THE UNDERCURRENT OF ETHNO-RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA ISSUES AND CHALLENGES BY USMAN, ABDULLATEEF Ph.D. DEPT. OF ECONOMICS UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN NIGERIA
In spite of the enormous human and financial resources committed to judicial, extra judicial and administrative panels of enquiry and investigation in to remote and direct causes of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria, conflicts with this coloration refused to stop. It is a hard fact that this phenomenon is fast becoming a common feature of the Nigerian society. No doubt the effects of these conflicts on the economic progress of the country are usually grossly understated. The paper looked beyond the apparent issues to identify and analyze the undercurrent, its manifestation, actors and dynamics, examines the interests of conflict actors, and focuses on the connection between undercurrent causes of ethno-religious conflict, which are often sidetracked for ease of explanation and resolution. The paper observed that the personality of the major actors of the conflicts has been used to describe the character of the conflicts and not the causes. The paper proposed strategic responses and policy options for managing ethno-religious conflicts by recommending measures which will address the undercurrents.I. Introduction
It is a hard fact that ethno-religious conflicts is fast becoming a common feature of the Nigerian society, in spite of the enormous human and financial resources committed to judicial, extra judicial and administrative panels of enquiry and investigation in to remote and direct causes of conflicts. Conflicts of ethno-religious coloration have become a permanent feature of Nigerian polity. This probably explains why a number of studies (Nnoli, 1994, Maguballc, 1969; Ochoche , 2002;) have attributed the causes of conflicts between and within ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria to a number of factors, such as ways of propagating the religions, mistrust and suspicion between the followers of the various religious and ethnic groups, selfishness, ignorance and intolerance amongst the two groups (Olukoju, 1997).
Other scholars have blamed it all on the country's colonial history and the plural nature of the Nigerian State claiming that the country's deepening ethno-religious contradictions are a fall out of the constant feeling of distrust between the component units. The Courier (1993) reported that in Nigeria, the sort of competition and rivalry among various ethnic groups is seen as a product of colonial contact. It is impossible to say whether a conflict that may have occurred in the distant past is 'over' or persists as a problem today. The ethnic factor, however, did not diminish even after the independence; rather, it became a yardstick for measuring contribution to the national development effort and especially for allocating and distributing power and national resources.
This report did not square-up with the pre-colonial experiences of most communities in Nigeria. As a matter of fact there were inter-tribal wars engendered by the expansionist desires of kingdoms and tribal states in competition either for royal supremacy or economic resources (grazing or arable land). The coming of colonialism merely aggravated the deep rooted animosity between ethnic groups in the pursuit of their economic interests.
A major defect of these factors is that they merely address symptoms and as a result they re-occur with a higher level of sophistication than they initially occurred. Therefore, it is important to mention from the onset that most conflicts that end up being classified as religious, are fundamentally linked to causes other than religion. The tendency to identify some ethnic groups with a particular religion easily gives credence to the use of religion for the manipulation of other differences.
Though there have been conflicts described as religious in parts of Nigeria, there has been no national one due to inherent centripetal forces in the country (Ochoche, 2002). Most scholars have treated the conflict situations from the point of view of conflict assessment, focusing on the Structure, Actors and Dynamics. This explains why it was easy to identify at the superficial level an amorphous structure, which attempts to define relationship of the actors either by ethno-religion affiliation or the principal character of the leading actors. Conflict response mechanism have also followed the same pattern.
These served as a motivation to identify and analyze the undercurrent of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria. The main objective of this paper is to provide an analysis of the undercurrent of the so-called ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria using content analysis which focuses on the strategic or policy responses to the conflicts. The rest of this paper is organized into four sections. Section II provides the theoretical background while section III discuss the identification of the undercurrent. Section IV is on the issues and the challenges. Section V presents the conclusion and recommendation.
II. Theoretical Background
Class Struggle and Class Conflict
Karl Marx in his interpretation of the communist manifesto said that the history of existing society is the history of class struggles. The oppressed group and the oppressor stood in a constant opposition to one another, carried on uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight , a fight that each time ended either in revolutionary reconstitution of the society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. The history of all past societies have consisted in development of class antagonisms, that assume different forms at different epochs (Marx and Engels).
The over ridding objective of each class is to further the economic interest of the class members, because all those members of the society whose economic interest are affected in the same manner belong to one class. It is noteworthy that such economic classes are not fixed in the society but are the result of the production relations adopted, which determines the flow of income. In this connection we can distinguish, in the modern time the capitalist and workers, the landlords and the landless. In the capitalist mode of production, we have the capitalist, the workers and middle class. The capitalist is characterized by the ownership of the means of production and the workers by the lack of it.
The increasing awareness, among these different groups, of their conflicting economic interests flowing from the production relation deepens the call for change. As a result, the society gets divided along clear-cut economic interest. By the materialistic dialectics, the mode of production also comes in conflict with social relation, and thus the class struggle rages on. The slaves, the landless, the workers all want a change of economic status, which are resisted by the class that will be disadvantaged. Because the social, political and legal superstructure of the society flow from production relation any conflict there from, has the tendency to stir up conflict. In Marxian analysis, the state is always there to protect the economic interest of the class that is exploiting others. According to Marx, the state use the political power to assist the dominant class to oppress the others. Under the capitalist mode of production , the state is controlled by a small capital owning class using devices like laws, theories, code of social and economic morality to justify the existing set of affairs. Even the exploited class is fed with theories that the existing order is the best. This appears to be the case, especially during political campaigns. It is in this context also that religion is used to pacify the agitating masses. In the event of decline, the action of the group to which religion has been used as means of pacifying is branded as religious fanaticism.
Some scholars share the opinion that religion, ethnic affiliation and mode of behaviour are as much as, if not more, responsible for conflict as economic forces themselves. But the fact of the theory is that these influences, which appear as primary variables are themselves determined by economic forces. This is the thesis we are sponsoring in this paper.
III. IDENTIFYING THE UNDERCURRENT
According to the UNDP's Human Development Index, Nigeria ranks in the low human development category - 151st out of 174 countries for which UNDP has data, and 22nd out of 45 African countries. This observation and development had engendered four categories of causes which can be situated in the realm of economics.
? Contracting access to economic resources in the face of expanding fiscal space occasioned by greed in the various strata, thereby inducing unhealthy economic rivalry and wealth accumulation.
? Expanding army of able-bodied unemployed citizens who cannot operationalize basic means of existence. The proportion of the population which lives on less than a dollar a day is well above 50% and may be as high as 70% in some locations in Nigeria.
? Increasing polarization of the economic class on account of their economic interest and the increasing class consciousness in the society.
? Convergence problems in the annals of public pro-poor policies, particularly in the rural areas.
This interaction of 'Grievance' and 'Greed' is the background against which specific issues play out. But as with so many manifestations of conflict identified by various scholars, the primary issue in many cases can be traced to the process of enactment, structure and implementation or non-implementation of policies.
Most public policies and programmes made in Nigeria in the time past and even those made in recent time have recorded high incidence of failure. The reasons for this can be linked principally to their conception without adequate background socio- economic information. The indigenization policy of 1972/1977, which attempts to transfer the ownership, management and control of some enterprises to Nigerian entrepreneurs is a classical example of conflict inciting policy. An improperly conceived policy superimposed on an ill-equipped and ill-prepared economy, thus leading to massive capital flight, the collapse of the manufacturing sector and its attendant employment problem.
The Land Use Act,1978, which transferred the ownership of land to the government created an army of landless, caused a change in the relation of production and made land acquisition more cumbersome. The little piece of land left for the original settlers became an instrument of conflict. Those who were disadvantaged by this policy, especially the royal institutions and their collaborating beneficiaries did not find it any difficult to use those for whom the policy threw out of job as the instrument for seeking redress.
At the heat of these was the coming of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) in the second half of 1986,( originally designed by IMF to address the structural distortions in the economy), with its policies of liberalization, privatization and right-sizing of public institutions. The policy exposed the economy to international competition which it had not prepared for. The discharged labour from these policies who cannot carve a niche for themselves in the informal sector of the economy or whose engagement in the sector could not sustain, became recruits for protest and agitation on what was considered as misrule by the political class.
Another important undercurrent to the production of tools for conflict was the conflicting various national policies on education . Added to this is the deplorable state of the public infrastructure on education and the rising cost of schooling which accentuated the already growing number of school drop-outs who are now street workers, scavengers, almajiris, and who are ready recruits for crises. 'Idle hand, people say, is devil's workshop'.
Nigerian labour and employment policies can also not be exonerated from the undercurrent. Poor wages, delayed compensation, unpaid salary arrears and expected layoffs, abuse of collective bargaining agreements and rising unemployment were common features of Nigerian labor market that has produced an army of permanently frustrated workers. The attendant effects of these had created social and economic tensions giving vent to many of the frustrations engendered by Nigeria's stagnant economy.
The most potent of the public policy that has served as conflict generating instrument is the revenue allocation formula. The revenue allocation and fiscal commission adopted a number of indices to share what has been regarded as national cake, among the federating units, without any recourse to what the agitators regarded as true derivation. Each review had always generated agitation for further review, which now metamorphosed into vociferous and violent demand for resources control, requiring that a substantial amount of revenue return to the areas from which they were derived. The failure of the state, regrettably has now degenerated to armed confrontation, economic sabotage and hostage taking, especially in the oil producing state of the federation. Even well after a number of policies and institutions (NDDC, OMPADEC) had been put in place to redress the situation, because of the lucrative nature of the struggle, the business of militancy still continues. In recent time it has extended to illicit trade in crude oil. No doubt the struggle is no longer that of ethnic, succession/ dethronement or resource control but illegal economic control against the interest of the state, occasioned by policy failures.
IV. THE ISSUES AND THE CHALLENGES
The Conceptual Issue
The study by the institute for peace and conflict resolution identified that many of the causes are essentially similar and can be explained in terms of ethnic, succession/dethronement or religious. However, over the course of time, their original causes have been lost and the conflicts manifested themselves around a single issue that had become a focus of antagonistic and intractable attitudes. For example, the Ife-Modakeke conflict began as territorial dispute in 1835, but now has been situated in ethnic identity .
The Niger Delta struggle has gone from one about the environment, about compensation, to "resource control". The penchant for attacking Nigerians from other parts of the country, particularly Igbo in northern cities like Kaduna and Kano, over religion that has little or no bearing to those being attacked, defy logic. The crescendo with which Plateau state, often regarded as the melting pot of Nigerian tribes and religions is engulfed in crises suggests an undercurrent to this conflict hot spot.
Issue of Growth without development
A country's potential for economic growth is greatly influenced by its endowment of physical (land, minerals and other raw materials) and human (proportion of people in the labour force and their level of skills) resources. The extreme case of favourable physical resource endowment is the Persian Gulf Oil states. At the other extreme are countries like Chad, Yemen, Haiti, and Bangladesh, where endowment of raw materials and minerals and even fertile land are in limited supply (Todaro and Smith, 2007). However, high mineral endowment is not a guarantee to development and as a matter of fact it has engendered a regime of retrogression as is the case with many mineral rich West African countries.
It is a hard fact that Nigeria has been growing since attainment of independence, but this growth has not been translated to sustainable development. For instance, Nigeria ranked low in the human development ranking. In term of quantity, education had grown in terms of the number of schools (i.e. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary ) and increased enrolments. None of this education institution ranked among first one thousand webometric scale. Public Social and economic infrastructure are gradually collapsing while the policy effort at infrastructural rejuvenation has been at snail speed and following the path of political patronage.
Development connotes a transition and Olympia detachments from a state to another considered to be an advancement and wherein there is sustained improvement in the quality of life.
Though rapidly urbanizing, Nigerian is essentially agrarian in economy, social and cultural outlook. In spite of this outlook yield per hectare is still very low since manual and subsistence farming dominates with land fragmentation and food insecurity becoming the order of the day. Rural economy still remains dominant with industrialization falling to an unprecedented 2.3 percent annual growth rate. The collapse of the Nigerian rail transport system and the associated destruction of the highways by heavy duty haulage trucks had accentuated the problem of moving goods and persons across the country, thereby limiting access to gainful employment. The challenge before the economic managers is to bring back the Nigerian railways, for its employment potentials. Appropriate legislation should be put in place to enhance the sustenance of the sector. In the same vein, the textile industries subsector, which has been reputed for being one of the labour absorbing industry should be energized, vertically and horizontally to play it role in the economy through a sustained public investment and appropriate protection of the investors. Such a venture will require bringing back the famous cotton and groundnut pyramid of the north, which will keep the youth in gainful employment in addition to earning foreign exchange.
Management of Common Wealth for good of all
The question that readily comes to mind is that what is the common wealth of the Nation? Land and it associated components, population, its composition, distribution and its quality enclosed in the geographical expression called Nigeria represent the common wealth of the nation. The various national development plans, which spell out the philosophy and principles for managing the commonwealth, were the instruments used to manage the common wealth of the nation. Observably a number of factors,( inadequate data base; duplication of efforts; over ambition and spillover effects of civil war) prevented the realization of the objectives spelt out in the documents.
In the early 1970s, the pyramids of cotton and groundnut from the Northern Region, the minerals from the Eastern Region and cocoa, timber and rubber from West and Midwestern Regions provided the revenue base for the take-off of national development. The emergence of oil as the major revenue spinner eroded the importance of the former sources. A characteristic of Nigeria is that (except in the oil-producing areas) resources tend to flow from the top downwards rather than the other way. All the three tiers of government relied on allocation from the Federations Account without a corresponding monitoring of the use to which these funds were put. It is now common place to set aside the blue print for piloting development and to adopt a gorilla approach, which creates room for misappropriation and fraudulent practices. In organized economies, the budget is not just a document of financial appropriation but a legal instrument for implementing development policies and programmes. The process of evolution of budgets in Nigeria, may have been responsible for the inability of budgets to perform this legal role.
In spite of expansion in the fiscal space occasioned by unprecedented rise in the price of crude oil in the international market, development problem is not lack of finance but illicit arrangement for the flow and use of funds. This is particularly encouraged by lack of continuity in the policies and programmes of government. The dismal failure of governments at state and local government levels is an attestation to regimes of bad financial management. It is therefore instructive that the challenge to the managers of the economy is to allow the anti-corruption agents and institutions to operate in accordance with financial blue print that will be backed-up by appropriate legislations and enforcement of sanctions. The National Planning Commission should be reorganized to be able to cope with the reality of the time, which involves using the market to reinforce planning as opposed to enthronement of market forces.
Another important common factor today is the phenomenon of political corruption. The concentration of resources in the state makes the possession of political power very lucrative and the competition for political positions very intense. This explains why the political class will fan the ember of discord among the electorate and rival political group to achieve mundane interest . The challenge before the manager of the economy is to allow the report of the Electoral Act Reform to see the light of the day. This will remove some of the conflict generating factors and reduce the tendency of using the public as instrument in the making of selfish history.
Making Public Policies Work
In recent time Nigeria has experienced a wide range and far reaching reforms in the policies and programmes of government. Public policies have been failing in Nigeria because relevant legislations have not been backed up by appropriate sanctions even where it is expressly stated. It is noteworthy to mention that just like investment, policies have period of gestation. Nigerians are usually in a haste to see the results of policy reforms maturing in a matter of weeks, months or a year. This explains why economic managers will only put in place ad hoc policies, which meets the expectation of the public, (e.g. fertilizer for farmers, payment of WAEC registration fees, distribution of grains and Atanpa, etc).
For example the various poverty reduction programmes have not achieved their desired result because they are not products of development process apart from the fact that most are either ill- prepared or ill-equipped. A good example is NAPEP, which has no accurate record of the unemployed people and yet it is planning for them. A good NAPEP plan presupposes identification of the numbers, locations and skill requirements; knowledge of the structure of industrial employment, job openings, job losses, as well as when and where they occur. Definitely this will require near accurate and extensive data base, which can be obtained through a national baseline survey of industrial establishments.
The crave for credible , free and fair elections has been a recurring problem in the annals of Nigeria's political history. It is indeed one of the major challenges of the democratization process in the country and which has been instrumental to major conflicts today. With the exception, perhaps, of the 'transition' elections of 1959, 1979, 1993 and 1999, Nigeria is not known to have conducted elections that meet the minimum standard of acceptable democratic elections (Alabi, 2008). Elections in Nigeria, particularly the second republic (Bratton, 1998) of 1983 and 2003 have been largely characterized by massive rigging, large scale fraud, irregularities and malpractices. The overriding objective of these vises is struggle for power, ultimately to hijack the control of national resources, certainly not for the good of all but for personal or group gains. The conduct of electoral policy cannot be exonerated in what has come to be known as political violence for which idle hands have played significant roles. Obviously therefore, the issues bordering on electoral reform, including the legal framework of electoral politics, cannot but remain a serious challenge to the consolidation of stable, violent free-polity in Nigeria.
Above all, making public policies to work is a challenge to all citizens and friends of the country, (who are the stakeholders in minimizing conflicts and sustaining peaceful coexistence), must cultivate the right attitudes to make policies work by developing attitude and perceptions that keep the nation first above self or class interest.
V. The Conclusion and Recommendations
From the foregoing , the postulation, which establishes a strong relationship between resources endowment, access to resources and propensity for conflict is hereby upheld. The conclusion here is that for any ethno-religious conflict or any of the other colorations, there are very strong element of undercurrents. In Nigeria, the undercurrent, which are essentially economic, are products of the failure of policies and programmes contained or imported into the national development plans. The attendant effects of this failure can be summarized as follows: -
? Contracting access to economic resources in the face of expanding fiscal space occasioned by greed in the various tiers of government.
? Expanding army of able-bodied unemployed citizens who cannot operationalize basic means of existence.
? Increasing polarization of the economic class on account of their economic interest and the increasing class consciousness in the society.
? Convergence problems in the annals of public pro-poor policies, particularly in the rural areas.
In order to solve these conflict generating problems, the paper proposed strategic responses and policy options for managing ethno-religious conflicts by recommending measures which will address the undercurrents.
1. The process and pattern of evolution of National Development Plan must change from top-down approach to bottom-up approach. The Local or Municipal Councils are the closest to the people, they must be allowed to conceive, formulate and implement their own development plans, which mirrors their own development problems and aspirations. In the present circumstance it is uncertain if any of these tiers of government has any blue print for development. This will necessarily require a baseline study for identification of development challenges and potentials through a process of resources mapping and accounting.
The current aggregative plan which prescribes similar dosages for different ailment must be discarded. The moribund vision 2010 would have succeeded in this direction but for the absence of will-power to implement it and the superimposition of National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) on it. The truncation of NEEDS by political and administrative fiat and haste syndrome suffered by the citizenry also eroded the gains that would have accompanied the faithful implementation of NEEDS.
2. Development Plans, which must be community driven, must also be complemented by the market forces. So that the competition that accompanies it will give room for efficiency in the use of resources.
3. Labour and Employment policies must be redesigned to solve the employment problems. There is a contention that labour compensation regime is very poor in Nigeria, but in spite of this, many employers still find this difficult to pay. Labour law should make provision for wage flexibility to reflect time of prosperity and period of meltdown. This will reduce the incidence of retrenchment.
4. Beyond the provision of gainful employment for the generality of the unemployed, government must take bold steps to institute a sustainable welfare programme to cater for those who may remain temporarily unemployed. It is well known that economic insecurity predisposes people to desperation, which in turn makes people to join in conflicts for whatever pittance it might fetch.
5. The table in the appendix which chronicles ethno religious crises in Nigeria between 1999 and 2002 shows that they mainly occurred in the urban and semi-urban areas. It can be inferred that a major causal factors that will be implicated in most of the mismatch between population and economic resources. We recommend that government should better monitor urbanization process with a view to ensuring that facilities grow at pace with population. Specific policies should be adopted to slow down the rural-urban migration with the ultimate aim of reversing the trend and, thereby, achieve urban-rural migration.
6. Past and present economic policies have focused on growth with hardly any emphasis on the distribution of its gains. Even if growth is achieved, the perceived injustice that will be promoted by uneven distribution of wealth in the country will fuel a groundswell of discontent that will eventually leads to crises which may assume ethnic or religious coloration depending on the sociological attribute of the leading actors. Equitable distribution of the common wealth must be a cardinal state policy if sustainable peace is to be achieved. It is not a coincidence that the Scandinavian countries which ranked high in even income distribution are also the most peaceful in the world.
In conclusion, the thrust of this paper is that Karl Marx's postulation of dialectical materialism, which stipulates that ALL conflicts are resource-based remains valid even in this age. Although conflicts may be caused by other factors such as values and right assertions and they may be classified as either ethnic or religious, the fact remains that contentions over resources is ever- present in every conflict situation either overtly or covertly. Broad policy measures for addressing economic undercurrents of ethno-religious conflicts were outlined. It is hoped that investigators of causes of ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria always dig deep to identify the economic issues in each conflict situation with a view to finding lasting solutions. It may be a truism that conflict dissolves once economic issues are resolved.
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Table I: Selected Ethno- Religious Crises in Nigeria
Year Community in Crisis
May 30-June 9,1999
Renewed Warri communal clash in Delta State.
Oodua People's Congress and Hausa traders clashed at Sagamu, Ogun State.
Communal clash in Lagos between Oodua People's Congress and Hausa traders.
Communal clash in Brass Local Government area of Bayelsa State.
Communal clash in Etsako Local Government area of Edo State.
February 2,2000 Boundary dispute between communities in Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers State.
Sharia riots in Kaduna.
Religious riots in Aba, Abia State, reprisal killing from the Kaduna mayhem.
Epoch of Ife ? Modakeke war of attrition.
Renewed hostilities between the people of Eleme and Okirika in Rivers State.
Religious riots in Damboa, Borno State.
April 8,2000 Communal clash in Ovia South Local Government area of Edo State.
Local farmers and Fulani cattle herdsmen clash in Saki, Oyo State.
Renewed religious riot in Kaduna.
Epoch of the Owo mayhem in Ondo State.
Communal clash in Isoko North Local Government area of Edo State.
Communal clash between the people of Ikot Offiong and Oku-Iboku of Cross River State.
The commencement of communal clash at Ikare Akoko,Ondo State.
Renewed hostilities between the Ijaws and Urhobos in Delta State.
Communal clash in Bendel Local Government area of Abia State.
Violent clash at Agboma community in Epe Local Government area of Lagos State.
Igbos and Hausa traders clashed at Alaba Ram market area of Lagos State.
Renewed clashes between Ife and Modakeke.
Renewed communal clashes at Owo, Ondo State.
Religious riot in Kano State
Communal clash between the Ijaws and Itsekiri of Delta State.
Communal clash between Odimodu and Ogulagba communities of Delta State.
Religious riot in Kano.
Religious riot in Benue State.
Oodua People's Congress clash at Owo, Ondo State
Oodua People's Congress and Hausa people clashed at Idi-Araba, Lagos State.
Communal clash between Apprapum and Osatura communities of Cross Rivers State
Egbira youth's revolt on Local Government creation
March 30-April 2,2002
All Peoples Party Intra party clash at Ilorin, Kwara State
Communal clash at Ado-Ekiti
Renewed communal clashes at Owo, Ondo State.
Religious riots in Kaduna State and Abuja
Source: 'Lanre Olu-Adeyemi (2006) Ethno-Religious Conflicts And The Travails of National Integration In Nigeria's Fourth Republic Department of Political Science And Public Administration