Alozie Bright Chiazam
University of Nigeria Nsukka
Department of History and International Studies
A paper presented at the Association for the Promotion of Nigegrian Languages and Culture (APNILAC) conference held at the Main Hall, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus on 17th-20th November, 2011.
After about three decades of military rule, Nigeria found herself again in the mainstream of democratic government. This development was heralded as an avenue to usher in democratic stability and good governance. However, contrary to widespread expectations, the post-military regime became an avenue for the explosion of violent ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, since the emergence of democracy in May 1999, not less than one hundred ethnically and religiously instigated conflicts have occurred in Nigeria which resulted in loss of lives and unquantifiable material and psychological damage. Drawing from documentary research and findings, this paper probes the persistent spate of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria and its harmful implications on democratic consolidation in Nigeria. It investigates the history, causes and manifestations of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria and maintains that unbridled lust for power, corruption, religious intolerance and the failure of the government to deliver democratic dividends, have resulted in these conflicts between ethnic and religious groups in the country. In the light of all these then, can democracy thrive in an atmosphere of crises? Can Nigeria come out of ethno-religious conflicts? If so, what steps can the government take to rein in the menace of these crises? Finally, the paper provides submissions for curbing this social epidemic, which has become a permanent feature of the Nigerian social polity. Keywords: Nigeria, Ethno-religious, Crises, Democracy, Development
Democracy could be said to be a seed: when you sow bountifully, you reap bountifully. Thus, one of the dividends of democracy, which Nigerians have reaped in abundance since the transfer of power from the military to the civilians on May 29, 1999, is the rising wave of ethno-religious conflicts with devastating and untold consequences on lives and property (Jega, 2007: 116). Nigeria is a very populous nation in Africa with diverse cultural heritage. In fact, the country has a population of over 140 million and over 400 ethnic groups belonging to different religious sects as well (Salawu, 2010: 345). Since the attainment of independence, Nigeria has remained a multi-ethnic nation, which has been grappling with the problem of ethnicity on the one hand and that of ethno-religious conflicts on the other hand. At the inception of independence, for administrative expediency the various ethnic factions were fused and merged together by the colonialists. Then, the colonial masters left and things started falling apart, the center no longer held. No ethnic group desired to see the other. Little wonder then that the former Secretary of State at the British Colonial Office (1952-1959), Sir Peter Smitters regretted the action taken by the British to merge diverse ethnic groups into one in Nigeria. According to Ali (2004) cited in Adebayo (2010: 214), he was reported to have lamented that it was extremely dangerous to force diverse radical and social entities into single rigid political structure. However, that statement was medicine after death; the deed had been done. Indeed, a conglomerate of almost four hundred ethnic groups, each having its distinct history, language, culture and political systems before the colonial rule, all preserved in mitigated forms with the British system of governance super-imposed and named Nigeria really had future implications for unity. The colonial administration, for...