examines how voting along ethnic lines across the country in this year’s general elections has further created sharp divisions among Nigerians after over 100 years of nationhood Nigeria has been everything but a united nation since the British colonial masters amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates which gave birth to the most populous black nation on earth in 1914. After over 100 years of a pseudo-nation created by Sir Fredrick Lugard, most Nigerians still see themselves first as members of their ethnic groups before regarding themselves as citizens of Nigeria. This explains why those, who live outside of their states of origin, are referred to as non-indigenes. It is safe to say that this division along ethnic lines was at the root of the 1967 civil war. Despite the carnage and the massive destruction of property recorded during the war, some Nigerians, especially political leaders, by their actions and utterances, are said to be pushing the nation further to the cliff to satisfy their self-centred interest. In order to address the problem of injustice or marginalisation, members of the various ethnic groups often feel that the interest of their groups will be best protected if their kinsman occupies the office of the President.  To allay the fear of domination, various political parties have put in place zoning arrangements for elective offices including the presidency. This explains why presidential candidates are almost always voted for along ethnic lines. In the 2015 presidential election, the division along ethnic lines played out prominently in the voting pattern as Buhari won in his home state, Katsina, with 1,345,441 votes while the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, polled 98,937 votes in the state. Buhari also won in most northern states of Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kaduna, Yobe, Kebbi, Gombe, Bauchi and others. Jonathan also exhibited dominance in the South, scoring 361,209 votes in Bayelsa State, where he hails from. Buhari scored 5,194 votes in the state of his arch rival. Jonathan went ahead to win in Rivers, Delta, Enugu, Cross River, Imo, Abia, Anambra and others. In the 2019 presidential election, while Buhari of the APC expectedly swept the poll in the northern states, his main rival, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who is also from the North, won all the five states and six states in the South-East and South-South regions, respectively, ostensibly because of Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi, who is from Anambra State. There was also a reported promise that Atiku would hand over to Obi in 2023. The gulf between the tribes appears to be getting wider and already assuming a disturbing dimension as shown in the voting pattern in this year’s presidential and National Assembly elections in the six geo-political zones. The Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, submitted that the pattern of voting in the 2019 election was informed by ethnic considerations rather than sound judgement. He stated, “I have always believed that we don’t have a Nigerian nation yet. Most Nigerians make recourse to their ethnic origin first before considering the Nigerian nation. So, ethnicity must have played a prominent role in the voting pattern in the just concluded presidential election.” Olajide also spoke on the dangers of the divisions, which he said were obvious. He said, “In the YCE’s letter of congratulation to Mr President, we appealed to him to promptly embark on the process of building a Nigerian nation. Since he garnered votes from all over Nigeria, he should strive ceaselessly to weld the country together, irrespective of religious affiliation or ethnic background. “Why the division along ethnic lines is becoming so prominent in the last few years is perhaps because of what we perceived from the current administration’s appointments. When you take a critical look at the appointments made by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the tendency is to believe that a particular religion is given more attention that the others. “In the beginning of this administration, I recall an occasion when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande visited Mr President and he said he was appointing those he trusted at that time. He said he could only appoint those he trusted. But now that he has been voted from all over the country, I have no doubt that having spent almost four years in office, he will have those he trusts to be appointed into offices from all religions and all regions of the country.” The YCE secretary added, “I think patriotic Nigerians must urge him to pay particular attention to ensuring that our diversity is reflected in all appointments in consonance with the federal character clause in the Nigerian constitution. That will be the beginning of building up the nation again. “Developmental projects should also be spread across all the zones of the country and no zone should be left unattended to and no impression must be given that a particular zone or some zones are more important than the others.” Olajide also said, “The responsibility of building a nation rests squarely on the leadership that is headed by the President. This is so because of the constitution that we have. That is why it is his responsibility to make every part of the nation to see themselves as belonging to the nation. “I agree that restructuring is part of what Mr President should look into but I want to steer clear of using the word restructuring because so many meanings have been read into it. The President must revisit Governor Nasir el-Rufai Committee’s recommendation on devolution of powers.” In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the spokesperson for the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Achi-Okpaga, blamed the current administration of Buhari for allegedly creating divisions among various ethnic groups in the country by his actions and inactions. He said the alleged marginalisation of Igbo and other ethnic groups by the current administration was evident, stressing that no other leader in the history of Nigeria had created sharp divisions among the citizens like the present government. The Ohanaeze’s spokesperson said, “It is not correct to say ethnicity and religions were factors that determined how Nigerians voted in the last two presidential elections. In 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, Nigerians voted according to their conscience. In this year’s elections, the two leading presidential candidates are Fulani men and nobody can say Nigerians voted according to ethnic sentiments. It is not correct. “In the case of President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigerians voted massively for Atiku because he went around the country to campaign on restructuring the country and Nigerians are clamouring for restructuring. That was the reason he was voted for massively across all ethnic groups and geo-political zones. If you go to the Middle Belt, South-East, South-West and even in the North, the people want restructuring. That was why Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for him. It was not based on any ethnic inclination. “ When reminded that Buhari was declared the winner of the poll with a difference of almost four million votes, Okpaga said the results declared in the North was not a true reflection of how the people voted. He said, “The present government of Buhari is the one fueling ethnicity. It is the duty of the government to bring the entire country together to work in unity and if you are the President of Nigeria, you are not elected to be President of the All Progressives Congress or Fulani; you are the President of the entire country. “Look at the appointments he made; despite the outcry of Nigerians against them, Buhari has no regrets about these. Buhari makes utterances that should not be associated with the President and he does not care. He is the one helping to divide Nigerians along these lines. We have had northern leaders, who ruled this country. For instance, (Alhaji Shehu) Shagari ruled and he did not divide the country. The late Gen Sani Abacha, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar and Umaru Yar’Adua were all northern leaders and they never divided Nigeria. It is not Nigerians that are dividing themselves; it is the government.” A historian, who is a former Vice Chancellor of Caleb University, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, said the older generations should be blamed for the sharp divisions among Nigerians among various ethnic groups. Olukoju stated, “The division is not a natural phenomenon; people were not born with it. It is a product of socialisation. When older people transfer their stereotypes to the younger generation, that is what you get. The older generations got into it through their past experiences. Nigeria is not the only multi-ethnic nation in the world and there is danger when people want to compete unfairly and it can turn violent. It is the arch enemy of progress in this country. “Management of information is very important. What I read on social media now is alarming and I think we need to stop this kind of divisive messages. But I think the way out is good governance. Even if anyone is from a particular ethnic group, their interests should be protected. For example, if the President wants to load his cabinet (with people) from a particular group, Nigerians will worry. If you are performing and you are seen to be fair to all, people won’t worry. “Restructuring is also a solution; it will reduce the tension in the land.” A former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Prof. Ife Adewumi, blamed the political class for creating divisions among the people in order to achieve their selfish interests. He said, “The 1914 amalgamation is the fundamental problem. Nigeria, as brought together By Lord Lugard under the amalgamation, is not a nation. We were supposed to be a democratic nation practising federalism but the military brought unitary system of government. If you look at the trend of the recent elections, you will even see it. Retired military officers have been the ones ruling us mainly. In this recently concluded presidential poll, retired generals came together, met the President and told him that they were solidly behind him. “The division is a product of divide-and-rule strategy to keep Nigerians divided forever so that they can continue to rule us as they like. You see that during presidential election, most northern youths voted massively for their own. The pattern is that the North is solidly behind its person, whereas in the South, where the enlightenment is better, this is not always the case.” A former Chairman of Northern Elders Forum, Paul Unongo, traced the division among ethnic groups in the country to pre-colonial and post-independence eras. He said when Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, an Igbo man, contested an election in Lagos, he won and became the majority leader in the western parliament. But the major ethnic group in the West, the Yoruba, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “rejected the concept of an Igbo man coming to rule them.” Unongo said the problem could be addressed through restructuring. Culed from Punch]]>

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