The Impact of Ethnicity and Religious Affiliation on the Alienation of Staff from Their Work Environment in Nigerian Universities: A Comparative Survey

Article excerpt

In Nigeria, there are conflicts that are purely religious or ethnic. However, in most cases, the two factors of religion and ethnicity usually reinforce each other and cannot be separated from each other. Ethnicity and religious affiliation are both very strong factors in social interactions in Nigeria. This assertion seems valid at all societal levels and in all works of life in formal institutions to various degrees (Nnoli, 1978; Otite, 1983). Children in Nigeria get socialised into ethnicity early in life (Ugwuegbu, 1980), while they also imbibe religious affiliation at a tender age through the society. Kasfir (1976), and Otite (1975) stated that what is crucial about ethnicity is the way people from various common identifiable socio-cultural groups use the interactions and relationships among them as weapons to struggle and maneuver themselves in the search for greater power control over the nation's scarce resources. With the interaction of religion in ethnic conflicts in Nigeria and the greater frequency of religious and ethinic conflicts, one is bound to conclude that religion is increasingly becoming an agent of conflict just like ethnicity. While Nzimiro (1975), Otite (1983) and Nnoli (1978) reported the presence of ethnicity in the Nigerian university system. Otite (1990) further pointed out that the more educated Nigerians are, the higher the sophistry of the ethnic tendencies they exhibit. Young (1981) also noted that the basic values which form the informal charter of the African universities, with the exclusion of South Africa, were purely anti-ethnic. On a moral level, Young (1981) also reported that ethnicity was a demon to be exorcised from African universities so that the principle of merit would govern critical decisions and the promotion of staff among other things. Religion is one of the determinants of alignment of staff in African universities (Young, 1981). With the frequency of religious conflicts between Christians and Moslems in some Nigerian universities, particularly in the North and South West, where appreciable numbers of Christians and Moslems coexist, it is evident that religion is playing a prominent part in the internal human interactions of the university communities. As rightly pointed out by Nnoli (1978) and Otite (1990), ethnicity does not exist in a pure form but is always associated with other social views such as religion. Considering the recent escalation of religious fanaticism in Nigeria, university staff alignments on a religious affiliation basis are expected in the quest for scarce resources such as appointments, promotions, award of research grants and welfare benefits.

In some universities in the North, non-indigenes and Christians have complained of not being given the same opportunities as their Muslim or indigenous counterparts because of their religious affiliation and ethnicity. Some have alleged that they were being discriminated against in terms of appointments to higher political positions within the system because of their religious affiliations or their ethnic origins.

In some universities in the South, some non-indigenes and Muslims have also complained of marginalisation because of their minority status in terms of ethnicity and religious affiliation. All these were claimed to have contributed to staff alienation from their work environment. This study was primarily aimed at comparing the impact of ethnicity and religious affiliation on the alienation of Nigerian university staff from their work environment. A secondary purpose on the study was the comparison of the influence of the organisation behavour-shaping potencies of ethnicity and religion on university staff behaviour in the early 1990s and in the 2000s.

The problem

Nigerian society has been grappling with the menace of ethnicity and dysfunctional religious affiliation, which have infiltrated into formal institutions, like the universities. Most often ethnic crises metamorphose into religious crises and vice versa. …