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Abdul-Jabbar Kolo: How Ethnic And Religious Sentiment Govern Nigeria



Since Nigeria’s Independence ethnicity and religion have played a very significant role historically, socially, economically and most glaring of all, politically. It has lead to the genesis of at least 3 successful coup plots the country has come across under 12 different military Heads of State and a civil war. Not to mention the cases of conflicts and insurgences experienced at different intervals and regions of the country over the course of its 53 years, such as the Plataea/ Kaduna state crisis, Niger Delta militancy and most recently the Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country. As a consequence of this nuisance, multiple effects have risen in the society. For instance a large number of loss of life and property, feeling of hostility among ethnic groups and regrettably contempt for vengeance from innocent victims.

This is aside from economical effects like the dwindling rate of progression and development in parts of the country and defaming of the Nigeria’s image internationally.

Instances of this sort of prejudice have proven that this naïve, narrow and shortsighted modus operandi of judging people not by the sole personality or behavior but by their “personal” belief or extraction is not by a long shot beneficial or fruitful to any of parties. It has only led the country astray together with disharmony amongst our people.

Ethnicity and has played so much role in Nigeria, like I have said earlier not only politically. But funny enough the subject has mattered in almost all works of life for an everyday Nigerian. This includes choice of sports, choice of fashion, job opportunities and promotions, residential areas and quite bafflingly even in processes of gaining admission into the armed forces, universities and other higher institutions. A university would rather select an applicant from their local community than a more qualified, competent student from elsewhere. This as an end result limits university students from having opportunities of coming across and being conversant with other cultures within confines of Nigeria and the rest of the world. This makes the youth very unknowledgeable and unenlightened about distinct customs and traditions even within the country leading to ignorance and thoughtlessly disapproving of people without any deliberate or significant motive, more even undesirably even bigotry and hostility amongst ethnic groups. Owing to this concept, children understand since from the word “go” where you come from will determine your altitude in life. In essence, your extraction as well as belief ascertains whether you become Nigeria’s future president, a lawyer standing for the innocent, a teacher educating the youth and masses at large or merely another “area boy” or militant on the street causing havoc and unruliness.

The quota system was introduced in the civil service not long after independence very similar to the procedure used in gaining admissions into higher institutions. This implied that people seeking for jobs couldn’t only rely on qualifications and experience. Civil servants understood that they may not be able to reach their full potential not because they were not deserving of it, not because they were not qualified, not because they were not capable or up to the task, not because they did not posses the required qualifications or experience but because they do not hail from favorable areas within the country or they do not practice the preferred religion which is paramount to the caliber I initially mentioned. This is unfair. This is blatant injustice!

According to the Wikipedia, “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.” Firstly, the definition states democracy is the “equality between people”, this implies that whether literate or illiterate, rich or poor, white or black, men or women, Muslim or Christian, young and old all individuals have equal rights to vote for and be voted for. No matter what they believe in or where they come from. Nowhere subject to this definition does it imply that an entity most support or vote via ethno/religious lines. Those who struggled for the existence of democracy in our great country wished for equality and freedom for the common man. They saw fraternity amongst the Nigerian people from all.

If ethno/religious lines were beneficial many great countries and leaders would have adopted that course of action. However it is belittled and trashed in all great countries in the world. For example, today, the United Kingdom is still a sovereign state after 400 years of existence despite its different diverse roots and cultures aside from the 4 countries within its jurisdiction. Due large influx of people to the United States during the 19th and 20th century, be that as it may, the United States is said to be the most diverse settlement in the world. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, never based any of his campaigns on “black race agitation”, he persuaded the people with the message of change, hope and a better America for everyone white or black, Jewish or Christian, even the young and old.

Nigeria can learn from a saying by William James “ A chain is no stronger than its weakest link”; This means that Nigeria as a nation can only reach its full potential as a country after setting aside ethnical and religious sentiment from all works of life. Politically, voters would only elect aspirants into office; socially, applicants would be able to gain admissions into whichever school they bid for; civil servants would be promoted or rewarded not by the basis of their extraction or faith. Only through this vista can we build a nation we can all live to be proud of.

Article written by Abdul-Jabbar Hashim-Kolo, he can be reached on Twitter: AbduljabbarKolo


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