Unity in Diversity in Nigeria and it impact to National Security
This paper takes an exploratory look at the issues of ethnicity in Nigeria from a historical perspective. It shows the interplay between ethnic rivalry and the challenges of National Security which have in the current dispensation become very compelling with rampant cases of bombings, terrorist attacks, murder, mayhem and all sorts of vices in some parts of the country. The paper believes in the principle of “Unity in Diversity”, for in it lies our strength as a people, including the protection of our nascent democracy. In addition, it believes that such debilitating issues concerning culture and religious differences, including political affiliations should not hinder the relative peace and stability which we have hitherto enjoyed in Nigeria, regarded as the most populous black Nation in the world. The paper further tries to proffer solutions towards enhancing our unity despite our diversity including how issues of insecurity can be addressed in Nigeria.
The challenges affecting the unity of Nigeria have been historical and persistent one. Before the colonial era, conflicts were more of tribal groups struggling to take over territories. Since the colonial era and even after Independence, the conflicts in Nigeria have been ethnic, religious, political and even cultural. The forced cohabitation of the different parts of Nigeria without the people having a say in this led to a lot of distrust and suspicion, especially among leaders of the different ethnic, religious and political groups in the country. Today, the size and population of Nigeria for which we ought to draw strength from as a Nation has become questionable. Everywhere one turns, the story is about ethnic rivalry, quota system, resource allocation, federal character, etc. People have consistently challenged our continued existence as a nation with many calling for a National Constitutional Conference. Since the end of the civil war in 1970, ethnic violence has persisted as politics has become a zero sum game with the winner taking it all. Corruption has become institutionalized and with the fear of the unknown, fairness, equity and justice has been thrown away (Aluko, 2002).
According to Lewis (2011), the corrupt nature of the Nigerian state gives the political competition a distinctly winner-takes-all nature, as those in power have access to the revenue streams. According to Ekanola (2006), despite its oil riches, several problems inhibit its development. Many of its problems stem from its origin as an artificial colonial construct that lumped together a variety of separate peoples. For Babawale (1991), many ‘Nigerians’ deceive themselves by thinking that Nigeria is one … This is wrong because the presence of unity is artificial. Also, for Anderson (1991), Nigeria is not a Nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English” “Welsh” or “French”. The word ‘Nigeria’ is mainly a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not. As espoused by FEHN (2011), the greatest bane to Nigeria’s development as a nation is ethnicity. Mutual suspicion, distrust and hatred amongst the diverse ethnic nationalities have steadily been on the rise since Independence. Disagreements are often expressed through violent acts which have given birth to a violent culture in some parts of the country today thereby threatening the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Fighting corruption has become a herculean task.
Government has not been able to fight corruption effectively especially as persons indicted often whip up ethnic sentiments in defense of their position. Ethnic conflicts in Nigeria and Africa in general arise as result of scarcity of political resources, multi-culturalism, religion, militarization of ethnicity among others. These conflicts cannot be ignored. In 2002, the Miss World Pageant was moved from Abuja to London in the wake of violent protests in the Northern part of the country that left more than 100 people dead and over 500 injured. The rioting erupted after Muslims in the country reacted in anger to comments made by a newspaper reporter. Rioters in Kaduna killed an estimated 105 men, women, and children with a further 521 injured taken to hospital. In 2010, more than 500 people were killed by religious violence in Jos. Between 2010 till date, popular Islamic sects known as Boko Haram brought chaos in the country, which has led to loss of lives and properties. From all indications, the events of Boko Haram have been due to ethnic and in some cases religious rivalry with some very unbelievable demands for a country that constitutionally is regarded as a secular state. So, Nigeria has been bedeviled by Ethno-religious conflicts with devastating human and material losses since the return of democracy in 1999. But the Boko Haram uprising of July 2009 was significant in that it not only set a precedent, but also reinforced the attempts by Islamic conservative elements at imposing a variant of Islamic religious ideology on a secular Nigerian state (Anyadike, 2013).
Nigeria faces several security challenges. The country is the scene of widespread violence, criminality and outright insurgency, such as Boko Haram in the North East. The spread of illegal small and light weapons has become quite substantial (WARN, 2013). While regional dimensions of Nigeria are often discussed in politics, especially the North-South division, the federal system aims to prevent mobilization based on religion, ethnicity or narrow regionalism. Since 2010 at least 3000 people have been killed in the attacks by Boko Haram incidents, with the UN claiming that more than 1200 were killed in the period May-December 2013 alone (BBC News, 2013). As espoused by Osimen, et al (2013), deep ethnic fears generated by in-built structures that promote unequal access to power and resources is being exploited. “The Yoruba man has done his own after eight years, he handed over to a Hausa man, and an Ijaw man is currently on the throne and in 2015, whose turn is it to produce the president is another dilemma which has been predicted by so many people, including countries like USA as a tough period in the political history of Nigeria.
Ethnic Rivalry and Challenges to National Security in Nigeria
Most developing countries are ethnically diverse and ethnicity may lead to increased civil strife. In fact, with the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria, the tendency of the various nationals is towards parochial consciousness at the expense of national consciousness (Osinubi & Osinubi, 2006). Ethnicity refers to relationships between groups whose members consider themselves distinctive, and these groups may be ranked hierarchically within a society. Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups, with varying languages and customs, creating a country of rich ethnic diversity. The largest ethnic groups are the Fulani/Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, accounting for 62% of population, while the Edo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Ebira, Nupe, Gwari, Itsekiri, Jukun, Urhobo, Igala, Idoma and Tiv comprise 33%; other minorities make up the remaining 5%. The official population count of each of Nigeria’s ethnic group has always remained controversial and disputed as members of different ethnic groups believe the census is rigged to give a particular group numerical superiority. Ethnic group is a “group of people having a common language and cultural values”. These common factors are emphasized by frequent interaction between the people in the group. Looking at ethnicity from a historical perspective, Nwosu (1999) stated that the colonization of Africa and several other third world states ensured that peoples of diverse culture were brought together under one country.
To him, because of the mission of colonialism, most of these peoples were not well integrated into the new states. Instead, some of the imperial powers cashed in on the cultural divergence of these countries to ensure the examination of their objectives. He further said, “it is thus not surprising that years after colonialism, these states remained lowly integrated. This low level of integration has precipitated crises in many of countries. This depicts the situation in Nigeria where the amalgamation of the North and South in 1914 was purely a British creation without any input from the people of Nigeria about their desire to be governed as one country. Also, as expressed by Welsh (1996), violent and intractable internal conflicts in recent years in Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan are a result of the failure of states in sub-Saharan Africa to cope with ethnicity. He examines the association of ethnic identities with the colonial period and the ‘instrumentalist’ contention that ethnicity was invented for political purposes. He notes both that the imperial powers in Africa did little to prepare the colonies for independence and also that, given the imperatives of the colonial system; it was unrealistic to expect them to do more. To Kazah-Toure (2000), the spread of a mighty wave of ethnic tensions and conflicts threatens national unity and harmonious inter-ethnic relations. Even though more complex factors have been at the base, conflicts and struggles in Nigeria are increasingly manifesting in ethnic forms. He stated further that elsewhere on the African continent, violent and bloody conflicts are more often assuming inter-ethnic and inter-ethnic/ religious proportions. The need for the principle of equity to be applied in the administration of an emerging nation dates back to the colonial period.
The fear of domination, which developed in the minds of minority groups, coupled with inter-ethnic suspicions among the majority group helped to prove the fact that Britain and even Nigerians recognized the fact that they are not one people. The major languages spoken in Nigeria represent three major families of African languages: the majorities are Niger–Congo languages, such as Yoruba and Igbo; the Hausa language is Afro-Asiatic; and Kanuri, spoken in the northeast, primarily Borno State, is part of the Nilo-Saharan family. Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their languages, English as the official language is widely used for education, business transactions, and for official purposes. English as a first language is due to our colonial experience and is used only by a small minority of the country’s urban elite, and it is not spoken at all in some rural areas. With the majority of Nigeria’s populace in rural areas, the major languages of communication in the country remain indigenous languages. Some of the largest of these, notably Yoruba and Igbo, have derived standardized languages from several different dialects and are widely spoken by those ethnic groups. Nigerian Pidgin English, often known simply as ‘Pidgin’ or ‘Broken’ (Broken English), is also a popular lingua franca, though with varying regional influences on dialect and slang. The pidgin English or Nigerian English is widely spoken within the Niger Delta Regions, predominately in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Agenebode, Ewu, and Benin City.
Consensus Theory of Society The theoretical orientation upon which this study is anchored is the structural functionalist or consensus theory. It sees shared norms and values as fundamental to society. It focuses on social order based on tacit agreements and views social change as occurring in a slow and orderly fashion. Change is necessary but must be done through a careful and gradual process. Discussion, negotiation, dialogue are elements of structural functionalism perspective. Functionalism holds that society is a complex system whose various parts work together to produce order, stability, cooperation and solidarity in the pursuit of goals that people share.. According to this approach, the discipline of sociology should investigate the relationship of parts of society to each other and to the society as a whole. We can analyze the religious beliefs and customs of a society, for example, by showing how they relate to other institutions within it, for the different parts of a society develop in close relation to one another (Giddens, 1994).
This therefore explains why the different social Institutions in society must work together for the sustenance and stability of the entire country. When there is discontentment in the economic Institution such as in resource allocation or in terms of power sharing in the political sphere or some religious disagreements, crisis could occur that may spill over and affect other sectors of our national life and create conflict and destruction of lives and property of innocent people. There is therefore the need for the various ethnic groups in Nigeria to work together for the achievement of the desired goals that will enhance peace and security in the country. It is not in all situations that conflict can lead to progress; rather it can lead to the destruction of harmonious living and elements of development in the polity and society at large. Cases of kidnapping, assassinations and forms of terrorists attacks that are seen as ethnic, political and religious have questioned our nascent democracy and unity as a people It has also brought a lot of stigmatization to us as a country, thereby affecting national development.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY AS A PRECURSOR TO NATIONAL SECURITY
No country can afford the luxury of allowing ethnic conflict free rein or ignoring it. Every multiethnic state has tried to devise ways of coping with conflicts, several universal prescriptions and formulas have been popularized. Failure to resolve conflicts over access to commonly valued scarce resources, and over divergent perceptions of socio-political situations, has the high potential of degenerating into genocide or fratricide as it occurred among the Ife and Modakeke (Yorubas) in Southwestern Nigeria, Zongon-Kataf (Hausas) crisis in Northern Nigeria, Aguleri and Umuleri (Igbos) in Eastern Nigeria, and the Tiv – Jukun of Middle-Belt, Nigeria, and the Hutu – Tutsi of Burundi and Rwanda in East Africa (Osinubi & Osinubi, 2006). The problem of building a nation from a collection of ethnic groups is one which most nations of Africa face today. Nigeria is a plural society, defined by cultural and institutional diversities of the ethnic groups of various populations, and with people practicing three main religions (Christianity mainly in the South and Middle Belt; Islam mainly in the North, and traditional religion in every part of the country).
There have been various statements about the extent of Nigeria’s ethnic pluralism, from the two hundred and fifty mentioned by the colonialists, and even half that number by superficial observers, to the figure of three hundred and seventy-four ethnic groups. Admittedly, Nigeria is a very complex country with the behaviour and relationships of individual and groups determined by imperatives of cultural symbols and strategic social institutions. Different people are predisposed to conceptualize political and economic resources and the access to them in divergent ways through their own coded lenses (Otite, 1999). The disunity of the major ethnic groups in the country was very much evident in the events that unfolded between 1946 and the attainment of independence in 1960. During this period, the Igbo – Yoruba ethnic rivalry and the North-South majority-minority ethnic group cleavages became unmistakable. For instance, “the Yoruba- Igbo rivalry was finally played out on the floor of the Western House of Assembly where the Action Group exploited ethnic sentiments and the pitfalls of the electoral college system to edge out Azikiwe who had won a seat in Lagos and was widely expected to have been elected into the House of Representatives from that constituency” (Olukoju, 1997).
The North-South hostility reached its peak in the pre-independence era in 1953, when the North refused to go along with the AG-led motion for independence by 1956. The events that followed culminated in the famous bloody Kano riot of 1953, which lasted from May 15 to May 20, 1953 (Albert, 1999). The differences between groups in terms of their receptivity and adaptability to modernity or duration and intensity of Western impact also affected the relationship between ethnic groups (Sklar, 1994). For instance, the Yoruba and the Igbo of the South were more receptive to Western education than the Hausa-Fulani of the North; hence the educational imbalance between the South and the North, which still exists today (Uzoigwe, 1999).
The Yoruba and the Igbo became urbanized and politically conscious more quickly than the Hausa-Fulani, who by 1952 obviously lagged behind the former by practically all the Western yardsticks for measuring development and civilization (Olukoju, 1997). Realizing their disadvantaged position in the country, the Northerners were determined to protect their own interests in the political arena, given their perception that Southerners already controlled the educational and economic sectors. Consequently, the North refused to go along with the rest of the country and threatened to secede when Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence in 1953, to be effective from 1956. Events following this refusal produced the Kano riot, which further intensified the Yoruba– Hausa-Fulani hostility and the resolve by nationalist leaders to perpetuate ethnic interests above national interests. It was the anxiety and fear by the Northern nationalist leaders that they would lose out in the struggle for power and prestige, when in 1947 the Richard Constitution compelled the peoples of the Northern and the Southern protectorates of Nigeria to work together under the same legislative system, that made them appeal to religious and ethnic sentiments to unite the Hausa-Fulani constituency against the Southern people (Albert, 1999).
Their effort was quite successful; until today, they have been able to dominate the political landscape of the country. However, it took ethnic hostility to a new level, and Nigeria has not been able to get out of its debilitating effects. It has greatly hindered the chances of Nigeria becoming a nation in the true sense. Ethnic tensions between the diverse ethnic nationalities in Nigeria are pointing towards the fragmentation of the country. This was confirmed by an intelligence report from the United States of America, which warned that Nigeria might disintegrate within the next 15 years (Ekpunobi, 2005). Indeed, the country is witnessing an increase in violence along ethnic lines. Previous attempts to facilitate unity in the country have been largely constitutional and structural. With the adoption of federalism, various constitutional provisions have been put in place to guarantee the federal character of the Nigerian state, with the conviction that these would promote national unity, foster national loyalty, and give every citizen a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic origin, culture, language or religion that may exist (Yakubu, 1999).
These provisions have not recorded the expected level of success, as some of them tend to jeopardize national interests in the quest for ethnic balance. Besides, it is observed that much of these constitutional provisions have not been respected in the history of the country. Political elites and the same officials who are supposed to guarantee the sanctity of the constitution have consistently violated them (Albert, 1999). In Nigeria, governments and the citizenry have been concerned with the principal goal of managing ethnicity, which had shown clear signs of subverting the nation-building project. Federalism, the creation of regions and states and local governments, the shift from parliamentary to presidentialism, the institutionalization of quota systems, the prohibition of ethnic political parties, and the adoption of the federal character principle are some of the approaches that Nigeria has taken to manage ethnic diversity. Given the sheer multiplicity and fluidity of the territorial and cultural cleavages that can be used to justify the demands for new states and the federal resources they bring with them, there is no certainty that the states-creation process will ever be concluded in Nigeria Analysts have attributed the limitations of the ethnic management policies to improper implementation, distortion of visions and lack of political will.
The concept of unity implies ‘oneness’ ‘alike’, ‘trust’, ‘mutual understanding’ while diversity means ‘great variety’. Unity in diversity means being one or united despite the differences in the social, political, economic, geographical and cultural spheres. Unity in diversity therefore is reflected when people have started learning how to build a strong, virile nation out of the different tribes and issues. Specifically, Nigeria is a complex country united by a common colonial experience despite the differences in her social, political, economic, geographical educational, religious and cultural spheres (Oputa, 2006; Tyokase, 2002). Ethnicity and Tribalism however, are twin factors bedeviling national unity in Nigeria. Ethnicity captures the various forms of consensual and conflicting relationships between different ethnic groups. It involves “plural persons” expressing loyalty to their ethnic groups based on which they relate to others in the wider society (Otite, 2006). It is profoundly characterized by the phenomenon of defensive denial and group’s collective responsibility.
Federalism on the other hand is that doctrine and a form of government where the component units of a political organization participate in cooperatively sharing powers and functions though the combined forces of ethnic pluralism and cultural diversity, among others, tend to pull their people apart (Tamuno, 2004; Asobie, 1998). Earlier, Wheare (1963) posited that federalism is a government where the powers of the government are divided substantially according to the principles that there is a single independent authority for the whole country irrespective of some matters and independent regional authorities being co-ordinate with and not subordinate to the other. Federalism is therefore a means not only of forging unity in diversity but also an attempt to allay fears of domination of one group by another.
Factors that Threaten Unity in Nigeria’s Diversity and the National Questions
Unity in Nigeria is, or has been threatened by the followings: · The Nigerian/Biafra War: The civil war fought between 1967 and 1970 witnessed bitterness at its peak, as well as the destruction of lives and properties. The war almost led to the disintegration of the country into smaller units. This war led to an abandoned properties saga with the slogan “No victor, No Vanquished”, since the survivors went back to their former places of abode to re-posses their properties such as houses, factories, undeveloped pieces of land but some tribes were not allowed to re-possess such properties as a result of which the wounds of the war were re-opened and bitterness once more mounted.
Coups and Counter Coups: Military coups in Nigeria can be traced back to January 15th 1966 when Nzeogwu and his men struck leading to other counter coups where ethnic cleansing took place. In this exhibition of power and ambition, some ethnic groups felt decimated in the military and marginalized.
Election Rigging: Nigerians hardly had any transparently successful elections. Each election in Nigeria ends up almost breaking – up the country. The election which brought Alhaji Shehu Shagari to power in 1979 was finally decided in the court of law with some ethnic groups feeling cheated by the others. The June 12 (1993) issue in which the result of a presidential election was annulled led to series of violent reactions as well as economic and political crises. Indeed, the election that brought Late Yar‘adua into power in 2007 was attested to by the supposedly winner as fraudulent. Even the recent 2011 election that ushered in Goodluck Jonathan as the president resulted in series of post-election violence, making the recent Boko-Haram crises to have political colourations.
Rotational Presidency Issue: The call for a national presidency started as a result of fear of marginalization of some ethnic groups by other(s). Some tribal groups believe that the only way to avert this is to rotate the leadership among the six geo-political zones instead of the lump sum North–South divide. This has continued to raise a lot of dust in the body polity (Tyokase, 2002). ·
Defective Nigerian Constitution: The constitution is the supreme and fundamental document of the state (or nation) in which are enshrined the basic principles and laws of the state (or nation). In the cheered history of exploring models of governance and co-existence, Nigeria has tried several constitutions since independence (1960, 1963, 1979, 1989, 1995, and 1999). Some have suggested that the ephemerality (or instability) of our constitutions is because they are not the “people’s constitution” (David – West, 2002). Accordingly, Tyokase (2002) submitted that Nigeria’s recurring crisis had it root in the defect of the structure and operation of the Nigerian Federal Constitution since the country has never had a truly Nigerian constitution.
National Conference Agitation: By far, the most popularly and well-articulated debate on how to address the national question is on the National/Sovereign conference controversy. The Sovereign National Conference (SNC) has gained prominence as a tool of political struggle in Africa. For example, it was used as a political struggle in Republic of Benin (1990), Congo, Niger, Togo and Zaire (1991) among others (David – West, 2002; Akinyanju, 2001). A SNC is a form of revolution. It is a challenge seeking the replacement of the status quo. However, the ruling class in Nigeria usually considers it as an attempt to overthrow them or at the minimum, as a vote of no confidence in them. Thus, they are usually opposed to it and where the SNC is to be employed to undertake issues more fundamental and complicated than removing a despotic leader such as defining a nation, as in Nigeria, it convocation becomes a lot more difficult (Akinyanju, 2001).
Fostering Unity in Diversity in Nigeria as the Way Forward
The American mode of federalism which is greatly aided by possession of common aspirations and common ideals (Oputa, 2006) is thereby recommended for Nigeria. The preamble to Nigeria’s 1979 and 1999 constitutions which clearly stated Nigerians aspirations as to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state should be integrated into the country’s national anthem with a resolve by all to continue to serve our “fatherland” with all “our heart and strength” as “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity”. For the Nigerian democracy to continue to work, blossom and sustainable, political leadership should be based on merit and credible past records. While considering fair representations across all geo – political zones, merit and credibility for zonal selections should not be compromised.
In this regard, strict observance to the rule of law to leadership is imperative to make the leaders become good role models for the citizenry. This may have to be inculcated through political re-orientation from the presidency to the least political leadership. Indeed, we can rebuild from our ruins considering that once there is a will there will be a way out of our difficult situations, which are not irredeemable. Because of this, both the political office holders and the led in Nigeria should demonstrate a resolve to chart a new course that will guarantee a better future. After all, forward-looking countries like the United States of America, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany, Japan and India had experienced tough challenges and upheavals in one time or the other without losing hope of recovery and are today in the forefront of global political and economic leadership.
The same could be said of countries like South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda which are reckoned as the promising face of African renaissance after passing through national adversities (Emeh, 2012). Therefore, the need for biometric electoral system to ensure credible elections should be adopted. There is a need for deliberate teaching of human rights in schools so that people can develop respect for human dignity and democratic attitudes.
Equally, peace education for the promotion of ‘culture of peace’ is necessary in Nigerian schools and various communities. However, the National Orientation Agencies need to intensify efforts at canvassing for national trust, tolerance, and cultural respect as well as unalloyed commitment to unity in diversity. To reinvent the lofty dreams of the country’s founding fathers, those in the corridors of power at federal, state and local government levels are implored to eschew dishonesty, greed and personal aggrandizement in order to exercise leadership by examples for peace, stability, progress and common good in the country. They need to display strong political leadership to clear the swamps of relative economic deprivation, huge income gap between the rich and the poor, chronic unemployment, mass poverty leading to violent crimes and insecurity that are threatening Nigeria’s unity
Nigeria is a product of its history, culture, diversities, successes and failures which are all deeply engraved in her body politics (Alkali, 2012). The reality is that Nigeria is a country made up of many nations or nationalities, some historically marginalized and disadvantaged and existing in a situation of “stratified fulmination” with superordinate and subordinate relationships (Oputa, 2006). Each generation of Nigerians continues to have their taste of these realities and challenges in different forms, nature and dimensions. Indeed, unity in diversity is one major stepping stone towards the attainment of nationhood in Nigeria and the need to promote it by good adaptation or adoption as dictated by true federalism and genuine federal restructuring should never be compromised for ethnic loyalties.
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