For Nigeria to move past the restraints of ethno-religious colouration of its political space, citizens of other regions should take a cue from the South-west, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Monday.
The president’s admonition was part of his New Year nationwide address to Nigerians, during which he touched on economic developments, power generation, restructuring, security and 2019 elections.
Mr. Buhari said the South-west, which is predominantly inhabited by the Yoruba, has become the cradle of religious and tribal tolerance in the country.
“As the electioneering season approaches, politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics. Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.
“In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics,” Mr. Buhari said.
The Yoruba are believed to have managed, arguably more than the other major ethic groups, to absorb as many Christians as Muslims, although there are no definitive statistics about religious spread within the region. The integration has made it common for households to have both Muslims and Christians.
As 2019 approaches, the president hopes the ethnic and tribal sentiments that often get in the way of social cohesion in other parts of the country would be minimised.
“Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner,” he said. “We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law.”