Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conflicts in Nigeria - My Reflections

The three major causes of conflicts in my immediate society are: ethnicity, religion, and politics.

On the whole, Nigerians have long lived in relative peace with mutual understanding among the various ethnic and religious groups all over the country. Interethnic and interfaith marriages and other socioeconomic relations were commonplace.

Long years of military misrule had left the country in a socioeconomically bankrupt situation. The return to civil in 1999 brought into power, a crop of civilian leaders who had no political ideologies or economic plans for the country. They therefore resorted to appealing to ethnic and religious sentiments in their campaigns to win votes in the elections.

This seemingly innocent ploy to get votes filtered through to the consciousness of many gullible Nigerians who from then on, saw themselves as owing allegiance first to their tribes or religious faiths before the country!

These group of inept political leaders on the other hand, have used the acquired political power to loot the national and state treasuries while heavily funding their propaganda machine to spread hate messages about groups other than theirs, they spread misinformation to depict the “other sides” as being the cause of the masses’ socioeconomic woes.

This has led to a situation whereby many ignorant citizens look at people of other faiths/tribes as enemies whose activities are the cause of the problems the country is facing.

While the leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origin and religious faiths collaborate to misappropriate public funds, the masses are fed religious/ethnic propaganda.
This dangerous trend has now affected every aspect of national life. It is virtually impossible for citizens to get jobs in states other than their states of origin or places where members of their religious faith hold sway. Public institutions (and in some cases, private organizations) will prefer to employ unqualified indigenes even if there are better qualified non-indigenes.

At the slightest provocation (sometimes even without no just cause), physical violence breaks out between various tribes/faiths, all fueled by the propaganda that had been fed into their consciousness by political and religious leaders.

Thousands of lives and properties worth billions of naira have been lost to such violence in different parts of the country in the last few years where people are unable to live peacefully simply because of ethnic/religious differences.

My immediate community here in Kano is not immune to outbreaks of such wanton destruction of lives and properties. Simple disputes between people of different religious faiths could within hours escalate into an all out statewide or nationwide orgy of killings and destruction of properties by extremists from the two sides.

Most unfortunately, instead of attempting to tackle the real causes of this unending cycle of recurring violence, subsequent governments have only used a fire brigade approach by sending in troops to quell the fights when they break out.

The troops are stationed in the towns for some months and then withdrawn when a forced quiet returns. It should be noted that it is commonplace for the troops to perpetrate their own kind of brutality on the inhabitants during their stay.

The deep-rooted animosity between the tribes/religious faiths is left without being looked into, and so, after some period of relative quiet, another trivial dispute destroys the fragile “peace” and hell is let loose again!

After violent clashes between the tribes/faiths, governments sometimes set up panels of enquiry to find out the causes of the disturbances and proffer suggestions on how to prevent future occurrences. Various individuals and interest groups usually appear before these panels to make submissions. But at the end of it all, the reports of the various panels never the light of the day, none of the recommendations is ever implemented. Next time there is another outbreak of violence, the same old process is repeated - Send in troops, set up a panel of enquiry whose recommendations are never used! On and on goes the naked dance of madness!

Though the situation is indeed dire, a sincere and determined effort by the various political and religious leaders to tackle this problem can succeed. A starting point is the almost unanimous agreement by all Nigerian tribes/faiths of the necessity of keeping the country as one undivided entity.

This acceptance of the need to keep Nigeria one, is backed up with sincere willingness to respect the diverse nature of the country’s composition, will certainly place the country on the road to peace.

More transparency and accountability is also required in governance to eliminate bribery and corruption from the public sector. Appointments should also be made on merit and competence, without any ethnic/religious bias.

Political and religious leaders on their part, have to refrain from making inflammatory statement that could ignite tensions in the polity.

Peace education programmes targeting youths should also be integrated into the national academic curriculum at all levels. This will guide the youths to grow up with skills, knowledge and passion for entrenching peace in the society.

1 comment:

  1. Ibrahim,

    It's the same old tactic of divide and rule. Nigerians need to look back in their history to see that there was a time that they all lived in harmony with each other. If they could only see how they are manipulated by the politicians, there would be more peace among them.

    I think your initiative to bring young people together is so important to break the negative cycle of violence in some communities. Implementing peace education into the national curriculum is also a means to reeducate people and help them return to the harmonious state they once enjoyed.

    It is the same world over that leaders/politicians pit group against group. However, it is hard to see this when one is in the midst of it.



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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.