The Conundrum of Marginalisation in Nigeria: The Ogoni People of Rivers State and the Ilaje People of Ondo State as Exemplars by Stephen Ola Ajimisan

The Conundrum of Marginalisation in Nigeria: The Ogoni People of Rivers State and the Ilaje People of Ondo State as Exemplars by Stephen Ola Ajimisan

This write-up by Stephen Ola Ajimisan highlights the marginalisation of the Ilaje and Ogoni people in comparison. Marginalisation of the minority and the vulnerable groups has almost become a national creed and ethos in Nigeria and other climes in the world.In Nigeria,as well as in every society,there is marginalisation of the hapless and defenceless people

This write-up by Stephen Ola Ajimisan highlights the marginalisation of the Ilaje and Ogoni people in comparison.

Marginalisation of the minority and the vulnerable groups has almost become a national creed and ethos in Nigeria and other climes in the world.In Nigeria,as well as in every society,there is marginalisation of the hapless and defenceless people or folks. Marginalisation is the act of relegating a group or party by making them seem unimportant,inconsequential and inconsiderable due to lack of knowledge,strength,resources or ability to fight unanimously for one’s entitlements.This often reflects in the distribution or democratisation of economic resources and political opportunities.

Marginalisation is a societal or sociological that makes the people of Rivers State and the people of Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State look alike. The Ogoni people of Rivers State have have four local government areas namely: Eleme (the home of one of the refineries and petrochemical industry in Nigeria), Tai, Khana(the trado-political headquarters of the Ogoni people and home of Late Ken Saro Wiwa, the first martyr of the Niger-Delta emancipation struggle) and Gokana.  All these local government areas in Ogoni land are oil-producing areas.They have the widest expanse of land that is also good for human habitation and agro-allied purposes.

Ken Saro Wiwa, an Ogoni man was at the heart of the struggle that brought the entire Niger-Delta region to limelight.  At the apogee of the struggle to defend his land and people against brazen exploitation and dehumanisation, he was garrotted November 1995 alongside other eight young men during Abacha’s draconian, repressive and oppressive regime. His struggle was a non-violent one.

Sadly, the evil that he campaigned vigorously against during his lifetime continues haunt his people in a different guise. What a recrudescence!

Thus, the layer of golden eggs(Ogoni land) is not accorded any recognition in the politics of the state,especially in relation to the gubernatorial elections. This is an unpardonable and gratuitous crime and injustice against the naturally endowed people and land..

In Ondo State, Ilaje Local Government Area is as well marginalised when it comes to governorship and distribution of economic opportunities in the state. Even the 13 percent oil derivation that legitimately belongs to them is not judiciously utilised for them. The land is not developed as it gropes for infrastructural development

The people sit on water, yet they have no good water to drink. The road that connects the greatest part of the local government area to the headquarters of the local government is gradually becoming a death trap. The availability of crude oil deposit in commercial quantity in the area is what qualifies the state as a member of the Niger-Delta Development Commission(NDDC),a commission established to cater for the development of the oil producing areas in the country. History has it that crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantity at Araromi Seaside in 1908 and later, at Ogogoro in 1952, all in the present day Ilaje Constituency 2. It was after these discoveries that it was later discovered at Oloibiri in 1956. History also propagated it that the Ilaje are one of, if not the oldest aborigines of the old Okitipupa Division and Ondo State at large. The local government area is the largest in the state in terms of landmass, the home of the largest market for sea foods in the entire Southwestern Nigeria and home of the longest coastline in Nigeria, to mention but a few. The local government area contributes about 85 of the total revenue generated in the state,especially now that oil is a staple resources and source of foreign exchange in the nation’s economy. Apart from crude oil,there are other resources in the local government area that fetch the state revenue such as fish, crayfish and other yet untapped resources. There exist sand,bitumen,local gin production, mat weaving and boat building industries with modern technology. These and other things qualify the state as the economic and treasure base of the state.

In the political history of the state, Ilaje have never been elected as governor or deputy governor. It is sardonically sinister and pitiably lugubrious to know that despite the e status of the state as the economic kingpin of the state,they are treated like the orange skins,which,according to Charles Dickens (Hard Times),  used for sucking the sugary juice and discarded thereafter. The successive governments in the state have not been fair to the people of Ilaje in terms of social amenities and social services. About 99.9 percent of the towns and villages the area has never seen or enjoy the supply of electricity, save for rural electrification in few of the towns. Even, Igbokoda, the council headquarters had been in darkness for more than a decade now. The “governments” collect the people’s oil money ,use a little chunk of it to develop upland towns and cities and embezzle the rest through their in the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission(OSOPADEC) and NDDC. How then do people that this unpardonable, inexcusable and undeserved injustice will not one day snowball into violence, if not precluded?

It is on this note that I submit that the injustice has got to stop if the peace we enjoy in the state must continue. If the age-long injustice against the people is not corrected and the people placated, the kind of struggle that Ken Saro Wiwa led in Rivers State that later ripened into violent agitations that almost crippled the economy of the nation is inevitable. Ilaje deserve fair share of the funds that the government generates from their land and they also deserve to rule the state as a governor.

 

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