Nigeria is a country in West Africa with over 200 million inhabitants. It is a nation endowed with most of nature’s gifts and beauty, having numerous natural resources and devoid of most, if not all of nature’s wrath, such as earth quake, tsunami and other forms of natural disasters. Nigeria is home to over 250 ethnic groups, with a vast variety of languages and cultures. It is divided into different regions such as the North East, North West, North Central, South East, South West and South South.
One of the many features of this nation is the numerous cultures and ethnic groups it encompasses. On January 1914, under the governorship of the British colonial Fredrick Lugard, all these cultures, ethnic groups and languages were amalgamated to form the country Nigeria. Irrespective of the diverse languages spoken by the ethnic groups, English is the generally spoken language in Nigeria.
Nigeria is one of many countries that practices a democratic system of government, but unfortunately this presumed freedom of speech, freedom of press and laws that acknowledges human rights are less active and functional. Being a nation that have struggled over the years with conflicts, inequality and abuse of human rights, some inhabitants believe ethnicity is the reason for the numerous challenges facing the nation. Arguably this statement cannot easily be dismissed, as most cases of conflicts, political disputes and violence in the country have been interethnic. This could also be seen in the recent uprisings, protests and agitations, in which inhabitants of the country are demanding a reformation of the system of government which many believe to have regressed the nation.
Logically, a country with these numerous cultures and ethnic groups, would require additional effort in creating a viable system that would properly accommodate them, a system unbiased. Being unbiased in a country rooted in tradition and culture to some degree is highly improbable. This is because culture and tradition has been, and will always be the foundation of any household in Nigeria. Creating government laws and policies that are independent of these variables, does not necessarily mean these outside forces cannot directly or indirectly influence the system of government.
Arguably, the level of ethnic biases with regards to government laws and policies is noticeable, coupled with the preferential treatment towards political position occupiers in the country. A situation whereby majority of the key government positions, are being occupied by a particular ethnic group, is basically the foundation of these ethnic biases and inequalities. A system of government where by political position occupiers are selected based on their ethnic group, religious or cultural background, rather than their capability and ability to perform the duties the political position requires, is exposed to the risk of incompetence and regression.
Ethnic biases is one of the major problems preventing the growth of the Nigerian economy, also the foundation of most ethnic conflicts. This challenge has lingered for so long that gradually it has found root in the country’s system of government, influencing political and economic decisions which in turn has an adverse effect on the masses.
A country that practices a functioning and active democratic system of government, which respects the human and civil rights of her citizens, must realize that inequality amongst ethnic groups might result in conflicts, and should be avoided. Understanding the importance and necessity of a viable nation, goes beyond ethnocentrism and ethnic biases. The resources and opportunities of the country should be available to everyone irrespective of their ethnic or religious background.
By Emmanuel I. Orindu