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Monday, December 11, 2023

Bridging the gulf: Rebuilding Nigeria’s fractured conversations

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By Abdulrauf Aliyu

Nigeria, a nation of immense diversity, cultural richness, and historical significance, finds itself at a crossroads today. The statement “Nigeria is more polarized than ever” is a stark reflection of our current reality. Whether we scrutinize the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, the complexities of regional identities, the pervasive poverty in Northern Nigeria, the endemic corruption in government, the divisive impact of identity politics, the state of the electoral process, or the specter of nepotism, it is undeniable that we are living in times when even the most earnest conversations can turn into bitter battles.

In an era dominated by digital technology and social media, it has become easier than ever to isolate ourselves within echo chambers, barricaded by our own beliefs and opinions. The power of platforms like Twitter and Facebook is undeniable, yet the way they often exacerbate divisions and hinder constructive dialogue is equally apparent. This divide threatens the unity and progress of Nigeria, making it imperative for us to rediscover the lost art of civil discourse.

The phenomenon of echo chambers is not unique to Nigeria; it’s a global issue. However, the urgency in our context is amplified by the multifaceted challenges we face. Let’s delve into some of the key aspects contributing to our polarization and explore how we might bridge this ever-widening gap.

1. The Personalized Echo Chambers:

The proliferation of social media has allowed us to curate our own information ecosystems, where we are exposed primarily to voices that mirror our own beliefs. Over time, this leads to a distorted perception of reality, where our convictions are reinforced, and dissenting views are vilified.

We must recognize that diversity of thought is a strength, not a weakness. Our differences are what make us resilient as a nation. To combat polarization, we must intentionally seek out alternative perspectives. Engaging with those who hold differing views can be challenging but is essential for fostering understanding and empathy.

2. The Lost Art of Civil Discourse:

In a time when disagreements escalate into battles, the art of civil discourse has been lost. We need to revive the ability to have respectful conversations where we actively listen to others, acknowledge their concerns, and find common ground.

Nigeria’s diversity should be a source of pride, not division. We must relearn the art of compromise and consensus-building. Our leaders must set an example by engaging in open, constructive dialogue that prioritizes the common good over political gain.

3. The Role of Leadership:

Political leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the discourse of a nation. They can either exacerbate polarization or work to bridge divides. Leaders must resist the temptation of exploiting identity politics and nepotism for personal gain and focus on policies that benefit all Nigerians.

Furthermore, they should ensure that the electoral process is transparent, fair, and accessible to all citizens. A credible electoral system can restore faith in the democratic process and reduce the sense of disillusionment that fuels polarization.

4. Combating Corruption:

Corruption has eroded trust in our government institutions. To address this, we need transparent and accountable governance. When citizens see their leaders held to high ethical standards, it can rekindle faith in the system and reduce polarization.

5. Poverty and Regional Disparities:

Poverty in Northern Nigeria is a deeply entrenched issue. Addressing it requires a multifaceted approach, including investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Regional disparities can be a source of tension, and it’s crucial to ensure that every Nigerian has access to opportunities for a better life.

6. Bridging Ethnic and Regional Divides:

Identity politics and regionalism have played a significant role in our polarization. We must celebrate our diverse cultures while promoting a shared national identity. Encouraging inter-regional interactions and understanding can help bridge these divides.

7. Media Literacy:

In a digital age, media literacy is essential. Citizens need the skills to critically evaluate information and discern credible sources from misinformation and propaganda. Education in media literacy can empower individuals to make informed decisions and reduce the spread of divisive narratives.

8. Grassroots Initiatives:

Change doesn’t always come from the top down. Grassroots initiatives, community dialogues, and civil society organizations can play a pivotal role in fostering unity and understanding among Nigerians. These efforts should be encouraged and supported.

In conclusion, Nigeria stands at a pivotal moment in its history. The statement that “Nigeria is more polarized than ever” serves as a wake-up call. We have the power to change this trajectory. It starts with each one of us actively seeking to understand, engage, and empathize with those who hold differing views. Our leaders must prioritize the well-being of the nation over partisan interests, and we must collectively work to rebuild the bridges that have been fractured.

It is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. Our diversity, when harnessed through open and respectful dialogue, can propel Nigeria toward a brighter and more unified future. The responsibility lies with us, the citizens, to reclaim our collective voice and build a Nigeria where our differences are celebrated, not feared. Together, we can bridge the gulf that currently divides us and build a more prosperous and harmonious nation.

Abdulrauf Aliyu
An economist and Policy Analyst writes from
45 Ashiru Road, U/Dosa New Extension

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