In recent weeks the country has been rent with drums of war, ethnic suspicion and other unpalatable sounds. From the Oduduwa People’s Congress and Afenifere to Ohaneze Ndigbo to the Arewa Consultative Forum to Myetti Allah to the Christian Association of Nigeria to Muslim Right Council, not a day passes without a socio-political or religious group threatening another.
In the midst of the chaos everyone had been quick to point accusing fingers at one man who is said to be the root cause of the problem, President Muhammadu Buhari. From the cries of Fulanization in the South to Islamisation by Christians, President Buhari is painted as a bigot and the root cause of all bigotry in Nigeria. No doubt, President Buhari has shown tendency of ethnic and religious bigotry especially in the handling of the farmers/herdsmen crisis and political appointments. However, we need to ask ourselves: is Buhari an alien from Jupiter who came to rule Nigeria?
The mentality of the average Nigerian man is purist in nature: the belief that your ethnic group and religion are superior to others. The Nigerian child is trained to believe he is superior to people of different faith and ethnicity, the appreciation of diversity is lost. From strictly Christian or Muslim secondary schools to the university, people of other cultures are demonized as savages. In fact, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which would call a world press conference accusing President Buhari of fanning religious divisions are full of members whose churches own universities. Only the chapel of the owner denomination is allowed, other Christian denominations cannot have branches there, talk less of other religions. The laws guiding worship are so strict that students are punished for missing church service. To the average Nigerian child, anybody worshipping in the traditional African way is evil.
Adulthood is therefore a stage to further strengthen and enforce the jingoistic trend. Many intending couples have been denied marriage by family members because the intending couples are not from the same ethnicity or religion. So high is this hypocrisy that some groups punish their members for marrying someone outside the group. The average Nigerian prefers to patronize his kinsman or his religious compatriot over others. Many Nigerians cannot even conceive the idea of living in the same room with people of other religion or ethnicity, for they are in his sight ungodly.
Nigerians are quick to overblow crisis tagging it with ethnicity or religion. At the dawn of internet fraud, the average Ibo man became guilty of fraud by association as Ibos became synonymous with fraud. At inception of Boko Haram, every Muslim became guilty of terrorism even though they are the ones who are the major victims of the terrorists’ attacks. Now that the Fulani herdsmen saga is in the news, every kidnapping and killing in Nigeria is allegedly perpetrated by the Fulanis. We’ve forgotten that kidnapping, assassination and insecurity have been around for about two decades before the emergence of President Buhari. We’ve so much received the herdsmen crisis with paranoia and hysteria; what are at best few cases of kidnapping and killing have been painted as a daily occurrence.
All these have invariably contributed to Nigeria being a multicultural society with purist cultural lines. Many Yorubas have an axe to grind with President Olusegun Obasanjo not because he failed just like almost everyone that ruled Nigeria but because during Obasanjo’s eight years the patronages associated with the office of the president were not massively channelled into Yorubaland. In reality, President Buhari is just a product of this system of biases and he is just a scapegoat.
Bright Ogundare, email@example.com