Nigeria’s Diversity: The paradox of our complexities

Sherriff Tahiru
5 min readJul 11, 2016

We all have a tendency to decide, act, judge events and actions of people, based on our perspective. Rarely however do we stop to evaluate if our perspectives have been properly shaped to reflect a tolerable level of objectivity. Our reactions and responses to various events or ideology is often an issue of the quality and quantum of information we have received or are still receiving.

The question I wish to ask here is not whether we are objective enough, our political and social environment and the general response of Nigerians to key issues in recent years have proved otherwise. The question is, whether we can be objective enough? Here lies the key to re-shaping our philosophy and pushing us to the next era of societal awakening.

I draw some vivid examples from one of the many personal experiences encountered in the past, one of which was 2006 while still in my first year as a student of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. The Student Union Government elections had been so fierce the mass of students were plagued with the dilemma of selecting candidates out of the multi-cultural and diverse ethnic groups. So I threw a debate to my friends on the criteria to be used for selection, not long after we concluded on the selection of the candidate that would reflect through his arguments and opinions a fair solution to our mutual problems, I went to perform the usual afternoon prayers after which we were all asked to wait behind and a speaker stood to convince us through a short lecture on the hazards of electing a non-Muslim as our leader, arguing that their policies would not be in the interest of Muslim students.

At that time his argument were pretty convincing, and I was caught up with the problem of properly analyzing if they were on rational grounds fair to all concerned. Other more common examples are text messages of job vacancies which end with remarks like: ‘please forward to fellow Muslim brothers’.

I must be clear in noting that this isn’t just a problem with Muslim groups, ethnic groups like the Ndi-Igbo community, the Ouda people’s congress, and the Arewa group, have defined their decision and judgment on religious and ethnic perspectives and interests which reflect downwards to the various student groups that co-exist within a university’s walls. Isn’t it alarming to know that these core values are the learned opinion of the educated lot, what position then must the larger portion of the un-educated hold?

So I ask again, can we be objective enough? Especially when core values are being threatened and the flaws of ideas by which we have been indoctrinated become glaring. Of course, this issue is as philosophical as the question of which came first? The Chicken or The Egg? Yet, in observing the continually growing problems of conflicting interests, it becomes pertinent to note that core values are continually going to be threatened, and closely held beliefs restructured if we as Nigerians wish to move beyond the politics of ‘Us against them’

We must cultivate via education and critical questioning the variety of issues that come before us, and by so doing we will be able to clearly see the pathway to majority interest and communal growth. I do not propose a solution to the critical problems which have become the norms in our different localities, such as whether the Birom people of Jos are justified in exerting their best to rid the Hausa Fulani settlers from their lands, or whether the Chongai people in Southern Kaduna will ever be properly represented in Kaduna state. Nor do I propose to have answers to whether the building of our nation’s refinery in Kaduna is an economic decision, or whether relatively small attacks on Muslims in northern states compare in magnitude to the weekly bombings of churches, in the analysis of what the terrorist group Boko Haram really stands for.

However I believe we must guide our attention to the focal point of the majority of our problems which is a poor assessment of societal issues, a lack of capacity to constructively weigh evidence, and a strong desire to make a judgment on indoctrinated perspectives. My question remains, Can we be objective enough? Can we constructively analyze a government policy without using the faulty parameters of race, religion, gender or ethnic orientations? Can we truly rid ourselves of a considerable level of cancer called sentiments?

We all have to work towards elevating this great country of ours from the mean scenario of a policeman deciding whether to search your vehicle thoroughly or not based accent; from the gross misconduct of employments based on names and surnames; from awarding contracts based on higher kick-backs, and from judging the success of our public servants by the size of houses they acquire, or the model of the car they drive after retirement.

We have come this far because, at certain points in our history, our leaders were bold enough to take unpopular decisions and strong enough to stand by them, and in so doing they have shaped the direction toward which we follow, it is our collective responsibility to work diligently towards a clinical capacity to evaluate societal policies, plans, and problems with better-suited parameters, and this can be achieved by higher educational and vibrant orientation.

I believe strongly that the people, as well as their representatives, will have to re-shape their various concepts of interests from ‘what is best for us’ to ‘what is best for all’. More importantly, I do not subscribe to the belief that these shifts in perspective must be steered rightly by moralists or idealist, but more by technocrats, pragmatists and realists. Most Nigerians; Christians, Muslims, and members of our multi-ethnic society have at one point in time come across politicians who shake our hands before an election, and shake our confidence after being elected.

I ask again, not out of curiosity to have my article read, but out of a strong desire to be witness to a Nigeria worthy to be referred to by; even our distant runaway friends and relatives in Europe, China and the rest of the world, as ‘home’. If we can, it will be a by-product of whether we want to, and if we want to, it will come at a high price, but a price nonetheless worth paying for.

Originally published in 2012, on