“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization”. – Mahatma Gandhi.
Unity means the state of being unified, combined or connected as a whole. The quality of being one in spirit, agreement and uniformity. Differences on the other hand is the way in which people are divergent, antithetical or rather dissimilar.
“Unity in Differences”. This is a verbiage that portends the unity among people with diverse cultural, religious beliefs, social status and other demographic differences.
Unity in difference implies a synergy between many types of individuals, this synergy would build up a tolerance in people. Hence, people would appreciate the opinion of others which enhances the quality of teamwork.
The current population of Nigeria is 212,487,030 as of Friday, October 1, 2021, based on Oedometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, making it the seventh most populous country in the world. The capital city is Abuja, located in the center of the Nation.
It is estimated that Nigeria has about 250 different ethnolinguistic groups, Islam (41%) and Christianity (58%) are the Country’s major religions. With over 250 tribes spread across the 36 states in the Nation, we are exposed to differences in customs, dressings, values to mention but a few.
We are represented with over 250 ways to view the world. Nigeria is referred to as the giant of Africa, barring what patrimony do we leave our unborn generation? Is it the rampage, violence or clash or are we expeditious to promote unity in our diversity.
In a country with over 250 ethnic groups, the force of the theory in building harmony and understanding is irresistible.
In the Kalabari society, for example, only heroes have the right to accept gifts with their left hand. Among the Igbo, it is an abomination (alu) to do so.
Spitting in the face is a rank insult anywhere in Nigeria but in Sudan, it is a singular mark of honour reserved for very important personalities.
Unity in difference will be stressed on cultural diversities. Some historical events:
- India is certainly a brilliant example of Unity in Diversity. This is because India has people of diverse religions, cultures, castes, sects, etc. Above all, these people have been living together peacefully for many centuries.
- The European Union, in 2000, adopted Unity in Diversity as its official motto.
- When apartheid South Africa celebrated 20 years of independence on 31 May 1981, the theme of the celebrations was “unity in diversity”.
Culture is thus the total way of life of a people. It is their social heritage or their social inheritance. Ethnocentrism can therefore be said to be looking at other people’s culture through people either patronizingly or with outright difference.
Collectively, the response of a people to diversities and dynamics of their own environment constitute their whole life of their culture.
Some ways these cultures express or manifest themselves are discussed hereunder:
- Music: Is unquestionably, the most widely practiced traditional arts in Nigeria.
- Dance: In preparation for FESTAC in 1977, over two hundred traditional dances in all the states.
- Drama: The structure of the Nigerian traditional drama is very different from the classical form with its plot, conflict and resolution. It is a living theatre, expressing facets of life as the audience knows them.
- Religion: The basic traditional religion in Nigeria is animism. Some attributes are reincarnation, retribution, ancestors and divination.
Among others are; rituals, marriage, traditional market days, arts, languages etc.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent”. – John Donne
Importance of Unity in Differences:
1. National Interdependence:
Heterogeneity can also be the cause of internal conflicts or clashes, but unity in difference definitely will strengthen the peaceful coexistence of the country with diverse cultures.
2. National Union:
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” – Winston S. Churchill
Unity in difference is crucial for a country because it is very easy to disintegrate people with divergent views and ideologies. So if unity remains whilst it all, then of course nothing can come in between them.
3. Aids National Development:
“Unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of a civilization, a testimony to the most noble possibilities of the human race. This attainment is made possible through passionate concern for choice, in an atmosphere of social trust.” – Michael Novak.
Unity in differences if practiced in a country like Nigeria will bring about reinforcement and advancements which is imperative.
4. Global Recognition:
“The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole universe”. Democritus.
When a country is united and diverse it will not only build peace but respect from international bodies. It sets an example globally by displaying the values and morals of the citizens of a country who respect and support each other despite being from different backgrounds and cultures.
In view of the experiences in the 10 year period after the UN initially highlighted the goal of dialogue among civilizations, a number of practical measures may be considered in the fields of education, politics, diplomacy, sports and tourism, in relation to unity in diversity.
We can mention here only a few such measures:
In education: under the patronage of UNESCO, educational systems should, as far as possible, reflect the actual diversity in terms of cultures and religions.
In sports: the dimension of football and all other sports the national team comprises players of different cultures, ethnicities or races.
According to the integrative approach which we are advocating here, support for a global dialogue among civilizations cannot be relinked from the commitment to intercultural as defined in Article 4(8) of the Convention—in the sense of “existence and equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect”.
In the domain, social media: reforms and advancements made to enable the promotion of Cultural Revolution.
In order to promote unity in difference, there needs to be equivalent development. We should appreciate and respect the will, aspirations and needs of the people.
Thus, it is necessary for development, we should establish authentic ways to solve problems, ascertain their root causes and address them appropriately.
We should make people aware of the importance of each other’s social, cultural and religious heritages.
Finally, we should recognize the fact that each culture, religion, language and ethnic group is equally important. Every ethnic group should and must have equitable rights to discuss the welfare of the country. They should not and will not be discriminated against in any aspect.
Every group should come together to promote unity among different people. We should remember that people can be united with feelings of love, care, humanity and affection, so that welfare, satisfaction and happiness will be shared among all.
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” – J.K. Rowling
About the Author
Olisakwe Precious Ifeoma is a legal researcher, writer and law student of the faculty of law, Enugu State University of Science and Technology. She has special interest in Artificial Intelligence, International Humans Rights Law, ADR, Space Law, Technology Law and Maritime Law.
Olisakwe Ifeoma has held the post of the Director of Communication for Federation of African Law Students FALAS and the Director of Communication, Media and Editorial Law Students Association of Nigeria, LAWSAN.