Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1960, there exist regional divides among Nigerians that leave us often seeing ourselves as three separate countries, rather than one unified nation. An ongoing battle for power between Yorubas, Hausas and Igbos and most recently, a renewed movement for the revival of Biafra, has led to an increase in tribalism. All this effects the way we identify ourselves and prevents us from building a more inclusive and representative government.
In Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has designed a cabinet he said, “looks just like Canada”. Not only do women make up 50% of his cabinet, his new ministers also represent a wide range of cultures and religions from throughout the country. I believe Nigeria can learn from Canada’s example. Not only is tribalism an issue, we also live in a patriarchal society that lacks representation of women in our government and little is being done to change the ways we civically engage with each other across our perceived differences.
Of all the new ministers recently sworn in by President Buhari, only 17% are women. Many citizens in the southeast and the south-south are unhappy they do not have as many top positions in the administration as Yoruba and Hausa people do. Also, there are hardly any ministers under age 50 leaving youth representation at the federal level non-existent.
For Nigerians to combat gender inequalities, the challenges facing our youth and issues with tribalism, we have to understand the effect these issues have on our nation politically, socially and economically. Over the summer, world leaders came together at the UN to set 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030. Goal 10 is to reduce inequalities within countries and Prime Minister Trudeau has taken a first step in the right direction with the selection of his cabinet ministers. When asked why he appointed the people he did to his cabinet, Trudeau said, “because it is 2015”. If our government were designed to represent Nigeria in 2015, it would not look the same as it does today.
Nigeria does not need to copy Canada but we can certainly learn from Trudeau’s example in choosing a more representative cabinet. For Nigerians to break-free from outdated thinking, we need to come to a mutual understanding about two things. First, our controversial history that is at the root of the regional divides within our nation. Second, we need to recognize and accept that inequality within government and politics is an issue we need to overcome if we want to be a truly democratic nation.
As Nigerians, we cannot allow ourselves to regress. As the largest Black nation in the world, we should set an example of progressivism. If we can reduce inequality in government representation before 2030, we will be on our way to achieving all the SDGs relevant to our future.
We just need to put our minds to it and understand the power that equal representation can have in continuing to develop our great nation. Canada has taken that step, it is time for us to follow the same path.