President Muhammadu Buhari’s apparent mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity has fueled distrust, further polarised the country and made more citizens lose hope in the country, a new survey has found.
More than half (53 per cent) of Nigerians “agree and strongly agree” that Nigeria is polarised in the context of faith, ethnicity, and religion, and the survey states that Nigeria is more polarised in 2022 than it was four years ago.
The causes of polarization are “ethnicity (62 per cent), political affiliation (60 per cent), and religion (57 per cent),” according to the survey.
Findings revealed that 81 per cent of Nigerians are comfortable with their dual identity of being both Nigerian and from their ethnic group, but to different proportions. While 36 per cent are fine with being both Nigerian and members of ethnic groupings, 35 per cent identify more with their ethnic groups, and “only 10 per cent feel more Nigerian than ethnic”.
In the 2021 data, 4 in 10 Nigerians said they were proud of being equally Nigerian and from their ethnic group, while about a third (33 per cent) said they identified more with their ethnicity than with being Nigerian, compared to only 9 per cent that felt more Nigerian than ethnic.
This, perhaps, explains why 66 per cent of Nigerians believe that “Nigeria is much more divided today (in 2022) than it was four years ago” as opposed to the 10 per cent who said “the country is much more united today,” and 20 per cent who “believe that the country has stayed the same.”
But, this also means the proportion of citizens who believe that the country is much more divided today than it was 4 years ago increased slightly by one percentage point from 65 per cent in 2021 to 66 per cent in 2022.
On trust, religious leaders were rated more favourably (50 per cent), followed by traditional leaders (43 per cent).
However, trust in political leaders, which was low in 2021, got worse in 2022.
“Trust for President Buhari’s government has substantially declined to 17 per cent from 26 per cent in 2021,” the survey found.
The survey found that trust in the National Assembly and the Judiciary declined to 16 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. (from 22 per cent and 26 per cent in 2021).
The data reveals that the National Assembly (16 per cent) is now the least trusted public institution in Nigeria, overtaking the Nigeria Police Force, which was the least trusted (20 per cent)
in the 2021 survey.
About 60 per cent of citizens believe that the future of the country would be better than it is presently; compared to 27 per cent who expressed pessimism that the future would be worse; and 6 per cent simply do not foresee any change in the future.
In the past year, 59 per cent of Nigerians believed the country would have a better future while 27 per cent said the future of Nigeria would be worse.
The 2022 Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey (NSCI), a publication of Africa Polling Institute (API), was undertaken to develop a social cohesion index for Nigeria and measure citizens’ perception of the state of social cohesion, API’s executive director, Bell Ihua, said in a statement.
This year’s survey builds on two past editions (2019 and 2021) of API’s Nigeria’s social cohesion index.
“The concept of social cohesion refers to the willingness of citizens of a country to cooperate and work together towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of the country,” Mr Ihua, a professor of practice in opinion research, wrote.
Nigeria’s mark in social cohesion was 44.2 per cent in 2021. This year (2022), the Nigeria Social Cohesion Index (NSCI) is 39.6 per cent, a 4.6 percentage point decline from the 2021 figure, which was already a shortfall from the 50 per cent average.
API said this indicates a weakening of the state of cohesion in the country over the last year.
Conducted between the months of May and June 2022, the study adopted a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, with the Citizens Perception Survey (CPS) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) adopted for primary data collection.
A total of 7,245 people were contacted, out of which 5,178 interviews were completed, representing a response rate of 71.5 per cent. All interviews were conducted by Face-to-face Household Interviews, using the Stratified Random Sampling technique; with citizens aged 18 years and above, API said.
“The interviews were conducted in five major languages: English, Pidgin, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; and geographic quotas were assigned to ensure that all Senatorial District and States were proportionately represented in the sample.”
Drawing from the literature, and building upon the 2019 and 2021 survey round, this current edition captures attitudes and perceptions of citizens using 13 key indicators to measure social cohesion in Nigeria,
The 13 indicators, computed using primary data from both quantitative and qualitative approaches, were identity, trust, social justice, participation, patriotism, worth, future, gender equity (not equality), natural resources governance, impunity, corruption, peacebuilding, polarization, and coping strategies.
“This is a product of world best practices in methodological design, whose reliability or internal consistency was tested with Cronbach’s Alpha Value which equals 0.510, because values less than that are usually not acceptable,” said Ifeanyi Onwuzuruigbo of the University of Ibadan, and Hauwa Yusuf of Kaduna State University, who were involved in the survey.
The report also showed that the proportion of Nigerians who feel disappointed in the country has increased from 49 per cent in 2021 to 50 per cent in 2022.
Also, 61 per cent of Nigerians said the federal government is not making enough effort to promote a sense of inclusion for all ethnic groups, an increase from the 58 per cent of citizens who held the same belief last year.
Only 12 per cent assessed the government positively on social justice; compared to the 27 per cent who assessed them fairly. About 67 per cent said the law does not apply equally to citizens.
“Majority of Nigerians (96 per cent) consider human rights abuses and violations a problem in the country; while 44 per cent believe that such many cases of human rights violations are never reported to the Police.”
“Interestingly, 60 per cent of citizens are “very or somewhat likely” to report such cases to community and religious leaders as opposed to the Police (56 per cent),” the report added.
On participation and patriotism, 71 per cent of Nigerians are willing to cooperate with fellow citizens to make Nigeria more socially cohesive, whereas “42 per cent expressed willingness to join the military to defend the Nigerian state.”
“Herein lies a major promise to savour in the report and a great hope for remaking Nigeria,” wrote Omoniyi Ibietan, the Head of Media Relations Management at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Natural resource governance is perceived very poorly, as 65 per cent of Nigerians feel the government is mismanaging revenues from natural resources. “A significant proportion (77 per cent) of those who feel the natural resource governance policy is unfair and insufficient are based in the South-South region.”
Similarly, 53 per cent of Nigerians rated the Buhari administration’s action on gender equity as poor, and “80 per cent of Nigerians feel boys and girls should have equal access to education, and 71 per cent believe boys and girls should be assessed based on their qualifications, competence and track records.”
On the other hand, 61 per cent agree that women should be given the opportunity to lead in politics, corporate entities, and religious organisations; and 60 per cent agree that women should be given equal opportunity in family inheritances.
On impunity, 53 per cent of citizens believe that impunity thrives in the current administration; 83 per cent believe impunity amongst government officials is increasing; while 63 per cent believe that state agents such as the police and military are often perpetrators of human rights abuses.”
Study findings on corruption governance reveal that 75 per cent believe the level of corruption has increased in the past year while 76 per cent of citizens perceive the government’s effort at halting corruption as “poor”, and 87 per cent are of the view that the path to justice is paved with corruption.
As regards peacebuilding, 67 per cent rate the government poorly and 58 per cent believe peacebuilding can be achieved better through local efforts.
While the government is rated as inactive in peacebuilding, however, churches and mosques, as well as civil society organisations, are rated highly in helping citizens to cope with the challenges of poor social cohesiveness.
In terms of social protection, “53 per cent of Nigerians said they do not rely on the government for support with the challenges of poverty and insecurity in Nigeria against 47 per cent who affirmed that they rely on the government.
Also, 68 per cent “disagree and strongly disagree” that the government is doing enough to assist Nigerians to cope with the present economic realities. However, 15 per cent agree that the government is doing enough.
In other to cope with the challenges of poverty and insecurity, 44 per cent of Nigerians resort to “relatives, ethnic and communal groups for succour”; while 41 per cent resort to “prayers in their churches and mosques” and 12 per cent resort to “support from government” to survive.
On self-worth, “63 per cent of Nigerians say they feel ‘extremely or somewhat dissatisfied’ about their lives as Nigerians, and top destinations for those with a tendency to emigrate are the United States (28 per cent), United Kingdom (15 per cent), Canada (14 per cent), Saudi Arabia (9 per cent), and Dubai (8 per cent)”.
API urged the federal government to strengthen existing policies, legislation and institutions that help to create a sense of belonging, promote trust, foster good governance and provide a conducive atmosphere for citizens to thrive and fulfil their life aspirations.
It recommends that Nigeria’s legislation and policies on citizenship should be rejigged to encourage social and inclusive citizenship that de-emphasize indigeneity and discourage the exclusion of citizens based on indigeneity.
Unemployment and poverty alleviation programmes like the Nigerian Social Investment Programme (NSIP) and NAPEP should be revived and strengthened to tackle the problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, API advised.
In addition, the federal government should adopt a hybrid of conventional and unconventional peacebuilding initiatives as the main thrust of its conflict management strategies.
“It has been established that Nigerians trust traditional and religious leaders more than public officials and institutions,” API said in the statement signed by Mr Ihua. “To absolve the problem of trust deficit, traditional and religious leaders should intensify efforts to mitigate against local conflicts, discrimination and hate speech since they are closer to the people and earn more trust of the people than the government.”
“CSOs can also play a huge role in helping to rekindle public trust for civil authorities. While there’s evidence to suggest that effective implementation of programmes and policies that improve the livelihood and well-being of citizens can help to rebuild trust; CSOs can guide government towards focusing on policies, programmes and projects that would have more impact on the lives of citizens, especially at the grass-root levels,” the group said.
It advised citizens to engage their leaders and other critical stakeholders in dialogue and ensure they render an account of their stewardship.
“In doing so, emphasis should focus on contributions to social cohesion and building a strong and prosperous Nigeria.
“Citizens should discourage statements and actions that can impede the peace and unity of the country, and avert conflicts, chaos and civil unrest; especially as the country gears up for the next General Elections. Also, the trend of destroying and vandalising public properties needs to stop.”
“Finally, while Nigerians remain resilient and committed to working together for a better country; we reiterate the need for a national dialogue to help renegotiate the fault lines that currently threaten our shared existence as a nation,” API said.
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