As a child, I knew nothing of tribalism in Nigeria. Well, not until I heard someone say they couldn’t marry someone who wasn’t a tribesman. My parents are from two different states, having two different cultures, speaking two different languages. The story was that they fell in love and got married. I never knew that people decided to love people of the same language, same culture and state. I wasn’t even aware that Nigerians thought differently of themselves because of tribe and language. I know color is and was never our problem also. Sure, I knew and heard about the Biafran war but I didn’t know that people wanted war to happen again. Have you seen the Biafra documentary or heard an elder speak of it? I don’t want a child to go through that.
Nigerians speak a total of five hundred and twenty one languages but only three are major to everyone; Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. Some languages even have a mixture of both without knowing it till they converse. Its like having cousins in different parts of the world without knowing where they live but knowing they exist and you share the same lineage. Nigerians, know they are Nigerians when they meet each other, but they deny that they are one country all because of language and tribe and this is sad. As an African, this may not even be strange to you, as many other African countries have this same issue and the saddest path to it all is that this is Africa’ major issue. We are not for ourselves.
As an English student, you learn about the flux of language; you learn and understand why the English people don’t speak as Shakespeare did or wrote. The English language, like any other language (yes, English is also just language) over a period of time, went through a series of changes that in many ways, made it acceptable as what everyone could say is the language of this period. Same goes to the African language, which is spoken by an elderly person and is not always understood by the younger generation, though they be of the same tribe. To many, what the elderly say are proverbs rather than simple languages.
Regrettably, this issue of tribalism in Nigeria or even other African countries, is something likened to what racism is in the western world or xenophobia if you would. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said she didn’t know that there was something to being black until she traveled (I paraphrased). In this case, we say, you won’t know there is something to speaking a language or coming from a tribe till certain things happen. Tribalism, really is bad for business, bad for the government, bad for education, bad for cultural development and most importantantly, bad for the country.
Take for instance, leadership in Nigeria, or any part of the world has always been a momentous affair that clutches its citizens with fear and expectations. Its always as though the country won’t go on without one. All these are never wrong notions, as people right from time always demand for leadership, but in Nigeria; it seems the party system of government doesn’t just determine the rulership, for when you hear the common man speak about a leader, you hear tjem say things like “I don’t think they want our brother in that aso rock”, ” I don’t think they will give our people roles when they come to power” in this case of cos, he is referring to someone who he calls a tribes man. A rather selfish statement if you ask me. Would it not be better if we just thought in line with someone who can do the job well? Would it not be better if we didn’t think tribe mattered in rulership?
Commercial traders who play a major part of the economy are not left out of this discriminating impression, as many may say they prefer trading with a certain tribe of people. Sickening isn’t it? Seeing your country man as one unfit to expand your business simply because of tribe. Interacting and negotiating with him as though the idea of him being a seller or a buyer makes the country at large a thorn in the commercial industry which grows the general economy. Things like these, which could have created a ripple effect into many franchise uncreated. Sadly, things like these are still going on.
Let’s not forget many relationships and marriages which may have occurred but never did or even friendships which ended with frivolous words that in the long run link up to tribalism. All of which was done with people of the same color. Totally absurd.
Oh, and who can forget Biafra? An unrelenting group still screaming for freedom. A group identified as the Easterners in Nigeria who were involved in Nigeria’ civil war (1967- 1970). Something many do not still understand is detrimental to more innocent people than it is to those who even claim to want it. Something that has a lot of unanswered questions to some who are in between been a part of it or not and one I hope when it happens, happens peacefully for the sake of Nigeria and Biafra.
Nigeria as a whole would have done and can do better if tribalism did not overpower our ideas about various things. Things which would include its citizens owning up to the fact that they also have their roles to play, if they ever want change. It is a known fact, that Nigerian leaders are greedy; but sometimes it is safe to say, that Nigerians failed Nigeria in many ways than one.