Fostering Peace: Inclusive Governance, Federal Character, and Shunning Tribalism

Christiana Jolaoso
4 min readApr 26, 2024

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A multicultural society with ethnic, religious, and cultural differences is prone to conflicts. Yet, conflicts can hinder the peace and development of a nation. To foster peace in a country like Nigeria, we must embrace principles such as inclusive governance and federal character and try to combat tribalism.

How to Foster Peace through Inclusive Governance

According to the International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Invention, “inclusive governance implies that all people–including the poor, women, ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged groups–have the right to participate meaningfully in governance processes and influence decisions that affect them”. So, how do we include everyone in wealth distribution and generally make decisions that affect the average individual within society?

  • Equal access to resources

One of the most important aspects of inclusive governance is the equal provision of public services, infrastructure, and facilities to all communities, regardless of ethnicity, religion, social class, or orientation. Social and economic policies must also cater to the needs of all, and that’s because bridging the disparities between various groups and minorities eliminates the feelings of marginalization, which often lead to conflict.

  • Representative governance

An inclusive government requires that various ethnic and religious groups be involved in key decision-making positions. Citizens from diverse political backgrounds should be allowed to participate actively in government matters.

Enhancing Peace through the Federal Character Policy

Ever since independence, the struggle between the various ethnic groups in Nigeria for control of the center has led to several chaotic periods, including the very first coup d’etat in 1966. That coup unseated a northern-led government and installed a southeastern military head of state instead. The Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970 was also instigated by related factors, as were several military juntas afterward.

Since returning to democratic rule in 1999, one of the biggest challenges in Nigeria’s political arena has been ensuring a balance of power, especially between the main ethnic groups and religions. Each group presumes domination by others. Yet, socio-political or economic growth cannot happen in a crisis-bedeviled environment. That’s why governments keep introducing policies to promote national unity and repair the country’s ‘unequal federalism’.

In 1979, the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo completed the transition to civilian rule, introducing federalism with an Executive President democratically elected through the majority of votes and at least a quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the states — to reflect the populace’s diversity. The ‘Federal Character Principle’ was also introduced in the 1979 Constitution to ensure the representation of the different ethnic and regional groups at all government levels.

The Federal Character policy is also embedded in Section 14(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to serve as a mechanism for achieving equitable representation and distribution of resources. The section states: “the composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”. Subsections (4) and 147(3) of the same constitution provide for state and local governments and ministers.

The Federal Character Commission, established in 1996 by the military regime of General Sani Abacha, operates a distribution formula strictly based on geopolitical zones, states, local government councils, and electoral wards rather than ethnicity, religion, or demography.

How Can We Overcome Tribalism?

Tribalism is the compulsive urge to establish the superiority of your tribe over another perceived to be inferior. It can also be a deep-seated hatred for members of another tribe. This excessive loyalty to one ethnic or tribal group often crystallizes into a divisive force that undermines peace and unity in a multicultural society. In Nigeria, tribalism is a significant challenge, stifling competence, manipulating election results, and breeding divisive politics. The following measures can help combat tribalism.

  • Promoting a sense of national identity

We can curb the prevalence of tribalistic leanings, especially among the youth, by promoting a sense of national identity through education and civic programs. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) launched by the NYSC Decree 24 of 1973 in the aftermath of the Civil War was an early attempt to reduce tribalism and promote national unity. Corp members are posted to regions other than their residential state to interact with other nationals and learn their culture. The media can also help curate public discourse that shapes positive perspectives of each tribe and drive a narrative of national identity to help counter tribalism.

  • Combating tribalism through institutional reform

Strengthening sensitive public institutions can also help fight tribalism. The electoral body in Nigeria is often accused of favoring certain parts of the country by providing an avenue for underage voting and electoral fraud. In other parts of the country, voters are often routinely disenfranchised, thus skewing election results in a preferred direction. It is, therefore, paramount to restore trust in the electoral body and strengthen its electoral process through transparency, adequate funding, and training.

Policies and legal instruments against discrimination based on ethnicity or tribe can also help send a strong message against tribalism. At the same time, it is essential to have a robust and independent judiciary to ensure that cases of discrimination based on tribalism are addressed firmly.

Implementing Relevant Measures To Promote Peace

African countries like Nigeria, with a disjointed polity, can navigate a future living in peace, stability, and oneness when they embrace the above recommendations. The path to a peaceful and united nation can continue to be charted through inclusive governance, active participation, equal representation, and equal distribution of resources by embracing the Federal Character policy and combating tribalism.

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Christiana Jolaoso

Thoughts on peace and kindness and how our actions can give us the desired future. Summaries of stories with lessons that steer positive actions.