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Tribalism And The Nigerian Model of Racism

09/12/12

Tribalism And The Nigerian Model of Racism

*Tribalism And The Nigerian Model of Racism

-Masterweb Reports

It was my first time in Europe, London to be precise, and I had gone to check this apartment that was advertised in the Loot weekly. At that time I was still living with a relation, and I was quite happy that the advertised apartment was no more than 100m from where I was staying. So, I walked up to the indicated address, rang the doorbell and waited for a response. After a few seconds the door opened and a male Caucasian appeared. I'm never going to forget the look on his face after he discovered that an African had come to rent the room. He didn't beat about the bush in informing the room had been taken the next day I had called as agreed. Well I had expected something like this from my encounter with him the previous day.

I never quite realised I was Black until that particular evening. Being a first experience I wasn't sure whether to be angry, sad, indifferent or simply laugh it off. I could have gone ahead to brand the whole White race as racists, but then I would have to account for the countless kindness and friendship I had met in many Caucasians that I have come across. A similar incident occurred about two years ago in Germany, when I had gone to (again) look up an apartment for rent. I had this time gone with my colleague and friend, an Indian, and the German owner bluntly stated she could not rent the apartment to foreigners.

I live in Europe, and issues like these boardering on racism are not far-fetched. And expectedly, I had received calls from friends in Nigeria wanting to know how I had coped with such. And in my quiet moments of reflection I have found it outrightly dishonest to put forth life within the Nigerian boarders as devoid of similar attitudes from fellow Nigerians. That is, being Nigerian and living within Nigeria is likely to expose you to similar treatment from other human beings who generally consider you as less deserving of certain considerations for no other reason than you belong to a different tribe. Or a different religion. I considered our national politics, where the Northerners famously claimed power belonged to them. Or should one now consider the Igbos and the Yorubas who, among others, would in many cases not give out their children to marry members of the other tribes?

This might appear trivial, but then it's in context: during my undergraduate education at Ife an Igbo boy had blantantly refused to sell an extra bedspace of his to a non-Igbo student. A Yoruba person close to me had also jokingly raised an objection to my having an Igbo female friend.

How about cases where only individuals from particular families are allowed to monopolise certain political offices?

We find the same pattern in corporate bodies, in sport, in education, in health,... in fact, in the entire social structure we've come to know as Nigeria. What right do I have then to blame a Caucasian, an Indian, or a Chinese for discriminating against me for being African? And historically speaking, what right do we have as a nation for speaking and standing against apartheid of South Africa? In my opinion I think we've spent so long discriminating against fellow Nigerians on the basis of tribe and religion that this pervertion has come to be viewed as normal in the Nigerian context. The picture becomes more deplorable when we consider that this tribalistic tendencies are daily being fuelled by the parents, and other respected members of our societies. How many Nigerians can confidently say their parents and persons close to them have never made malicious comments about members of the other tribes? And when they do this, do we not join in in laughing against the Hausas, Yorubas,and Igbos, as the case maybe? ( Continues below..... )

Map and Flag of Nigeria

Photo Above: Map and Flag of Nigeria

Our entire culture and subcultures have been founded on this tribal divisioning, how hyprocritical of us to stand against neo-apartheid in different countries around the world. Hardly would an unfortunate incident affecting most of the tribes in the country occur in some parts of the country and certain tribes not cry out that it's nothing short of a conspiratorial cleansing of their tribe. I allude to Boko Haram's murderous campaign that has seen countless Yorubas, Hausas, Igbos and other tribes and aliens slain, and yet some tribe fuelled by a tribal paranoia keep alleging it's an attempt by Nigeria to expunge them. This in their case is a a peculiar manifestation of the same tribalistic outlook.

I have been to different parts of Nigeria, and also to several countries around the world, and everywhere I have noticed that human beings are essentially the same, with both kind aspects and at the same time with a predisposition to maltreating other races and tribes of men. On a lighter side now, an Italian-American had once asked me in Philadelphia if there were actual houses in Nigeria. I suppose she thought we were living on some trees or inside some caves. Such stereotypical view as this, is usually not an evidence of a defect in the victim of such view, but on the other hand it is nothing short of a demonstration her shocking and shameful ignorance. And yes, that was just two years ago, not two centuries ago.

I have heard Yorubas who have never been to Northern Nigeria tell me things about the Hausas. The Igbos do the same, the same thing the Hausas. The sad thing is that such stereotypical and entirely ignorant branding of other tribes is not aways caused by illiteracy. When I was a kid I had been made to believe that education should liberate a people, in our case it seems to drive us further down the path of bondage.

Let's for a minute consider how it has affected every splinter of our national experience. Do you need me to write about the politics of blood and greed, where each tribe sees the privilege to serve the nation as no more than a golden opportunity to divert the nation's bleeding wealth to his own part of the country? And as a result of the competitive scramble for loot, no one cares that the nation remains stagnant, once the misguided politician is from your tribe. How many politicians do we have that can claim exemption to this? It has become a status behaviour for them to establish a university, a hospital ,  or any other such structures in their own states and villages once elected. And we all look away from the fact that such institutions could have better served Nigerians in some other parts of the country.

What of sport? Some weeks ago the whole world gathered in London to watch the open shame of Nigeria, the self-acclaimed giant of African (too sad being merely numerous isn't enough to merit such description). I am sure not many Nigerians were disappointed or shocked by the outcome, that we didn't leave London with a tiny medal. Had they included copper, or wood in the awarded medals I am not so sure we would have come home with enough wood to light our frozen national heart. One would then ask, how come such a country with so many people could not lift a single medal? Well, we are from a country where the last time we heard of merit spoken of was in the fairy tales told by our parents, in turn told them by their own parents. Instead, in the name of being faithful to some spurious Federal character, we ended up enlisting athletes who were below average. Should it really matter which tribe the athletes come from as long as they are the best the country could find? If for instance we have 15 slots to fill on a football team, and out of all the interviewd candidates 12 Igbos (or Hausas or Yorubas) possess performance superior to every other person, one should think it makes more sense to choose those ones rather than to push in members of the other tribes who have no competing chance, not even within our own country.

The educational sector and the principle, for instance, of catchment area scores. I wish I could laugh at this policy's silliness, but that it's a very sad phenomenon. That smarter candidates are turned away from an institution just because they are from different states: Then we go ahead and lower the pass mark for the indigenes of our own states. The sad thing is, that poor boy from another state who probably gave his best to writing the exam, is turned away empty-handed. And if such individual has no such institution in his own state, he though being a Nigerian becomes an education-destitute in his own country. But then you'd ask, shouldn't the state be able to actively enhance the education of its indigenes? By all means, it must. But then should it be by lowering the standard and thus prematuredly aborting the surviving notion of merit? Certainly not. Lowering the pass mark (catchment score it is called) for the state is analogous to Britain deciding its own sprinters would only need to run half track to qualify for a medal. But instead of adopting the Nigerian model, it spent billions of pounds in training its citizens so they had more chance of qualifying without having to selectively beat down the pass mark for the Britons. Any serious state interested in enhancing its indigenes education should be read invest in infrastructure acquisition and students' training especially at the the primary and secondary school levels. If a state invests in hiring exceptional teachers and in equipping the education at these indicated levels, it can then be expected that its indigines will have no problem meeting a unified entry qualification into the higher institutions. In addition, the state can also (and should) give worthy scholarships to exceptional and hardworking indigenous students, which should directly stimulate and motivate their interest in knowledge education. To round this paragraph off, I must say University of llorin is about the worst in terms of ambushing university education (a Federal university at that) for its own indigenes. Perhaps there are other universities like this within the country, and one only needs to interview more students to find this out.

Racism, tribalism, nepotism and all the other forms of negative human relational isms are a disease inhabiting the dirty crevices of the human soul. They are often symptomised by absurd stereotypes, fuelled by ignorance and thriving in the mind of the mentally, morally and spiritually stunted regardless of whether such predisposition is found in an illiterate person or an Emeritus professor. As Nigerians we need not look too far afield for a demonstration of its unfortunate effects, it's right here in our homes, in religious and educational institutions, and in governance. And until we shed this contemptible cloak of immaturity, we are going no where as a country.

Jide Olubiyi, Research Center Julich, Germany.

Article Source: Masterweb Reports

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6 comments

Comment from: Francis Ezeh [Visitor]
Francis EzehHow can i reach this person Jide Olubiyi,i have a lot to discuss with you please.my email is fran_iyke@yahoo.com

Regards,
Francis.
09/13/12 @ 01:55
Comment from: AAsam [Visitor] Email
AAsamGood write up Jide however, it is impossible to purge the human mind when issues of religion, tribe, race and culture are concerned. One can only deal with these issues with maturity and tolerance.
You will agree with me that hese issues exist world wide not just between people from different countries otherwise how do you explain the inherent diffrences and hatred existing between the English and Scottish?
It is a wake up call though, howbeit, for all human beings.
09/13/12 @ 06:45
Comment from: Fman.. [Visitor]
Fman..Education is ought to make humans civilized but one can be highly educated yet he is not exposed. Afterall, a Professor once asked me if we eat rice in Nigeria while another said that we keep lions as pets. Africa needs to have their own media to launder her battered image, not just Nigeria. I did my doctoral research in one of China's top Universities. Thereafter, I worked with different Universities as a teacher in both Japan & China. I was also able to have my own company after I'd realized that I do better when I work for myself than for others. I've stayed under one roof with people of different skins, using same toilets and eating from the same plates of food. With all of this, it means I understand the bureaucracy of government and the lifestyles of Asians(Mongoloids) as well as few caucasians. Mr.Olubiyi, you're correct on your observations of these ills but I would disagree on the issue of comparing what's happening in the countries you mentioned with what's happening in Nigeria. The people of the countries you mentioned love themselves and their country, and maybe intolerant to foreigners but Nigerians hate themselves and their country and "worship" foreigners. I left my place of work in my state where I was working in a Ministry because the commissioner then hated me and my tribe (we all came from that same state). He surreptitiously stripped me of my official car and position. China has 56 ethnic groups and different languages but the law is strict on discrimination against fellow Chinese, thus the man from Xinjiang or Sichuan area can get local government job in Guangdong or Wuhan. Their founding fathers made sure that all the dialects were harmonised and put in a book in a standard manner called MANDARIN. This is where I often say Awolowo, Zik & others had no foresight at all. They ought to have fused Igbo, Yoruba & Hausa languages into a book where every item would have three names or more. Any region you find yourself, adaptation would be easy. I say this because without my fluency in Japanese & Chinese, I would not have gone this far. There is power in language! People of different languages usually see themselves as aliens staying together. Lastly, racism depends on level of exposure(travels/media awareness), comfort level(poor /rich/frustrated) & personal psychology. Racism is highest in Asia where they timidly still believe that black people are ghosts(YouLing)yet after my wife & kids, the next best person in my life is an Asian. Past Nigerian leaders have never deemed it necessary to work at the differences in culture & language which could have enhanced religious tolerance.That's why we've found ourselves in this point of no return where if you introduce yourself as a Nigerian outside Nigeria, then just be ready to lose all favours. Let me end the lecture here to continue another day.
09/13/12 @ 06:57
Comment from: Olusegun Soyinka [Visitor]
Olusegun SoyinkaSir,
This is one of the best I've ever read from a Nigerian. I sincerely recommend this piece to our 'Naijapals' and 'Punch Newspapers' article commentators would educate themselves with and jettison their tribal, religious and political jaundiced view of every issue. God bless sir.
09/13/12 @ 08:56
Comment from: Halima [Visitor] Email
HalimaI'm glad to find that people still think this way. It is sad, the situation of things in my country. In reality, most nigerians do not love themselves. Selfishness is an expression of self doubt, self hate and inferiority complexes. I preach deep reflection; find what completes you and work at it. If we love ourselves, it only makes sense to better the lot of our community. You know, the average nigerian will not do what he/she knows to be right because it will not either directly, immediately benefit him/her or others will benefit more.
09/14/12 @ 03:26
Comment from: Jide Olubiyi [Visitor] Email
Jide Olubiyi@Francis, kindly check your mail, I have sent you a mail.
@A Asam. I completely agree with you, that unfortunately we are not likely to correctly instruct the human mind when the factors you listed are concerned. But still, it never stops to amaze me the perverted need of human mind to 'be' and 'feel' not just different from, but also superior to other races/tribes.
@Fman, thank you for your deeply insightful comment, especially on how harmonising the major languages in Nigeria could have helped us. And on a lighter mood, I found it rather funny that some Asians would think African's are ghost. I am not going to take it personally if one meets me tomorrow, throws her hands into the air, screams and 'talks to her feet'.
@Mr Olusegun Soyinka and Halima, thank you for your comments.
09/27/12 @ 16:13

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