As a historian who has had the cause to be a student and Scholar, I see Nigeria beyond ethnicity and religion. The recently concluded presidential election should be an eye opener and a lesson to new generations of young adults.
No doubt, Nigeria has always encountered the problem of nation building and national integration since 1914 Lugard’s amalgamation. To add salt to injury, the Civil War created tensions that challenged Nigeria’s unity. No blame games. The mastermind of the war also immersed himself into Nigerian politics by creating APGA before his death.
A thousand and one reasons could be given to how nationalist politicians acted before and after independence, but one thing is they all realized Nigeria was difficult to lead and govern but they were all resolute to uphold the 1954 Lytletton (federal) constitution and make it work. The crisis between 1960 and 1966 in Nigerian history were part of the teething problems of a new nation with more than 250 ethnic groups.
Nigeria is growing, I am optimistic that in our future democracies, the campaign and personality of candidates will tilt towards development questions more than ethno-religious emotions and sentiments.
One thing is the fact that PDP constantly positions itself as a national party. And with Bola Tinubu’s resilience and permutations over the years, APC has struggled to be nationally constructed. The results of the election showed how a party that was AG at inception struggled over decades to gain national prominence. It took generations of politicians to achieve that. Before now, and as of 1999, South East clinged to PDP despite Ojukwu’s APGA. APGA only suffice locally. Peter Obi’s use of LP is reactionary to the way he feared being dropped by the PDP. Will he go back to PDP or APGA? Or will he sustain LP? LP also gained more votes because Christians were sensitized to react to the Muslim-Muslim coloration of APC candidates. However, it is a democracy existing in a nation with diversity, it seems not workable. Studying the area of performance of each party, it is obvious that it takes a Nigerian minded person to take advantage of federalism and reflect it in campaign.
With the intertwined nature of federalism, localisation, globalization and urbanization, all ethnic groups in Nigeria could be present in a town in Nigeria. With a truly federal institution, all workers will live and work where the institution is located irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Meaning, their political interests may differ when choosing candidates of choice. And this will reflect in the voting pattern, any party that could nationally position itself will definitely get votes.
Historically, not to forget that Yoruba had been living in the north before the Twentieth century, there are like eighth generations now. Some of them have mixed up to the extent that they can hear but may not speak Yoruba. Northerners as Christians and Muslims live and work in the south for more than a century now. All these would matter in the making of voting patterns especially as rural areas are becoming cosmopolitan.
PDP will almost always exist as a party with a national outlook. APC is a formation of alliances that creates its own brand and they possess national power. With this, we have parties that encompasses all ethnic and religious groups.
We should move beyond ethnicity and religion and face developmental issues.
Again, citizens from the south needs to stop living under the delusion that northerners are not educated. Or that their spaces are underdeveloped. While children from the north should not be in delusion that political leadership is their birthright.
Mutiat Titilope Oladejo PhD writes from Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.