By Talemoh Wycliffe Dah
The saying that “The majority had their way, while the minority had their say” is an accepted state of affairs that means that the minority had only the right to express themselves but not to get what they want
That appears to be the situation Nigerians of Igbo extraction have found themselves in contemporary Nigeria; they are a minority. But how did this happen, that their lot is now minority role? For the purpose of this discussion, let us term as ‘minoritisation’ the process of making or becoming a minority.
A group finds itself in the minority by being less in number compared to others. Thus ethnic groups like the Kare Kares of Yobe state, the Diris of Bauchi state and the Chengs of Plateau state are obvious minorities in those states. In some states, there is another way the minority status has come on some ethnic groups. Although they have been more numerically, their strength has been whittled through decades of economic, political and social emasculation. They are disadvantaged in any life-enhancing opportunity: no contracts, no scholarships, hardly any appointments, etc. And because they are poor and not influential, their voices can never be heard or taken seriously. Over the years, as a matter of fact, a structure is set that gives them no voice. What this has done to the younger generation of that ethnic group is that they think it is the norm for them not to have opportunities.
Even when you ask for a queuing up exercise where they are with others, they will prefer being at the back of the line! You get this in Adamawa, Gombe and Nasarawa states.
The two minoritisation situations above are instances where the minorities had no part to play. The minoritisation of the Igbos followed a third path. The Igbo situation is that although numerically they still are one of the three major ethnic groups, they now cannot have their way but only their say. They are not a minority in commerce, wealth, education, arts, culture, religious enterprise or even diaspora strength and influence. They are not even a minority in politics, for you find them not only in every geographical location but also in all political groupings. However, they are a minority in what determines what happens in the country as a whole and even to the Igbos themselves. T
he Igbos are not able (or have lost the ability) to form and sustain a formidable identity, through political parties (original parties or original political alignments) or sociocultural organisations. APGA has not been able to bludgeon into a national party. Its internal wranglings were so loud that neighbours heard them from outside, so that it was no longer a bride worth courting for alignments. To make its case worse, prominent Igbos in the PDP, rather than join APGA to strengthen it, jumped to the APC for fear of non-inclusion. This Ken Nnamanian Logic (that if you remain in the minority or opposition you will be excluded in national discussions and sharings) does not strengthen a region’s or people’s ability to assert itself as a force to be considered in every national endeavor.
This lack of resilience to hold to and build on what one is, believes or has in order for it to mature and be reckoned with is a major cause of the gradual minoritisation of a people. When you insist on a cause for long, people take you seriously. June 12 is a case in point. States in the southwest were adamant on their stance on June 12. They did what they could do legally, declaring public holidays, naming monuments after Chief M K O Abiola, using it as an election point, etc until His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC both succumbed and found it an attractive and easily doable voter-luring issue. The gains of the sustained struggle are beyond posthumous honours, rechristening of monuments, birth of a democracy day, etc. Rather, this closure on the matter of June 12 has added to the political myosites of the Yorubas, and, henceforth, everybody has learnt to take them seriously, going forward.
So it is obvious that in contemporary Nigeria, for example, some states in the east can be merged without taking into cognizance the Igbos or asking for their take. They will of course cry marginalization, but marginalisation is a symptom in itself of the malady of minoritisation. No other action will be seen from the Igbos. Even when some actions are taken by some Igbos, they will not last, for, as it always happens, some intelligent and garrulous Igbos will be contracted to explain to the people why it was necessary that Imo, for instance, be remerged with Abia state. An irreparable rift in the Ohanaeze Ndigbo will seal the matter.
Is it the industrialist and individualistic (in the sense that everybody works hard/struggles alone) disposition of the Igbos that caused them this? That disposition rewards the individual, most times to the detriment of the generality of his people. Even in the National Assembly, when you see a very vocal Igbo law maker, he/she is only being used as a tool to maintain the Hastert (majority of the majority) Rule where a bill will not be scheduled for a floor vote unless it already has the support of the majority of the majority party. In this case, the scheduled bill is what other ethnic nationalities who have asserted themselves as the deciders of every national step have allowed to be put to the vote. The Igbo legislator (not a representative in role), then applies his oratory and lingual dexterity to the matter which gives him personal accolades but does no good to Igbo Agenda. So you can see why, an Ike Ekweremadu, Distinguished Senator, Deputy Senate President and committee chairman of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, will gleefully declare that “The majority had their way, but the minority had their say” in 2013 when interviewed by journalists.
Some Igbos will tell you that it has been so since the time of Nnamdi Azikiwe. They are wrong. Although the good man played nationalistic cards, his contemporaries played regional cards. Nnamdi Azikiwe passed on with his cards and in the political card game of Nigeria today, nationalistic pieces are missing.
So one can assert with certainty that, in terms of weighty decisions and actions in this country, the Igbos are a minority ethnic group. The results of this are a certainty that, except for occasional happenstances, there can never be an Igbo as a President; which party wins can never be determined by Igbos; reptile-gyration exercises can be carried out anytime in Igbo land without informing the Igbos; UNN can be relocated to Otukpo and all products from Aba declared illegal without their input or relevant reaction. When you are a minority, only few of your children will get admission into higher institutions, only a small part of the Trader Moni will get to your region. And such and such, on and on. Now you can understand the answer given to the Igbo man who asked how many people were involved in an accident. He was told that six people and one Igbo man were involved. He then asked if an Igbo man is not a person. That is, if a decision is to be taken and a question is asked how many ethnic groups will be of concern, the answer will be two major ethnic groups and probably the Igbos! We have lost one majority ethnic group.
Igbos should try and rescind this categorization.
▪ Dah, a medical consultant, contributed this piece from Abuja