The social media is routinely awash with acerbic comments that eloquently speak to the antagonistic relationship that exist among Nigerians – they come with heavy religious and ethnic connotations. The situation now amounts to a declaration of war against the country’s unity. The warriors in the battlefield are preponderantly youth which clearly places the country’s future in a quandary. Sadly, moderating voices are few and far between.
Nigeria is an intriguing weave of cultures, faith and tribes constituting a huge population that should ordinarily serve the union. Essentially, its rich diversity holds an abounding potential for collective progress and development.
The history of the country is so steeped in mutual suspicion, mistrust enabled by religion and ethnicity which has reduced diversity to a disadvantage. The amalgamation of the country was clearly for administrative convenience as many commentators are wont to describe it. The requisite hard work in welding the constituent parts together was well and truly missing.
After independence, development found fertile space to grow at the different regions. The regions developed at their pace under a parliamentary political arrangement. Though not a perfect situation yet the leaders worked in instituting growth and development. However, thicket of problems which touched on rivalry, political tensions and ultimately, failure in blending the ethnic groups for synergy in achieving the bigger goal of nation building led to a collapse of the democratic experience through ethnically related coups and counter coups followed by a civil war.
In a bid to fully integrate the nation with all the lines of difference completely blurred and to ensure that no part is left behind in terms of development- a new system of governance was introduced coupled with other interventions. Be that as it may, the country has remained a country of strange bedfellows after many years of being together and struggling for an identity as a nation.
As things stand, the parts are at daggers drawn- placing the country on the edge. A cacophonous cry of secession remains deafening. Myriad of the disparate groups are not particularly comfortable being in the union owing to the poor handling of the country’s diversity. Political governance has failed to respect diversity- several interventions aimed at instituting equity and justice have been largely implemented in breach.
It’s shameful that despite the spike in education and exposure many citizens still view happenings largely from primordial lenses; incendiary comments continue to grow apace. It is pathetic that the whole idea of voting is simply to install a government that would place one group or religion above the other in the dispensation of political favours.
It still hard to come to term with the thinking in some quarters that a citizen from another region is unqualified to oversee the affair of the nation’s capital- which is supposed to be a part of the symbol of our national unity. So, it is a difficult proposition to journey together with a warped attitude or mindset. Many still don’t think of the country as huge and diverse.
Truth is, the more the attempt to respect diversity the better for any society. Some of the successful countries of the world had to manage their diversity to facilitate progress which effectively dismisses the common believe that Nigeria is too diverse to enable meaningful progress.
The conundrum has always been poor leadership – some of the leaders remain tied to our past where our great leaders govern strictly on regional lines. And, their memories are still invoked to inflame passion in driving leaders not least in doing more to their regions- of course, at the expense of other parts which promote rent- seeking, corruption and mediocrity among other things. This is not to denigrate our past leaders or their achievements.
The responsibility of present crop of leaders is to draw from their fountain of inspirational leadership, zeal, farsightedness in working for the collective good in building in a nation where everyone irrespective of tribe faith are respected. The recent election cycle exemplified the very problem of the country. The division was wide- that the world saw a riven nation.
Socio-economic development requires that all citizens are engaged in harvesting the full benefits of the uniqueness of culture and talents of the disparate groups that constitute the country. The military administrations in the past were a lot fairer and conscious of the country’s diversity.
Accepting our diversity and ensuring it reflects in how the country in being administered is the path to achieving unity and by extension growth and development. Respect for diversity is about tolerance, peaceful coexistence and equal opportunity.
Ungbo writes from Kaduna via