Latest Headlines

NISER Boss Highlights Challenges in Managing Nigeria’s Diversity

NISER Boss Highlights Challenges in Managing Nigeria’s Diversity

Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) Professor,Antonia Simbine has observed that due to perceived lopsidedness in the sharing of national resources, Nigerians are clearly more divided now.

This development, she said, had made it a huge task for the  government to  manage our diversity.

Speaking at this year 2023 NISER Research Seminar Series (NRSS) on the theme: ‘Ethnic Inequality, The Federal Character Principle, and the Reform of Nigeria’s Presidential Federalism’, Simbine  noted that managing our diversity would  require implementing policies and programmes that foster integration of the different ethnocultural groups for national development.

She said: “Since the country’s independence in 1960, issues and strategies of national integration have expectedly constituted national discourses on how to handle the country’s heterogeneous and highly culturally diverse society.”

 “This is not surprising given that federal states have always faced the challenge of ‘welding’ disparate entities into one indivisible unit. Nonetheless, despite the constitutional principle of “unity in diversity,” ethnic inequality remains a major challenge in modern Nigeria.”

“In contemporary Nigeria, there are several separatist movements and groups, indicating a lack of national integration and inclusiveness. Indeed, Nigeria’s Fourth Republic (since 1999) has seen an increase in the emergence of sub-nationalist separatist movements, such as the Oodua Nationalist Coalition (ONAC) in the South-West, Niger Delta militants in the South-South, religious fundamentalist movements in the north, and Pro-Biafran groups in the South-East, particularly the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).”

The DG also remarked that “This suggests citizen dissatisfaction with the state, which has negative implications for national unity and security. The persistence of pervasive horizontal inequalities in the polity appears to be the main driver of and continues to fuel, centrifugal tendencies in the Nigerian federation.”

Simbine , however, emphasised that the Federal Character Principle, established in the 1979 Constitution (and reaffirmed in the 1999 Constitution), can be viewed as a direct approach to redressing these horizontal inequalities between different groups in Nigerian society while avoiding concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical areas.

 “To accomplish these goals, Nigeria’s Federal Character Commission (FCC) has been tasked since 1996 with monitoring and enforcing the constitutional principle of federal character in government employment and public expenditure,” she said.

She affirmed further that “Given the never-ending squabbles and complaints about the FCP’s implementation, it appears that the Federal Character Commission has been hampered by some constraints, which affect its performance.”

“The principle, like many other policies in the multinational federation, has drawbacks: it favours ethnic majorities by using states rather than ethnic groupings as the units to be represented because ethnic minorities have more states than ethnic majorities; and the policy errands some ethnic groups over others, which is inconsistent with the policy’s stated goal of national unity. “

“Although the principle was established in good faith in the Constitution, it appears that it has been exploited and used to justify various agitations by both young and old citizens.”

Related Articles