One of the talking points of the recent general elections in Nigeria was the deliberate disenfranchisement of many citizens in Lagos mainly through activities of thugs who disrupted voting in certain places. Evidence we have seen strongly points to the fact that these disruptions were far from being mere spontaneous acts of destruction-hungry miscreants but a carefully planned and strategically targeted act aimed at securing.some political advantage.

Two things point to the correctness of this conclusion. First is that the areas affected by the disruptions were those where the voting populations were dominantly non-indigenes especially the Igbo who were seen as not favourably disposed to voting for the APC. Second was some of the comments by some individuals that matter (evidence of which was amply seen on social media).

In particular, was the much-trended vitriolic threats from a man recognized as the king of _area boys_ in Lagos, Musiliu Ayinde Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo) where he warned Igbo residents against voting for any other party but the APC.

As would be expected, those broad daylight disenfranchisements have remained one of the key talking points of the elections. Those who are in the habit of attributing all our failures as a nation to ethnic rivalry and animosity have been pointing to that incident as a clear testimony to the validity of their claims.

However, like I always say, ethnic politics in Nigeria is not exactly what it seems. Pause for a while and ask this question: If APC.and Tinubu had believed that the Igbo in Lagos would vote for them, would they have sought to disenfranchise them and hand the advantage to their opponents? No they would have indeed rendered every assistance necessary to get them to cast their ballots. Another corresponding question is this: if the party and the candidate had believed that the Yoruba in Lagos would vote against them, wouldn’t they have sought ways to disenfranchise them?

Truth is that quest for power is brutal and more so in a clime like ours where institutions that ought to moderate the excesses of humans are not just too weak to live up to their bidding but have become so perverted that they sometimes actively encourage these excesses. So when people seek power they don’t mind killing their entire fellow citizens irrespective of their ethnic groups. One instance that comes to mind is the crisis in the western region in 1965 which was the climax of the rivalry between two brothers, Obafemi Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola. The killings, maimings and property destruction that became “operation wetie” did not happen along ethnic lines because of the circumstances of the event. Were the rivalry between Azikiwe’s NCNC and Awolowo’s AG or Akintola’s NNDP, the case would have been entirely different. This way, the real partisan underpinning of that sad event would have been lost on all of us while ethnic interpretation would have prevailed.

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What does this tell us? What is usually at the root of seeming ethnic rancour in Nigeria is the partisan interest of politicians. Ethnic symbols are mindlessly exploited by these politicians to manipulate the citizenry into becoming a willing tool for realising their ambitions. This is why it has always been the trend that politicians only complain of ethnic marginalisation when they find themselves outside the privileged circle in politics. Take for instance how Orji Kalu suddenly became a strong champion of Igbo nationalism when he fell out with President Obasanjo in 2003, a disagreement that many believe was responsible for grounding of his Slok Air by the federal authorities. In the midst of that quarrel, Kalu visited the embattled governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige, in Awka and pledged solidarity in the face of the latter’s ordeal in the hands of Obasanjo whose “hated for Ndigbo” was the reason. The Abia governor equally blamed ethnic hate for Obasanjo’s failure to send any congratulatory message to Abia state government after Enyimba FC achieved the unprecedented feat of winning the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League. Now fast-foward to the Buhari administration, the Kalu and Ngige we now see have completely discarded their Igbo nationalism robe to now ascend the higher moral ground of “detriabalised Nigerian”. In fact, last two years, in a television interview, Kalu had asserted that there is indeed nothing like ethnic marginalisation in Nigeria. “The only people marginalised in Nigeria are the poor,” Kalu stated. Apparently, ever since Kalu joined the ruling party, the only time he has spoken clearly about ethnic justice was when he wanted to contest for the APC presidential nomination and more recently as he aims to become the Senate President. What emerges from all this is that an average Nigerian politician is always less than honest when he poses as either an ethnic champion or a detribalised statesman. To him, the only thing that actually matters is his political ambitions. In that Machiavellian disposition, both ethnicism and pan-Nigerianism remain political tools to be summoned when any of them fits the purpose.

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In my attempt to drive home this point, I have often challenged people to tell me.why the north will remain much worse than the south in almost all indices of human development if their leaders who have preponderantly controlled the power structure of this country were really playing ethnic politics to secure their welfare. I have noticed that people usually begin to beg the question whenever I pose this query, the reason being simply that all evidence points to ethnic politics in the north as being merely a tool for exploitation as against a means of emmancipation. Some few privileged individuals are exploiting the poverty, ignorance and naivety of the majority to retain political power while sharing the booty of that conquest with their collaborators in southern Nigeria.

The same is true of religious politics. Politicians have always manipulated religious symbols to gain partisan advantage. In northern Nigeria in particular, the Marxian aphorism that religion is the “opium of the people” has been given the clearest demonstration as the political class, who are everything but truly religious and pious, have successfully projected religion as the ultimate social good and entrenched this representation in the consciousness of the people. This is so much so that Ahmad Sani Yerima had to make introduction of Sharia a key campaign promise en route becoming governor of Zamfara State in 1999 while his counterparts in other states like Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi and Kaduna had to follow suit in instituting Islamic jurisprudence in their respective territories just to gain legitimacy. A northern Moslem politician hit the nail on the head when then on Channels TV one Saturday morning he described what was happening in Zamfara and other northern states as “political Sharia”.


The Moslem-Moslem ticket that APC offered to Nigerians in the last presidential election is equally to be seen in this light. It is, stricto sensu, not a religious act, but a political act. The north which is APC’s stronghold is made up of mostly Moslem voters who over the years have been indoctrinated by their self-seeking leaders to vote only along religious lines. So Tinubu knew that in choosing his running mate from the north, going for a northern Christian would balance the religious colouration of his ticket but would also do the unbearable harm of alienating the majority of northern voters. So he acted smartly as every Nigerian politician would do. Tinubu’s social and political life before now never projected him as a religious bigot. I don’t believe he is. Some of those who know him allege that he cannot even recite the Fatiha, a strong piece of evidence that he did not even receive any serious Islamic upbringing. I see him just as any other Nigerian politician who exploits religion and ethnicity. Such politicians cannot be said to be exploiting religious identity for the love of their faith, be it Islam or Christianity, otherwise it would have positively reflected in the way they live their lives. It is also pertinent here to observe that the only politicians who have been complaining about the Moslem-Moslem ticket are from the opposition camp. it is a game of interest.

So in the final analysis, I need to restate my firm conviction that ethnic and religious politics in Nigeria is false and unreal when it gets down to brass tacks. It only appears real because it evokes very strong emotions of identity such that very few persons are able to muster the coolness of mind and clarity of thought to separate the chaffs from the wheats. This is exactly what the politicians want; they get us intoxicated by the chalice of ethnicity and religion such that we are so much stripped of sobriety to critically engage their antics. And so far they are the winners and we are the vanquished. Arise Oh ye intellectual elite of Nigeria! (Newspathfider)

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