In the year 1914, the British colonial government amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates bordering the River Niger and formed a nation called Nigeria.
Today, after over 58 years of independence, and a hundred years after existence the Giant of Africa is plagued by numerous that are threatening her unity as a nation. Below are some of the more pronounced problems of Nigerian unity:
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1. Corruption and the Abuse of Public Trust
The greatest problem threatening the unity of Nigeria as a nation is the colossal scale of corruption that has eaten deeply into all arms of government.
Simply put, it will be very hard, if not impossible to convince citizens to support the unity of a nation where the interests of the poor masses are not defended.
Consider the scenario in Nigeria today, a nation that produces over 2.1 million barrels of crude oil daily, amounting to roughly 120 million dollars in daily government revenue.
Yet, an analysis reveals that the massive oil wealth hasn’t been utilised to better the lots of the masses, with over 70% of Nigerians living below the poverty line and surviving on barely $2 daily.
From the pre-colonial days when oil production began in Nigeria to the present time, estimates project that the Nigerian leadership has earned and squandered over 77 trillion Naira, while the nation as a whole remains largely underdeveloped.
Public infrastructure across the nation is poorly developed, and the few available are not maintained to keep them up to standard. All over the world, Nigeria is known as a nation where public funds can just “disappear” and are never recovered.
Likewise, politicians make fantastic offers while campaigning, promising to transform the nation into an El Dorado overnight. Once they are elected, all the campaign promises are left unfulfilled and the politicians make themselves comfortable with the national wealth.
The general opinion shared by the masses is that public office is a profitable opportunity to live large at the expense of the society.
The flagrant mismanagement of public trust by government officials at all levels is progressively causing the citizens to lose faith in the unity of One Nigeria and may result in more serious consequences than we are presently tackling.
2. Religious and Ethnic Disparity
Nigeria is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse nations on earth, with over 250 ethnic groups and over 500 different dialects spoken by the inhabitants.
The diversity of ethnic identities across the entire nation is an enviable heritage that is also a problem of Nigerian unity and peaceful coexistence.
Although the Almagamation of 1914 united Nigeria in name, the numerous ethnic groups in the nation still maintain a higher allegiance to their tribal interests than to national interests that would profit everyone.
In Nigeria, several decisions and initiatives that could transform the lives of the masses are opposed by the political elite because they desire only the progress of their native tribes at the expense of others.
To crown the problem, government officials use the power of their various offices to oppress their ethnic rivals and grant unfair opportunities to their relatives and tribesmen, creating an atmosphere of distrust and mutual hatred among the citizens.
Elder tribal and political leaders incite their youths to oppose the welfare of any rival tribal group, being willing, even to shed blood to achieve their devious plans. Respected figures in the society secretly procure weapons and distribute them to unemployed youths, who are manipulated to intimidate and eliminate any opposition.
3. Quoting a United Nations Report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis
“Nigeria is a deeply divided society considering the plurality of ethnic, religious, and regional identities that define her political existence.
Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has struggled to sustain national integration. For decades, different segments of Nigeria’s population had, at different times, expressed feelings of marginalization, of being short-changed, dominated, oppressed, threatened, or even targeted for elimination”.
With such a statement coming from the United Nations, it is crystal clear that Nigeria is still years away from being a truly united and progressive nation.
Poverty and corruption are two related evils that work hand-in-hand against the unity of Nigeria. Poverty is a state of being unable to adequately provide the basic necessities of life for oneself and family.
It is a state of financial handicap where available resources are far smaller than the needs they are to solve. For over 57 years of independence from British control, Nigeria has failed to control the onslaught of poverty, hunger, and want on the citizens of such an endowed nation.
As the saying goes, “A hungry man is an angry man”, and a hungry, wretched and angry man cannot be expected to offer any reasonable solution to the problems of Nigeria, rather his aim could be to further disintegrate the nation.
Poverty makes citizens more sensitive to the failures of government and could easily lead to rioting, armed rebellion, revolts and general unrest.
For example, the continuous Niger Delta militancy that is threatening to tear Nigeria apart is a result of the abject poverty the natives are subjected to. Oil companies extract much crude oil from the Niger Delta, and may even pollute the farmlands of the natives, but they actually pay no royalties to the natives from whose land they pump oil.
The national minimum wage which is fixed at 18,000 Naira ($50) is far below starvation level and is less than what many foreign nationals earn daily. How is it possible that a malnourished, poorly clothed and a homeless man is expected to contribute to the unity of a nation that is classified among the poorest and most unequal on earth?
To clarify the relationship between corruption and poverty; corruption is the mismanagement of public resources for personal gain, and poverty is a direct result of the mismanagement of public resources. Both joined together are a persistent threat to Nigerian unity.
5. Illiteracy and Ignorance
Of all the problems facing Nigeria’s national unity, the most aggressive challenge is the dismal level of academic literacy and the massive proportion of illiteracy among the general populace.
Illiteracy is best defined as an inability to read and to write. It is a situation where an individual lacks the essential basic education required to be a productive and learned member of the society.
Despite the efforts being made by the government to fully implement the Universal Basic Education Scheme, millions are still ignorant of the basic workings of a civilised society, and as such, cannot make any helpful contribution to national progress and unity.
Illiteracy and ignorance have been a major hindrance to the full development of human and natural resources in Nigeria and has made numerous people engage in counter-productive and contentious endeavours that don’t serve the country’s best interests.
For instance, only a genuinely ignorant and brainwashed person will agree to carry out a suicide bomb attack that would result in the loss of his own life.
Similarly, citizens shy away from voting and political participation because they believe it is a corrupt game, and that their votes never count. Numerous, costly and avoidable mistakes are made by the citizenry because they are inadequately informed.
In conclusion, until Nigeria makes quality education compulsory, national unity will remain just a dream.
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