Ethnicity Can Set Up The Next President For Failure, by Farouk Martins Aresa

by Farouk Martins Aresa

Whoever becomes the next President of Nigeria must wipe out Boko Haram in a month and fight corruption to a standstill? Right now it is either a doable task or you lose the Election based on voters’ expectation on the 28 of March 2015. Africans have heard promises, not only at home but around the world. Just read the budget or maiden addresses by an African head of state, one would wonder why any country in the Continent is so far behind the western world.

Many people have opined that the choice in this election is not that great. It is a matter of voting for the lesser of two evils. Not many are satisfied with the status quo but there is also the fear of change. The devil you know is better than the one you do not know. In Nigeria, we know both major Presidential candidates. Each has a record.

What some people do not want to talk about is the fear of most Igbo that have supported Jonathan and are not going to desert him when he needs them most. Igbo fear that they have more at stake in this election than Hausa, Yoruba and the other ethnic groups. Champions in each of the ethnic groups would like to be in power forever. The jinx has been broken and no ethnic group can complain today that they have never tasted power across the Niger.

Both candidates must come out and allay the fear of voters from every region and every ethnic group regardless of where they are in Nigeria. There is no doubt that the Igbo are nervous about who may win the election. So they are not putting their eggs in one basket. Igbo have a good reason to be nervous after what they suffered during the War. It will be unwise to follow a Presidential candidate blindly nor should the Hausa or the Yoruba.

Even the Yoruba will tell you they are not solidly behind one candidate as an ethnic group. We cannot say the same about the Hausa, though the Fulani just crowned Jonathan as one of their own. As the Yoruba would wonder, the Fulani are wondering who these leaders represent. We must face the fact that ethnic division still exist amongst us. The best we can do is to recognize it, and use it for progress, not for ethnic cleansing.

Indeed, if all the ethnic groups can unite the way our leaders do when sharing our loot, the division between us will reduce. The loots politicians share out; are for infrastructure, children’s schools, health, agriculture and ideas of creating jobs to accelerate each of these. Choosing and doling out to their favorites, thugs and cronies is the worst form of redistributing incomes. It encourages expectations, laziness and privileges that stifle economic growth by hard work.

Nigerians are known to be very industrious outside the Country and have the highest income amongst the blacks in United States even when they have to do two jobs to accomplish that. But inside Nigeria it is Igbo that display the same motivation once they leave Igbo land. America is anywhere outside Igbo land. Those Igbo from the old school somehow pass it on to the new one but the younger ones bring unnecessary attention to themselves by offending their hosts.

Why is it that Hausa and Yoruba are not as successful as Igbo in Nigeria outside their lands? The old Igbo culture does not tolerate complacency. Any Igbo man that cannot make it and provide for his family must leave home. Igbo do not tolerate or make it easy for Efulefu to climb over hard working people. Unfortunately, the world is changing just as Nigerians and other Africans are. So the Igbo of today, are not the same Igbo of yesterday.

The Yoruba have more tolerance for complacency. The rational is that fingers are not equal and those that are lacking in substance must be helped by the community. Igbo are republicans; they do not display the same amount of tolerance. On the other hand are the Hausa. They believed that God is the provider of all things: gives and takes away. Even some talikawa see begging as a display of some form of humility since situation can change from day to day.

Mind you, you cannot find all Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba squarely cast in each of these categories in this day and age. But we must understand the reason we are here and the motivation that got us where we are. Nigerians have gone from individuals that would not dare steal money from their own villages; to stealing any and everything on sight. It gets worse in each administration   because we make excuses for our leaders for treating us badly and there is no strong deterrent.

You have to tell people what they want to hear or fall on your own sword. No, it’s the other way round: be a man of your words or fall on your own sword. Politicians have no credibility we usually say, but some are worse than others. In the face of stomach infrastructure, you better do the right thing just before election and let the people suffer the consequences later. They cannot impeach you after the election, not in Africa, not in Nigeria.

The greatest disappointment is if nothing changes after this election, no matter who wins. We must stop setting up one another for disappointment and start working on how we can accommodate one another for better infrastructure the same way our leaders accommodate one another when sharing the money needed for the benefit and comfort of every one of us.

Africans generally feel insulted when someone that is not from our ethnic group, study or write about another ethnic group. The irony is that we quote foreigners to back up the greatness and shortcomings of the same ethnic group. Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and other minorities have been living in the same area for centuries. But deny one another and blame foreigners for lumping.

Yoruba gripe because they think they were marginalized but marginalizing Igbo you protested for takes all backwards. Don’t blame Ndi-Igbo, just as talikawa in the North do not want to be   blamed for the same leaders that marginalized them, making them the poorest in the Country.