A new report has found that Nigeria has become more divided along ethnic, socio-economic, political and religious lines, than it was four years ago, which is threatening unity and peaceful co-existence of the country.
The survey titled the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey (NSCS2021) Report, was conducted by Africa Polling Institute (API) with support from Ford Foundation and launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday in Abuja.
According to the report, 65 percent of Nigerians believe that Nigeria is much more divided today than it was four years ago; compared to only 12 percent who said the country is much more united today, and 23 percent who believe that the country has stayed the same.
The report revealed that Nigeria scored 44.2 percent, below average 50 percent point, which represents a whopping 20-points increase from 2019’s score of 45 percent.
This, it notes, is an evidence which suggest that the country is below the threshold of a socially cohesive country.
The survey also reports growing citizens distrust towards the state and fellow citizens; as well as a proclivity towards ethnicity over nationalism.
A breakdown of the findings shows that citizens have more trust in Religious leaders (55 percent) and traditional leaders (44 percent); compared to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari (26 percent), the Judicial system (26 percent), the National Assembly (22 percent) and the Nigerian Police (22 percent).
This data reveal a substantial decline in the level of trust that citizens have for the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari. The difference between 2019 (42 percent) and 2021 (26 percent) reveal a significant 16 percent decline in citizens who had “A lot of Trust and Some Trust” in the Government of President Buhari.
A further breakdown shows that 74 percent of citizens believe that all Nigerians are not equal before the law.
On corruption, almost 7 in 10 citizens (69 percent) believe that the level of corruption has increased significantly in the past year, while 63 percent assess the government’s efforts at tackling corruption “Poorly”.
Also, the proportion of Nigerians that feel truly disappointed in the country increased – from 30 percent in 2019 to 49 percent in 2021, representing a 19 percent increase.
The report further shows that there has been a whopping 41 percent increase in the proportion of citizens who would seize an opportunity to emigrate. In 2019, only about a third of citizens (32 percent) said they were willing to relocate with their families out of Nigeria; but by 2021, this proportion has grown dramatically to 73 percent.
Osinbajo in his remarks, said Nigeria’s diversity is not the problem, but the allocation of access to social, economic and political opportunities on the basis of identity, aa Nigerians are compelled to emphasise their religious or ethnic identity to access opportunities.
He regrets that there are feelings of alienation and exclusions in many quarters. “At this point we must recognise the ways in which we perpetuate institutional discrimination and cause people to see their identities as weapon for procuring opportunities often at the expense of others.
“The declaration of Nigerians as indigenes and non indigenes contradicts declared aspirations towards equality and unity. The only path to national progress lies in broadening the opportunity for all Nigerians without qualifications.”
The vice president stressed on the inclusion of all citizens in every sector of the country. He added that fair and equitable dispensation of justice to address grievances is essential for fostering social cohesion and the necessary institutions must be strengthened.
Osinbajo however expressed optimism that the 2021 report would drive a more constructive debate about Nigeria’s present and future.
Bell Ihua, Executive Director, Africa Polling Institute therefore urged the federal government to convene a national dialogue to help renegotiate the fault lines that currently threaten the shared existence of Nigeria.
He also called on the federal government to create a National Cohesion Commission with the crucial responsibility for ensuring that all policies and activities of government have components within them that create a sense of belonging, promotes trust, fosters inclusive governance, and continuously offers citizens opportunities for upward mobility.
“The Federal Government needs to forge a new national movement for Nigeria and Nigerians that inhibits centrifugal tendencies that cause or promote conflicts, division or separatism; but strengthens centripetal forces that promote unity, oneness and peaceful co-existence amongst citizens. Like a new Nigerian Dream, this movement needs to be stimulated by the government and marketed to the citizens”, he urged.
He added, “Religious and ethnic leaders should mitigate against hate speech, discrimination and hostility at the community level since they are closer to the people and citizens have more trust for them, as evident in the findings.
“CSOs contributions to social cohesion in Nigeria is imperative and viable because they possess the understanding, capacity and technical know-how to respond to societal issues and facilitate peaceful co-existence of the people which will help to rekindle public trust for civil authorities.
“Citizens are encouraged to participate in community dialogues, civil engagements and initiatives that promote cohesion and discuss the future of Nigeria.”
API is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan opinion research think-tank, which conducts opinion polls, surveys, social research and evaluation studies; in order to support better policy , practice and advocacy in Africa.
The Citizens Perception Survey (CPS) was conducted to measure social cohesion in Nigeria, between the months of April and May 2021.