September 27, 2021

Social Cohesion Index: Why Govt, Nigerians need to show concern over API’s Report

Akin Fadeyi Foundation kicks off ‘What Women Can Do’ competition

By Dr. Abraham Ubong Evans

There is no gainsaying about the fact that after the bloody Nigeria-Biafra Civil War of 1967-1970 had created a crack in the unity of Nigeria despite the declaration of ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’ made by the then Military Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon (Retd) , the unity and peace of Nigeria had been fragile and sensitive cutting across all strata of society as far as tribes, religion and politics are concerned.

All these has trumped up different agitations that have led to incessant bloodshed, and the issue of mutual trust thrown into the wind, which also have triggered suspicion and unguarded utterances from so-called elites including those who are leading some social-cultural and religious groups, who became bold to motivate their members to pick arms against the State, which has resulted to thousands of deaths of innocent Nigerians and displacement of millions.

Also rise of ethnic militias who are kidnapping, maiming and killing innocent Nigerians on daily basis.  

All is because citizens have lost trust on those who are called leaders either elected or appointed, and it is not far-fetched because many Nigerians do not see any good thing coming out of the policies of government, and that has further created a vacuum in the government-people relationship.

Indeed, the African Polling Institute, API, with the support of Ford Foundation, conducted the nationwide Citizens Perception Survey, CPS, to measure social cohesion in Nigeria, between the months of April and May 2021. its report is an eye opener which poses serious worries and concerns.

The Nigeria Social Cohesion Index (NSCI) was computed as 44.2 per cent, which according to the report is below the average 50 percentage points and indicating that Nigeria is not as socially cohesive as it ought to be.

The survey findings also indicated growing citizens’ distrust towards the state and fellow citizens; as well as a proclivity towards ethnicity over nationalism.

The survey pointed that the country has become more divided today than it was four years ago, as observed by 65 per cent of citizens interviewed; representing a whopping 20-points increase from 2019’s score of 45 per cent.

According to the report there is evidence to suggest that the country has become more divided along ethnic, socio-economic, political and religious lines, thereby threatening the social fabric, unity and peaceful co-existence of the country.

This report is reliable in the sense that a total of 8,114 contacts were contacted, out of which 5,363 interviews were completed, representing a response rate of 66.09 per cent. All interviews were conducted by ‘Face-to-face’ Household Interviews, using the Stratified Random Sampling technique; with citizens aged 18 years and above.

This indicates that the concept of social cohesion refers to the willingness of citizens of a country to cooperate and work together towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of the country.

One cannot be in doubt because of the reputation this the API has and being an independent, non-profit and non-partisan opinion research think-tank, which conducts opinion polls, surveys, social research and evaluation studies at the intersection of democracy, governance, economic conditions and public life; in order to support better public policy, practice and advocacy in Africa.

The Government should holistically review the API’s report which states that overall, the results of the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey 2021 and the Nigeria Social Cohesion Index, computed with a score of 44.2 per cent, suggest that Nigeria currently falls slightly below the average threshold of a socially cohesive country.  

Corruption Indicator; Almost 7 in 10 citizens (69 per cent) believe that the level of corruption has increased significantly in the past year, while 63 per cent assess the government’s efforts at tackling corruption ‘Poorly’.

Natural Resource Governance’ Indicator; The survey revealed that 59 per cent of citizens believe that the government is managing the revenues from natural resources ‘Poorly’; while 41 per cent of Nigerians “Agree or Strongly Agree” that the availability of natural resources fuels corruption in the country, compared to 40 per cent citizens that ‘Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed’. As regards the derivation policy, 45 per cent of citizens consider the 13per cent derivation policy ‘Unfair and Insufficient.

Meanwhile, the report also indicated that 83 per cent of Nigerians say impunity thrives amongst government officials.

 Impunity’ Indicator; 83 per cent of Nigerians consider human rights violations a problem in the country. Also, 48 per cent believe that most cases of human rights violations are never reported to the Police; and in cases where they are reported, 56 per cent were more likely to report such cases to Community and Religious Leaders and not the Police.

53 per cent of citizens believe that impunity thrives in the current administration and 83 per cent believe impunity amongst government officials is ‘increasing’.

However, API in the report made some recommendations which include creating a National Cohesion Commission, NCC, playing a crucial rural in ensuring that all policies and activities of government are properly explained and feedback from citizens are also received in order to give them a sense of belonging.

API recommends that the Federal Government creates a National Cohesion Commission with the crucial responsibility for ensuring that all policies and activities of government have components within them that create a sense of belonging, promotes trust, fosters inclusive governance, and continuously offers citizens opportunities for upward mobility.

The Federal Government needs to forge a new national movement for Nigeria and Nigerians that inhibits centrifugal tendencies that cause or promote conflicts, division or separatism; but strengthens centripetal forces that promote unity, oneness and peaceful co-existence amongst citizens.

Like a new Nigerian Dream, this movement needs to be stimulated by the government and marketed to the citizens.

It also called on government institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and their affiliates to have an increasing role to play, in shaping and amplifying narratives that help to promote social cohesion, inclusion and unity.

Also appealed to religious and ethnic leaders on the need to mitigate against hate speech, discrimination and hostility at the community level since they are closer to the people and citizens have more trust for them, as evident in the findings.

CSOs contributions to social cohesion in Nigeria are imperative and viable because they possess the understanding, capacity and technical know-how to respond to societal issues and facilitate peaceful co-existence of the people which will help to rekindle public trust for civil authorities.

Citizens are encouraged to participate in community dialogues, civil engagements and initiatives that promote cohesion and discuss the future of Nigeria; especially ideas and insights on how to build a more enduring and egalitarian society.

While Nigerians remain resilient and committed to working together for a better country; we reiterate the need for a national dialogue to help renegotiate the fault lines that currently threaten our shared existence as a nation.

These are germane facts in this recommendation by API under the leadership of its Executive Director, Professor Bell Ihua, and this is a technocrat par excellence that is of high caliber when it comes to policy analysis and filling the pulse of citizens not just only in Nigeria but across continents.

It is advised that Government at all levels and citizens should have concern and see how to adopt this report from the API before things get further worsened for us alive and generations unborn.

Dr. Abraham Ubong Evans is the Head of Sociology Department, Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano.