Invoking Ethnic, Religious Sentiments Shifts “focus from noble cause”: Prelate in Nigeria

Attempts to invoke tribal and religious perspectives in the ongoing protests in Nigeria shifts the focus from the initial “noble cause” with the risk of derailing the entire initiative, the Archbishop of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese has said.

In his Tuesday, October 27 statement, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins makes reference to videos circulating on social media that seem to invoke “ethnic and religious sentiments” and calls them part of “divisive message(s)” that should not be shared.

“We have seen people making social media postings trying to incite ethnic and religious sentiments in order to shift focus away from a noble cause spearheaded by the young,” Archbishop Adewale says.

One of the viral videos is that by the so-called leader of Young Yoruba for Freedom, Adeyinka Grandson who, in a post on October 23 targeted the Igbo in Lagos saying, “We are giving you 48-hour ultimatum from Friday till Sunday October 25, to leave Yoruba land. From Monday, we will close all roads and stop all vehicles across Yoruba land, and all Igbo nationals would be dealt with accordingly.”

The hate speech post has gained criticism from various leaders including the Lagos State Governor. 


“The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Lagos also adds her voice to condemn this divisive message and cautions our young people not to allow the use of the same old tactics of political entrepreneurs to cause division among them and make them lose focus,” says Archbishop Adewale in his October 27 message.

The Nigerian Archbishop urges “all that see such video clips and similar postings to ignore them and resist the urge to circulate them.”

He explains that these “political jobbers have always played the ethnic and religious cards to derail initiatives which they know are capable of jeopardizing their class interest.”

“Young people from all over our country and indeed, the entire people of Nigeria should be wise in their discernment of messages that employ ethnicity or religion in a way that excludes rather than bind people together,” the Archbishop further says.

He continues, “It is certain that the issues at stake are neither tribal nor religious and those behind this sort of contrived narratives cannot mean well for our country.”

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“We must, therefore, be wary of succumbing to their effort to sow seeds of division and never give them platforms on which to thrive,” the 61-year-old Prelate cautions and adds, “The consequences of allowing such narratives to fly are too grave and the price to pay are too high.”

Over the past two weeks, Nigeria has witnessed unprecedented youth-led protests that started as calls for an end to the, now defunct, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to the protesters now demanding for reforms in the country’s structure of governance.

Several people were reported dead and others severely injured in Lagos State when the government deployed members of the Army to curtail the demonstrations.

The crackdown on peaceful protesters attracted condemnation from Church leaders in Nigeria who called on the government to listen to the cry of the people.

In his October 27 message, Archbishop Adewale regrets the fact that the protests, which started off peacefully, have degenerated into uncontrollable violence across the country and multiple divisions.


“We have witnessed a sad decline in the level of thought and action in our quest for a new Nigeria. We have witnessed an unimaginable level of vandalism and looting of both public and private properties and business not only in Lagos but also in many other parts of our country,” the Nigerian Prelate says.

He adds in reference to the unfortunate turn of events, “This was a sad departure from and a wicked hijack of the peaceful protests that our young people had been embarking on.”

As a way forward, the Church leader asks “everyone to cool down our tempers and speak words of peace and reconciliation so that we can begin to heal as a country and overcome the present setback in the march to a new Nigeria.”

“It is in the best interest of everyone to embrace harmony and peaceful co-existence so that all may live peaceably and comfortably wherever they choose to live in the country. The country needs peace and a chance to heal from the wounds that we are all nursing at present,” Archbishop Adewale says in his October 27 message.

The Nigerian Prelate implores, “May God direct our rulers to do the right and the good that peace may reign all over the country.”

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Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.