Nigeria is a very diverse nation comprising numerous ethnicities, religions, languages, and cultures. As a heterogeneous nation, several administrations have enacted different policies that serve as mechanisms to address the challenges posed by diverse cultures and to ensure the continued stability and unity of Nigeria. These different policies and programmes have had some positive impacts on the citizens, government, and the economy. The importance of national integration in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. This article will discuss the importance of national integration in Nigeria.
The importance of national integration in Nigeria will be addressed below:
Promotion of Social Harmony
One of the objectives of national integration in Nigeria is the promotion of social harmony. Nigerians, irrespective of their state of origin, socioeconomic status, religion, political leanings, or other characteristics they may possess, benefit from the various social policies and programmes of government administrations. So, Nigerians can enjoy equal opportunities void of social exclusion which strengthens the social bond and feeling of oneness among the citizens. The National Youth Service (NYSC) scheme, unitary school system of education, and the protection of fundamental human rights, among others, are examples of how social harmony is promoted in Nigeria, as privileges nor stereotypes do not form the basis for citizens to benefit from these policies or programmes.
Adoption of a Common Language
With over 520 languages being spoken by the indigenous ethnicities across Nigeria, the adoption of the English language as the lingua franca has several benefits. Since none of the indigenous languages of the country has achieved widespread dominance, the English language serves as a veritable tool for effective communication among the various linguistic groups as well as the government. As the English language is the medium of instruction in Nigeria’s educational system, functional literacy is enhanced which invariably fosters socio-economic, political and religious stability, as well as stronger integration. In addition, Nigeria and Nigerians can participate in global politics, sports, arts, trade, etc., because of the English language since no indigenous language has been advanced for international status.
Strengthens the Unity and Stability of Nigeria
In a heterogeneous nation-state like Nigeria, unity is key in ensuring the continued development of the country. The importance of unity cannot be overstated. The departure of a unified state, such as the 30 months Nigerian civil war left a lot of adverse outcomes in its wake – millions of deaths, displacement of people, damage to infrastructure, and physical and social capital. To this end, several policies and programmes have sought to foster peaceful coexistence, reduce the occurrence of internal conflicts and promote national development and growth. For instance, the unitary system of education makes it possible for young Nigerians to learn amongst students from other parts of the country which promotes a sense of oneness from a young age. Though few occurrences of internal conflicts happen here and there, national integration programmes and policies have been able to achieve unity in diversity in Nigeria to a great extent.
Boosts Economic Growth
A popular saying goes thus, ‘ A house divided against itself cannot stand”. This is particularly true for a heterogeneous society like Nigeria. If there are repeated occurrences of internal conflicts such as ethno-religious crisis, militancy, riots, sabotage, etc., it will be doubtful that reasonable economic growth will be recorded. For instance, during the era of heightened militancy in the Niger Delta when oil installations and expatriates were targeted by various militant groups, the country witnessed a dip in foreign exchange and an unfriendly business climate for investment in the delta, among other things. On the other hand, when there is relative peace and stability in the country, economic activities run smoothly and foreign investors are likely to invest knowing their investments and safety are guaranteed.
Promotes Equitable Distribution ofsettrastructures
As a diverse country made up of so many federating units, socio-economic infrastructures must be evenly spread to ensure fairness and equity. The Federal Character Commission works to ensure that every part of the nation benefits from the economic and social infrastructures of every administration. The provision of these social and economic infrastructures positively impacts economic growth and development. When roads, healthcare facilities, electricity, ports, bridges, and other infrastructures are equitably distributed across the nation, it provides a basic foundation on which growth and development thrive.
Promotes Fair Representation in Appointive Positions
As a diverse nation comprising over 250 ethnic groups,36 states, and 6 geopolitical zones, the federal character principle, which is a national integration policy seeks to ensure the reflection of the federal character in the composition of the Government of the Federation. To this end, appointive positions within the government would be inclusive of the diverse character of the nation and thus prevent the dominance of persons from a single or few ethnic groups and states. Therefore, ministries, departments and agencies of the government are composed of a mix of the populace.
Since Nigeria became a sovereign entity, there have been various efforts that have been geared toward achieving national integration. These include; the adoption of a federal system of government, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, the creation of States, the Federal Character Principle, a unitary school system of education, national symbols, and the Nigerian Constitution. However, these efforts have failed to largely accomplish the goals of national integration due to factors such as poor governance, embezzlement of public revenue, mismanagement of public resources, corruption, and the high level of poverty and unemployment. Visionary leadership, creation of a national image, effective social studies education in primary and junior secondary levels of education, and the allocation of national resources to important areas such as job creation, poverty alleviation, social security programmes, etc., are some suggested routes to achieve sustainable national integration in Nigeria.