging of the River Niger and the construction of an inland port at Onitsha,the long promised construction of a second bridge across the Niger, and the internalisation of Enugu Airport amongst others, have all been abandoned for reasons of inter-ethnic hatred, and the politics of marginalisation.

The composition of the service chiefs in President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, is another crass and undeniable evidence of Igbo marginalisation.In all the arms of the service Chiefs including the police none is from the Southeast.

Of the present day 6 geo-political zones, Ndigbo have the least number of states, and correspondingly local governments, which automatically places Ndigbo at the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of allocation of resources from the federal government. The proposed development plan for the Niger Delta being circulated in the Nigerian press, laid down immediate development, and employment initiatives for 20,000 people from the Niger Delta in varied services like the Army, Air force, Police, NNPC etc.Officially the Niger Delta oil producing states are, Delta state, Rivers state, Cross river state,Akwa Ibom state, Bayelsa state,Abia state,Imo state, Edo state, and Ondo state, but in the articulated development and employment initiatives for the Niger Delta, being circulated by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration the 2 core Igbo states of Abia and Imo were subtly excluded, while interestingly Ondo state was included. Against this backdrop it is increasingly difficult for the average Igboman to see himself as a Nigerian.

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The management of a diverse and multi-ethnic nation composed of people who are diametrically opposed in religion, outlook,culture,and way of life, demands a lot of skill and pragmatism in order to give the disparate ethnic groups a sense of belonging. There should ideally be a deliberate policy of inclusion, social justice, and a delicate balancing of all the ethnic groups in all facets of national life. The president of such a nation should be a pan-Nigerian rather than an Igbo,Yoruba,or Hausa president. Such a president must rise above primordial and base sentiments of tribal allegiance. He must not seek the dominance of his ethnic group over other groups.

Unfortunately the Nigerian experience has been a complete opposite of these ideals. Led by a long list of rogue Northern leaders, Nigeria has witnessed one tribal ethnocentric leader after the other. These leaders have through excessive domination, marginalisation, outright persecution, and subjugation of other ethnics groups, destroyed whatever semblance there was of Nigerianness.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is like all the others before him a tribal president, who is hardly fit to be the president of a multi-ethnic nation like ours.Obasanjo would withought any doubt be more suitable as the tribal chief of his village or clan. He has clearly failed in his management of Nigeria's diversity.

It is instructive to note that Olusegun Obasanjo a Northerner in Southern garb, is more the problem than the solution to Nigeria's problems. His politics of marginalisation and his opposition to dialogue has thrown up ethnic militia's seeking self determination and outright seccesion.He has also tacitly encouraged violence and insurgency as the only means through which you can get the ears of the federal government.

His compromises to the Niger Delta are coming on the heels of a violent armed struggle and hostage taking by the "Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta" MEND. Rather than use this opportunity to also address the Igbo question which has led to the emergence of the non-violent "MASSOB" he has chosen to once again marginalize the core Igbo Niger Delta states of Abia,and Imo states in the development and employment initiatives for the Niger Delta.

The message the Olusegun Obasanjo inept administration is inadvertently sending to MASSOB and other Igbo nationalist organisations is: "If you don't take up arms, we wont take you serious". In light of these realities, analysts and political watchers are predicting that a muscular Igbo insurgency by splinter groups from MASSOB is no longer a matter of "if" but when.

I am personally a witness to the argument by various groups in Biafran forums, of the need for an armed militant wing. Their argument has been made more logical by Obasanjo's pacification of the violently militant sections of the Niger Delta, while ignoring and excluding The core Igbo non violent sections of the Niger Delta.

Ndigbo have repeatedly complained of marginalisation which is clearly evident, in strategic federal appointments and a lopsided structure that ignores and diminishes the Igbo nation. Nigeria belongs to all groups who are unfortunate to be found within the geographical space called Nigeria. A studied balancing of ethnic representation in all strata of national life is not a favour, it is a fundamental right. The non-violent "MASSOB" has severally explained, that the reason they are seeking secession, is the unpunished periodic killings in the North, and the continuing Igbo marginalisation.

Logic demands that any president who truly loves Nigeria, and strongly desires Nigerian unity, would immediately institute a process of dialogue with aggrieved groups (more so when they are non violent) in view of finding lasting solutions to the Igbo and Nigerian question.

At the end of the day, those who have lost faith in "one Nigeria" cannot be blamed. The world and Nigerians of good will are witnesses. And should be ready to hold President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration responsible for the emergence of a potentially bloodier and more devastating Igbo insurgency. As the saying goes "those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change necessary".