The greatest harm sociology has done to humankind is the categorization of the society into the rich, the poor, the “haves” and have-not, top dog and underdog, black and white, indigenous people, indigenes, tribes, OPC, IPOB, Bandits, Militants, Boko-haram, Avengers, Jihadist, Terrorists, ISIS, Fulani herdsmen etc. These words are on our lips every day and they have become labels we use to describe them. People sheepishly key into these negative labels and have become common phenomenon in Nigeria. We live in a world of labels and negative labels strip us of our personal inventory. One of the greatest problems facing us today especially in Africa is tribalism. All over Africa tribalism rears its ugly head in every sector of life, society, workplace and institutions even in the church. Where you come from affects the way people relate to you.
This is endemic and polarizing. There is nothing wrong if one is proud of where he comes from but when the euphoria of where we come from becomes a stumbling block to others, it becomes dehumanizing. The recent allegation on DCP Abba Kyari; the Super cop by FBI has generated a lot of tribal reactions. The northern youths have come out with threats dragging it to a local ethnic angle without considering that the person involved is first a Nigerian that has been serving the nation with several accolades before being caught in a disgraceful web. Many people have streamlined and analyzed the situation from the ethnic angle concluding that the three major tribes have been duly represented thus; Abba Kyari-Hausa, Abbas Rahmon (Hushpuppy)-Yoruba and Chibuzor-Igbo.
Whenever any crime is committed, the tribe of the alleged criminal is first sought for highlights in the media which would lead to cross ethnic bashings among members of each ethic group on social media. Once a criminal is from the same ethnic as us, we tend to blindly defend him. This has destroyed Nigerian politics where injustices are tolerated for tribal sake. Tribalism is like cancer that eats the whole body and can’t leave the person until death attacks the person. Tribalism is a political power-bargaining tool and the insistence of the group that ‘they are’ and have rights and privileges over their area of occupation. It is like, “God has given us this area and nobody can share the place with us or interfere with us”.
Anything we do for those who do not belong to our tribe is a “dish out” because they have no legitimate right to share with us the goodness of our place. Politicians use tribalism as a tool to rise to power and they create segregation among the people. Even though Boko-haram is a different set of group with utilitarian aim, it was used to scare away people who are not Northerners. The aim was to disgorge those who are not indigenous to the North. Many people become casualties in their own country because of discrimination and mindsets. Socialization has not done much to help bridge this gap, even education has not done much rather it increases the tempo of tribalism.
In the western world racism has not even lowered but only tolerated to a certain degree in spite of civilization and technological influences. They say the world is becoming a global village only in pictures. In fact, the western world is becoming more accommodating than our own people. America and other advanced countries are filled with people from different parts of the world. Imagine a Black man becoming the President of the most powerful democratic country of the world, the Obama man even though Trump doesn’t like a black in a white society. This is why Trump tried to rubbish Obama’s legacies. The western world is making serious attempt to break all these barriers that render humankind enfeebled to be one and be accommodated.
We should be more inclusive and more expansive. Nigeria has a long way to go here. Nigeria needs patriotic leaders not ethnic warlords who instill fear when we need to come together to empower our economy. How can one get unity in this messy condition? Tribal jingoism cannot help us roll back our economy. The politics of fear and division is our big problem now. We need a government of all, that will bring Nigeria together and not divisiveness. Nigeria’s diversity should be our biggest strength. In the American democratic convention, Hillary Clinton said that ‘together we stand stronger’ and that is what Nigeria needs. Today, we stand on what our tribal Lords say. When Nigerians begin to speak with one voice as they did at the time of Arewa Youth Forum quit notice to the Igbos in the north, Nigeria will achieve her political reality.
When a bad policy targets one tribe, people tend to feel unconcerned but it will concern them in future. That is what is happening today. Now every tribe is being killed and no more one tribe targeted. Many are now agitating for self-determination. In the past, agitation for self-determination of one tribe annoyed others but now it has become a common practice due to the divisive and nepotistic policies of the government and bad governance. Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho have presented a national political problem. In a big country like Nigeria; the giant of Africa, we need political luminaries to strengthen our unity and inspire us to be patriotic citizens rather than tribal people who do not see each other as partners in progress. Young people should avoid negative values reinforced by the society and neo-politics. Negative values will affect their future and would bring tension and conflict.
In Nigeria, we have many churches and even you see churches in every street and yet we have never come out from our closet to fight this endemic malaise of tribalism. Ironically, tribalism plays out there too! Any Church man, who doesn’t recognize tribalism as a threat to Nigerian politics and unity, is mimicking religion and not sincere. We have looked up and down and we have found no answer. Perhaps it is because we are powerless, unarmed spiritually to tackle this ideology that dehumanizes our fellow men and women at work places and even in politics. Tribalism cannot be totally eradicated but it can be lowered through the understanding that we live to complement one another and not with the wrong ideology of discrimination. When you shun tribalism and its nuances, our society would become a better place with unity and rapid developments.
• Monsignor Livinus Ukah is a Catholic Priest, Author of several books and Social Justice Advocate