The Nigerian people are intrinsically peaceful, non-violent folks across their respective communities, despite the country’s experience with historical forms of intermittent ethnic and religious wars, as well as a civil war. Unlike many countries within and outside Africa where people live life with the expectation and experience of constant wars, the rulers in the different Nigerian administrations have let the people be, accepted them as they are, and respected their beliefs, even during intense times like the military periods and did not eject them from their homes, as we sometimes witness in some African countries. The problem with the Nigerian form of behavioral extremism, as in extrajudicial killing, assassination, kidnapping and arson, is that it has being driven in part by internal practices of ethnic, religious, inter-personal, or political persecution.
Maintaining the highest standard of cross-religious and inter-ethnic co-existence has proved to be difficult in recent times in the face of unusual terrorist acts like the April 2011 Nigeria election violence that resulted in the disturbing deaths of some of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), most of them from the southern states and of the Christian stock. One of the greatest forms of internal terrorism took place in the area of Jos in March of last year when weekend ethnic violence brought death to a number of women and children. At the time of this writing, the people of Jos are being hit by waves of violent attacks, resulting in multiple persons killed in ethnic, religious, and tribal fights.
Around the Niger Delta Nigeria, the long standing crisis and conflict as a result of competition for oil wealth, which is partly in the hands of the “white man,” has provoked violence between many ethnic communities in Niger Delta.
As result of the on-going acts of internal terrorism, the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th year of independence has not received the least reward of societal unity. Instead, the citizens witness or watch live images of post-independence deaths like those in the deadly bomb explosions at the United Nations Organization’s building and at Nigeria’s police headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The various elements of leadership in Nigeria have attempted to study and frame policies, processes, and programs to help address these chronic blocks to national peace and unity. These efforts have failed in many ways simply because of the long standing neglect of psychological scientists and practitioners in the course of drawing out a functional set of national policies for the advancement of unity. It is doubtful whether the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) has a psychology-based policy as it engages in the processes of value reorientation, cultural reorientation, social integration, and the redefinition of moral responsibility of citizens. To continue to exclude the psychological aspects of indigenous management relating to multiethnic integration is self-defeating at best.
The science and practice of psychology, especially in the areas of cultural, forensic and social psychology, could help identify emotional, illegitimate, or casual causes that could result in a national threat to the country and its people. Psychologists are trained to help institute workable solutions that could be infused into the consciousness and behaviors of various age-groups, ethnic individuals, and religious communities in the country. The promotion of positive self-esteem, self-security, and group cohesion among the people, especially the needy, the frustrated, and the vulnerable, is a way to bring more of these persons into the fold of patriotism for their country and help rekindle awareness and pride in indigenous unity across different religious, ethnic, and social groups.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D. is the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA). Jos5930458@aol.com