Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has frowned at what he termed the spate of ethnic and religious prejudice in Nigeria, saying that it has deeply penetrated the nation’s fabric especially in elections.

He spoke on Monday at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru, Jos, Plateau State at a lecture for Senior Executive Course 45.

The Vice President who delivered his lecture on: ‘Creating A Homeland for All: Nation-building, in a Diverse Democracy,’ said across the country, different ethnic groups are the subjects of popular stereotypes.

He said when such stereotypes were accepted as facts about people never met or interacted with, they shaped judgements about them, leading to prejudice.

“But when ethnic or religious prejudices are weaponised for political purposes, we are confronted with a lethal potentially destructive situation. Elections by their very nature tend to be divisive affairs. Partisan democratic competition compels us to align ourselves with the camps that most reflect our ideals and aspirations.

“In an election cycle in which the major contenders came from different ethno- regional zones, there was always a sense that the competition was going to be particularly intense. But at the same time, it would not be accurate to reduce the election to an ethnic census. As we saw, the contenders performed strongly in parts of the country other than their natal regions.


“Unfortunately, one of the unsavoury tendencies that was witnessed in this election cycle was the weaponization of ethnic, religious and sectional prejudices in ways that are damaging to social cohesion. Religion was quite clearly made an issue, and in some parts of the country political biases are introduced even between denominations of the same religion.

“In some cases ethnic profiling took place at polling booths. A popular female food blogger and Youtuber, sisi Yemi, a Yoruba woman, took to her verified Twitter handle to say ‘My husband and I were not allowed to vote, they said we look like Igbo people. I can’t believe this’.

“This is a matter of great concern because long after an election is over, and long after the leading contenders have sheathed their swords, the rhetoric, the words and the means used to compete can have adverse long-term effects on the society,” he said.

He said where the forces of primordial division and polarization are harnessed for the sake of electoral gain, the venom of such devices remains and continues to poison communal relations setting neighbour against neighbours, adding that it was such that led to bloody pogroms, and a civil war that cost in excess of two million lives in Nigeria.

“These elections witnessed the exploitation by political actors of the fears and anxieties of people about so-called outsiders. Any attempts to deny people the right to vote in any locality on the basis that they do not belong in that place is condemnable in the strongest possible terms.

“Social integration is one of the highest ideals of our Constitution which guarantees every citizen the right to traverse the length and breadth of this country without hindrance and to settle in any place of his choice. It affirms the right of all Nigerians to not be discriminated against on the basis of their identity,” he added.



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