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Post-election ethnic divide in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Even after concluding the election, Nigerians reel from tribal prejudice.

The new president will be sworn in on May 29, 2023 in Nigeria. A few days after the presidential elections, former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was declared the president-elect. However, the election that brought him in as the next president was characterized with a lot of controversies. Nigerians are still reeling from the effects of the events that occurred. Many voters were reportedly disenfranchised by political thugs who were purportedly to be working for the leading political parties in the country.

Lagos State was prominent in the news during the election period. Pictures and videos surfaced on the internet, especially on Twitter microblogging platform, showing non-state actors chasing away non-Yoruba voters because they reportedly would not vote for their preferred candidate. In a particular report, a local had recounted how a badly beaten man was running in the distance and was chased by men armed with sticks, knives and cutlasses. This was in a lively area in the cultural and economic heart of Nigeria.

Voters of Igbo extraction were allegedly targeted by thugs.

According to locals, the armed men came to their polling booth not long after and began to order people to leave. “They’re chasing Igbo people away,” someone had told him. Across Nigeria that day, many incidents of ethnicity-based voter intimidation happened. The media had reported the 2023 general elections to have been marred by violence and vote-rigging. As soon as the results were completely announced, the presidential candidate of each of the two other leading political parties immediately petitioned the court to overturn the results.

The population of the mostly Christian Igbo tribe is between 15 and 18 percent of the Nigerian population. They are the third largest ethnic group, behind the Yoruba and the Hausa. The non-state actors seemed to have targeted voters from that tribe because of the traction that former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, had garnered with the Labor Party. In Nigerian history, since the country transitioned to democracy in 1999, no Igbo person has been elected president. Although there seem to have been an unwritten agreement that the presidency be rotated between the North and the South, the South East has not produced any president since 1999.

Locals narrate their experience of tribalism during the election.

One of the voters who was forced to leave his polling unit in Surulere because he was Igbo said, “We now understand that we are not one in Nigeria.” He said that if the two other major tribes in Nigeria are not comfortable with the Igbos ruling them, everyone should be allowed to go their separate ways. Asides this, the campaigning in the general elections showed that tribalism is growing in Nigeria and that ethnic prejudice and division still run deep.

Another voter said that the men who had asked her to leave the polling booth told her that she was stupid and that she should have gone to Nnewi to vote. A policy consultant in Lagos, Timi Olagunju, said that the ethnic profiling of Igbos living in Lagos was deliberate and amplified by social media. In the heat of the campaign, politically motivated propaganda spread like wildfire across social media platforms. For instance, Peter Obi, a Christian, was accused of destroying Muslim communities when he was a governor and of supporting the cause of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

President-elect Tinubu has a highly divided nation to govern.

So far, it has been clear to all and sundry that the country is not only divided but also counting political scores. The elite from each region is looking out for itself, whether or not it affects the other regions or not. Hints of politicians who have started lobbying the president-elect have surfaced on the internet. Consequently, while the populace bids their time until the inauguration, everyone knows that the incoming president will face a very strong opposition and a highly divided nation. It is left to him on how he will navigate the system.


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