Ethnicity and the quest for national integration in Nigeria

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Ethnicity and the quest for national integration in Nigeria
  1 The vice chancellor of the university Principal Officers of the university The director of the centre for peace studies and conflict resolution Invited guests Distinguished members of staff and students I am highly honoured to address you at this present gathering, and I am of the conviction that there is no better theme that affords one the opportunity to speak on some critical issues that have shaped and are affecting the nature of the union that we have forged in our country,  Nigeria, at the moment, than the notion of ethnicity and how this relates to our collective quest and determination for national integration. With an aggregation of over 250 ethnic groups, Nigeria is certainly one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world. However the problem has always been how to promote accommodation for these diverse groups in a manner that is equitable and just. In other words, national integration, national integration here simply means the bringing together of diverse and discrete cultural loyalties and the development of a sense of nationality. It is the coming together of the north, the west, the east and the south. Is the coming together of the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Igbo and all the minorities under one umbrella of mutual trust and understanding void of sentiments, suspicion and discrimination. I our fifty two years existence as a nation, we are still battling with the issue of ethnic domination and strife. It is by far the most dreadful of our country’s insuperable monsters. To this issue many a Nigerian had rightly ascribed the deep rooted animosities and rancor very  2 much alive in our body politic. It is, in my opinion,  Nigeria’s  number one killer disease, a canker-worm as old as the hills-a fundamental factor of the problems of Nigerian unity. And there is no doubt that, right from the country’s attainment of independence in October 1960, many an ethnic fanatic in all sectors have been busy fanning the cinders of ethnicity into frantic life. Even those of us who believe in national integration and had been preaching it to fellow  Nigerians are invariably ending up practicing the only brand of unity that could favour the  people of our own ethnic nationality, to the exclusion of others. Hence some Nigerians, purely by accident of birth into a particular ethnic group, had become more Nigerian than others. To them ethnicity and privilege are inseparably together. Because of ethnicity, it has become fashionable, under the circumstances, to seek the services of a “long leg” and   the “as man knows man” tech nique. Merit meant nothing; neither does talent nor industry amount to anything. Thus, double standard has been created which, in turn, is leading to frustration among millions of Nigerians.  Now what is the way out? The military government of Gowon had in the past introduced the  NYSC as a means of uniting the country after the gory experience of the civil war which was staged between 1967 to January 15 th , 1970; however, I think the answer lies with us as individuals. In our quest for national integration, every one of us be ready at all times to see himself as a  Nigerian first and foremost. We must devoid ourselves of ethnicity and consequently see all the other ethnic groups in Nigeria as partners in the struggle. We must stop fighting ourselves, end the north-south division and create mutual trust and understanding. For how long shall the Hausa man continue to think that the Yoruba man is inferior, while the Yoruba man in turn makes the  3 Igbo man common; and the Igbo man concedes to himself that both the Hausa man and the Yoruba man are the people without sense? Am sure that you feel like I do that its impossible to consider the numerous cases of ethnic crisis in Nigeria in the past months and years and not have a multitude of feelings and the emotions whether you are directly affected or invariable affected as we watched people, fellow Nigerians, suffer and die, and experience loss and challenge; All for the crime of belonging to a particular ethnic group or the other. The pain that comes with this loss is not something that you shake off easily or walk away from quickly. We must end this through the annals of national integration. We cannot succeed in this nation immensely blessed by God if we continue to see our diversity as a curse instead of blessing. Though tongue may differ, our strength as a nation lies deep in our diversity. In unity we stand. We cannot succeed unless we forget our ethnicity and offer our services to Nigeria and not to any ethnic group. We must widen our citizenship beyond ethnic loyalties. Every one of us must shed the cocoon of ethnicity and cease to be ethnic fanatic. We must stamp out ethnicity; it is one sacred duty we’ve got to perform to save this nation from disintegration. I know some people are reluctant by being pessimistic, but I think it’s  important  because it’s  evident that we cannot move forward if we can’t  effectively tackle this issue. We must arouse and kindle the flame of nationalism. I wish to see Nigeria grow up to maturity and take its place among the great nations of the world. Let us build our future on the ideals of mutual trust and understanding. In this way all of us can look to the future that is still ours to anchor with hope and enthusiasm. Other multi ethnic countries have achieved it and I think  Nigeria is long overdue for it, if not four sake, for the coming generations. You will agree with me that whenever we recite the national anthem and the pledge we shower our love for the  4 country, pay respect and wish her victory .let us pledge to Nigeria to our country to be faithful, loyal and honest, to serve her with all our strength and uphold her honour and glory. Long live one united and progressive Nigeria, long live the federal republic of Nigeria. The labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain. God bless Nigeria Thank you
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