In Nigeria, Igbos, Hausas, and others can live anywhere and have political ambitions–Osinbajo





According to vice president Yemi Osinbajo, ethnic and religious prejudices can be overcome in Nigeria because they are important factors in forging a united country.



This was said by Mr. Osinbajo on Monday at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Jos' inaugural "Policy Making and Good Governance Lecture Series."



The lecture was titled, "Creating a Homeland for All: Nation-Building in a Diverse Democracy."


No Nigerian should be subject to prejudice based on their tribe or religion, according to the vice president, who also denounced the "weaponization" of such prejudices for political ends.



“Social integration is one of the highest ideals of Nigeria’s Constitution which guarantees citizens the right to traverse the length and breadth of this country without hindrance. The Constitution affirms the right of all Nigerians to not be discriminated against on the basis of their identity,” he stated. 


Mr. Osinbajo emphasized that the Constitution "holds up integration as a priority" because its creators "sought to create a civic nation," not an apartheid system that makes distinctions between natives and settlers.



“Is it possible to conquer ethnic or religious prejudices and build a unified nation? Yes, it is. But it is a journey, not an event; and it is perhaps the most important issue in nation-building,” The vice-president explained.



“As humanity seeks to build a more durable, just and sustainable civilisation, our natural prejudices and allied irredentist urges have to be disciplined and sublimated in a mutuality rooted in our shared humanity.”


The vice president observed that although sociocultural diversity was a reality, it was neither a strength nor a weakness. He asserts that the most prosperous nations are those that have figured out how to capitalize on diversity while creating institutions that are ever more inclusive.


Mr. Osinbajo named Tanzania and Singapore as nations that have made significant progress in eradicating prejudice.



“In Singapore, the statesman Lee Kuan Yew promoted policies aimed at establishing social cohesion in the racially and ethnically heterogeneous nation,’’ he said.


President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, according to Mr. Osinbajo, wished to avoid the tribal prejudice that had afflicted other African nations. He noted that Tanzania promoted a broad sense of national identity by designating Kiswahili as the official language.



“Secondly, Nyerere promoted a pan-Tanzanian history which he introduced into the primary school curriculum which taught children to regard themselves as Tanzanians,’’ he continued. 


Mr. Osinbajo emphasized that despite her diversity, he did not think Nigeria was exceptional or unique. The vice president continued by stating that Nigeria's diversity was neither a liability nor a curse but rather a blessing and an asset, deepening the pool of sociocultural capital that Nigerians could draw from.



“As I have long maintained, in Nigeria what is at issue is not and has never been our diversity, but our capacity to manage it with a sense of fairness, equity and justice. There is no denying that diversity can be a harbinger of friction,” he said. 


“It is natural as different groups from various backgrounds and with different worldviews mingle, their interaction is characterised by a degree of tension and even conflict.”


He concluded by recommending  â€œinclusion” as a panacea because it “is essential to prosperity as we go forward.” 


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