By Emmanuel Oloniruha
A female-led advocacy for inter-ethnic relationships in Nigeria on Monday, advocated the acceptance of national identity, equity and justice to tackle ethnocentrism and foster unity among diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The group made the advocacy at a news conference to herald the formal inauguration of “The Fairer Campaign” in Abuja.
Lead Advocate of the Campaign, Zubaida Ibrahim, described ethnocentrism as a psychological belief that revolves around the sentiment that one’s own ethnic group is more superior to others.
Ibrahim said that Nigerians could not continue to ignore the fact that inter-ethnic differences in Nigeria were hindering the country’s development and wearing away the potential of its people.
She said that ethnocentrism had always been one of the major problems in Nigeria, being a nation with about 250 ethnic groups.
She added that ethnocentrism had continued to fuel oligarchy, greed, indiscipline and violence in its citizens and had led to poor government policies, injustice and economic inequality.
According to her, the launch of the advocacy is aimed at achieving economic advantage and relational communication among Nigerians.
“In Nigeria, each region has it strength which can be used for national development, through the enhancing the economic activities of each of the regions like the agriculture, cattle farming and trade of the northerners.
“The industrialisation and the high literacy rate of the south-westerners, the entrepreneurialism of the south-easterners, and the petroleum industry of the south-south.
“Also, the trade of the abundant natural resources and the agricultural product in each of these regions can be used to boost regional development and growth.
“For the relational communication, a neighborliness campaign can be effective in building cooperation between people of different ethnic groups through relational communication,” she said.
According to her, a strategic communication approach is essential in establishing and sustaining mutual relationships for nation-building.
“The approach should focus on cooperative relationships and offers a communication-centered, participatory approach for improving ethnic relations in a multicultural state like Nigeria.
“Our approach is to see true acceptance of National Identity on every Nigerians part, this emphasizes putting national goals before ethnic goals and trump the thought that what happens in one region cannot affect the entire nation.
“For in the eyes of the world we are Nigerians and what is good for the goose is good for the gander and vice versa, and so it is crucial for every citizen to accept and uphold his Nigerian identity,’’ she said.
She said that the aim was also to ensure cultural awareness that entails the understanding and appreciating of one’s own culture and ethnic background and that of other people.
“The goal of this is to build forbearance and consciousness to eradicate stereotypical beliefs and discrimination.
“While the above measures are mostly aimed at the youth and every citizen of Nigeria the third is social inclusion and integration.
“This is for our leaders to improve the terms of participation whereby every ethnic group takes a part in society and decision making and enhancing opportunities and access to resources for the advantage of each region,” she said.
According to her, the fourth is equity and Justice, this is very essential for the fact that social inclusion and integration will be meaningless without this.
“We all know some of the challenges we face in the country for lack of it.
“Lastly, equitable allocation of resources. Ethnic groups that require the same needs to have access to the same resources and those with greater needs to gain access to more on the basis of inequalities between ethnic groups due to population, size, wealth and level of development.
“Therefore, in a federal system, it is crucial to redress these inequalities without the fear of marginalization.’’
Ibrahim said that earlier, inter-ethnic conflicts had been the backbone of security challenges, unemployment, and inadequacy of basic amenities, poor healthcare system, bribery and corruption.
She said that the main goal of the campaign was to address some of those challenges through creating systems for an inter-ethnic relationship, harmony and peaceful coexistence.’’
“In view of the above therefore we are glad to introduce our campaign initiative known as The Fairer campaign, which is female-led advocacy for inter-ethnic relationships aimed at harnessing the values that unite Nigerians more than what divides them.
“This is to be done through coordinated media narratives and media actions for fostering peaceful coexistence and national unity which will be targeted at the youth, women, religious leaders and the government.
“This campaign is not only aimed at national unity and security but to sustain it through bringing our targets attention to the positive aspects of the various ethnicities in Nigeria through opinion articles that we have already been writing.
“This has been getting the needed attention, peace journalism, engaging in dialogue and social media counter-narratives.
“The sustenance will be aided through long-term partnerships with relevant organizations and stakeholders with monthly evaluations,’’ she said.
The Fairer Campaign has links with Abuja-based PR firm, Image Merchants Promotion Ltd., with the support of PENLIGHT Centre and funding from the McArthur Foundation. (NAN)