• Opinion
  • Updated: January 25, 2023

Who Are Second-Class Citizens?

The most used phrase in this political season and self-government struggle is that certain people are treated as second-class citizens in Nigeria.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, headlines notable Nigerians who have urged the people to resist all attempts to make them second-class citizens in their country.

The second-class citizenship narrative has become a usual anthem for agitating political forces.

Who are now the second-class citizens, and how do we recognise them?

Hearing the word, Second Class Citizen relives the memory of the myth in the 1974 novel by Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta and the thematic takeaways.

Whether or not Nigerian politicians expunge the phrase therein cannot be ascertained.

But there should not be a degree of importance or order of hierarchy in citizenship.

Emecheta’s literary work posited the quest for equal treatment, self-confidence, and dignity of womanhood to the front burner for everyone to have a feel.

To Nyesom Wike, using one’s vote to protect  Rivers and not allow anyone to intimidate them is a sign of being a first-class citizen.

Second-class citizenship is undoubtedly worse than the two-term governor’s viewpoints.

In a Facebook video posted by Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo recently, he insinuated that one is a second-class citizen if they do not allow the will of a politician who has a love of the ordinary masses at heart to come through. 

Professor Banji Akintoye, a renowned academic, historian and writer, in his letter addressed to the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, dated December 27, 2022, gave a feel of who second-class citizens are in his dictionary.

As received by AllNews Nigeria politics desk, he informed his darling brother (Bola Tinubu)of how the Fulanis have become national first-class citizens leaving the other groups to jostle for other spots. 

His position is as tribal and sentimental as that of Wike and MC Oluomo, whose standpoints are political.

But in the real sense and as postulated by Emecheta, second-class citizenship in one’s country means the absence of fair treatment and national dignity in one’s country. 

Second-class citizens are Nigerians who have been structurally exempted from national decision-making.

The exemption has little to do with a tribe, political affiliation or religion but with national values and a level playing field for all and sundry to thrive.

Nigerians who hold critical administrative or elective positions should not even see themselves as second-class citizens, according to Omowumi Ojo, a public affairs analyst.

"Second-class citizens are the downtrodden in the north and the less privileged Nigerians in the south.

"They are not high-profile politicians who have benefitted immensely from the destructive democracy we practice.

"Unfortunately, those elites who are benefiting from the rot of the stem are the ones who cry foul of it", she added.

We threw this question to Adekola Adediji, a foreign policy expert based in Nyon, Switzerland.

He said the second-class citizen analogy had become a weapon for political validation by political office seekers. 

“In Nigeria, politicians will come to you and brand you second-class citizens because they want your votes.

"They know that the phrase will raise our angst against the ruling class.

"They play with our emotions with the false narrative”, Adediji added.

“Have we ever found time to ask them whether they are first-class or second-class citizens?

"That is when you will get the point. If a politician who has held different positions is coming to tell you that this is your time to change your fortune to first-class status, try to ask him, you benefitted from the unbalanced system.

"What did you do to change our fortune?” he implored.

To Adediji, every Nigerian is a first-class citizen, and there has been no second-class citizen since 1960.

Anybody trying to draw a national inference by making a case for a group being superior to the other because of social status, religion, tribe, living standard, or political significance is an opportunist trying to bank on the vulnerability of Nigerians.

Dr Ridwan Badeji, a chartered accountant, added his voice to the second-class citizenship narrative.

He said citizenship by the order only applies to living standards and sources of livelihood.

“I disagree with anyone associating first-class and second-class citizenship with politics.

Maybe I can agree with the phrase when talking about living standards.

One can settle to be a second-class citizen because of one’s purse or annual income. 

“You cannot live a Porsche life when your purse says otherwise.

"So, if your financial capability makes you second-class, it is a stage in life that if one works hard and hopes, the story could change.”

But Badeji believes that even the first-class and second-class citizens struggle when life darkens.

“During the outbreak of COVID-19, there was no first or second class.

"Look at this fuel scarcity too, we are all at filling stations cueing for fuel.

"In that case, all those unproven social orders are realistically deceptive”.


A second-class citizen is an individual deprived of fair treatment but not a member of a political party or social group craving national sympathy. 

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Yusuf Adua
Yusuf Adua

Yusuf Adua is an investigative journalist passionate about politics, solution-based reporting and f...

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