Unity In Our Diversity

The need to end tribalism

When I was a kid, the thought of belonging to a particular tribe preoccupied my mind to the extent of not paying attention to the value of other tribes. I believed then that my tribe was the best. This thought, however, was not borne out of my personal inclination but was fostered by the sentiment and unproved judgment, or rather popular prejudice, of the people around me. I had no idea at the time what effect this would have on my reasoning…the powerful instinct of tribalism.

Nigeria as a country is made up of people who identify themselves as members of all sort of tribes, family, political parties, race, gender, religion and social organization. There is even a tribal identity which is solely based on one’s place of abode.

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior as a country which, invariably, overrides reason. Let us, for instance, think of the inhuman things that are done in the name of tribal unity. We can attest the fact that wars, or probably civil war and genocides are tribalism…this is not an overstatement. There had been a lot of saddened cases where parents end contact or refrained from their children when they dare marry someone from another tribe. And this can be attributed to racism that lets us feel that one tribe is better than another. Moreover, there is a form of denial of human evolution or other basic scientific truths when they challenge tribal beliefs. What a stunning evidence of the power of tribalism.

Another example of the destructive power of tribalism is the polarized way we argue about so many issues in this country. A very outstanding evidence is the recent national conference held in the year 2014 under the admistration of president Jonathan. All of the issues discussed then pointed to the need to have a better country free of prejudice which at the end will lead to the well being of the people. But I can rightly say that most of those issues were not implemented because it would, as some thought, not favour some tribes and otherwise for other tribes. Most of the representatives claimed their arguments are intelligent and smart yet they ignorantly close their minds to views that conflict with their tribes. They appeared to be dogmatic and close-minded which clearly proves the overruling of reason by the bane called tribalism.

Tribalism has pervaded nearly all the sectors of Nigeria. More could be said of the educational sector where, for instance, 70% of the so called federal government scholarship is awarded to the northerners while the other percentage is to be rationized among the other geopolitical zones of the country. Or a situation where students are given prefential treatment in some of our institutions just because of the name they bear or the titles of their parents. Christopher Hitches was right when he said " There is almost no country in Africa where it is not essential to know to which tribe the president belongs. From this single piece of information you can trace the lines of patronage and allegiance that defines the state". This thing ought not to be so. We have allowed tribalism to cloud our judgment to the extent of living as a fraction and not as whole in this great country of ours. We can have a better country free of tribalism or just like Idowu Koyenikan puts it " You can no longer see or identify yourself solely as a member of a tribe, but as a citizen of a nation of one people working toward a common purpose"

We should indeed reflect on this inherent but potentially destructive aspect of human nature and reject the influence of tribalism, not just for ourselves alone but for the posterity as well.

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