Language as a vehicle of communication for a given culture is by its nature unique. It however has certain universal expressions that without doubt are the root causes of the challenges of our world today. I am talking about “We” and “Them”, words that highlight class; the classic reason for virtually all clashes. What we create is a class division along religious, ethnic, social, economic and political lines. One is therefore either a majority or minority, weak or strong and the feud between “We” and “Them” is an endless one where there are no rules. Most times, minorities are relegated or assigned to the lower strata of life while the majority occupy the other extreme. Historically, most crises are fuelled by the perception or reality of the weak/minority in society being perpetually abused and denied fair opportunities. Typically, when they feel like they have no options; physical confrontation becomes their choice vehicle for a breath of fresh air. Theoretically, the majority ought never to fight because they are guaranteed their place. Conversely, the minority will have to take deliberate steps to feel protected. From the foregoing, it is safe to say that the chaos in the world today is triggered by social, political and economic inequalities. The reality of this inequality prompted Emma Goldman to say “all human beings irrespective of race, colour, or sex are born with equal rights to share at the table of life”. Truth is some dine on the table while others dine underneath. This reality is most times neither intentional nor inevitable. According to Ludwig Gumplowicz, “the State is an institution which serves various controlling elites at different times. If the minorities of a state are not socially integrated, they will break in war”. Proof of this is expressed in the agitation and activities of several minority groups the world over. The battle between “We” and “Them” is as old as time, with accounts of it crested in history. The activities of the Abolitionists of the 1830s, the Labour Organizations’ agitations against the hostilities of capitalism between the late 1890s and early 1930s, and the civil rights movements of the 1960s all underscore the reality and effects of the division. These examples might appear remote to a reader of this generation and make it difficult to relate; but look no further as patches of contemporary proof are littered all over the news in every continent of the world. In Africa, none of the fifty four (54) countries lack experience with regards to the feud between the majorities and minorities at different levels. East, West, North, South and Central Africa all have sad tales that highlight this reality. In Nigeria, the dichotomy is multifaceted. There exist three major ethnic groups and numerous minority groupings. There is also the differentiation on religion and most obvious of them all is the distribution of wealth (the rich versus the poor). The agitation of the Niger Delta people for resource control is yet another indicator of the paradox in the economy. A situation where the region that guarantees the sustenance of the national economy cannot maintain her own economy because she is milked to the last drop. When we look at this from the rear view mirror with regards to the allocation of resources, the states of the Niger Delta are the majority with regards to the ratio of what is received from the centre which takes us back to the fact that when it comes to majority in mismanagement of resources, we need look no further as what is on ground against what was allocated don’t add up. I believe you got the picture even before I painted it. If you didn’t, another clear example is seen in the voting pattern of the 2015 Presidential Elections where the picture we saw was one where the North got behind a particular candidate and the South supported another. The game changer was when the Western States swore allegiance to the North. People didn’t vote for ideologies or for national interest, they voted for “My Brother from the South” and “Mutumi nah”. This “We” against “Them” attitude is the challenge that has hampered Nigeria’s prospect for growth. The recent crisis in Burundi is an offshoot of the ethnic divisions of the Hutus and Tutsi. The horrific happenings in Rwanda in 1994 are quite fresh in our hearts and serve as a constant reminder of how devastating these classifications can be. In Asia, the battle for the South China Sea where China is a majority is yet another picture of the eternal feud. China’s economic domination with the aid of regional trade treaties puts a lot of colour to the picture (I believe you remember vividly the Hong Kong “Occupy Central” where protesters demanded for the ability to elect their next local government head). In the Asian continent, the resounding case of “We” against “Them” is resident in the Middle East. That region seems to be an active volcano. In Iraq, there are numerous ethnic groups of which the Arabs and Kurds are the largest. About 95% of her populace is Muslim. Despite the various ethnic groups, the battle between “We” and “Them” is hinged mainly on religion. In Islam there are basically two Sects: Sunni and Shia; around 65% of Muslims in Iraq are Shia and about 35% are Sunni. A division that dates back to the period of Prophet Muhammad’s death, carved on succession and Hadiths. Through the years things were heating up and today it has reached boiling point. A “liberation” move by the majority after the dominating and domineering regime of Saddam Hussein where the shittes and Kurds were at the mercies of the minority due to the fact that that political and economic power resided in a Sunni. Now the verdict is that it is judgement day for the Sunnis. How? An extermination plot that culminated in the birth of a monster called ISIL. In the next six months, what we will most probably find more on the news will be the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Looking at the history and origin of the games, we are reminded of the fluidity of our times. Greece in the light of her current travails both economically and politically is likely to exit the European Union. It’s a clear case of majority versus minority. She can’t compare to France, Germany or the United Kingdom and as such is desperate to survive without “Them”. North America has hers, at least Ferguson reminds us. As for South America, the protest in Brazil prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup tells a story of uneven wealth distribution that almost murdered the event. The agitation of the indigenous Indian people of Latin America as reported by The Economist “A Political Awakening” February 19th 2004 is rooted on a bitter history that dates back to the Spanish conquest. They were robbed of their finest lands, subjected to forced labour and heavy taxation and saw their population in the Americas shrink to around 10% of its pre-conquest level. Even independence did little to alter the Indians’ second-class status or the racism they suffered. The roller coaster is about to crash with both “We” and “Them” on board. It is however the duty of the majority to make concerted effort to maintain sanity. This can be achieved when the majority deliberately protects the interest of the minority thereby protecting their own interest. These social denominations are interest based; people all over the world have dreams and aspirations that they seek to protect. Whenever interests align, ethnicity/nepotism and other stratifications fail because they are overrated. The majority or strong must constantly consider the minority or weak in all her actions and policies and promote the general good of society at all times. Picture credit: https://liquidizer.github.io/img/dilemma.png
Ken Etete is the Group CEO of Century Group of Companies, which is one of Nigeria's emerging indigenous industrial groups operating across various sectors and actively involved in value and job creation. Under His sterling leadership the company has grown tremendously. His career spans over fifteen years, with a wealth of experience in diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy including more than ten years’ experience in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. Ken holds a First degree in Accounting and Business studies from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. An MBA in Oil and Gas from the CWC institute, London, and he is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School.