President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that it is time for Nigeria to ”dismantle the idol of exclusivity” and discard issues that focus on state of origin rather citizens of nation and this change will be carried out with the ongoing review of the nation’s constitution.
Delivering the President’s remark at the 13th Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe lecture which focused on developing ethnic policy for national integration to address the issue of indigenes versus settlers, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof Viola Adaku Onwuliri, who represented Dr. Jonathan stated emphatically that “things just have to change.”
”In the plan for nation building, the joy for all patriots is for all citizens to enjoy the rights of citizenship” the President stated, as he acknowledged that ”there is a dangerous growth of indigeneship versus settlership crises” and ”these are enemies of Nigeria which we must aggressively not tolerate” he added.
”There is hardly any ethnic group in Nigeria which does not have a sizeable amount of its people residing outside of their ethnic communities” the President noted as he explained how is his native Ijaw tribe (whom he claimed are predominantly fish eaters) have been taught how to eat and source fresh beef by Fulani herdsmen that have settled in their communities.
”This strong cosmopolitan is the future of Nigeria” the President affirmed as he declared that ethnicity must give way to citizenship as granted by rights of the Nigerian Constitution, and this I will defend with all my power as President” he declared.
“We should glory in our diversity because it is our strength” the President added.
He also admitted the fears of communities that, they might be swamped by others but he explained that every effort will be made to ensure that their culture is preserved and that “where the laws are ambiguous, we will address that with the ongoing review constitution.”
This is coming as hundreds of lives are lost and property destroyed in recent inter-communal clashes in cities and states across the country such as Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa and Lagos.
Inclusive government policy
Delivering the keynote address, former President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga urged the Nigerian government at all levels to develop inclusive policies to address the nation’s perpetual ethno-religious crisis.
According to the Sri Lankan leader who spoke on the topic; Synthesis for nationhood: Ethnic Policy and national Integration: from indigenes to citizens, ”economic development is not the only solution” to ethno-religious crises but that ”marginalized people must be included” in every nation’s socio-political and economic development by the use on inclusive policies.
Admitting that a number of countries in the developing world have made significant economic strides, she however stated that ”a lot of people in the developing world are remaining even poorer than before” and this she claims ”causes violence because the people cannot tolerate the injustice anymore.”
‘Any young hope betrayed, transforms itself into bombs”, Mrs Kumaratunga noted as she explained that ”economic injustice, social and political exclusion breeds inequality and marginalized groups.”
Using the exclusive and inclusive policy operated in both Calabar and Warri political scene since colonial era, the Sri Lakan leader stated that the Efiks in Calabar, as a major tribe in the state, have practiced an inclusive policy which empowers other minority groups, hence the relative peace in the Cross river state.
This, she noted cannot be said for Delta state, where the Itsekiri, as the major tribe, practice an exclusive policy enshrined by the colonial masters which, she claimed has led to the prolonged ethnic violence in the oil rich state.
The speaker used graphical illustrations gotten from research on the two societies to defend her claim.
She blamed the exclusive rule on colonial policies that ”favoured some ethnic groups over others.”
She however admitted that ”decolonization has not being completely achieved in a number of developing countries, where most post-colonial nations have failed democracy, even years after independence.”
She cited that an inclusive federal system practiced in India has led to the suppression of ethnic violence in the nation of over a billion people in the last four decades of its independence while the contrary has led to unresolved ethnic violence in Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Cote’d Ivoire and currently seen with Rhodinga Muslims in Burma.
Mrs Kumaratunga also advised that whilst the government work towards achieving inclusive policies for all, efforts must be made to address violence from the dominant ethnic groups that might want to oppose the fight against inequality.
She also prescribed that governments must ensure that macro-economics are gotten right and that some specific policies must be targeted at the minority groups.
Written By Ayo Okulaja