rof Bell Ihua, Executive Director of Africa Polling Institute (API), an independent, non-profit, non-partisan opinion research think-tank has highlighted how the institute is making the voices of ordinary Nigerians heard.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports Prof Ihua gave the highlights on Tuesday during an interview, in which he stressed that the voices of ordinary Nigerians are gathered and aggregated through opinion polls and presented to decision makers.
Ihua, who is also a Professor of Practice in Opinion Research at the Coal City University, Enugu, said: “At API, we conduct public opinion polls, surveys, social research and evaluation studies at the intersection of democracy, governance, economic conditions, markets, and public life in general.
He went further to say, “So, we are that platform that helps to promote citizens participation in governance through research. In the past, we used to say Nigerians we do not have access to data. We have tried to bridge that gap of creating access to data to support policy makers, to support advocates, to support decision makers at various levels, state and non state actors.
“But, beyond that, we are also that platform that ensures that the voice of the ordinary man, who otherwise may not be heard, is gathered, aggregated and presented to decision makers to be able to help decision making”.
Speaking on the notion that Nigeria has never been more divided than it is right now, Ihua said, “As public opinion pollsters, our work is to feel the pulse of the society. Our work is to constantly evaluate what is happening in the country, or evaluate social trends, evaluate social happenings, and be able to conceptualize that in a way that researchers, academics, policy makers, advocates, decision makers can use that information to make decisions to improve the country and its development.
“So, in 2019, we had sort of an internal meeting, where we sat down at a round table and say, what are the issues facing Nigeria today, and how can we contribute to the conversation. When we looked at all of that, we looked at ethnic tensions. Then, even the ethnic separatism was not as it is today. We just had to look through what we could do.
“So, when we did our own analysis, we did our environmental scan and all of that, we said this area of social cohesion should be one area to look into, to study. And we decided to conduct a study on Nigeria social cohesion. Our first study was released in 2019, which received useful attention.
“We looked at five indicators: identity, trust and social justice, self worth and future expectations. However, there were more things impeding social cohesion. Things like: corruption, natural resource governance, struggle for land and resources, gender equity and impunity. We had to expand the scope to accommodate ten indicators.
“The findings showed that Nigeria, not in its history, has it been more divided than it is today. In 2019, we found that 45% of Nigerians said the country was divided, as at that time, compared to four years ago. But in this 2021 study, 65% of Nigerians said the country is divided compared to four years ago”.
However, Ihua stressed that the problem with social cohesion in Nigeria is not with one group of persons, stressing that it is a holistic thing.
“First of all, we must understand that state building or nation building as it were is the responsibility of every citizen. That is why part of our work is to look at the concept of citizenship, looking at the office of the citizen, and what responsible citizenship means.
“But that being said, politicians have a role in this. For example, the politicians who during elections use religion or ethnicity to fan the embers of violence, and fan the embers of division and all of that.
“Over time, we have allowed that to perpetuate since the return to democracy in 1999. That has gradually deepen to show some sort of polarization in the country.
“But what the data does is not just to tell us grim stories about the country or tell us that things are not working, but it helps us to provide evidence for which policy makers can then sit down to say let’s come back to the drawing board.
“If this is how citizens think, then, how can we build policies to build cohesion, how can we implement policies to build a sustainable society, how can we implement policies that promote unity, that promote oneness, that promote a sense of belonging, because these are what cohesion is all about.
“Cohesion creates a sense of belonging for everyone and fights exclusion and marginalization. Obviously, there are people in this country who feel excluded; they feel marginalized, and the data shows that clearly.
“When you look at the data, you look at the age demographics, we saw that play in the endsars protest in October last year, you can see the youth demographics.
“When you also look at the regional demographics, you see the South East, you can see the numbers, and you know, for us who are researchers or academics, data speaks.
“When you look at the data, it speaks and tells you how certain people in certain parts of the country reflect over the issues we face”.
To achieve cohesion for growth and national development, Ihua said Nigeria is in dire need of a new national movement, and that this new movement needs to be stimulated by the government.
“There are no silver bullets to these. I would not claim we have all the answers. But one of those pointers is that the country is in dire need of a new national movement.
“There have been a lot of talks about separatism and we know the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho have become champions because they are propagating these separatist ideological tendencies.
“They seem to be finding evidence to support why that should go. And there is very little evidence why we should think nationalistic and not think separatist. And so, we need a new national movement.
“This new movement should be stimulated by the government, and marketed to citizens so that every Nigerian will know we have a sense of belonging, we trust our state institutions and we believe that institutions have us at the back of their hearts,” Ihua said.