COMMUNALISM: An Answer to Nigeria Unity

During the period of the struggle for Africa independence from the Western colonizers, some African authors invested a common culture for Africa as an instrument of economic and political liberation. This movement which became famous in the 1960s was associated with African social life and was known as communalism. This they claim is the only way African unity will succeed. According to Kwame Nkrumah in Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare: In Dark Days in Ghana, “African States must unite or sell themselves out to imperialism or colonialist exploiters for a mess of pottage.” Emphasizing on this Julius Nyerere in writing on A United Africa, in Journal of Modern African Studies stated thus: “As long as there remain separate nations, there remain will remain too a danger that other states will exploit our difference for their own purposes. Only with unity can we be ensure that Africa really govern Africa. Only with unity can we be sure that African resources will be used for the benefit of Africans.

Etymologically, the term communalism derives from the adjective communal, which originates from French commune, which means community. Community according to W.A. Myers, “Is a network of reciprocal human relationships which provides a bounded and focused context for human action.” Implicitly then, every community has some sense of purpose, an overall aim or set of goals which structures the community and makes it the kind of community it is. It is an important aspect of human action that it takes its meaning from its relationship to the community, where it takes place. Consensus and tolerance are constitutive of excellence in a community when they are in equilibrium. A consensus must be open to differences of judgement and interpretation, and dissent must respect the personhood of those forming the consensus, in this context, he members of community must know each other and participate with each other in the shared life of the community.

 From the fore going, it can be argued that, a community implies a group of people who share certain values or groups, visible of invisible, whether they are found in the same geographical location or not. According to Justin Ekennia, “Some of the values may be consciously agreed (ethical norms) whereas others may be constitutive of the community (race, culture, language, etc).” The idea of community includes mutual participation, equal sharing of certain fundamental values or goods, mutually recognized rights and obligations/duties of the members.

Consequently, communalism would therefore mean a theory that describes the basic values and shared conceptions of individuals and their own conception of community. It can equally mean living or interacting in the spirit of one’s community. If we accept this claim to be right, applying the term communalism to Nigeria, therefore, certain questions may be raised: can we sincerely speak of Nigeria as a community? If yes, in what sense do we use the term community, conscious of the existence of hundreds of autonomous communities and ethical groups in Nigeria. How feasible is this common ground for communalism between Nigerian Muslims and Nigerian Christians, between Igbo, and Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, etc? What would be the basis of communalism between the elite and the common people? Between the government and the citizens? What is the point presuming that a collection of “independent” communities governed by a communalistic spirit form a single community with communalism as its principle?

Despite our diversity as Nigerians, one could still argue that the basic group of many Nigerian societies in different epoch manifested a certain communalism and humanist purposes behind that are of recapture; a community in which each saw his well-being in the welfare of the group. The basic principle is the awareness of who we are and who are neighbours are. We must accept the reality of Nigeria’s history and iron those things which we share in common and those that divide us. This is possible if we agree to work out the norms of social, cooperation, and our differences notwithstanding. The key to its success is a dialogue consciously engaged by different ethical groups and conviction under the condition of mutual respect, tolerance, mutual trust, impartiality, and commitment to the terms of dialogue in the spirit of sacrifice. Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria!