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UNITY: THE GIANT THAT CAN REMOVE TRIBALISM FROM NIGERIA

ONE ROOT CAUSE OF our national woes is Tribalism! Nigeria is a country with about 170 million people and more than 600 different ethnic groups, it has been impossible for us as a people to present a united front. The unfortunate reality staring us in the face is that we are unitedly divided and dividedly united. Tribalism means man supporting his people to who he belongs whether they are right or wrong, oppressing or oppressed; belonging to this group can be due to kith and kin, ethnicity, colour, birth place, citizenship, school of thought, or a group of people with common interests.

Tribalism is the feeling of being better than others, and that others are of lower class. Like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where we are exposed to the thought that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. So, that person that has this feeling of tribalism thinks so highly of himself and of those to whom he belongs. This is not to say that such feeling of brotherhood is totally off base. But where such fraternity becomes detrimental to unity of the whole, then it becomes corrupt. In Nigeria, tribalism has become a force that is more ascendant than nuclear bombs. The emergence of Boko Haram in our present day society is rooted in it. Militancy in the Niger Delta is informed by tribal sentiments, the same with the OPC and Bakassi. Tribalism nourishes terrorism.

The selection of public office holders that have plunged the country into darkness is a twin brother of tribalism in the government circle. In Nigeria, you will find people in high places dolling out contracts to inept contractors because of tribal affinity instead of genuine qualification and competence. A country should not make some to work extra-ordinarily hard just to get by while some are virtually given the key to the government coffers to enrich themselves at will. This is one of the major reasons why Nigeria is yet to achieve a true “one Nigeria.”It was tribalism that indirectly engendered the Nigerian civil war and indirectly gives birth to the present evil called “quota system” and step brother called “state of origin.” These are direct products, consciously or unconsciously designed out of mediocrity to model the ruin of Nigeria. This fuelled the growth of National inequality and anger of perceived injustice. One of the unfortunate characteristics of tribalism is this unnecessary competition with other tribes.The Yoruba becomes “us” and the Igbo’s and Hausa become “them”. We all have a common destiny whether from the north, the south, the east or the west. So it seems. The realization of the fact that we are all victims of economic imperialism and foreign vested interests should prompt and persuade us to educate ourselves by all means of the need for oneness of Nigeria, and realize that geography is no barrier to national cooperation and mutual understanding.

We must not only unite our powers but live in harmony with others. St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans said among other things “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honour preferring one another”.  Where there is love, there is friendship, and friendship leads to Unity the giant that can obliterate TRIBALISM from Nigeria. We cannot in this twentieth century Nigeria tolerate tribalism and this objective could be achieved by mutual understanding. No leader in Nigeria today can succeed, unless he forgets his ethnical group. His service must be to Nigeria and not to any particular group. We must widen our citizenship beyond our tribal loyalties and cease to be a tribesman. The people of Nigeria, whether they are from the North, the South, the East, or the West, have one common destiny. The mill of imperialism spares no one. It is no respecter of tribal affiliation. The sledge hammer of economic imperialism knows no difference between the Yorubas, the Ibos, the Hausas, theFulanis, or the Kanuris. We are all one Colonial peoples and victims of foreign vested interest. That is why we should always protest against tribalism.

In Nigeria today, tribalism has been elevated to the status of a national culture which dominates national discourse, controls how we think and talk, and determines what we oppose or support. It is promoted by the most educated and powerful among us, embraced by the young and the old, passed from generation to generation, and has even crept into our constitution. The damaging effects of tribalism are well known. It promotes mediocrity and suppresses merit, encourages corruption by giving much needed cover and immunity for perpetrators, stands in the way of national cohesion and consensus, creates a distraction away from serious national issues and often contributes to communal violence. The tragedy with the Nigerian situation is that it is the highly educated people, those who really should know better, that propagate tribalism. The big question now arises, how can we combat tribalism? However, we should understand from the beginning that we can only wipe it out through our collective efforts. From the pulpit, our religious leaders should impart to their adherents the evils of tribalism. There are tribes far behind others today, they seem to be sleeping; It is our duty to awake them from their lethargy instead of making jests of them. We must arouse them, help them forward and kindle in them the flame of nationalism. The understanding of different tribal languages is imperative. This will automatically remove the shyness, suspicion and annoyance of one tribe against another when they come across themselves in their different walks of life. There is no reason why an Ibo man should not marry a Hausa girl or a Hausa man marrying a Yoruba, nor can the Yoruba man adduce any law forbidden his marriage to an Ibo lady and vice versa. Our leaders should lay the example by giving out their sons and daughters in marriage irrespective of tribe; or marry inter-tribally.

Our educators and parents will be doing the nation a great service if they start from the beginning to erase this tribalistic instinct from our youths and the leaders of tomorrow. But can they do this, if they themselves are slaves to tribalism. Hence, they must first of all, purge themselves out from its chains. If all the teachers and parents of this country will pledge themselves towards this type of evangelism, their gospel will be a huge success and they will have facilitated the New Nigeria. In the animal world anthills and beehives are wonderful models of what unity can achieve. Could a single ant or bee ever succeed in raising such a complicated structure? Never, it is only their joint efforts that made these possible.

The constant reference to tribal animosities in the press is affecting the youth and is ensuring that a legacy of hate and suspicion is passed down the generations. That is why a young graduate from, say, Ondo State will have sleepless nights if the NYSC posts him to Yobe State and so will a graduate from Katsina state who is posted to Ekiti State. Sometimes even when the graduate himself is calm, his parents will have the sleepless nights on his behalf! Contrary to expectations, it usually turns out to be a pleasant experience at the end of the service year.Tribalism should not be an issue in Nigeria. In some enlightened countries, educated people are ashamed of making references to tribal differences. This allows the society to focus on real issues like education, health, transport, security etc. Looking forward to having a coalition of like-minded Nigerians who are against tribalism in order to give some hope to our country.

God Bless Nigeria!!!

-S.O.S. ALIEME

 


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