Dr. Louis Brown Ogbeifun

Accredited Mediator | Certified Professional Manager and Trainer in Workplace Conflicts


Ethnic and Religious Slurs in Nigerian Politics: A Dangerous Path to Division and Destruction

In the last presidential and governorship elections, the quest to grab power at all costs has thrown up ethnic and religious slurs. Some of the untoward outcomes, if not well managed, could haunt all of us and redefine people’s commitments to states outside their birthplaces in no distant time. These slurs are stylishly or brazenly applied in so many ways. For example, only a few states across the six geo-political zones employ non-indigenes in their civil service, allowing them to retire and earn a pension in their domains, just as a few states sell plots of land to non-indigenes on a freehold basis as long as one can pay the price,.

In contrast, no matter whether you were born in most of the states in Nigeria, they would only take non-indigenes into their state’s civil service on a contract basis and sell their plots of land on a leasehold basis. The unfortunate incidence here is that there are families whose four generations were born in particular states, yet those people are still referred to as non-indigenes. Based on this contraption, I have questioned whether we are one in Nigeria by definition or by citizenship definition.

Let no one be deceived into thinking that when we send profiled Nigerians as non-indigenes away from our cities and villages, we could take over and efficiently manage their businesses confiscated. No magic wand confers it because each trade has its foundational codes, ethics, and apprenticeship period. I hope we are not gradually witnessing what led to Uganda’s downfall in our polity. Under Dada Idi Amin, he naturalized the business interests of foreigners and distributed them to his kiths kin. Most of the beneficiaries knew next to nothing about the word “business”

We complain that when foreigners tell Nigerians to return to their country, and we accuse them of racism. So, when the acolytes of politicians in Nigeria come out openly to tell Nigerians in Nigeria that “if voters cannot vote for the “son of the soil and chosen candidate, they should return to their states of origin, what would one call that if that is not discrimination or marginalization of a group of people based on tribe or race usually referred to as racism?

The threats, coercion, and harassment of political opponents happened in several states but in different dimensions. For example, in Lagos State, the Igbos were targeted, brutalized, and had a marketplace of the Igbo extraction razed.

I, however, commend HE, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the timely rebuilding process he has commenced. It should, however, not end there. The laying of the foundation for the rebuilding is a commendable gesture. He should put processes and checks in place to prevent future reoccurrence. Besides, security agencies must fish out those who propelled the acts of criminality and bring them to justice. If not, the act may repeat itself. Why is this necessary? I also commend the Igbos for showing restraints and not embarking on a vengeance mission.

Tribal and religious slurs have started wars that inflicted pains on nations like Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, etc. Tribal and religious slurs should have no place in modern-day socio-political dictionaries of enlightened nations because they constitute a behemoth that destroys the soul and fabric of countries.

Even if we must go our separate ways, we should not leave bad blood, which would constrain doing business together in the future.

In Delta State, apart from the threats to political opponents to return to their villages if they could not vote for anointed candidates some towns, the house of a political opponent was razed, and three people were reportedly killed.

Before and after the presidential election, opponents of political parties were also harassed, maimed, and killed in the southeast. If I condemned the maltreatment of the Igbos in Lagos, how would I describe brothers of Igbo extraction turning guns on themselves? In one of such dastardly acts, a senatorial candidate of the Labor Party (LP) and those inside his car were killed and burnt in Enugu. In another incident, another member contesting for a House of Assembly seat was shot and lucky to be alive. In Bayelsa, a Chieftain of the APC was killed. In Bauchi, a clash between the APC and PDP left an APC member dead. Across the zones, political thugs had a field day in their reigns of terror. In some instances, INEC ad-hoc staff were kidnapped, brutalized, or killed. I thought we had grown beyond these avoidable murders across the geo-political zones.

The use of hired assassins and political thugs have grave implications for us as a people, and they include:

1. The thugs and assassins become political orphans when their political masters are sworn in, and the largesse dispensed on them also ceases.

2. After the elections and the May 19, 2023, swearing-in, there will be accentuated crime rates because the guns and dangerous weapons with which political thugs operate will not be retrieved. The small arms will become useful instruments in kidnapping and armed robbery endeavors.

3. Citizens will again be running helter skelter to source for bailout funds to escape from kidnappers den.

4. The roads would return to the pre-presidential election heightened insecurity on our roads. That will not be fair to Nigerians. Have you noticed the incidences of kidnapping and armed robberies reduced drastically before the presidential and governorship elections?

For those who bought properties outside their birthplaces, let all of us learn to use kind words and diplomacy in dealing with our landlords and neighbors. We should not take for granted the magnanimity of the states that grant us freeholds.

Let us always remember that we are at the mercy of some of the states’ emperors that could revoke our certificates of occupancies already issued in line with the Land Use Act. Besides, when we approach the courts, we may get a judgment after a minimum of fifteen years, but at what cost will that be to businesses and families? The case of the African Independent Television and Rivers State is still very fresh in my mind.

I have said countless times that Nigeria is more divided across ethnic, demographic, and religious lines than ever before, making governance difficult for the incoming administrations at the center and in the states. I only hope all those who have won elections know this and have started the healing process through necessary networks across the divide.

For those projecting and propelling soundbites of war, let them study the aftermath of the carnages of wars in Somalia, Congo, Syria, Ukraine, and other places. The terrible status of having orphans, widows, starvation, and poverty would perhaps bar them from continuing their senseless endeavors.

When a war starts, everybody is a potential dead person, widow, widower or an orphan. In the end, the beneficiaries will be conflict entrepreneurs and those in gun-running trades, while most Nigerians shall be losers. This frightening dimension is avoidable and should not be encouraged.

Good morning. Grace and peace!!!