From John Adams Minna
In the realm of Nigerian politics, no word or phrase has been so abused as the word “marginalisation,” especially as it relates to groups of people or ethnic tribes of the country. But why some who mouth it have genuine reason to so do, others do so just for the fun of it.
In Niger state for example, politics of marginalization remains one of the key issues that has continue to pose a great challenge to peace and sustainable development of the state, especially since the beginning of the new political dispensation in the country.
The state is made up of three Senatorial District: the Niger South Senatorial District, made up of Nupe as the predominant tribe, the Niger East Senatorial District, made up of Gbagyi as the predominant tribe and the Niger North, predominantly Kamari tribe.
While the Nupes and the Kambaris can boast of having produced governors of the state, the highest the Gbagyis have gotten in terms of political office is that of Deputy Governor, in the person of Dr. Shem Zagbayi Nuhu in 1999.
The Gbagy people who are the second largest ethnic group in the state, also accounts for 60percent of food production in the state. But they appear to have nothing to show for their strength and population.
Since the emergence of the present administration in the state, the Niger East Senatorial District have been completely schemed out of political arrangement in the state, and are therefore made to watch proceeding from the sideline in terms distribution of political appointments.
The Gbagyis, have therefore resolved that they would not support the current Governor Abubakar Sani Bello led government in the state come 2019 for its failure to recognize them in the appointment of its principal officers.
Recently, at the 6th Diko Day annual cultural festival organized by the Diko community Development Association (DCDA), Suleja where sons and daughters of Gbagyis from all walks of lives come together to celebrate their rich culture, the people were united in one voice when they made it abundantly clear that they might be forced to shift their support from the present administration in the state.
The cultural festival is usually characterized by colorful cultural display but this year’s activities took a political dimension as speaker after speaker drew the attention of the people to years of marginalization of the Gbagy people in the politics of the state, especially in the area of political appointments.
They used the occasion to sound a note of warning to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state and at the federal level that they might be forced to look the other way in 2019 if the political imbalance was not addressed.
The people maintained that the state government has continued to marginalize the Gbagy people in its political appointments thereby denying the zone of a fair representation in government.
The people are not alone in their cry of marginalization, some of their political leaders and elected office holders have joined in the struggle. The Senator Representing the zone in the upper legislative chamber, David Umaru has never hidden his displeasure and frustration over what he called “decade of deliberate marginalization” of his people in political appointments by every successful government in the state.
Last year, during a Christmas carol organized by the state government in Minna, the Senator publicly voiced out his anger when he accused the APC government of marginalizing the people of Niger East Senatorial District who, he noted were 100percent in the support of the present government.
The Senator who said he would not relent in his struggle until Justice was seen to have been done to the people, pointed out that the state government has continued to marginalize the Gbagyi people in its political appointments despite several appeals from the people for fair share in the scheme of things.
According to him, “today the main principal offices of the Niger state government does not take into cognition the fact of the Gbagyi as a people. This is against the constitution which states that every government must reflect the cultural diversity of its people. I want us to resolve today, that the Gbagyi people will not support any government that discriminates against them.”
He argued that the Gbagyi man has gone through all kinds of struggle at every point in time and were ignored when it matters most, adding that his people cannot continue to work and get nothing.
“We are tired of grumbling. You will no longer grumble and go home and pretend that there is nothing wrong with you.”
He called on the Niger state government to review the appointments of the principal officers from the office of the Deputy Governor, SSG, Head of Service and the rest of them.
However in continuation of their struggle against what they called “open marginalization”, the People of Niger East Senatorial District, under the umbrella, Niger East Development Association, has kicked against the nomination of Professor Mustapha Zubairu for appointment as Resident Electoral Commission to fill the state quota at the federal level.
The Association, in a strong worded protest letter to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the nomination of Professor Zubairu negates the principle of federal character as provided in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, chapter 11 section 14(3).
The petition which was dated 24th March , 2017 and addressed to the Senate President, titled “Petition Against The Appointment of Professor Mustapha Zubairu As Resident Electoral Commissioner”, a copy of which was made available to Daily Sun in Minna, and signed by the chairman, George Koce, Secretary Jibrin B. Ushama, PRO Moses Alkali and Head Research and Development Professor Patrick K. Shizawali, noted that the people are aggrieved that Professor Zubairu and Alhaji Mohammed Haruna who was recently appointed INEC National Commissioner came from the same local government (Bida), the same town (Bida), the same Federal Constituency in the same Senatorial District (Niger South) and from the same ethnic group (Nupe).
According to them, out of the three Constituencies in the state, Niger East Senatorial District which is predominantly Gbayis has been deliberately marginalised and shortchanged in all appointments made so far at both Federal and state level.
Specifically they said all the appointments made so far were from a particular ethnic group and religion and therefore vowed to continue with their agitations until what they described as “lopsided appointment of people from the state into the APC government,” was addressed.
“Mr. President, out of these three constituencies, the Niger East senatorial district has been deliberately marginalized and shortchanged in all appointments made at both the state and federal levels.
“It may interest you to note that all appointments since the inception of this government of APC both at state and federal levels have been deliberately skewed away from the Niger -East senatorial district which incidentally contributed the highest number of votes in the 2015 presidential and gubernatorial elections.”
Citing some of the appointments made so far at both Federal and state level which did not favour the Senatorial District, the people said the Inspector General of Police and the Commandant of the Civil Defense are from Niger south senatorial District, adding that “even the Carrier Ambassador nominee, from Niger South and the non Carrier Ambassador is from Niger North, living the Niger East with nothing.
“Mr. President sir, we strongly believe it is not a human coincidence or want of merit that the appointments of Inspector General of Police, the Commandant of the Civil Defense, the Career Ambassador nominee, the INEC National Commissioner and now the nomination of Professor Mustapha Zubairu for appointment as resident electoral commissioner are to be skewed to the same ethnic group of Nupe people,” the group, added.
The petitioners further claimed that while the country “appears to be on course for a better and greater future, some people were bent on turning the wheel of hope and destiny backward by deliberately planning and plotting predominance interests in the appointments of particular ethnic groups into federal positions without considerations to ethnic diversity of the people in the state.
“Mr. President we are fed up with this status quo that deliberately and continually consumes and diminishes our collective potentials in the face of several opportunities”.
The petitioners therefore urged the Senate President, “to take immediate steps to balance these lopsided federal appointments in the interest of peace and unity of the state.”