Sorry, we can’t manage diversity

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Sorry, we can’t manage diversity by : 3:46 am On October 10, 2021

Since the Muhammadu Buhari administration came in 2015 the country has operated on the fringe, with so much tension, graduating to so bickering among the different social groups, leading to conflicts and killings. Human life has become so cheap, it is snuffed out with so much glee and nobody cares any longer. A state of nature suddenly pervades the land and as would be expected, life and living have become brutish, nasty and short as philosopher Thomas Hobbes predicted years ago. No one in all sections of the country is sure of doing a one mile journey and returning home safely. We all today have our hearts in our mouths.

Those who naturally should sleep to regain strength and vitality can›t do so with the right atmosphere. The atmosphere is not there, the calm and tranquility that used to be our cherished possession has long been shattered by leaders and their cohorts, who rather prefer to gain everything  even if it entails destroying the edifice alongside thehuman lives in it. The leaders in this country, from independence till date, have not been able to manage our diversity in the most progressive manner. Of all the regimes, the Buhari administration has fared most terribly on this score.

In speech and posturing, the Buhari administration has been the worst in terms of effectively managing our diversity and trying to turn it into an advantage rather than a disadvantage which is what it appears to be today. It is difficult to see beauty of diversity looking at the make up of the inner caucus of President Buhari. It is simply not there, the negative effect can be seen in the manner the president views  the country; his prism is extremely narrow;  his pattern of reactions to issues of national significance amply shows the limitations imposed by his immediate environment. Many of his positions just accentuate the hate in the land .Just last week in his national address to mark Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary, the President was clear on identifying sponsors of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, telling us one is a member of the National Assembly, a veiled allusion to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and those of Sunday Igbogho, the Yoruba separatist agitator but was silent on the sponsors of Boko Haram the fourth most dreaded terror group in the world, doing greatest damages to the corporate existence of Nigeria.

The omission is most nauseating when taken from the perspective that few days ago another Muslim country, the United Arab Emirates perhaps out of genuine concern or traumatization from what Nigeria is turning to through deliberate acts of her own citizens chose to release names of those it knows are sponsoring Boko Haram activities in Nigeria. We ought to embrace the gesture and move from there but this is not what our government did; rather government officials ignored the strategic disclosure and the President capped the abdication of cardinal state responsibility by looking the other way while gleefully making public show of unsubstantiated discovery of those of other ethnic groups. Buhari has told us he wants to leave behind a very peaceful country, how such prevarications and selective guilt can help build peace, should be anyone›s guess. 

In places where  great thoughts are applied to management of the state, critical matters especially in a plural societies like ours, one of the ways to manage diversity and turn it to great strength is the art of delicate balancing, consciously treating all equally and working assiduously to promote at all times a sense of belonging. There is also the tactics of not making public show of some issues even mistakes. Those matters may be real but they are better handled via the under-the-table methods. Where leaders must go public for pressures of public good then “Constructive Engagement” must be deployed. Most contentious matters in a deeply plural setting are not solved by shenanigans, enforcing advantages or still by force. Answers are found through compromises and consensus building, a requirement that is in very short supply in our clime.

It took President Buhari our case study on this matter all of six years to visit South East and when he did it was like a President visiting a war zone yet we are not in a civil war, we run a democracy. If his strategists are adept at positively managing diversity some events would have preceded the visit, especially given that secessionist agitation and omissions of the central government have created a tension filled relationship. Buhari should have gone beyond Governors Hope Uzodinma and David Umahi of Imo and Ebonyi states, two leaders that have broken ranks with their people, to initiate a meeting in Abuja with authentic leaders of the region. Out of the meeting would have been a few concessions in form of very strategic appointments in security arrangement and even government.

    The gesture would have had the beautiful effect of relaxing the atmosphere and ushering in a warm and rewarding visit from where other earth shaking agreements could have been made including possible release of Nnamdi Kanu to his people. This approach will never be on the card because it is contrary to a Supremacist ideology which emphasizes conquest. We see the effect in nation building: the President goes to the East and returns yet nothing changes; rather he leads the Nigerian state to celebrate the “capture” of a citizen who for misadventure of state ought to have remained innocuous.

The 1884 Berlin Conference where the African continent was partitioned by foreign forces did us a lot of damage, leaving us with artificial amorphous unions and artificial boundaries. It left us with structures difficult to merge. Yes but not impossible. In Europe it took wars and killings to create near contagious entities, Most of those nations have one ethnic group. We can›t follow the path of conflicts and killings, war is not about who started it and wants to gain by it or who won. In the end it is more about who and who survived. It can be more devastating in the era we are today with development of technology. We ought to do what other successful ones have done elsewhere.

Like America did in pursuit of harmony among her diverse people, we too can legislate tolerance into reality. How? Simple, give emphasis to citizenship and citizenship rights, bring these out clearly, run communal system where no citizen is left vulnerable, egalitarian system where none is above rule of law. A sister residing in America told me: «Ralph many of the things you guys do in Nigeria including your big men, they dare not try it in America or you go to jail straight.» This is the difference. We have culturalised concepts including democracy and law. Run a merit driven society where citizens do things based on sound principles. Teach civics in our schools and create leadership schools. Give autonomy to distinct people and recognize their makeups. Canada has two official languages because of a tiny French population. Sweden is said to have two parliaments because of a very small minority group. Let the emphasis and quarels be over productive economy and programmes on education, health, roads, industry, power supply, railway, agriculture, aviation, foreign trade and not tribe, religion and cattle colonies.

Everyone knows this is the right way including those whose actions birthed our ugly circumstances. Solutions or their implementation have not happened for just one reason: preponderance of hypocrites in hallowed chambers of power especially in the commanding heights. We have stage actors, they pretend to be things they are not. We have leaders in power act as if they believe in some critical principles when actually they do not. They are never tired to pontificate on all that is wrong but when they have chance to undo these mistakes they still repeat them.

 Former Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido all through last week began talking what is wrong and what to do. While at the helm in Central Bank he established a terrible protocol of power between a President and mere head of an agency. He was all out for zoning, insisting a northern must return to power. The Central Bank under him became a charity organization funding social concerns in his part of the country mainly. Outside office he is talking about merit, perhaps this is benefit of hindsight. We say we are a federalism yet afraid to take on the principles. Two can’t work together except they agree. 

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