Ever since Buhahahari won the (s)elections despite losing heavily in the southeast and the Niger Delta, two-bit pundits have gone to town about how those regions have “marginalised” themselves by not backing the winning horse.
This hare-brained analysis has reached fever pitch with the APC losing in the National Assembly (s)elections across the southeast. This means that no single federal lawmaker will be representing a southeast constituency under the flag of the APC.
In Nigeria’s political calculus, in which key positions are zoned to certain “geo-political zones”, as the president is from the north and the vice president is from the southwest, it was widely accepted that the president of the senate or speaker of the House of Representatives would come from the southeast, if an APC member was (s)elected.
But the PDP will be providing all the federal legislators from southeast, and many have argued that the region has denied itself a place at the top table.
This position is ridiculous and it only flies in a climate of thoughtlessness.
For starters, vice presidents, senate presidents, speakers of the House of Representatives have come from the southeast in the past. No one can point to any tangible benefit this has brought to the region.
The argument that a region is marginalised because a top political position is not allocated to someone from the area is plain ignorant. The north of Nigeria has produced more heads of state than any other region. But by any measure of development, from literacy to infant mortality to poverty, the north is the most marginalised region in Nigeria.
Bala Usman wrote in 1999: ‘Even if one were to examine the real meaning of “power” in the history of economies, societies and political systems and how it shifts, or does not shift, one is left with the misleading, and diversionary, assumptions behind the current usage of this slogan, in Nigeria, that, because a person, or persons, from a nation, nationality, or an ethnic group, holds power, it means that, that nationality, or ethnic group, exercises that power.
Hence, when Generals Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar, were the Heads of State of Nigeria, in the period, 1983-1999, the Hausas, the Fulanis and the Kanuris were in power; and now President Olusegun Obasanjo is the Head of state, the Yorubas are in power! The institutional machinery for the exercise of power and its basis in occupational groups, social strata and social classes and their concrete economic and political interests are not perceived with this shallow outlook. This perception of politics is, itself, derived from certain false assumptions about what constitutes nations, nationalities, ethnic groups and polities.’
The outlook that a region is “marginalised” because a “son of the soil” does not hold a political position is shallow and ignorant. The majority of Nigerians are marginalised regardless of who is in power. This is because no single government in the history of Nigeria, even more so since 1999, has upheld their constitutional obligation to make the security and welfare of Nigerians their “primary purpose”.
If you are not a direct benficiary of the spoils of office – the person in position, their relatives and hangers-on, their sponsors, party members in the corridors of power, etc – you are marginalised, disenfranchised, and denied most of the rights enshrined in the constitution.
Most Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity, are in this position, no matter if “their man” is president or whatever. Olusegun Obasanjo was president for eight years and could not fix the road from Lagos to his hometown Abeokuta. All the Nigerians that had to suffer on that crumbling road were marginalised, despite the fact that a “son of the soil” was president. Despite five years with Goodluck Jonathan as president, the ordinary people of his hometown Otuoke were no better off than when he took over. They were as marginalised then as they are now.
When politricksters talk about “marginalisation”, what they really mean is that they have been denied an opportunity to get their snouts in the trough. It is their bank accounts that are being “marginalised”. Whether they are allowed to join the feast or not is of all little benefit to their people.
The only people that buy into the “marginalisation” fallacy are those who have marginalised that part of their brains made for critical thought.