De-escalating the ethnic tension in Nigeria
Before you say that word, have you considered the impact it could have? We are in the twilight of the electioneering season, and it has been full of hostilities and verbal missiles. Interestingly, besides unbridled political verbal wars which metamorphosed into an ethnic conflict between the Yorubas and the Igbos, we are getting to the tipping point of ethnic conflagration where two ethnic groups are ready to go physical on each other. I pray we don’t get to that point. The conflict has degenerated to ethnocentrism where statehood has been greatly damaged to the extent that the cord that binds both the Yorubas and the Igbos is almost broken.
Sadly, intellectuals, technocrats and those who should be in the know have joined in this unorganized mass of tribal soldiers ready to unleash mayhem on the opposing ethnic group not minding the knowledge they have been exposed to for decades.
At times like this, the Rwandan genocide comes to mind, where two ethnic groups sought to exterminate each other over ethnocentrism. One referred to the other as cockroaches in their cupboards, and before long the killings started. Friends from Tutsi who ran to the Hutus were killed by Tutsis because of ethnocentrism. It became more complicated for those who intermarried; their children could not be identified as “pure Hutus” or “pure Tutsis”. This was how a nation was destroyed through genocide and when the chips were down the remnants came together to unite as a nation with strong laws and stiff penalties for anyone who played or toyed with ethnocentrism. All over the world, people travel to Rwandan memorials to see for themselves what a great nation did to themselves because of the seed of hate that was allowed to fester.
I have great indignation for the ethnic warlords that we currently have in Nigeria from both divides who are fanning the embers of division! When this gasoline they’re spreading all over the nation is ignited, they also will not be spared by the seed of destruction that they are sowing in the land.
Today, some Igbos are making caustic remarks about the Yorubas and on the other hand, some Yorubas are also replying with caustic remarks too. They are unequivocally stating that they own the land and that every other person is a stranger. They have also said that when the time is right they take over the investments of the Igbos while the Igbos are reminding them that they own most properties situated in Lagos and no one can pursue them out of Lagos. Others have opined that Lagos has become so cosmopolitan that no ethnic group can lay claims to its ownership.
It seems Peter obi’s victory rubbed this in and the Yorubas got inflamed by his victory. This is Nigeria, an Obi can win an election in Lagos while a Tinubu can win an election in Anambra and nobody should have any problem with that. It shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean the denial of a right exclusivity to any of the ethnic groups. When the chips are down the delivery of the dividends of democracy is paramount. Do you think the people of Daura are happy with Buhari? Didn’t they damage the windshield of his private helicopter? Imagine if we had an Okon as President who has been able to eliminate poverty and provide the basic necessities of life to the people, will they pelt his helicopter with a stone? Lest I deviate, back to these ethnic hostilities.
Some years ago, the former Minister of Works under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Ogunlewe was on Arise News to address the grievance of Yorubas which took the centre stage at the time. Some even protested. They felt that the Igbos have taken over Lagos State, especially their land. Ogunlewe gave a smart response; he said that the Yorubas shouldn’t blame the Igbos or express their hostility towards the Igbos since the Yorubas in Lagos sold more than half of Lagos to Igbos including Lekki and other adjoining areas. He also mentioned areas like Amuwo-Odofin, FESTAC and several other prominent estates.
He went ahead to list other parts of Lagos dominated by Igbos. For him, the schism and antagonism against the Igbos were not only unnecessary and late but self-inflicted. Was he taking sides, emphatically no but he gave an objective analysis of the situation.
It is apparent that there is a big crack in the wall and we should be thinking about how to mend the wall rather than identify with a cleavage and exacerbate the bad situation.
Both the Igbos and the Yorubas must as a
Many from both divides are digging up historical antecedents to justify why both ethnic groups must go on separate ways. This is grossly unnecessary and a very difficult agenda to pursue. The clamour for an independent state from both divides through different separatist leaders is yet to scratch the surface as per the attainment of self-government or independence. So, why engage in a wild goose chase?
The Igbos should stop laying claims to Lagos! It is insensitive for some folks to be harping on that! Have the Igbos made humongous investments in Lagos, emphatically yes! Have they bought lots of landed property and real estate in Lagos, emphatically yes! Have they massively settled in Lagos? Emphatically yes but are they the owners of Lagos? No! Every state has its aborigines. We must get rid of the idea that a Yoruba or an Igbo with mixed parentage is not a bonafide member of his paternal cleavage or family.
We saw this play out in the Lagos gubernatorial election where the Labour Party candidate was lampooned because of his mixed parentage meanwhile, his father is Yoruba! His traducers were reminded that Seyi Tinubu is married to an Igbo woman who had children for him same as Femi Fani Kayode. Should the mixed parentage vitiate the ‘Yorubanness’ of their children? Emphatically, no. Inter-ethnic marriage is one of the chords that bind plural societies such as ours together. When intermarriage gained ascendancy, tribalism diminishes and nationhood falls into place naturally.
Ethnocentrism has become a hydra-headed monster which has forcefully reared up its ugly head in our polity and we must deal with it before it incinerates our country. One of the challenges facing Nigeria’s next president, Governors, especially the Governor of Lagos State and other political leaders is to de-escalate the ethnic tension fueled by the 2023 elections.
The Nigerian Peace Committee, headed by Nigeria’s former Head of State, Abdusalami Abubakar should go beyond creating the platform and atmosphere for political aspirants to sign the Peace Accord to expanding the scope of their responsibility by injecting programs that mitigate and douses ethnic tensions and hostilities both during and after the general elections.
The seeming preponderance of ethnocentrism in Nigeria can be effectively dealt with by intentional policies and programs. We shouldn’t become architects of a self-immolating nation, Nigeria.
Abana can be reached at email@example.com