On Nigeria’s Regional and Religious Affiliations

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Quite a number of Nigerians have risen on the shoulders of religious, ethnic, or regional sentiments, which very often they help to massage, to positions of political and social influence or power. And because the masses have refused to outgrow such manipulations those manipulative leaders have continued to threaten their commonwealth. Private fights of those leaders are cleverly projected on the screen of national imagination as the battles or struggles for liberation of their target victims. Whenever they perceive, however faintly, any threats to their national influence, they calculatedly retreat toward the ethnic or religious strongholds, which often serve them well in the bargain.

All politics, they say, is local. In the same way, government is local. And the most deadly threats to the wellbeing of Nigerians are the brutal actions of mean local tribal and religious chiefs and militants who eagerly inject religion and ethnicity in their pretentious display of care and affection for their ethnic groups or religious faithful. Through my interactions and observation, I have come to the conclusion that many Nigerians who scream out colourful invectives on players in the central government live in fear of their governors and local political godfathers, who very easily could send them out of this planet. They feel the players in the central government are so “far away” from their localities, and may not even know who they are, therefore, they blame the failure of their local and state governments on the federal government. Until the local and state governments work, Nigerians will hardly feel the positive impact of government. Furthermore, taking advantage of the ignorance of many Nigerians, who have no idea about the constitutional division of government functions between all three tiers of government, the local political leaders and government officials manipulate the masses into a state of frenzy where they start calling for certain banalities, and blame the lack of “dividends of democracy” on the rigid “unitary system that has not allowed States and geo-political zones to grow at their pace.”

I have written and publicly advocated a lot about reengineering Nigeria to work for many and not only for a few (in fact, I have written a new book on building a more perfect union, which should come out this year), but I am grieved to see cunning men and women taking advantage of a genuine cause to advance very selfish aims. Some, who when in influential public offices that they should have used to improve our social contract as Nigerians, but failed, refused, and neglected to so do, have presently become champions of “restructuring” only because they have lost out in the game of political power. Their nuisance value has accentuated, and some wonder if the continuing spate in “terrorist Fulani herdsmen” attacks does not have anything to do with them. Reports coming out after the arrests of some “masterminds” of some of those attacks indicate that those could have the fingerprints of the popular “disgruntled”.

If we fail to extinguish the huge fire of ethnic and religious affiliations from our local and national politics, at least to a smouldering level, we may all be consumed by it some day. What is delicious to the mouth could have deleterious and insidious effect on certain visceral organs. In truth, the acclaimed regional or ethnic political affiliations in our present politics are simply make-beliefs, but often packaged to send an intended message that could advance certain intended outcomes. First of all, Nigeria has many political parties that could go into certain political alliances, but Nigeria cannot go into regional or religious alliances because such alliances don’t exist in fact. Secondly, each ethnic group consists of various and competing political interests, which cannot be melded into a single interest or discrete interests. Thirdly, religion is a private matter, and no two persons can go to heaven on a shared faith. Whosoever mixes religion with partisan politics is introducing a heretic brand of religion. Besides, that religion that reaches judgment on who is a genuine faithful based on externalities or profession of the mouth is in danger of costly assumption. And since Nigeria’s two major religions base their motivation on eternal rest in heaven, preaching to their members the ineluctable doctrine of simple pilgrimage on earth, if their leaders preach that members should vote for only fellow adherents, then they don’t know their scriptures, most especially since each of the two religions believes that there is no leader but of God. I would not say that religion has destroyed our Nigerian fraternity; rather, I should say that abused religion has. If you would take my advice, please, leave any congregation of worshippers where the leader preaches hate, violence (even the type that invokes “Holy Ghost fire!”), extortion, covetousness (making merchandize of the worshippers), and division.

Let me address Nigerian militants. Why are you angry with Nigeria, but not with your State of origin, Local Government Area, your State governor or Local government chairman? Do you know that out of every N 100 that goes into the Federation Account your States and Local Government Councils take about N 48? And from the N52, the Federal Government should provide across the country all the services that the constitution requires it to provide. Some of you are friends of your State governors, who use you to terrorise society (why are you in such ignoble affinity?). But have you cared to ask your friends why they have destroyed your Local Government Councils? Your fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers live in squalor, yet, your State governors take enough money from the Federation Account which should ease their condition of living. I understand that some of you want “Resource Control.” But, whether we use that phrase or not, who controls the billions that your State governors take on behalf of your people? If you read the Holy Scriptures, at least for some spiritual or mental relief, you would find in them those words: “He that is unfaithful with little shall be unfaithful with much. And he that is faithful with little shall be faithful with much.” Can you say that your State governors have been faithful with “little”?

Nigerians, let us consider our ways.


Leonard Karshima Shilgba