Cheta Nwanze: How to manage diversity in Africa

by Cheta Nwanze


This report notes that:

Africa’s post colonial history is fraught with stories similar to the Cameroon Anglophone struggle for self determination against a majority — in this case the Francophone Cameroons. In Nigeria’s civil unrest history, the culmination was the Biafran war whose agitations for an independence are still ongoing, decades after. Further east in the Central African Republic, the ongoing civil war which pitches the Muslims against the Christians is another expression of the same underlying issue.

African states have not managed diversity well. They either devolve to barbaric violence to suppress the minorities or refuse to give room to discussions that can lead to accommodating the differences and turning them into strengths as in the case of Cameroon.

Going from this, we have to ask two questions — first about our ability as a people, to manage diversity, and second, about how internally robust our own groups are in reality.

First in my evolution as a person, I’ve come to realise that the right to self-determination by a peoples should be sacrosanct. However, like almost every other thing in this life, even that right should be with nuance. What should be the basis of self-determination? Is it the state? The village? The family? The individual?

South Sudan, and Somalia, have shown that having a “homogeneous” nation does not prosperity guarantee. While Botswana and Ethiopia have shown that even with internal frictions, progress can indeed be made. It requires being thoughtful, properly articulating the issues on your own immediate milieu, and honestly thinking of solutions. This is something that has been missing in many African countries, but especially in Nigeria.

Only a few weeks ago, I saw how a disagreement almost led to bloodshed, among “brothers”. It is instructive that the first reaction of one of the parties involved was to reach for their weapons. It is also instructive that the other party had caused damage, without thinking of their “brothers”. If Nigeria were to break tomorrow, would these culturally and linguistically homogeneous people really be able to do their own country?

Our problems on this continent are not insurmountable, and examples like Rwanda have proved that with thinking they can be sorted. It’s time for Nigerians to learn to start using our heads to think through solutions.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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