Why I don’t want to have an ethnic group

I’ve told quite a number of people that I would rather not be affiliated with any Nigerian tribe, I just want to be a Nigerian. Because of that statement, my home training has been questioned, my senses have been interrogated to see if they still function. On one occasion I was accused of not being Nigerian even though to the best of my knowledge, the constitution does not mandate that I have an ethnic group before I have the right to claim Nigeria as my country. On another occasion, I used different words and the person I was talking to actually started crying for me.

Recently I took time to explain my position to three of the people that accused me of not having a country and they stopped short of disavowing their tribes and states of origin and that is what I want to do here.

I don’t have a problem with any tribe, including Igbo which ancestrally, I most likely originate from. I say most likely because I am aware that my paternal grandmother is Ishekiri and my maternal great-grandmother is Igala (I possibly have written Hausa in other write-ups). It won’t be illogical to say that ancestrally speaking I’m not originally Igbo.

My being Igbo really boils down to my father telling me that I am Igbo and that I am from Imo state. My father himself, has never paid tax to any Igbo state not to mention Imo State because, in all his adult life he lived it in-between Delta, Benin, Lagos and Abuja. When he did eventually decide to move to Imo, he wasn’t employed and died there a few months later from a heart attack.

I, on the other hand, was born in Lagos and I grew up in Abuja while schooling in Ogun state. In the nearly 22 years I’ve been on this earth I’ve spent roughly only four months in South-east Nigeria and as such I don’t have enough emotional attachment to call myself an Igbo man without feeling hypocritical.

I would like to be from somewhere else in Nigeria, I would like my child to have a Calabar name, whether or not I marry a Calabar woman, I possibly would like to hold a political position in another part of Nigeria that’s not the south-east, but I can’t because it’s not “my place”, or as they told me the last time I was in the east, it’s not “my home”. The questions I ask myself are; isn’t Nigeria my home? Wasn’t I born in Nigeria? Haven’t I lived here all my life in Nigeria? Why am I treated like a second class citizen in my own country simply because I wasn’t born where my father said he was from?

I have a Yoruba friend so in love with Abia state that she wants to raise a family there but somewhere at the back of her mind she knows that even though she needs no visa or passport to live in Abia, Abia, by traditional standards isn’t “home”.

I believe it’s one of the reasons why Nigerians in the south, west and east feel disconnected whenever they hear of the destruction and death in the north because while geographically it may be part of Nigeria, mentally it’s another country.

I would love to live in a country where I am not judged by the language my name appears in or the language I do or don’t speak. I would love to live in a country where we do not use federal character to undermine quality because we feel unless “our place” is represented we won’t get the attention we deserve.

What do I know, they said I’m just one of those people brainwashed by the west.

 


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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