Seriously, all this malarkey about power shift and the region entitled to occupy the presidency in 2015 is not only out of order but really, really reckless. For a nation that prides itself as the unifying presence in Africa, for a country whose white stripe on the flag represents the desire for peace and unity, the recent obsession by the political class on this issue stands as a stark contradiction. As a supposedly unified group of people, the concept of being a Nigerian is meant to be more superior to any given ethnic, regional or tribal concern. As one nation, we are supposed to place the interest of Nigeria above and beyond any sectarian and parochial interest. But from all indications, Nigerians seems blasé about the fact that their future could invariably be navigating towards a very dangerous trend, towards a form of tribal politics.

The continuing barney on who or which tribe or region has more right to be in the presidency is honestly, really, really ridiculous. It is astonishing that we can talk about the unity of Nigeria and equal opportunity on the one hand and turn around to demand for the zoning of political positions in the same breath. How on earth can Nigeria achieve political stability when several regions are wrangling for political power and are using regional and tribal sentiment as a tool to acquire it? How do we expect the unity of this nation to be certified if there remains in our psyche an irrational element that can be exploited and influenced in a manner that does not benefit us as a nation? I really do honestly believe that this ‘my turn, your turn’ zoning issue exemplifies perfectly the source of the Nigerian crisis. To continue bickering on political entitlements of regions in this country is, without a doubt, a manifestation of all that is wrong with Nigeria. For heaven’s sake, at what point do we as country men and women become blind to the thought of our regions and tribes, when we know that we are supposed to be Nigerians first? Nobody is saying that we should not take pride in where we come from, our identities or who we are, but at some point in our existence as a nation, we have to think; really think about what is in the best interest of this poor nation.

It is amazing and horrible that day in, day out politicians on television, in print media and interviews continue to overtly debate the issue of zonal, tribal and regional politics with all conviction without seeming to give a toss that the consequence of their declarations is one that is fast sowing the seed of discontent and further polarizing the nation. We continue to hear debates from South-South elders; Northern elders, Middle belt elders, regional forums and all sorts of political alliances about which part of the country has the most valid claim for the presidency come 2015. At the end of the day, there can be only one president and that president is naturally going to come from only one region, only one tribe and belong to only one religion. Now, because of the combative atmosphere of regional and tribal politics that has already been set by the politicians, the regions that eventually lose out in the skirmish are bound to feel short-changed and angered. Is this what we envisage for the progress of our democracy and the harmony of our country? Do our politicians not see that the remnant of discontent and fall-out from the regional political claims they are making holds the promise of evolving into more inter-tribal hate? Do they not appreciate the fact that our revival will only come about when we arrive at a time where leadership in this country is earned on qualifications, competence and character as opposed to tribe, religion, region and personal interest?

I do believe that every objective and fair minded person in this country, no matter their tribe, would relish a setting where they could vote for their political leaders based on whether those potential leaders honestly have the intent and ability to rectify the pandemonium in our power sector, create jobs for us, grow our economy, flush out corruption, resurrect our education sector and make Nigeria a better place than it is now; not because of where they come from. If those that have the clout and opportunity to speak on our behalf continue to allow the sort of regional and tribal entitlement calls they have been bellowing out to continue and deepen, without considering the consequence for the nation as a whole, they would be doing this country greater damage than has already been done.

Despite all of our past and present problems and with the exception of the religious extremist behemoth that has recently reared its ugly head, Nigeria has known the worth of relative peace. From what we have seen in the history of our Continent, tribal, ethnic and regional dichotomy is the surest way of guaranteeing a nation’s fragmentation. We only need to look at the accounts of countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia in order to fully understand the damage ethnicity, tribalism and regionalism can cause and the importance of social cohesion and triviality of ethnic and regional identity in relation to national identity. The genocide in Rwanda was probably one of the severest in global history and, of course, one cannot ever envisage such a calamity taking place in this country, by the Grace of the Almighty. However what happened in Rwanda must stand as a lesson and a testament to the rest of the world, Africans especially. There was a time in Rwanda where the topic of ethnicity, tribe and region was treated in much the same way we treat the topic in this country. Without anticipating the danger of this, Rwandans allowed that sore to fester and fester, chafe and putrefy until it erupted in the tragedy we witnessed in 1994. The Rwandan misfortune began with civil strife that occurred because the different ethnicities could not agree on how they were going to share their countries resources among the different ethnic arrangements and tribal boundaries and it ended with the mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people. Today as a result of their nightmare, if a Rwandan was asked which tribe they belong to, they would always answer that they are Rwandan; never a tribe, only Rwandan. It really is tragic that it took so much pain and bloodshed for them to embrace that reality.

While other instances may not be as grave as that of Rwanda, other examples of the consequence of tribal and regional dichotomy can be seen from the situation in Kenya. From a country that held so much potential, allegiance to tribal and regional identities have become so deeply rooted in the body politic of Kenya, that the politics in the country today has been reduced to a tribal democracy which is so bunched according to ethnic lines that each tribe and ethnic group has been forced to establish its own party.

If Nigerians really desire to continue as one people and not tempt fate in the irresponsible way that we have been doing in the last 50 years, we must stop nurturing the growth of this ethnic and regional trend that has the potential of jeopardising our democracy and fragmenting our existence. Each and every one of us in this country deals with the same problems and challenges. The vast majority of us are trying to feed our families, bring up our children, go to school, find jobs and sleep soundly at night. When we have no security, it is not because we belong to a certain religion. When we are confronted with rising fuel and market prices, it is not due to the fact that we come from a particular region. When our most basic needs are not satisfied, it is not because we are members of a certain tribe; it is because those in leadership, despite where they come from have not provided it. Nigeria is what we have; it is ultimately what we are. We cannot afford to let politicians use our diversity as a tool against our social cohesion in the guise of regional politics. We just cannot afford to do that.

Nigeria has been through enough already. It has been dragged through a civil war, been exposed to religious and sectarian massacres, its image has been desecrated globally. Those of us who form her should embrace unity in the interest of her advancement, stability and wellbeing. Our forefathers did a lot of positive things for this country, but they did also allow differences in tribe and region. The present crop of leaders must not continue with this trend, because by advancing the cause of regional politics that they are doing now, they are really doing nothing more than sowing the seed of discontent for Nigeria.  

Article Written By Hannatu Musawa
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