Monday, 18 December 2017 15:26

Tribalism? Nigerians Ought To Shut Up Blaming the White Man

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One of the things this writer agonizes over as he relates to Nigeria and Nigerians through visits, phone calls, emails, and normal conversations humans have with each other, is the presence of tribalism. Tribalism is endemic, meaning that tribalism is rife, prevalent, common, widespread, rampant, or pervasive. It is like a metastatic cancer that has spread to the brain.    Yes, let's stop saying the British created tribalism when they slapped the land together  with no regard given to  tongue and ethnic differences. Let's see us as persons causing tribalism.. Aren't we stupid?

This writer misses the humor, pleasantness, or playfulness that used to exist among the Nigerian tribes during his primary school days. As a student at a unique secondary school  that was located in Northern Nigeria in the 60's, this writer had had a delightful detribalized experience. The school whose student body was drawn from all over the country, had classmates  who were Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Tiv, Efik  Idoma, and many other tribes.

It appeared that the founders of the school , British, were interested in mixing students from different parts of the country to teach Nigerians the value of coexistence and to combat tribalism. There were Christian and Muslim students in my secondary school. We were all young innocent boys aged 14 years and over. There was openness, sociability among the students at our residential  school, and we were of good behavior and academically inclined.

The purpose of this essay is to decry tribalism which the Nigerian political leaders from presidency to the governors and senators seem to be encouraging and to ask questions that need to be asked.  Have Nigerians of different tribe ever lived together in their history?  Can they live together as one people or at least learn to tolerate each other and coexist amicably, and what militates against their living together as civilized people do? This essay is being written with the view that only the truth will destroy prejudice and only by discussing tribalism in all its ramifications can the disease be cured.

Igbos who grew up in Lagos among the Yoruba talk about the outgoing attitude, approach-ability, and responsiveness they had, visiting each other's families  and being welcomed to dinner tables. There was some affability, kindness or friendliness this writer's family members felt while living among the Idoma of Benue State where we schooled, worked, and died.

What is going wrong today with Nigerian tribes? Why are they becoming so antagonistic, secretive, exclusionary,  protective , distrustful, shielding, or defensive of "what's mine" ? Tribalism is a nightmare in Nigeria. Where does tribalism come from, and who is the father of tribalism? What roles do Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, and Igbo play in transmitting the virus of tribalism into the community? If you say no role is being played, you are part of the problem. What is tribalism?

We begin this essay by stating that all nations in the world are made up of tribes. There are tribes  in Africa, America, United Kingdom, India, China, Russia, and so forth.  In the African context, the term tribe includes but is not limited to the community, society, population, people, ethnic, family, clan, or kinfolk.

The perplexing questions are many. Does being in a tribe mean that each group must be at the throat of each other? What are the tribes fighting for? For political dominance, control of limited resources, sexuality, or what? If the tribes are fighting for political dominance, why can't the Constitution be written in such a way as to settle that? If they are fighting for access to limited resources, why don't the country's governing bodies and policy makers expand activities to ensure adequate wealth is generated to go around? Why are Nigerian leaders and so-called intelligentsia unable to think beyond narrow parochialism, and tribal cocoon, beyond ROMEO (Robert Mugabe mentality)?

Are Nigerians at all intelligent enough to govern themselves without running to England or should the colonial masters be called back for a few more years? Can Buhari and the other Nigerian politicians learn from the white man in countries they visit and in which they empty their sacks of money? The trouble, in the case of Nigeria, is that the Constitution is not agreed upon by the majority; it is written in secret by a few tribalists and foisted upon the people. To foist is to impose, finagle, thrust upon, palm off, or pass off.

Now, I  get it! My country is bedeviled by a sickness called xenophobia which is the fear, hatred, and distrust of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange, Each Nigerian tribe is led as a foreign nation headed by uninformed, narrow-minded, bigoted  tribesmen masquerading as demigods who coach a group of tribesmen  to hate the other tribes. It is a dangerous thing to vote racists like U S Donald Trump or haters like Atiku, Jonathan, Obasanjo, Okorocha, Fashola, Tinubu, and Buhari into power because they are masters of xenophobic manipulation. Continued involvement of these men in Nigerian politics is destructive and ought to be condemned, eschewed.

Young, educated  Nigerian men and women aged 40-45 years with moral character, energy,  and fresh  ideas  should be encouraged to run for political offices in place of the corrupt, old bags on donkey backs. Nigerians infected with the disease of tribalism are incorrigible, meaning they are the hopeless, intractable,  irredeemable, dyed-in-the-wool  people who refuse to change and do things differently.

Listen to President Buhari say; "those who use the social media as another platform to fan the embers of division in the country to desist or face the full wrath of the law." He is promising to be violent against persons who dared to protest against tribalism and social injustice. What a glaring manifestation of xenophobia! It appears that tribalism is strengthened and maintained by the use of violence and threats of violence. Tribalism is like armed robbery in that both cannot operate without the use of force, threats.  Nigerians know better and cannot be intimidated.

Xenophobia manifests itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an in-group (we the conquering Fulani; we the wealthy Igbo; or we the marginalized Yoruba and owners of Lagos) towards an out-group (they Igbos the defeated people;  they the conquered Yoruba), and so forth.  Xenophobia  is the  fear of losing identity (Fulani empire, Ndiigbo, Ohaneze, Oduduwa, Arewa), It is the  suspicion of activities of others, aggression towards others , and desire to eliminate others (such as disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu, silencing of  IPOB and Delta boys, etc).

The Nigerian trouble is not caused by tribes per se, but by persons who divert a good thing to create a trap for fools and by the greedy, gluttonous  groups whose interest the racists and haters seem to protect and whose appetite for material  goods outweigh the desire for "One Nigeria.". Tribalism allows Nigerians to be manipulated, fucked in the ass to the point they hate neighbors on the basis of language and cultural ways of doing things. Hatred is a learned behavior rather than innate or inherited.

Few Nigerians are more xenophobic  than the born-to-rule Fulani/Hausa because they are the most chauvinistic intolerant, racist, nationalistic, prejudiced group interested in maintaining separation of tribes because they benefit the  most from tribalism.

I belong to the Igbo tribe, I make no apology, and I do not care what tribe you belong to so long as you respect me. The tribe is not something to be ashamed of if one sees the term to mean one of the broad categories of grouping into which people of the world fall.  Tribe is something to be proud of. It is not a thing that causes shame unless one is saddled with the most untreated incurable, egregious poor self-concept. This writer had experienced detribalization at the secondary school and at a foreign university campus. The secondary school has been talked about. Now is the foreign place.

At the University of Knowles, USA,  where  the University officials had consistently admitted thousands  of international students drawn from  Africa, China, Europe, and many other parts of the world, we  African students  from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia used  to be proud of our heritage.

We prided ourselves as others knew us "people of the African tribes," "African students"  or "African tribesmen". We lovingly referred to each other as "native", "bush," or "jungle."  One particular man from Uganda named Solomon Olebe (now deceased) would invite us to his house for parties, and as we ate, drank beer and  danced  to Congolese and African music,  the feelings of tribeness was overpowering, yet we were from different tribes in Africa.

Solomon would yell out names of popular African leaders, such as Tom Mboya,  Kenyata,  Azikiwe, Nkrumah, Odinga  Oginga, Lumumba, and so forth. Africa and their leaders were sweet in  our ears and etched  deeply in our memory, and we dreamed of going home to put what we had learned to use, to make meaningful contribution to our community. We loved to hear Solomon yell out names of those African leaders.We revered the African political leaders. That was when African politicians were leaders.

We  enjoyed belonging to the International community, the committee of nations of which the tribes featured significantly, were respected . We enjoyed being members of the tribe as we enjoyed participation in the International Day Festivities where cuisines from different parts of Africa and the world were served.

It is with utmost fondness, nostalgia that this writer remembers the unity foreign students had under  Dr. Johnson, the white International Student Advisor and Mrs. Wilde, the white Associate Foreign Student Advisor. Our unity at predominately Caucasian University in Tennessee was firmer than what this writer has ever witnessed in post-independent Nigeria. Does it mean that whites have more sense than Nigerians, better sense of fairness and impartiality? It seems to be the case. Many Nigerians at home and abroad do not feel  happy, safe, and welcome in Nigeria , for we are regarded as unwanted foreigners who the other tribes ignore and hate.

In Nigeria, things did not go well after the amalgamation of the colony and the protectorates of Lagos and the southern Nigeria and the subsequent amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria. The struggle to appease the colonial masters on one hand and mollify or conciliate the discordant sentiments of the tribes became the undoing of the Nigerian leaders. Nigerians cannot help being suckered into tribalism by leaders who meant the nation no good.

Early Nigerian political leaders, who had little or no experience with public administration, felt that their job was to cater only to the needs of members of their tribes: Hausa for Hausas, Igbo for Igbos, Yoruba for the Yorubas.  Ethnocentric attitudes  became the order of the day, followed by xenophobia.

In America, Nigerians are in all 50 states, schooling, holding jobs, and raising families. Nobody cares where we are from so long as we are law-abiding and have proper immigration documents. This is not the case if we were to be in Nigeria where tribalism may present problems for me, an Igbo, to find employment in Yorubaland, Hausaland, or among the so-called people of Calabarland. When citizens are not treated as equals in a country they all belong to, it is tribalism of the most reprehensible category. 

The principal concerns of the early Nigerian politicians (Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, and Awolowo, and Akintola)  seemed  first and foremost to endear themselves to members of their tribes in order to curry favor, maintain misplaced loyalty and support, in order to solidify positions through the voting process. No one cared for the common good or well-being of all Nigerian people as a whole. In other words, Nigerian political leaders ceased being loving fathers and nurturers  of their people; they degenerated to being paramount chiefs, chief commanders of warring tribes.

The Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, and Muslim North were comfortable doing business as usual so long as the interests of the three major tribes were protected. One thing that nobody remembered  was that there are nearly 400 other minor Nigerian tribes who were taxed without representation and entirely forgotten in the body politics. When these forgotten tribes began complaining of marginalization, the agitation  for inclusion became deafening , leading to the creation of more states. The trouble in Nigeria is bad leadership, not religion or tribes.

Nigerians ought to stop blaming the British for their political leaders' ineptitude, inability to govern with equity and equanimity.  How to handle the Nigerian tribes which number in the neighborhood of 400 became and continues to become the nation's ruin, ruination, downfall, collapse, destruction, humiliation, shame, or defeat. Being a politician in Nigeria is to fan the embers of tribalism in order to hide your ignorance A Nigerian leader keeps a lot of mess going on to obfuscate real issues. To obfuscate is to confuse,  obscure, muddy, cloud, mystify,  muddle,  befuddle, or confuse.  It is like "if you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, you can at least baffle them with your bullshit." Take Okorocha for illustration. Remember his statute for Zuma of South Africa and  a sister who is Commissioner for Happiness?

Nigerian leaders from  Independence have been playing one tribe against the others and stealing our money in the confusion .  How do the Fulani herdsmen acquire the AK-47? Who masterminded the disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB protesters?   How do the governors  obtain $1Billion to continue fighting boko haran after President Buhari had announced the insurgents had been destroyed and neutralized?

Nigerians of various tribes get along well in America, UK, Canada, to name only a few place. Why is it that they don't get along in Nigeria. Someone says that the elements in Nigeria, including the air and water  plus the sky, food, and soil predispose Nigerians to hate members of other tribes. The cure? This essay deals with causes and implications of tribalism Cure is beyond the scope of this essay and may be  topic for a future essay.

Yes, let's stop saying the British created tribalism when they slapped the land together  with no regard given to  tongue and ethnic differences. What have we done with us? Let's see us as persons causing tribalism.. Aren't we stupid?

Submitted by  Dr. James C. Agazie; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ;

Monday, December 18,2017



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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.