By Rabiaty Yusuf
Nigeria is a country of diverse cultures, religions, and traditions, with over 250 ethnic groups. Over the years, Nigerians have encountered a phenomenon known as ethnic inequality. The Nigerian ethnic groups are divided into Hausa and the Fulani (29% of the population), Yoruba (21%), Igbo or Ibo (18%), Ijaw (10%), Kanuri (4%), Ibibio (3.5%), and Tiv (2.5%). In the early 70s and 80s, a certain ethnic group, the Hausa, became the favored group over others. There are three major ethnic group in Nigeria, namely: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. When it comes to hiring an individual for a position in a company, the preferred candidate will usually come from the northern region, and be from the Hausa. According to Aisha Goni, who narrated her story to me, twenty-four years ago, a young lady left her homeland. Coming from the eastern part of Nigeria, she was searching for a better life. She went to Bauchi state, in the northern part of the country. She began job hunting day and night to no avail. She was called all sort of names, insulted and humiliated. When she could not take it anymore, she decided to go to back to her homeland. She explained the situation to her family members and said she wanted to convert to become a Muslim. Her parents gave their blessing, and she went back to the north and continued the search for a job. Immediately, she found a well-paying job. Now, she gains much more respect from those who insulted her and from her fellow workers.
Mr John Okorafor, a man from the eastern part of Nigeria, agreed that Aishi Goni’s story is representative of the experiences of many. Ever since he finished school five years ago, he has been moving from one state to another in search of jobs. He explained that a friend of his advised him to change his name to a Muslim name, which he later did. After that, he restructured his CV and submitted it to more companies. A week later, he found a well-paying job. More importantly, he finally found respect.
From the early 2000s, the situation seems to have become worse. Perhaps it is attributable to the shifts in government administrations. During the Goodluck Jonathan regime, the eastern part of Nigeria had upper hand for job and contract opportunities. Half of Jonathan’s cabinet members were from the east. The current regime is focused on the northerners. Presently, there are job opportunities in the immigration sector of Nigeria, and 90% of the employers are Muslim/Hausa. This is way the Igbos and most of the Yoruba are not in support of the current government. This employment rift may eventually cause the country to divide.