By Bright Gbotemi
The current state of “One Nigeria”, the giant of Africa has got everyone concerned.
Nigerians still continued to allow ethno-religious sentiments and emotion to rule their sense of judgement.
Unfortunately, ethnic and religious prejudice on elections are the two headed dragon crippling the Nation, and it has become one of the factors causing more harm than good lately. For an extensive study of the reality of ethno-religious influence on Nigerian elections, I shall proceed by tracing a brief history of Nigeria.
Brief History of Nigeria
Nigeria is a country in West Africa with the population of over 200 million people and population density of 149.7 Sqkm. It has a land mass of 923,768 Sqkm.
The country is blessed with mineral resources like crude oil, tin ore, columbite, iron ore, phosphate, coal and others.
Before the amalgamation in 1914, the entity called Nigeria existed, according to Olukoju (1997), as extensive empires and kingdoms and even peripheral kingdoms and villages.
In the words of Obayemi (1981) they existed as mini and mega–states. The mega–states are the Olukoju’s extensive empires and kingdoms that existed in the Western and Northern parts of Nigeria which include: The Jukun, Igala, Nupe, Bini, Oyo, Sokoto, Ife, Kanem-Bornu and others. The mini-states or peripheralc kingdoms found in the south included Onitsha and Aboh.
Others described as “state-less societies” include Tiv, Ibibio, Izon, Gbagyi and other. Within these societies for Obayemi, there were ecological complementarities and economic interdependence.
On The Ethnic Groups And Tribes
While some argued that Nigeria has up to 240 ethnic nations; others maintain that they are less than 60 ethnic groups. But the fact seems that there are about 60 ethnic groups which make up about 240 tribes in Nigeria, each possessing her own dialect.
In Nigeria, there are three major religions generally recognized: indigenous religions, Islam, and Christianity.
Also, there are three major ethnic groups which includes; Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
The Hausa occupy the Northern part of Nigeria, the Igbo occupy the south-east and the Yoruba have the Western part.
The indigenous languages are as many as these tribes, though it has a lingua franca – the English language – as a heritage of British colonialism.
The height that ethno-religious played in the just concluded 2023 elections is very obvious. Research had revealed that the most populous, politically and religious influential ethnics being Hausa-Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%.
2023 General Elections And The Role That Ethnic And Religious Factors Played
Politics is being played and strategized using religion, psychology and ethnicity to gain support of the populace.
According to the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, “Emi lokan” “Yoruba lokan”, “Emi lokan” which means “it is my turn – Yoruba is the next”. Historically, this is ethnicity challenge.
Also, the controversy from the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi over phone call with a renowned religious leader, Bishop David Oyedepo begging for votes before the general election.
Continuing the conversation, Oyedepo said, “We look forward to God’s intervention,” to which Obi responded by saying, “Thank you, Daddy. I need you to speak to your people in the Southwest and Kwara. The Christians in the Southwest and Kwara.” Bishop Oyedepo said: “Okay.”
Former Anambra State Governor Opens up
Peter Obi said: “Do you think I can just pick a phone and say ‘religious war’? No, I was even begging the bishop to help me ask his people to vote, which was what I was doing for six months – is begging.
“I wasn’t saying ‘catch him’, ‘kill him’, ‘force it’. I was even begging. That shows that I continued to look for votes by begging. There were so many things we tried to do but they were not okay.”
The former Anambra state governor stated that he does not care what his opponents and their supporters make of it while also maintaining that he is not a religious or ethnic bigot.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Candidate was reported for regular attendance of church events before election which has been relieved now after loss.
The PDP Candidate, Atiku Abubakar Plays ‘Ethnic Card’ During Kaduna Meeting
Atiku asked his fellow Northerners to vote for him in the 2023 general elections.
According to Atiku, Northerners need to vote for him rather than a Yoruba or Igbo candidate because he was a Pan-Nigerian with a northern extraction that had built bridges across the country.
The top Presidential candidates are from other region, that of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, is from the South-West region while the Labour Party’s Peter Obi is from the South-East region.
Most Rev. Dr. Callistus Valentine Chukwuma Onaga, the current Catholic Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Nigeria, in his general feeling that the question of Nigerian unity may never be
realizable because even the programmes created by the government to solve the problem of disunity seem to exacerbate it.
“The problem of ethnic and religious tensions is a great threat to the cooperate existence of Nigeria as one nation.”
Nwaigbo argues that the rate of ethnic and religious conflicts in many parts of Nigerian society today is alarming.
He also states that ethnic and religious conflicts are at the moment worsening the Nigerian economy, and threatening the quest for national unity. Sometimes the conflict results in physical violence and at other times they go in terms of cold war as we often witness in the election or appointment of political officials and even in the case of Federal Character or quota system.
The former CAN President, Samson Ayokunle Advised Nigerian Government to bring back Inter-religious Education.
“Inter-religious Education gives students or people ample opportunities to make informed decision in adulthood of the religion they have the conviction to practice in life. Inter-religious education reduces religious conflicts and promotes mutual co-existence. Inter-religious education gives in the opportunity to see the world from more than one religious perspective and make better informed decisions,” he said in the newspaper.
Also, as part of the recommendations, this Author advised Nigerians to promote Nigeria, but not tribal unity. Meet friends from other cultures, marry from the other ethnic-religion, and citizens should do their best to introduce peace and equality into the country system and culture.
©Bright Olorungbotemi, Publisher of Voice Air Media (Online News) writes.