Agenzia Fides – Abuja, Nigeria
“I think that the problems in Nigeria have very little to do with the things that we ascribe, but have everything to do with our inability, sheer incapacity to manage diversity. Managing diversity is a science,” says the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah.
The Bishop of Sokoto, in northern Nigeria, was speaking at the annual meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).
Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, has at least 250 ethnic groups. According to Bishop Kukah, “Tragically as the population has increased we have not been able to craft a narrative [that promotes unity in diversity] and as such] the search for national cohesion remains an illusion.”
Nigerians, therefore, tend to seek support and protection in the family, in the clan and in the ethnic group to which they belong. “When you live in a country like Nigeria, where people are safer with their nephews, cousins, brothers, sisters, as special assistants, personal assistants, then we are in trouble,” says the Bishop, pointing out that many leaders in politics and business rely on people from their ethnic groups as criteria for selecting close collaborators. The result, says Bishop Kukah, is that Nigeria is a nation averse to the expertise and intellectual contribution of those who do not belong to one’s ethnic group.
Faced with scarce prospects and opportunities in their country, young Nigerians emigrate but often end up in the hands of criminal organisations.
“It is a mortal sin that millions of young people emigrate and then commit crimes”, says Bishop Kukah. “It is totally unacceptable that we would live with so much and yet so many of our people are objects of humiliation around the world,” The Bishop of Sokoto said.