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Ethno-religious divides may worsen insecurity

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By Abraham Adekunle

Experts insist ethno-religious divides worsen insecurity and poverty in Nigeria.

Nigeria currently experiences socio-economic challenges and deepening Insecurity especially in the North West and North East regions of Nigeria. Experts claim that these issues may persist unless the country finds a solution to the worsening ethno-religious situation in the country. Experts convened at an event in Abuja to have a discussion with the theme, “A Way to Mitigate Ethnic Tension, Re-examining the Ability of Ethnic Federalism to Reduce Group Grievances in Nigeria.” These experts persisted that Nigeria must devise a way to ensure that all the ethnic groups and religious organizations in the country have a say in the way the country is governed.

At the seminar, which was organized by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) and the Africa School of Economics (ASE), the experts stressed the need for peaceful co-existence, adding that unless there is social justice and a federal system that is inclusive for all concerned parties, Economic Development may just remain a dream in the country. Before the Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafran War), Nigeria practiced federalism, where Nigeria was divided into regions and the center was weaker than it is today. This is an example of a federal system that is more inclusive than the current system in Nigeria.

Gilchrist says Nigeria needs ethnic federalism.

The experts included Narrelle Gilchrist of Princeton University; Country Director of Care, Hussaini Abdu; Director, Good Governance Team, Tunde Selma; and Partner, Nextier Group, Dr Ndubuisi Nwokolo. This team of experts said that while Nigeria has good legal framework and ideas that promote exclusivity, there is a need to strengthen and implement ways that can address the grievances of different ethnic groups. Gilchrist noted the multiple nature of ethnic groups in Nigeria and makes Nigeria a key case of ethnic federalism.

She admitted success in the way Nigeria has managed its ethnic differences and called mechanism that would further strengthen the move across the country. She said, “Looking at this single system of ethnic federalism can illustrate why decentralization of power might stem some ethnic conflicts while failing to stop others, because of its context-specific design and enforcement. In my cross-national regression results, I find that ethnic federalism on average does have a mitigating impact on conflict, but the effect is conditional on groups’ having reduced grievances under decentralization.”

Nigeria is now divided more than it has ever been since independence.

With more than 250 tribes and more than 500 languages (the second largest for a country in the world), ethnic groups have always looked out for the benefit of their people especially in the long run. Although Nigeria is often divided into three major tribes, it does not take long to discover that the three-major-tribe division is just a miniaturized, media version of reality. In the South West geo-political zone of Nigeria, the Yoruba are the most dominant and largest in population. But even amongst this major tribe, some that are from Badagry in Lagos are sometimes seen as pseudo-Yoruba.

In the South South and South East zones, there are more tribes and ethnicities than is projected in the media. These include the Bini, the Ebira, the Ijaw, the Ibibio, etc. In the North Central, North West and North East zones, it is much the same. This makes political decisions and the federal-character clause in the constitution of the country very hard to implement. The recent build-up to the general elections in 2023 has shown that one cannot just sum up the division in the country.

The state of insecurity in the country has ethno-religious coloration.

As soon as Boko Haram (a terrorist organization fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate) started its activities, many people have termed it a Muslim agenda, a Hausa-Fulani supremacist plan, and a political move to rake in illegal money. However, the group also consists of people from different ethnicities other than Hausa and Fulani. The group had also attacked mosques and Muslim worshippers in the past. Also, that the group had also in the past seized and launched a territory more than the size of Belgium in the northern area of Nigeria, it does not really have any corrupt political undertone. Or does it have all of these at the same time? Now that the problem has shifted to bandits and kidnappers, the same concerns have been raised.


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