By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
Racism, religious dictatorship and political intolerance have been interminable sources of unwholesome pressure and insecurity in several societies today. The factors have immediate, profound and negative import in the method for dispensation of justice, provoke resentment and obstruct freedom of political expression and affiliation. Racial discrimination is a grave curse and remains a discomforting source of injustices and intense violent responses that culminated in violent confrontations and wars for liberations through destruction of effigies and persons associated with the predicament. ‘Black Lives Matter’ related bitterness resulted in deaths and violent responses from varied quarters. In May and June 2020, there were explosive violence mostly in the United States of America in respect of a racially motivated murder of George Floyd by a police officer. Floyd was a black American man murdered gruesomely. The murder triggered widespread hostilities toward police officers in U.S and violent demonstrations across the world. Besides, there are many revolutionary groups across the world driven to violence and armed struggle as means of confronting race motivated subjugation and deprivations.
Religious dictatorship is responsible for an irrepressible proliferations of Islamic militants who are vigorously assailing, slaughtering and destroying properties of all they consider infidels. These religious bigots are at war of total destruction to wipe out the ‘infidels’ from the surface of the earth in the name of ‘Allah’. The greatest problem confronting sane societies across the globe is how to contain the fiercely ravaging insecurity by religious groups such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen, Dash and myriad other violent Islamic groups dedicated to violence and terrorism. These groups of rebellious religionists have murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women and children sacrilegiously. The passions of these people for purposeless destruction are incomparable. These avowed human slaughterers have refused to be appeased neither by reason, silver nor gold except by the death of the innocent. No society today is without sorrowful chronicles of the terrorists’ disrespectful wreckages. From America through Australia to Zimbabwe the stories of ruins and pains of the Islamic fundamentalists are the same. Political intolerance by totalitarian regimes have turned their states into war zones murdering, imprisoning and destroying properties of the political opponents. The whimsical rulers use intense violence and intimidation for fine-tuning and the illegitimate power. They denigrate politics, abuse power and defile democracy.
Emerging societies have often found themselves in unceasing consciousness and avoidable pressure arising from the variant tribes and religious beliefs of the constituents. Pressure because each constituent vain gloriously antagonise and tussle for supremacy. Disparities in tribe and religion also describe differences in values. Many who see religion as a bondage despise the brands of freedom democracy promises to offer, while those who consider religion as liberating force of love and confraternity want to live sharing and cooperating notwithstanding the diversities. It is easier to harmonise individuals were values are similar. This harmony dries up difficulties in integration and provides platforms cooperation, stability and progress. Inability to find common grounds for synchronisation makes democratization of values difficult if not impossible. Recognition and respect of values of others help create a stable society where the feelings of repression or injustices are not considered dominant.
It is a daunting challenge to have true sense of peaceful and stable democratic system established in a society that relates suspiciously with its members. Unfortunately here, the plant of democracy and tolerance will not take their roots deep enough to make the society friction free and stable. This is the reason why many developing societies are prone to endless threats of violence, death and destruction. It is not subject to dispute that many communities in the world today reel in pains of injustices and some of these have chosen violence as the only way of shading off the miasma. Injustice like hunger is appropriately described by he who lives in the sting. “Injustice comes in various forms, wherever the norms of distributive justice, procedural justice,or human rights are violated. In some cases, these unfair conditions are imposed by the ruling party itself, whether it is an authoritarian government or an outside aggressor. Those in power sometimes use the state’s legal and political systems to violate the political, economic, and social rights of subordinate groups.1
Political injustice involves the violation of individual’s liberties, including the denial of voting rights or infringements on rights to freedom of speech or religion, and inadequate protection from cruel and unusual punishment.2 Such injustice often stems from unfair procedures, “and involves political systems in which some but not others are allowed to have voice and representation in the processes and decisions that affect them.3 According to Morton Deutsch, “this sort of procedural injustice can contribute to serious social problems as well as political ones. If voting or litigation procedures, for example, are perceived to be unjust, any outcome they produce is liable to be unstable and produce conflict.4 In addition, “any procedure that is carried out in a biased manner are likely to contribute to problems of religious, ethnic, gender, or race discrimination. When the procedure in question has to do with employment or wages, such issues can lead to serious economic and social problems.5 In a place like the South Africa under the former xenophobic regimes, the Black South Africans were denied voting rights, voice and proper representation. This not only elevated the level of social and political crisis but sustained violence of unquantifiable magnitude. The reactionary violence by the Black Africans were disproportionately countered by state organised killings, destructions and heavy handed repression to weaken the spirit of the people’s resistance.
The apartheid regimes were sustained by dehumanizing chauvinistic philosophy. It was a philosophy that forced the aboriginals into existential prisons of economic, social and political destitution. The economic destitution was palpable in the premeditated failure of the racially prejudiced regime to provide Black Africans with leverages to access like all others the basic necessities of life, such as access to adequate food and housing. The system devised and maintained huge discrepancies in wealth between the Black and White Africans. Economic deprivation often bred violent robberies and murders in South Africa while reactionary resentment gave expression to freedom fightersand/or revolutionary groups whose popular language was death to the oppressors.
The feelings of injustice and distrust among communities especially in the former colonial states which today constituted the heaviest weight bugging them down have always been traced to colonial times. In Nigeria for instance, this suspicious sentiment has given vent to astonishing violence and destructions leading to negation of Nigeria as durable democratic state.
It was speculated that by 2015 Nigeria may be forced to split gratitude to ethno-religious tensions. Agents of this prophetic division surreptitiously us Islamic fundamentalists who attack Christians Churches without provocation to stoke violent disunion. Today, Nigeria is experiencing various brands of terrorism, socio-political crisis, ethnicity and sectarianism, violent destructions and religious intolerance. Nigeria’s religious and ethnic multiplicities are becoming growing curse to her nationhood. Since independence, it seems the nation’s ethnic and religious groups have been working against the unity and stability of the nation. They are least concerned with addressing the problems of the nation, and hence, a sense of deprivation among the people is replicating immensely. Without conscious desire for collaboration among the national divisions the vision for a durable democratic state is a daydream. The socio-cultural and economic divisions between the North and the South are disquieting destabilizer of anything consequential in the sense of moving the country forward.
Colonial administrations used exploitatively the immense impact of ethnic solidarities in designing and implementing their programmes in the former colonial territories. A group or region that gets favourable access to policymakers enjoys more expanded electric service, pipe-borne water, paved roads, schools and hospitals per capita than groups without access. Besides, political leadership comes with unprecedented opportunity to make patronage appointments and allow family and loyal supporters to win government contracts. A leader, on his part, looks forward to getting clear support from his ethnic group.6 Nigerian government under directorship of decrepit Mohammadu Buhari epitomised Nigeria as a society ruined by the nastiest and primitive forms of incompetent ethnic soldiers and political administrators. The devastations of the economy, political and social suffocations, the intolerable insecurities, the mismanagement nation’s institutions, the infighting and tussles for supremacies and the kindred supervising key national assets and regular scuffles in the state house among the president’s aids continuously disparage Nigeria as a federated democracy. Buhari divided and further segregated Nigeria according religion and tribe.
Today, Nigerians are on heightened alerts tensed by pervasive insecurity provoked allegedly by Fulani herdsmen. The nation’s predicament is not only insecurity but also and grinding poverty. The Fulani herdsmen are allegedly on rampage to steal, destroy and murder villagers in rural communities across Nigeria. Coincidentally Buhari is Fulani and a herdsman. The segregation of the communities according to religion and tribal roots assisted Buhari’s government and other irresponsible rulers elsewhere in fostering relative acceptability. These treacherous rulers extol and in some instances amplify the importance or unique characteristics of some tribal groups.
For easier exploitation, colonial administrators, in fact, kept ethnic communities segregated, treated distinctively and rewarded correspondingly. This strategy dissuade united efforts by the exploited to challenge the evils of the oppressors forcefully. Assistant colonial administrators were chosen among the natives relying preponderantly on tribal or ethnic identities. The aftermath of these measures is more manifest in ethnic politicization or consciousness. Ethnic identities were relied on in the configuration of what was considered realistic political parties in the preparation for self-government.
In Nigeria, the British colonial government treated the northern and southern parts of the country as separate entities until the amalgamation. Nigerians were encouraged to structure their political parties along the ‘visible’ ethnic zones. In the preparation for political independence in 1960, three distinctive political parties were created according to the three major ethnic constitutions of the country, the Hausas, Igbos and the Yorubas, alphabetically. In Kenya the regimentation was replicated. Kenya is made up of about 40 different ethnic groups. The principal groups are the Kikuyu, the Luo, the Luhya and the Kalenjin. During the struggle for independence in 1960s, two major national parties were constituted from these groups. The formation of political parties out of the disparate cultural groups summed up all the preparations imperatives for independence negotiation to commence at Lancaster House Conference in London 1962. Consequently, at independence in 1963, Kenya was separated into eight independent ethnic zones each with power to make laws and self-administration. Thus in many of these post-colonial states individuals are referred to and identify themselves with and treated according to their cultural zones.
The paradigm of ethnic consciousness inheres the politicization. The motivations for politicization of ethnicity are constantly obscured and reasons or explanation are at best polemical. To critics, however, British colonial administrators politicized the communities for convenience and profit. Colonialism accentuated the significance of ethnicity in socio-political lives of many former colonial states. In Nigeria for instance, The British colonial government acted as if it was unaware that Nigeria’s most basic problem then was sub-nationalism—a term which denoted group loyalty or group solidarity along ethnic, linguistic and cultural lines. This predisposition to tolerate the problem of sub-nationalism appeared deliberate as Lord Fredrick Lugard, the then Governor-General of Nigeria, tolerated Northern conservatism in his anxiety to adopt the system of indirect rule.12
According to Nwankwo and Ifejika, the North was encouraged to look different and to develop along its own lines, and the natural consequence of this policy was that the North did not feel itself to have anything in common with the South. Hence even the common experience of colonial tutelage became an additional factor of divergence rather than a basis for unity. It is particularly interesting that Nigeria’s federalism is not supported by either geography or natural factors.13 In fact, imperial bureaucracy provided condiments that spiced ethnic politicization. In particular, British colonial rule displayed a remarkable zeal for ‘racial’ classification, enumeration, and discrimination.14 Ethnic coalitions were formed as strong bargaining instruments for obtaining spatially distributed state goods and services. It is easy to explain the rationalities why political coalitions are constituted along tribal lines rather than other lines such as class, religion, district, or political ideology.
For Udogu the dysfunctional characteristics of ethnic politics in Nigeria have been serious enough that the country addressed the issue in the 1979 Constitution. The strategy barely worked. After his military coup in 1993, General Abacha announced that he was going to set up a constitutional conference to establish the framework for Nigeria’s return to civilian rule. Almost immediately, various ethnic groups such as Ijaws, Tivs, Igbos, and Yorubas started coalescing and planning strategies to influence the outcome of the assembly.15 In Bates’ opinion, ‘shared language and culture makes it easier for political entrepreneurs to mobilize ‘intra-group’ rather than across ethnic groups. Secondly, ethnic and colonial administrative boundaries tended to coincide, and modern goods like schools, electricity, and water projects tend to benefit people in a particular location. Consequently, lobbying for these goods along ethnic lines was natural.16 James D. Fearon observed that ethnicity is socially relevant when people notice and condition their actions on ethnic distinctions in everyday life, and that ethnicity is politicized when political coalitions are organised along ethnic lines, or when access to political or economic benefits depends on ethnicity. Ethnicity can be socially relevant in a country without it being much politicized, and the degree to which ethnicity is politicized can vary across countries and over time.17
According to Fearon ‘the politicization of ethnicity varies markedly, in a pattern that to some extent reflects variation in the prevalence of socially relevant ethnic distinctions.18 Realistically, ‘ethnically based parties are common in sub-Saharan Africa, and access to political and economic benefits is frequently structured along ethnic lines. This is also the case for the most of the more ethnically diverse countries of south and East Asia. Ethnic parties are less common in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and north Asia. However, at least during the communist era the allocation of political and economic benefits was often formally structured along ethnic lines in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.19 It is believed that political cleavages in Latin America were understood in terms of class rather than ethnicity, despite ample ‘raw material’ for ethnic politics in the form of socially relevant ethnic distinctions in most of the countries. It is an interesting question why Latin American countries have seen so little politicization of ethnicity in the form of political movements, especially when political and economic benefits have been allocated along ethnic lines in many countries of the region.20
Ethnic nationalism has been remarkably negative in many developing countries across the globe. Less advantaged ethnic groups are denied of justice and equity, some are oppressed, segregated and repressed and others are seen as things to be cleansed. This disproportionate reference to ethnicity in the distribution of socio-political or even cultural right resulted in proliferation of crimes of violence and destruction. In a study of 183 contemporary states, Vanhanen infered that all populations share the same evolved behavioural inclination to ethnic nepotism. According toVanhanen, ‘the members of an ethnic group favour their group members over non-members because they are more related to their group members than to outsiders. This disposition to favour kin over non-kin becomes important in social life and politics when people and groups of people have to compete for scarce resources. African politics is rife with leaders who have penchant for selecting their most trusted aides primarily from their ethnic group. It is a form of insurance against surprise takeovers.21
A number of ethnic zones in African states found themselves exceptionally disadvantaged because of premeditated political and economic disequilibria. In Nigeria for instance, it appears that over the years the three major ethnic groups of Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba had together exercised complete control and dominated the dynamics of Nigeria’s politics and the direction of growth.
- Paul Wehr, Heidi Burgess et al, (1994), ‘Justice Without Violence’ Lynne Rienner Publishers p.9
- Morton Deutsch(2000) ‘Justice and Conflict’, in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, ed. M. Deutsch and P.T. Coleman (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers, p.56
- See Morton Deutsch in Maiese, Michelle. “Addressing Injustice.” Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: June 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/bi-essay/address-injustice>
- Maiese, Michelle.(2003) Op.cit.
- Bamfo N. op.cit
- Fearon, J. D. (2004) ‘Ethnic mobilization and Ethnic Violence’ Stanford University p.6
- Easterly, William, and Ross Levine. 1997. ‘Africa’s Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions.’ The Quarterly Journal of Economics 112(4): 1203-50.
- Osita Agbu op.cit.
- Nwankwo, Arthur A. and Samuel U. Ifejika, 1969, The Making of a Nation: Biafra, London, C. Hurst and Company. P.258).
- See Fox 1986, Punier 1995 in Fearon 2004 op. cit. p.7
- Udogu, Ike E. 1999. ‘The Issue of Ethnicity and Democratization in Africa: Toward The Millennium.’ Journal of Black Studies 29(6): 790-808.)
- Fearon, J. D. (2004) ‘Ethnic mobilization and Ethnic Violence’ Stanford University p.2
- Slezkine 1994; Sunny 1993 in Fearon op.cit.p.3
- See Yashar (1999) in Fearon op.cit.p.3
- Vanhanen, Tatu. 1999. ‘Domestic Ethnic Conflict and Ethnic Nepotism: A Comparative Analysis. Journal of Peace Research 36(1): 55-73.)