Opinion: Raising a generation of tribally tainted Nigerians

by Demola Rewaju

nigerians

I have few problems with Femi Fani-Kayode’s recent outbursts against the Igbos, I’ve always known he could never be a part of the new Nigeria. my problem is with the effect of his words on many in my generation, some of whom are already lining up behind him and others against him, reacting to tribal sentiments with…tribal sentiments.

On one of the major issues for about two weeks now as on most other issues, some of our people have resorted to prototypical tribal arguments and this is not a surprise. I have little regard for the mental capacity of people who cannot see anything in life except through the prism of ethnic roots. To be fair to them though, ethic arguments and stereotypes prevail in Nigeria. if however there has been any lesson that recent history has taught us, it is that the one who holds ethnic arguments rarely wins – except he is already a big player. It is sad to see someone of the mentally capability and political status of Chief Obafemi Awolowo classified as nothing more than an ethnic leader because he at a point found it convenient to pick up the title ‘Leader of the Yorubas’ whereas Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of lesser erudition demonstrated a better understanding of the peoples and politics of Nigeria, spurning his Yoruba tribe on several occasions and becoming first, the head of states and later the president.

One has always found it wiser to be a nationalist rather than a tribalist; wiser, not easier. I confess though that the reasons are more pragmatic than altruistic. Blood is thicker than water and at the top, everybody claims ownership of a collective heritage when the chips are down: it was the Yorubas of the Alliance for Democracy in the Senate who first alerted the nation to the threat of Obasanjo’s impeachment then posed by some interests in the legislative chambers. The AD legislators forgot party ideology and vowed to resist such an attempt.

I have few problems with Femi Fani-Kayode’s recent outbursts against the Igbos, I’ve always known he could never be a part of the new Nigeria. my problem is with the effect of his words on many in my generation, some of whom are already lining up behind him and others against him, reacting to tribal sentiments with…tribal sentiments. It was the same problem I had with Chinua Achebe’s rendition of the war in Biafra and the time he chose to release it: I feared that his account would ‘taint’ (I use that word with cautious respect) a generation of Igbo youths who had not experienced the Biafra war and I wonder what goes on in the mind of young Igbo readers who read the book, such as I met last week. My other problem with the Chinua book was that in his final moment, he seemed to have departed this world wearing more the garb of an ethnic mouthpiece than a balanced historian.

I am not an advocate of the suppression of ethnic roots but I do not believe it should be overemphasised. My nationalist ideas were encouraged earlier this year when I interviewed Beautiful Nubia, an artiste who sings mostly in Yoruba language and he told me pointblank: “I’m not proud to be Yoruba, you can quote me on that” in this interview [CLICK HERE]. His point was that he was Yoruba only because of an accident of birth. That doesn’t change the fact that he sings in Yoruba because it is one of the languages he feels most comfortable with and music, for him and many of us has a universal expression. Flavour’s acceptability outside Igboland is a pointer to this assertion.

I have found that ethnic considerations are a huge hindrance to development: national or personal. I have also found that those at the top only resort to ethnic arguments when they have nothing else to bargain with. By ‘the top’ I mean business, politics, sports and so on. In 2011 when they were seeking a second term, the Five Junketing Governors of the North found it convenient to align their interests with Goodluck Jonathan, their modern day fervor of ‘a president from the north’ would have sounded better if they had openly declared for General Muhammadu Buhari two years ago. I am yet to see a businessman who would reject income or expertise because the person bringing it is from a different ethnic group: that’s where FFK’s arguments (and some of the responses) befuddle logic. Unless someone can show me a list of Yoruba industrialists or Igbo commercialists or Hausa business owners who employed only and strictly workers from their own tribes, I can buy into none of both arguments. I’ve always suspected FFK’s logic as I wrote in this article but this tribal slant to it takes him to a new low.

It is those of my generation who must learn the lessons and guard their minds. We cannot afford to enter into our future with this ethnically biased mentality. We can’t run from it either: I remember when Chude Jideonwo would start a new political analysis project earlier on this year and we had a short conversation. One of his policies was that articles would not carry the name of the author until late evening when a list of ‘the smartest guys (people) in the room’ would be released. This he did because he knew like I and many others know that the moment some see an opinion coming from a person whose tribe they can easily deduce, they already seem to ‘understand where the writer is coming from’.

We cannot deny our ethnic roots but we must identify with a stronger national brand, not because of those who have died or because of those who hold political power but because it is the only way to rise to the top. Ethnic champions and tribalists rarely succeed, FFK has chosen his side, the rest of my generation must choose wisely.

As for the real owners of Lagos, I will discuss that tomorrow.

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Read this article on Demola’s Blog

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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