Religious intolerance, ethnic cleavages, bane of our dev’t

By Abdulsalam Jubril

The recent tirade by a certain pastor brought to the fore once again the salient ethno-religious gulf that is and has been tearing us apart as a nation. The pastor’s malignant rant as usual, elicited condemnation and acquiescence from various quarters within our clime. In many instances, many of our comments on the issue sentimentally tilted towards our ethno-religious background.
However, objectively and discerningly perusing the pastor’s harangue, in any sane and unbiased society, such a statement would be seen as inciting as well as seditious. Also, for a preacher who should be seen as an epitome of peace, to be seen and heard making such statements does not portend well for our religious institutions. However, with unobjective and prejudicial comments over the issue thus far, perhaps ours is not a sane clime.
Without dwelling too much on the pastor’s comment as more supposedly religious men and women of the two major faiths in our country would continue to make such seditious comments, the underlying problem is our ethno-religious divide. Since pre and post-independence years, ethnic and religious sentiment has always been an obstacle to our progress as a nation and stunted our growth and development.
On topical national issues, we tend to look at them based on our ethno-religious discernments. We look at speakers on such issues by what tribe or religion they belong to rather than the issues they are raising or critiquing or the solutions they are proffering. “Oh na Ibo man that’s why he is supporting his brother. Na Hausa man and they like to support themselves. Na Christian, na Muslim…” are some of what you hear when topical national issues are brought to the fore. I wouldn’t be surprised if this piece is similarly looked at based on ethno-religious sentiments.
While everyone has a right to their opinion, prejudicial and biased opinions/comments have led us to the dismal state we are as a nation presently. The political elites have since recognized this and most have been using it to advance their own selfish interest and agenda. They have been subtlety fueling such ethno-religious comments and crisis in other to remain relevant and at the helm of affairs. Curiously, when “Ghana-must-go-bags” is shared especially among them, ethnicity and religious is relegated and hardly ever pops up. The money (in most case ours as a nation) is secretly and judiciously shared and as it is said in our local parlance, “dem go chop clean mouth”.
Yes, the colonialist lumped us together without recognizing our tribal and religious differences. However, they have since gone and we have sadly not been able to truly forge ahead as a nation. We prefer especially when it is convenient for us; see ourselves more as ethnic and tribal entities rather than as a nation. Hit the streets and ask people what it is to be a Nigerian, you will hardly get an articulate answer. The answer you will get is that they see and identify more with themselves as “an Urhobo man, a Yoruba man, an Ijaw man, etc.” Curiously also, within many of our ethnic groups, prejudice still exists; however, I wouldn’t want to dwell on that.
Most of us do not know this, but religion, religious strife and religious differences has been the leading cause of deaths since the world began as we know it. People have been committing atrocities and killings all “in the name of God”. In our clime, there is a burgeoning superiority battle between the two major religions. Hence, we seem to dwell more on the few dissimilarities and dwell less on the many similarities of both religions. I have always maintained that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the religions. What is wrong however is us the human beings who practice and interpret their teachings and laws to suit our selfish interest. We tend to see and ascribe the title of “very religious” to ourselves and certain persons, forgetting that it is God that knows who is religious. Essentially, we have somewhat become “more religious” than the folks who brought the religion to our shores.
Instead of dwelling on ethno-religious sentiments, what we need to be clamoring for and demanding as a people from our leaders is infrastructural development and viable institutions. Presently, the lack of power supply we have been facing since time immemorial doesn’t discriminate based on tribe and religious. If no matter what tribe or religion the person at the helm of affairs is able to fix the power situation once and for all, every region, area and tribe would be lighted up. Entrepreneurship will pick up. Industrialization would take-off and small and medium scale industries will begin to flourish. This on its own is a long-term solution to our perennial unemployment problem.
If the roads in all 774 local government areas are paved and motorable, and the economy is truly diversified with agriculture, rather than the lip-service successive governments have been playing to the gallery with, there would be food sustainability within the country and the movement of food and cash crops from one part of the country to another. Export such agriculture produce translates to foreign exchange earnings that could be used to develop other sectors within the country. If the anti-corruption agencies are strengthened and severe penalties meted out to erring individuals, this pervasive corruption that is currently bedeviling our country will be curbed to the barest minimum.
Likewise all other institutions that have been dilapidated over time needs to be strengthened. We need to begin demanding “as one” for these institutions to be fully operational. We need to begin to see ourselves first as Nigerians before our ethno-religious proclivity. The Nigeria project should be the foremost in our consciousness, utterances, actions and comments. Just like the story of the Tower of Babel, if we can come together as one people, one nation, regardless of our ethno-religious differences, then we can achieve anything we want to achieve as a nation. We constantly pride ourselves as the most religious nation on earth, however, most of our actions and utterances say otherwise.

Abdulsalam Jubril is a Public Policy Analyst.

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