Need For Peaceful Coexistence Among Nigerians!

There is no denying the fact that Nigeria is an amazingly diverse country. It has hundreds of different languages and ethnic groups across the six geopolitical zones it is made of coupled with two major religions; Christianity and Islam, beliefs, and cultures. Nigeria is amazing because it has such diversity and variety.

It would be recalled in this context that in 2013 that German researcher, Erkan Gören measured the amount of cultural diversity in 180 countries worldwide. He used data on ethnicity and race and measured the similarity of languages spoken by major ethnic or racial groups. Goren gave each country a score between 0 and 1, with scores closer to 1 being more diverse. The paper is called “Economic Effects of Domestic and Neighboring Countries' Cultural Diversity”. According to his findings, the most diverse countries worldwide are: Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For the sake of clarity, it is expedient to say that Culture which more often than not make us to be superior or inferior to one another is a set of beliefs that a region or group has learnt over thousands of years. Culture includes ideas about art and music, as well as bigger ideas about religion and society. Celebrations, rituals, and traditions are all culture. Culture brings groups of people together so they can feel part of a big history. It is very important.

At this juncture, it is expedient to say that not few readers of this article would be inquisitive enough to ask, “Why is culture diverse?

The answer to the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as it is diverse because of different human experiences. Some groups may have different ideas about religion or faith simply because an elder a long time ago taught them a different story. Some might have cultural rituals that other areas just do not need.

It is germane to say in this context that as there are many cultures in Nigeria that there are equally different marriage traditions. For instance, the Fulani tradition involves “sharo” which is a Fulani game that involves two suitors flogging one another publicly to win a maiden’s hand in marriage.

The nomadic Fulani are known for their hard work, discipline and courage. Because of this, it is believed that this process will help test the strength of the potential groom to prove his worth in terms of strength, resilience and endurance. The reason for the contest cannot be farfetched as in an act of bravery’ the groom is expected not to wince, cry or show he is in pain, while asking for more strokes.

The challenger will flog his opponent until he begs him to stop. A referee is provided to keep watch on the strokes so as to prevent serious and life-threatening injuries like blindness. The winner of the flogging competition has the right to marry any girl he chooses, or even four girls if he can prove his ability to handle all of them.

Despite the diffusion of the Fulani culture with Islam, the Sharo Festival’s importance has ensured its continuous practice over the centuries, and for the fact that’ the practice does not exists among a given ethnic or tribal group in the country does not make anyone from such ethnic group more superior than a Fulani man.

There is no denying the fact that having lots of different culture is a good thing as it is not something should feel confused about or see as a source of hatred. It suffices in this context to say that different cultures benefit lots of people, and should be respected.

You may have asked? “Why should another’s man culture be respected? The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as not respecting other people’s culture may upset the person from the ethnic group that practice such culture. This is because anyone that practices the culture which others ridicule or denigrate has grown up believing in a certain set of values and ideas, just like his or herfriends and family. To tell him that he wrong by exercising his culture is unkind and undermines his whole community.

Culture is good for bringing people together. Learning about different cultures is fun and interesting, and one canfind surprising similarities in it. Leisurely put, it is fascinating to know what someone else may think about something one believe.

It is not an exaggeration to say that if people can celebrate their differences, they can work together to move forward and develop. They can recognize alternative beliefs and accept them.

At this juncture, it is expedient to say that religion exists in great variety and affects the lives of millions of people in various ways. The Hindus make coconut, flower and apple offerings to their gods while the monks of the Buddhism are usually decked in saffron, black or red robes.

In the Christendom, worshippers put on their best clothes and congregate in chapels and churches to preach, fellowship, sing praise and worship songs and listen to inspiring and life-changing sermons. In Islamic countries, one can hear the voices of the muezzins as the Moslem criers make the call from minarets five times a day calling on the faithful to observe the salat or ritual prayer.

Despite diversity of religious expression that have developed around the world, there is one common thread that runs through: the need to worship God and be acceptable to Him. For thousands of years mankind has had a spiritual need and yearning that many now worship God through various religious means that may not please God. Man in his quest to answer the puzzling questions of life has found religion the only solace on earth. No wonder John B. Noss points out in his book, “Man’s Religions” that all religions say in one way or another that man does not, and cannot stand alone. He is vitally related with and even dependent on powers in Nature and Society external to himself. Dimly or clearly, he knows that he is not an independent centre of force capable of standing apart from the world.

Be that as it may, many of us cannot for the sake of other’s people ethnic or religious background which they have projected to be more superior to ours instantaneously reject the ideals and directions which our parents and grandparents gave us because they are the first people to influence our inclinations.

On the surface, many religions in existence today seem different from one another. However, beneath their differences is the goal of love which many religions preach and which is the primary and ultimate objective of any religion.

In Lagos, where this writer resides, particularly in Fadeyiarea, Mushin and then Lawanson, people affiliated to different ethnic groups, Christians and Moslems relate in every sphere of life without even thinking of their different religious affiliations. There are some families in Lagos that the members belong to different ethnic and religious groups. As you read this, I have been married to my wife, Roselyn, from the Ibibio ethnic group of Akwa Ibom Statefor more than 20 years. This is the reason why I amstrongly in this context been advocating for peace among every ethnic groups as Nigerians.

It would be recalled that the founding fathers of our great country; Nigeria, beginning from late Chief Obafemi Awolowo had the following quote to his credit during his earthly journey. He said, “Violence never settles anything right: apart from injuring your own soul, it injures the best cause. It lingers on long after the object of hate has disappeared from the scene to plague the lives of those who have employed it against their foes”.

In a similar vein, in the quote credited to Tafawa Balewa in 1957, he said, “I am pleased to see that we are now all agreed that the Federal system is, under present conditions, the only sure basis on which Nigeria will remain united. We must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live in this country”.

Regarding the quote credited to Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe, he said, “My parents are natives of Eastern Nigeria, the arsenal of republicanism in Nigeria. Although I am Ibo, yet I speak Yoruba and I have a smattering of Hausa. I am now Premier of Eastern Nigeria, the land of my fathers, which lies five hundred miles from Lagos and almost a thousand miles from the place of my birth in Zungeru, in Northern Nigeria.

With the foregoing quotes, we have no reason to disappoint the founding fathers of Nigeria as our belligerent dispositions can make them to literarily turn in their graves. To my view, if there is any way we can continue to honour them apart from ritualistically mentioning their names on October 1, when the Independent day is annually celebrated, it is by heeding to their pleas that we should remain in peace, irrespective of tribe and tongue.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor