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THISDAYLIVE - Ethnic Nationalities and Emerging Challenges in Nigeria (Part 4)

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    Historically, Nigeria has come a long way from multi-ethnic nationalities, with political differences and background to the present structure of thirty-six States. Ethnic nationality is without doubt, a political term mostly used in attempt to express the degree of similarities existing within a group or race, though it remains elusive. Today, we shall conclude our discourse on this vexed issue.

    Reassessing the Ethnic Discourse and Suggestions on How to Manage the Emerging Challenges of Ethnic Nationalities in a Bid to Manage Nigeria 

    Start with yourself, it always works. Take part in meetings and parades promoting Nigerian, but not tribal unity. Meet friends from other cultures, marry a girl from the other tribe, and develop the idea of the difference between tribes as a positive idea. Tell your thoughts at the family reunion dinner, and share them with a friend. Do your best to introduce peace and equality, into your Nigerian culture. So, there is the problem of ethnic hatred. But, today, many people claim that this is not the hatred between people, but the hatred among politicians. That is why we proposed the best ways to solve ethnic problems, on the level of the political reformation. As you see, every person can contribute to solving this problem. Fortunately, Nigeria is a democratic country, at least formally, but ruled by its people, and if people do not want hatred, no other factors can influence it.

    You personally can contribute to cultural integration. Become a volunteer, travel around Nigeria and promote your culture, tell its stories and present its history and unusual beliefs. You can also contribute to media and internet propaganda. Write posts about your own intercultural experience, and support groups and articles about ethnic integration and ways of solving the problems of ethnicity in Nigeria to overcome the problems of ethnicity in Nigeria, and reach the principal goal – national unity, it is necessary to unite people in as many aspects of life as it is possible. 

    However, here are five possible ways of solving the problems of ethnicity in Nigeria, that can unite the nation on the governmental and social level.

    Economic Cooperation: It is necessary to provide the citizens with the universal system of goods, and unite regions depending on the natural resources. For example, the Edo supply the country with cocoa, but receive sugar cane from the Sokoto people. The same interaction can be introduced, in the other sectors of the economy.

    Political and State Cooperation: The creation of common political parties, and the creation of road and railway transport connection between the lands of different ethnic groups must be taken into account. Besides, the Government itself has to start thinking, how can ethnic conflict be resolved, and the Government has to be interested in solving the current problems of ethnicity. There must be representatives of all (and even minor) cultures in Parliament, to satisfy the interests of all people of Nigeria.

    Youth Education: It is more difficult to influence the opinion of senior people who can still somehow (maybe because of personal reasons) support ethnic conflict in Nigeria, than to influence the formation of another worldview of the young people. The subject of intercultural interaction, must be included in the curriculum. Children have to attend the meetings, with the representatives of other Nigerian cultures. There, they can exchange the history of cultures, the cultural experience, beliefs, food recipes, cultural heritage, and traditions. Nothing stops aggression, discrimination, and hatred, better than broad worldview provided by education. 

    Secular Activities: The Organisation of national festivals, celebration, the introduction of traditional holidays and even religion, will contribute to the possible solutions to ethnic conflicts. It is not easy to change or modify ethnic habits, but it is indispensable to do the best to find common traits in all cultures, and assure people that they have to find a compromise and accept changes, in favour of Nigeria’s unity. 

    Inter-tribal Marriage: The encouraging of intercultural marriage on the governmental level, will surely solve the problems of ethnicity. Intercultural tribes can be supported financially, and officially congratulated to show respect to people who contribute to the creation of a united Nigerian nation. 

    Summarily, while ethnic competition theory does help to highlight some facets of Nigeria’s developmental challenges, not least the ‘unwholesome’ roles played by some political, cultural and civic leaders, there is certainly the need to go beyond an ethnic model of analysis and focus on the ‘emancipatory’ significance of struggles occurring in certain sections of a multi-ethnic society. I believe that despite the overwhelming historical evidence of battles by ‘ordinary’ Africans against oppressors (such as slave traders, missionaries, coloniser’s, homegrown dictators, and foreign imperialists), some analysts still find it difficult to ‘accord’ the status of democratic struggles to such efforts. What could be more ‘emancipatory’ and ‘civic’ than a striving by ordinary people ‘for access, fairness, equal opportunity, political expression and participation in the collective enterprise of a political community’? Also, on the issue of excessive reliance on ethnicity as an ‘explanation’ for African conflicts, I will again opine that, ‘the interest which appropriates and privatises State power wears the ethnic mask, which is what distracts us from seeing that what is being opposed is not ethnicity, but something else which is hiding behind ethnicity’. The seeming ethnic opposition from grassroots groups is conjectural and deceptive because it is constituted, not by ethnics wanting to oppose holders of State power, but by holders of State power trying to conceal injustices and undemocratic tendencies. In the case of Oloibiri, Ebubu and Iko, grassroots narratives fundamentally reveal that it is the State, petroleum companies and local political representatives – and not necessarily the ‘other ethnic groups’, who appropriate the ‘lion’s share’ of Nigeria’s petroleum resources – that must reassess their relationships with ordinary people.

    Bearing in mind that, the key policy challenge is to look beyond the activities of ethnic and political entrepreneurs, who sometimes deliberately or unwittingly help to transform immanent, ‘passive’ contradictions in a society, into ‘active’ tensions and conflicts. There is also a need to understand the infrastructure of social oppression, that such struggles have the potential of revealing. This is because struggles often hastily labelled ‘tribal’, ‘sectional’ or ‘ethnic’, could very well be ‘emancipatory’ struggles aiming to make social justice a reality in politics and governance in a given country. 


    From the foregoing analysis, it has been established that in trying to understand or explain the worsening orgy of violence and militarisation in the Niger Delta, a somewhat excessive emphasis seems to have been paid to the issue of Nigeria’s ethnic diversity and ethnic competition. While analysts have not entirely ignored the fact that grassroots struggles (even frequent eruptions of lawlessness) in the region transcend particularistic, ethnic concerns, there has been a tendency to treat such transcendence as merely ‘tangential’ to ‘the more fundamental’ issue of ethnicity. 

    What has also been shown, especially from the ethnographic data reported in the previous section, is that a focus on the lived experiences and everyday narratives of ordinary men and women in specific oil-producing communities, rather than on organisations acting ‘on their behalf‘, makes it easier to apprehend the true social character of, or at least the complex tapestry of forces shaping, such struggles. This obviously echoes Idemudia and Ite’s call for an ‘integrated explanation’ of the Niger Delta conflict. As Ake has argued, an ethnic reading of local struggles might cast such struggles as primitive, uncivil and retrogressive, but ‘it does not eradicate their democratic significance’. While not denying the fact that under particular conditions ethnic diversity could give expressions to civic tensions, one must agree that conflict is not necessarily the defining fabric of ethnic groups, as ethnic groups are no different from other social groupings.

    Conclusively, one major lesson that can be drawn from all of this is that, under certain conditions – such as conditions of large-scale and prolonged social justice deficits – so-called ‘sectionally-based’ struggles could help to define for a ‘deprived’ region and for the wider society, a more socially sensitive development and democratisation trajectory. In other words, it is only through a rigorous interrogation of the lived worlds, narratives and discontents of people on the ground, that it will become clear what the authentic drivers of ‘sectionally-based’ struggles are. It is diversionary simply to closet such struggles, in the dominant (essentialist) narratives. (The End)


    “Federalism should be able to maintain unity among all. But, this does not mean that we should boycott regional voices and the voices of ethnic groups”. (Khil Raj Regmi)

    “Today different ethnic groups and different nations come together, due to common sense”. (Dalai Lama)


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