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Nigeria may be dividing much earlier than predicted

  The recent political events in Nigeria have further widened the debate on the inevitability of the sovereign nation’s breakup amongst its ...


The recent political events in Nigeria have further widened the debate on the inevitability of the sovereign nation’s breakup amongst its major ethnic groups. And until drastic steps are taken to curtail the situation, Nigeria may be looking the way of Sudan.


While the country is enjoying unprecedented silence from the notorious separatist groups, the Independent People of Biafra, as well as the Yoruba Nation agitators, the political actors’ unwitting actions and inactions are subtly awakening the electorate’s mindsets toward making electoral choices based on primitive sentiments of religious and tribal affiliation, rather than on basic criteria for good governance. The situation holds the potency for the disintegration of the country.


In each major political camp are pointers to possible irreconcilable differences, with their key players riding on religious and tribal sentiments to infiltrate the minds of many for electoral gains.


The precarious situation now leaves behind a strong fear of full-blown separationist terror activities should the electoral victory swing in favour of the opponent’s camp.


The South-East part of the country, which is the nest of Biafra emancipation advocates, has in recent times been a flashing point of secession-related terror activities. The flagrant negligence and marginalisation of the region in aspects of civil dividends by the central government is part of the underlying causes of the unrest.


The unwholesome encroachment by nomadic Hausa-Fulani cattle rearers in the Yoruba predominant parts of the South has also pushed the natives of the region to take up arms in defence of their farmlands.


Why Yoruba Nation’s agitation technically hinges on a similar root cause of IPOB’s, the two situations have, however, only further increased the call from the regions for a referendum on possible secession.



However, the forthcoming elections in the country have brought a delicate poser to the situation.


Early March this year, the hegemonic northern coalition of the ruling party unanimously agreed to the secession of power to the South. This is considered a fair bargain considering the fact that, by all indices, the religious conservative region has held on to power many years more than the South. The permutation that has never favoured the South-East.


But while this northern ‘gesture’ is expected to assuage the flaming lips of the separatists, the eventual candidatures of the one-time governors of Lagos State and his Anambra counterpart, Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi respectively, and the emergency of a former vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has however further inflamed the belligerence hitherto existed amongst the regions.


The choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket — a situation where, if materialised, the President and Vice President will be of the same faith —by the ruling party (the All Progressives Congress) has not only put the Christian community in the defence, it’s also lending plausible credence to the milling conspiracy to Islamise the country. This is considered a seeming effrontery capable of further pitching the predominant Christian South against the predominantly Muslim north.


Tinubu is a secular Muslim from the South; Obi, a Catholic adherent also from the South, and Atiku, a serial presidential hopeful of Muslim Northern extract. While many consider the choice for their Vice Presidential candidates as exigencies of mere political calculations—a political strategy to entice more voters—those in other camps believe it is a pointer to a clandestine motif. The latter position is often to spite the antics of the ruling party for floating a mono-religion ticket.


Inter alia, ethnicity and religious bias will not just be factors shaping electoral outcomes now, the country’s electoral processes have always had the history of ethnoreligious colouration on any regime composition, a situation the country’s current federal administration has worsened through a series of allegations of nepotism and religious bigotry.


Combating this issue, many think tanks, both locally and internationally, have on many occasions called on the electoral stakeholders, particularly the country’s electoral umpire to re-strategise the mode of engagement in order to safeguard the nation’s unity and foster tolerance and peaceful coexistence amongst the citizenry during and after the electioneering processes.



The process should be devoid of any divisive tendency. Candidates should strongly be encouraged to emulate the best democratic practices from the global best democracies and run issue-based campaigns while shunning divisive remarks that can trigger reprisal from the opposing camps.


And in ensuring adherence to this spirit of sportsmanship, the Independent National Electoral Commission can further weigh in with prescribed sanctions on culpable political parties found pitching one section of the country against the other through its activities, either by the party, or its standard-bearer.


In addition to the aforesaid, an enactment of strong legislation that will see to the promotion of a balanced, all-inclusive and fair representation of all ethnoreligious sections in political parties; and ensuring the ethos are reflective in the composites of party standard-bearers.


The condiment for national cohesion is multi-layered, however, the real solution might also be a simple answer to a simple question of good governance. Promoting and delivery of good governance will put minds of people away from primitive and divisive sentiments.


Adetutu, a writing Fellow at African Liberty, writes from Katsina


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