Tribal Slurs: Are they derogatory terms that disunite us or simply bants?

Nigeria has a rich cultural heritage that spans across cultures; the beauty of the nation lies in the diversity of its rich cultural heritage. As diverse as the cultures are, so are the tribal slurs designated on Nigerians from different parts of the country.

As one from the South East, what comes to mind when someone calls you “Omo Igbo?” As a northerner, how do you perceive the word “Aboki?” As someone from the South-west, what goes through your mind when you get called “Ofe nmanu?” Do you accept these designations as bants or do they strike differently as some form of a tribal attack on your person or your ethnic group?

It all depends on individual perception. While some people may take it personally, others may laugh over it and move on with their lives.

So what’s the gist? It all started with Singer Teni who got dragged on Twitter for calling an ex-Big Brother Naija (BBN) season 5 housemate, “Omo Igbo,” in a video circulating on social media.

In the video, Teni alleged that Olamilekan Agbeleshe AKA Laycon was under “spiritual love attack” from Erica, whom she described as “Omo Igbo” in reference to her South-eastern roots.

Hilarious as the video seemed to some, others found it unacceptable, because to them, the term was derogatory and seen as an attack on their tribe.

Different factors are responsible for fueling tribal wars across cultures, and tribal slurs may be one of them.

“Progressive, Africans argue that tribalism is one of the most disruptive influences confronting newly independent sub-Saharan African states. Tribalism, they argue, is the basis for hatred between peoples within a country as well as between countries.” – Cultural Survival.

It brings to mind the story of Mr Nnanna, a senior staff member at the Vanguard newspaper; who used an ethnic slur to disparage the Yoruba ethnic group in 2018, during an online debate over President Buhari’s conferment of the title of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the late M.K.O. Abiola, as a posthumous award. Nnanna was said to have described the Yorubas’ as “sophisticated morons” after someone from his social circle had described them as “the most sophisticated ethnic group politically in Nigeria.”

“His comments elicited widespread condemnation, and his employers were compelled to issue a statement.”

He also tendered an apology and said he meant no harm. But he was shocked at how his offhand remark snowballed into an issue of national concern which provoked public anger of volcanic dimension that threatened his career and his employer.

Come to think of it, how many times have we made seemingly harmless but distasteful tribal slurs and ended up with backlash?

Teni probably meant no harm too. However, while there may be nothing wrong with showing loyalty to one’s tribe, how we go about it may be offensive to others. And in our attempt to entertain others, we might want to apply some level of discretion to sensitive issues to avoid tribal wars that may contribute to disintegrating our nation.

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