Dismantling The Strangleholds Of Ethnicity And Religion On Our Politics
When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby was asked by a BBC journalist on what he saw about Nigeria at 100, he quickly identified the three major things he saw as challenges which he described as 'Tripod challenges'. These are; religion, ethnicity and economic deprivation. He went further to state that, if Nigeria should overcome the tripod challenges, the sky will be our limit. In this episode, I have decided to write on religion which is my own way of joining forces with other patriotic Nigerians to call for the dismantling of this monster which has sent thousands of people to their untimely graves and has ripped many off their rights as well as privileges.
However, in writing or taking part in any religious programme or discussion, there is a view I always hold, it is a view shaped by a quote from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during one of the meetings of the global interfaith dialogue which took place among the global leaders of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. King Abdullah was quoted as saying 'If God had wanted the whole world to practice one religion, He would have done it' (Sic). Off cause, looking at the above statement objectively, and how it could be applied to our own case here in Nigeria, one can rightly say that, if God had wanted us to practice one religion in Nigeria, He would have done it long ago, and not each time we approach election year or period.
Looking at the history of this great country, especially how we came together as a nation in 1914, one can only conclude that, God's mighty hand was at work during the conception and the actualization of the idea that lead to the amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern protectorate in 1914 by late Sir Frederick Lord Luggard. Though some persons have long argued that, the 1914 amalgamation was never to our own interest, but, to the interest of the British people who colonized us. But, looking at the past events and circumstances that have shaken this country to its very foundation and how the nation has been able to survive them and still remain united in the last 100 years, one must accept the undeniable fact that the glue that hold us together as a nation is stronger than the said Colonial or British interest!
Nonetheless, I'm however not saying that Nigeria is a perfect country, neither have I seen a perfect one, but, the challenge of nation-building standing before us must defile the thin lines of ethnic and religious divisions among us, if Nigeria must move forward to take its rightful position among the committee of nations.
Hence, those who thinks they can hold on to the narrow cleavages of ethnicity and religion and then use it to divide us should start having a re-think and start retracting their steps because the price our founding fathers and heroes and heroines past and present paid for our continued existence as a nation is more than what can be sacrificed on the altar of religion as well as ethnicity.
Like I said in one of my numerous articles last year, especially the one I entitled: '2015: Can Obama's Winning Formula Work in Nigeria?', I did ask that, if what was possible in the pre-independent Nigeria is no longer possible In the post independent Nigeria, who then do we blame? I went further to give the example of how Alhaji Umaru Altine became the first mayor of Enugu in 1956 and still was re-elected in the 1958 mayoral election despite his ethnic and religious background. In fact, the simple reason that Alhaji Altine was a Muslim Fulani man from the Northern part of Nigeria could not stop him from becoming the first mayor of Enugu. This is the new cultural identity I want us to imbibe and display in the new Nigeria we are building!
Furthermore, if there is anything we must learn from the example I cited in the last paragraph, it is the fact that, successive generations including this very one digressed from emulating the good examples lived by those before us. And that is why every Nigerian must join the struggle until an Enugu man who works, stays or married from Ekiti State can be elected as Governor of Ekiti state and vice versa. It may look difficult, but not impossible!
Dismantling the strangleholds of religion and ethnicity on our politics should be viewed, treated and accorded the same priorities as we accorded the struggles that lead to the enthronement of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999. During the democratic struggles, we had leaders, followers, active and passive supporters of the struggle! While some went in to exile, others like late Chief MKO Abiola died along the line. But, because we finally succeeded in enthroning democratic governance in Nigeria, Abiola died for something! In this regard, I suggest that, June 12 should either be made Abiola Day or be declared a Public Holiday in the country.
June 12 as either Abiola Day or National Holiday should be used to educate the younger ones about the great sacrifice paid by all those who gave their time, money, energy, talents and life. But, Abiola like late Nelson Mandela of South Africa should be made the symbol of the struggle because he was the worst loser; he lost his life and was denied inauguration in the Presidential Election he won! Hence, there is no time better to dismantle our ethno-religious barriers than now.
Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara, an Activist, Media Consultant and Public Affairs Commentator is the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.
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Temporarily writing from, No., 9, Imgbi Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.