Engaging The Sterile and Vicious Politics of Ethnicity in Nigeria (Africa).
One of the greatest challenges Nigeria and indeed Africa has ever grappled with since independence is the problem of ethnic solidarity among the various ethnic groups constituting the diverse ethnic makeup within the territorial boundaries of African countries. Prior to Africa’s era of independence ethnic loyalty rather than national loyalty became a sort of inclination African politicians often subscribed to. Unfortunately African politics tread this trajectory well into post-independence era, hence ethnicity becomes a very sensitive issue in African politics up to 21 century, because African politicians who ought to ensure unity and oneness among various ethnic groups making up the heterogeneous fabric of African countries usually exploit ruthlessly this difference of the same identity to guarantee and secure their own upward mobility in the political system. This emotional ethnic sentiment of the susceptible masses is usually awakened by the politicians when they feel the need for it to satisfy their own self-centered agenda. Which is why it not so uncommon to see politicians who are not articulate much less competent hold public offices at the expense of those who could engender growth and development politically and economically through policies sensitive to the need of the people.
This sad state of affairs without doubt is one of the many legacies of colonialism, it grows out of the manner in which the colonist lumped together people of different kingdoms, empires, etc into one entity to perpetually vie for power among themselves and ultimately this crystallized into modern politics of ethnicity i.e a country segmented along ethnic lines and seldom act together since the segments perceived themselves as competitors rather than members of the same cause who shares the same identity. An illustration to understand better will suffice, in 1960 after independence Nigeria was divided into three (3) regions for administrative and political convenience putting into cognizance the size of the country instead of solving problems it ended up creating ghastly one. Soon the division took ethnic connotations Northern region Hausa/Fulani, Western region Yoruba and Eastern region Igbo. The full impact of this schism was not seen until 1966 when coup by the military headed by Igbo officer was considered an attack on the Hausa/Fulani dominated government by the northerners. Although the objectives of the first coup was to address the ills of the society it proved abortive as the effort was taken over by another military officer also Igbo. What follows next was counter-coup led by Hausa officer and pogrom against the Igbos in the northern region, attempt to solve this issue was also abortive and this led to war in the country 1967-70.
Ever since the country has remain divided along ethnic line despite numerous efforts to address or solve this problem. This vestige of sterile politics do manage one way or the other to rear its ugly head in the country’s political arena most especially in sensitive times among the populace. As prove, in the just concluded international lauded 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, the votes of the two major candidates did not really reflect national consent but rather ethnic consent and strategic alliance with the southwest which was the decisive factor. One of the major themes of the election was voting for candidate of one’s ethnic affiliation rather than voting for the right candidate, which was the reason why some people were subjected to ridicule, vitriol and slander because they voted candidate of their choice and apparently this candidate is not of their ethnic origin. Suffice to ask what does being a proper Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa/Fulani, Ijaw, etc mean? Does it mean subservience in the face of untold and unwarranted hardship because an inept leader at the helm of affairs of the state is of one’s ethnic affiliation? Or is it acquiescent to the diabolic misery of poverty? Does is it not defies logic to think the bitter pills of poverty are best digested when administer by mischievous doctors of one’s ethnic identity? In a country where ethnic sentiment has injured severely the political common sense of the electorate do we need not to consider our stand when it comes to deciding who get our votes and for what reasons?
What Nigerians (and Africans) must come to terms with is that a bad leader is a bad leader irrespective of his/her ethnic origin. What we must realize is that over fifty (50) years of independence we have had leaders from across the country that has served in various capacity yet we have struggle at every step to achieve meaningful development. Whilst majority of Nigerians struggle to meet ends need and aspired to break through the iron forged barricade of poverty the Nigerian politicians swims and flaunt their ill-gotten wealth they acquire through looting of the country’s treasury. To remain divided is to remain prey of the politicians who will forever continue to deftly exploit our differences.
Africans must act against these divisive tendencies if it must achieve unity on a continental scale. African unity has remained elusive and difficult because the component units are internally disunited. For Africa to achieve unity on a continental scale the first big step is to deal decisively with the impediment of disunity among the components making up the whole.