To a considerable extent, we are the products of our thoughts and the ideas we hold. Unfortunately, there is no way of consistently verifying and validating our ideas and beliefs as accurate. On many occasions, the margin of error can be extensive. And because our ideas and belief systems substantially influence how we relate with other members of society, such margins of error reflect the size of differences consequently emanating. While it is true that differences in worldview do not necessarily create conflicts, holding onto them as inexorable truths are equivalent to a zero-sum game. It is the combination of rigidity and excludability elements in such a game that eventually lead to conflicts when deployed in societal relationships. Over history, such inflexible and sometimes misleading mindsets interacting with strategic interests have always resulted in clashes. For instance, the core philosophy that sustained many monarchies in ancient times was the belief that the king was God on earth. But even the king receiving such acknowledgements knew within himself that he was no such thing. However, those views received royal blessings of accuracy because of the strategic interests in controlling the people and their resources. Those holding contrary views became enemies of the state. Of course, it was not only the king that would benefit from the installation of such untruth. Several groups with varying degrees of potential benefits admitted the falsehood as accurate and equally defended it.
There are at least ten such beliefs subterraneously creating the conflict and insecurity plaguing us as a country. They comprise Nigerians’ seemingly dominant views about the government, its future, our personality, resource ownership, the Constitution and the rule of law, politics, ethnicity, and religion. A class of those views collectively create poverty by undermining the country’s capacity to flourish economically. That mindset class produces and nourishes hunger, deprivation, and poverty, which unarguably constitutes a mass of gunpowder waiting for a matchstick fire to consume everything. The second class of ideologies revolving around national resource control and ownership, ethnic and religious superiority, and attendant profiling provide the eventual matchstick fire launching the ensuing conflagration.
The first mindset is that the government is an automated teller machine that merely dispenses money for anyone privileged to possess the card. Cardholders are those holding positions within the government who can withdraw from the machine effortlessly and without questioning. Indeed, the attractiveness of the public sector includes the opportunity to earn money without necessarily working for it, ease of illicit access to publicly owned resources without much questioning, and the almost total absence of accountability. Some political positions offer even more such opportunities. The underlying mindset powering the Nigerian public sector’s interests has consistently weakened governance effectiveness over the years. The motivation for most corruption in the public sector is, without doubt, the primary reason for Nigeria’s terrible socio-economic condition and pervasive poverty.
The second mindset is the “it is only today that matters” or “let the future take care of itself”. We often live our lives as if it is only today that matters and rarely consider incoming generations. Consequently, our development planning hardly envisions a distant future. On the contrary, forward-looking countries draw up a plan for their developmental evolution for upwards of a century. That mindset also feeds the pervasive corruption in the government. The thinking is more like: “steal whatever you can today and don’t bother yourself about how it affects people in the future”. In a sense, this “now” and the attendant short-term mentality equally influences our investment attitude. More Nigerians are by far interested in speculative and short-term investments rather than long-term direct investments.
The third mindset is me, myself, and my idolization. This mindset is the primary driver of most corrupt enrichment activities in the country. That is why many political office holders can defraud the system and corner for themselves stupendous wealth that their entire progeny up to the sixth generation cannot possibly finish even if they do not add any other things of value. Many do so merely to earn some idolization from the pauperized public. Undoubtedly, this impoverished public will soon rise with anger and hostility in protest, albeit often channelled to the wrong causal root.
The fourth mindset is that all-natural resources belong to all Nigerians. While this may be true in some constitutionally idealistic sense, all naturally given resources have their ordained owners. Attempts at substantially dispossessing owners of the ownership rights will always bring about conflict. The government’s refusal to recognize this right to possession of the oil resources in the Niger Delta region by the indigenes sparked the country’s first series of militancy. Thankfully, resource control discussions appear to be gaining good traction in government. Similarly, the seeming occupation of forests across the country by the Fulfulde nomadic pastoralists and the ensuing conflicts with host communities and farmers seemingly predicate the notion that all lands in the country belong to all Nigerians. That cannot be true.
The fifth misconception is that Nigeria’s Constitution, favouring the North more than the South, is the root of Nigeria’s problems. Even the so-called North supposedly favoured by the Constitution performs far worse than the supposedly unfavoured South in socio-economic terms. Lagos State in the Southwest has consistently blazed the trail over other Nigerian subnational government’s economic performance. Until we have state governors with genuine vision, entrepreneurially minded, genuinely accountable, and deeply committed to the socio-economic prosperity of their people, we shall continue to look in the wrong direction for the source of our problems. This mindset appears overly glorified to facilitate the passing of appears the buck of the extremely terrible performance of the state governments in the South to misalignments in the federal Constitution. This perspective is not in any way a defence of the apparent fault lines that need mending in our Constitution.
The sixth mindset is the ethnic superiority notion. Nigerians attach so much bloated importance to their ethnic origin. Unfortunately, out of more than 230 ethnic groups, only three ethnic nationalities appear dominant and referenced most times. This lopsided recognition equally conveys some sense of inequality that always creates frayed nerves. For instance, the Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups have been in political authority for several decades. They have subsequently planted many of their ilk in strategic positions, seemingly commanding such an air of importance and envy among other ethnic groups, which would have done the same if they had the opportunity. The Igbo ethnic group equally basks in its superiority based on its capacity to withstand the rest of the country in a war for three years. Despite the malicious reintegration meant to perpetuate their pain and deprivation, they still tower as the country’s most economically flourishing ethnic group. However, this wrong ethnic superiority mindset fuels needless confrontations, weakens inter-ethnic negotiations, facilitates the marginalization of other groups, and is central to many conflicts.
The seventh ideological misconception is the profiling and trademarking of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria. Hausa/Fulani are profiled as a group of poorly educated people, incapable of robust intellectual engagement, yet are deft in politics and have successfully held onto the state’s political machinery. The Yoruba people are considered treacherous, backstabbing and not trustworthy. The Igbo people supposedly possess extreme love for money that can prompt them not to respect anyone and do terrible things, including selling their children or parents for wealth if the occasion arises. Unfortunately, such unfounded conclusions regarding an ethnic group have led to several conflicts in the past. There is ample evidence to show that all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria substantially share each and all of the attributes ascribed to other nations.
The eighth mindset is the complete delegation of our human responsibilities to the divine. Many Nigerians are so irredeemably religious that they believe that God or other supernatural powers will keep providing for them even when they do not work. Accordingly, pastors, imams, herbalists, fortune-tellers and self-proclaimed intermediaries between man and God receive tremendous patronage because many Nigerians believe that they can potentially cause the divine to resolve all challenges humans face. However, tons of scientific evidence shows that the poorest countries in the world are also the most religious countries, particularly countries sheepishly upholding phoney faith. The frustrations and disappointments that are corollaries of human delegation of responsibilities to God always push young people to crime and conflicts.
The ninth mindset is religious superiority. Whereas there is no objective logic and evidence that incontrovertibly proves that one religion is better than the other, many Nigerians born into and those who choose to conduct their spiritual devotions in a particular religious organization succumb to marketing it as superior to others. Although Boko Haram and ISWAP have made us taste the consequences of such bigotry, the handprints cut across virtually all religions in Nigeria. Many Christians and Muslims are so fanatical that they detest shaking hands with those who do not share the same faith. Nigeria has accordingly suffered several bouts of religious conflicts since the 1980s on account of such bigotry.
The tenth mindset is that politics is a do or die affair. The immediate implication is that the people who participate in political activities throw caution and adopt unconventional means to win elections. By the end of the day, we become victims of political leaders who are never people’s choice in the first instance. If contestants believe that a political challenge is a ‘do or die’ or ‘might is right’ affair, they build on that ideological incentive to create an animal kingdom scenario. That is why conflicts and fights characterize most political party congresses and actual inter-party contests and elections. It is also why the party faithful is majorly those with the liver to withstand tensions and skirmishes.
Finally, there is no doubt that peace is achievable if the National Orientation Agency and the media generally pay adequate attention to correcting most of these misconceptions and misleading mindsets. Prosperous countries of the world have in the main outgrown most of these faulty ideologies and philosophies. Fundamentally, these worldviews either help in invigorating the drivers of poverty, which creates the atmosphere for conflict, or they ride on the back of the already built atmosphere-for-conflict to actualize it. It also stunts the mind and blinds the eyes from envisioning and creating a future that guarantees well-being for most members of society. The National Orientation Agency must develop strong counter-narratives that will consistently release most young people from this kwashiorkor kind of thinking and invariably engender peace in the country.
Energy December 31, 2019