Described as “the willingness of citizens of a country to work together towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of the country,” social cohesion is at the heart of nation-building. In its recently released, Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey report #NSCS2019, The Africa Polling Institute (API) employed components such as Identity, trust, equity and social justice, patriotism, self-worth and future expectation to measure social cohesion in Nigeria.
Among other findings, the survey which was carried out between April 24th and May 20th 2019 using face-to-face household interviews as well as stratified random sampling technique, sadly revealed that Nigeria is not a socially cohesive country. It emphasized that the government needs to do more to promote oneness, trust, equity, inclusion and hope for the future.
A total of 7,901 respondents were contacted, with 5,019 interviews completed to a response rate of 63.5% of interviewees who were 18 years and above. The interviews were conducted in five major languages – English, Pidgin, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. To ensure the selection of a nationally representative sample, geographic quotas were assigned. This was to proportionately cover all senatorial districts and states including the FCT.
On the “Identity” Component, the study revealed that 82% of Nigerians prefer to identify themselves equally as Nigerian and from an ethnic group; including 25% who prefer to identify more from an ethnic group, than being Nigerian. Yet, about 1 in 10 Nigerians (10%) were found to prefer identifying themselves as only from their ethnic group, and not Nigerians.
Also, 45% of Nigerians claimed that the country is more divided now than it was 4 years ago. This is in comparison with 26% who stated that it is more united and 29% who said the country is the same. Respondents from the South-East (70%), South-South (59%) and North-Central (47%) regions had the highest proportion of those who felt that the country is more divided today compared to the North-West (35%), South-West (29%) and North-East (29%) regions. On their current feeling about the nation 55% of Nigerians said they were proud of the nation, 30% said they feel really disappointed and 13% said they feel indifferent.
On the “Trust” Component, about 4 in 10 Nigerians (42%) opined that they trust President Muhammadu Buhari’s government with “A lot of trust” from 14% and “Some trust” from 28%. However, about 1 in 5 Nigerians (21%) said they do NOT trust the current government. About a third of Nigerians (33%) said they trust the National Assembly with “A lot of trust” from only 5% and “Some trust” from (28%)”. However, about a quarter of Nigerians (25%) revealed that they do NOT trust the National Assembly. In like manner, only about a third of Nigerians (32%) disclosed that they trust the Judiciary with “A lot of trust” from only 4% and “Some trust” from 28%.
In the same vein, almost 1 in 4 Nigerians (24%) said they do NOT trust the Judiciary. Furthermore, 42% of Nigerians said they trust people of other ethnic groups “A lot” (9%) or “Somewhat” (38%); while only 47% said they trust people of other faiths and religious affiliations “A lot” (11%) or “Somewhat” (36%). Under the “Equity and Social Justice” element, most Nigerians were of the view that all citizens are not equal under the law. 70% of Nigerians believed that some persons are above the law in Nigeria compared to only 20% who held that the law protects everyone equally in the country.
Also, 80% of Nigerians believed that Government treats their ethnic group unfairly. This is comprised by 52% who believed that government “sometimes” treats their ethnic group unfairly; as well as 19% and 9% who said they are “Often” and “Always” treated unfairly by government, respectively. Similarly, 74% of Nigerians held that their religion is treated unfairly by the government; with the majority (55%) claiming that their religion is “Sometimes” treated unfairly.
On “Equity and Social Justice” 65% of Nigerians rated the efforts of the Federal Government at promoting a sense of inclusion for all ethnic groups “Poorly”. Again, respondents in the South- East (78%), South-South (73%) and North- Central (70%) regions constitute the highest proportion of citizens who scored the efforts of government poorly regarding promotion of inclusion for all ethnic groups.
From the “Patriotism” Component, 73% of Nigerians were willing to cooperate with fellow citizens to work for a more united nation. 70% of Nigerians wanted to participate in the political process to make Nigeria better for everyone. However, only 48% of Nigerians said they would be willing to join the Military, if need be, to defend the unity of the nation. Regarding marriage, while 72% of Nigerians were willing to support marriage between two people of different ethnic groups, only 46% of Nigerians said they would support marriage between two people of different faiths.
From the “Self-Worth and Future Expectation” constituent, 45% Nigerians said they feel dissatisfied with their lives right now compared to 40% who said they feel satisfied and 15% were indifferent. On whether Nigerians would consider relocating from the country, with their family, if given the chance, about half of Nigerians (50%) said they would not be willing to relocate. However, about a third (32%) expressed willingness to relocate with their family if presented given the opportunity. 18% were unsure whether to relocate or not.
It is interesting to note that of the 32% who expressed willingness to relocate gave three reasons namely: Search for greener pastures (26%), better job opportunities (23%) and improved security (16%). Besides, 8% said they would like to relocate so as to give their children a better life. The report revealed that the United States of America (28%), United Kindom (15%) and Canada (14%) were among the list of countries for prospective relocation. However, majority of masses (66%) expressed hope for the future than the country is now.
To be sure, a socially cohesive society is one that works towards the wellbeing of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging for all, promotes trust and oneness and offers its members the opportunity for upward mobility. Since studies have shown that Nigeria is not a socially cohesive country, government must address the fault-lines of exclusion and perceived marginalization across the country.
Social cohesion can only thrive in Nigeria if leaders carry everyone on the high horse of integrity. Except we deliberately reduce the high rate of poverty, youth unemployment, illiteracy and unimaginable number of school drop-outs through social investment programmes which engender social inclusion plus creating a sense of belonging for all Nigerians, especially those at the margins of society, it is not yet Uhuru.
We must remain committed to working together for a better country. The need for implementing the proceedings of the 2014 National Confab or initiating another national dialogue aimed at restructuring the country can never be overemphasized. This would create a better sense of shared existence for every Nigerian. The National Orientation Agency (NOA), civil society organisations, traditional institutions, religious organisations and the media have an enormous task in promoting oneness, mutual trust, social justice and hope. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.