Monday June 4, 2001
Let's face it, Nigerians are one of the most tribalistic human species on the planet. We don't have to point fingers at any tribe in particular but we all know it's true. Sometimes I cannot help but thank God repeatedly that the underlying tensions in Nigerian society haven't boiled over into (another) state of war.
But then again (if anything) our parents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts have been through the horrors of a civil war so that we don't have to go through it again. Stop, look and listen!
Who do you see when you see an Igbo person, a Hausa man or woman or a Yoruba individual?
What about Benin people, Efik, Ijaw, Kwale, Ogoni etc.?
We all have general denotations about the character of a Naija person from any given tribe. These perceptions are increased by the intrusion of fear, suspicion and hatred into our mentality. Hence, all sorts of ugly connotations.
It is almost impossible for one to point out a positive trait about any tribe in Nigeria. Sometimes I wonder if people ever stop to wonder how come everything we think about people from other tribes are very negative. Any individual thought or act always has a tribal connotation to it.
I remember about 3 years ago the retired NFL great Reggie White spoke at a seminar and proceeded to break down the traits of different races of people across the world. His intention was to point out that while people across the world differ from each other in terms of race, we all have (what he deemed to be) positive traits that make us (or should enable us to) work together in order to make the world go round harmoniously. He proceeded to list these qualities but as we all know this well intentioned gesture backfired on him and the man was subsequently vilified in the media like he was the antichrist. This is obviously a very touchy subject.
Nigerian society as a whole has done a 'good job' of breeding a whole generation of 'tribe haters'. These are suspicious individuals that will not hesitate to dismantle another over some trivial matter.
Living in Canada has helped me learn more about people from other Nigerian tribes. This is so because I have met and dealt with people from every nook and cranny of the country even from tribes I have never heard of before.
But in my various dealings, there is always that issue of where one comes from. No matter how educated or enlightened we think we are, there is still that thing about individuals from certain tribes. We are always suspect of each other.
For the sake of making a balanced argument, I guess I could say that the situation is not all that bad, regardless of whether I believe that to be true or not.
How bad the situation is depends on how many times you find yourself firing verbal darts at somebody from another tribe for no particular reason (consciously or unconsciously). How many times have you come together as tribesmen and tribeswomen and proceed to lambast other tribes just for the purpose of carrying out a conversation?
We keep hearing about tribal feuds that lead to bloody clashes back home but we just brush it off as one of those things. Well, it is our brothers and sisters that are dying. I think it is time we pay closer attention to why we playa hate.
There will always be good and bad individuals but in Nigeria, and other societies across the world, it is more of a tribalistic or racial thing (as it is in the western world).
It is no secret that 'tribe hating' hinders development. We tend to get caught up in our selfish attitudes that we forget to help our fellow brothers and sisters. In my opinion one of the best feelings in the world is to know that you helped somebody in need. Let us squash all this beef and start helping each other for the sake of mankind (and our own sanity if you know what I mean).
Some people might be wondering where I am coming from. But I am only writing this because it causes me great stress to see my people beefing over politics and bullshit. I see people going around blocking other peoples' blessings just because they do not come from the same tribe. Please don't hate because you can't relate.
I am also guilty of the same crime and I really don't know what it is in me that make me act this way sometimes. I guess I am a product of the society. For a lot of people that I have met, it is almost second nature to 'tribe hate'.
People often reserve special treatment for those that come from the same place. In some cases when somebody extends a helping hand to a cat from another tribe, the potential recipient starts suspecting foul play. "After all you can never trust their tribespeople because they will always switch fast and reveal their agenda with time".
I'm not trying to portray Nigerians as hate mongers (because we are obviously not) but we definitely have issues.
Who do you see?
The answer to this question is the key to how we relate to each other so please answer wisely.