The Nigeria society is characterized by many different beliefs, values, and morals. These characteristics help to strengthen thesociety and can however, also bring about the slow annihilation of Nigeria as a whole and can determine whether the Society becomes stronger or weaker.
Nigerians are very conscious of their ethnic backgrounds, and owe allegiance to their ethnic groups. They place the interest of their small ethnic groups, religious beliefs and values above the interest of Nigeria as a whole. Sadly this attitude undermines the unity of Nigeria.
Ethnicity as well as incessant religious crises in some sections of the country militate against development. The statement of Walter Rodney in this book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ is equally relevant here. In Rodney’s book, the Europeans described tribalism as one of the most important manifestations of historical arrest and stagnation in colonial Africa. That term in common journalistic setting is understood to mean that Africans have a basic loyalty to tribe rather than nation and that each tribe still retains its fundamental hostility towards its neighbouring tribes. The examples favoured by the capitalist press and bourgeois scholarship are those of Congo and Nigeria. Their accounts suggest that Europeans tried to make a nation out of the Congolese and Nigerian peoples, but they failed, because the various tribes had their age long hatreds; and, as soon as the colonial power left, the natives returned to killing each other. To this phenomenon, Europeans often attach the word ‘atavism’, to carry the notion that Africans were returning to their primitive savagery.
The Nigerian civil war which claimed millions of lives was partly caused by ethnic hatred which existed among Nigerians then even now, the conflict situation in Jos arises primarily out of ethnic differences, pitching Hausa settlers against the Plateau indigene tribes of Afizere, Anaguta and Berom. Jos is the capital of Plateau State, and the local indigene tribes, backed by other indigene tribes elsewhere in the State, feel they have a right to control the local governments of the region by force, if necessary. In other parts of Plateau State the other indigene tribes have been fighting against other Hausa settler incursions as well. In fact the fight between indigenes and settlers is endemic all over Nigeria.
In Plateau State, religious perspectives have been introduced to the ethnic war, this is because the Hausas are predominantly Muslims and the Plateau tribes are predominantly Christians. So besides the honour of ethnicity, the honour of religion is also there to be defended by any means necessary. Religious crises have been one of the ailments that threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Despite the differences in religion, the unity of Nigeria should not be disrupted, as everybody is expected to carry out his religious duty without hurting the feeling of others. The Bible and the Qur’an disclose that no religion preaches violence and intolerance. Anything that can tamper with the peaceful co-existence in any community is frowned at by these religions.
It is not only our religious differences that disunite us most times; the struggle for political power among leaders of ethnic groups in some African countries also triggers conflict in the countries. We could easily remember the Nigerian Civil where many souls were lost in every front.
The compulsory one year NYSC scheme is a step taken by the Nigeria government to integrate the unity of the society by posting university graduates to places other than their home states. The aim of the scheme seems to have been defeated considering the chaos that happened in some parts of the country.
Education they say is a process of impacting knowledge from one person to another. It appears to be the starting point to propagate social unity, what then is to be said about students who leave school with amazingly high scores or grades and are denied scholarships and job opportunities based on ethnic or religious grounds while those with lesser qualifications are considered?
It may be necessary to call for the introduction of graded lessons in schools, from the earliest classes to the Advanced Levels where ethics, good citizenship, transparency, accountability, social responsibility and national unity could be taught. Exchange programmes should be organised for students to mix up with others from different ethnic origins. This will open windows for interaction opportunity. There is indeed a good chance for integration especially if teachers guide them proactively.
The Constitution should also be targeted at achieving national unity as one of its primary objective. And our leaders should support and implement those elements of our culture and education which will tend to unify the diverse components of our society and try to do away with those elements which will tend to highlight the differences between the groups to which we belong by accident of birth or by upbringing.