I attended a unity college in the South-western part of Nigeria, Ogun State to be specific. Even though I found the whole experience quite enriching, it was impossible not to notice a major problem. In the course of my study, I found out that there was a disturbing trend that contradicted what the school stood for. Unity schools were established with the aim of breaking down the walls of sectionalism caused by ethnic and religious bias, but the school I attended was doing a poor job at uplifting this ideal. I noticed that every single principal from the inception of the school was from a particular ethnic group and all the head girls were also from the same tribe. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying these people were not qualified or that they shouldn’t have held those positions, no; all I’m saying (in this situation) is that the tag “unity school” was pure horse dung- it meant nothing! Where is the unity in tribalism?
Religious bias, tribalism and a massive dose of greed constitute the engine of corruption undermining peace and sustainable development in our country. Ethnic and religious biases are like giant tumors growing malignantly on Nigeria. Many cuddle and nurture the vices when they favour them but point fingers when they are tilted against them. What we don’t understand is that a society that thrives on such warped values is like a snake that eats its own tail to survive; it will assuredly self-destruct!
We constantly mistrust and bite each other, making baseless assumptions and accusations. Igbos like money too much and they lack unity and noble values! Hausas are lazy, parasitic and blood thirsty! Yorubas are betrayers and egocentric! These are simply generalizations that promote mistrust and stagnate growth. If we claim to believe in Nigeria, let’s tear the veil of stupid assumptions and chauvinistic biases.
Give people a chance, give them the benefit of doubt. If you dismiss and lose faith in a person based simply on his tribal or religious background even before you meet him, there is no way you won’t sniff out something you don’t like about him and judge him according to ephemeral generalizations. I’ve found that the Hausas can be honest and kind, that Igbos are resourceful and ambitious, and that the Yorubas are respectful and sociable; I also know that every other component tribe out there have good traits that are worthy of praise and publicity. All the diverse salutary traits combine to make Nigeria tick.
Why shouldn’t we encourage and focus on our strengths rather than slam labels on people we don’t even know? But no, some can’t just stand the sight of their neighbor because he is not their “brother”. Even in church, a person sitting next to you might be more aware of the fact that you are of another tribe rather than the fact that you’re both children of God. When they are asked to pray for our country, they raise “holy” hypocritical hands and ask God to magically change Nigeria. God is neither sentimental nor vindictive; He knows if He gives us what we often ask for we’ll use it for mutual destruction because most of our beliefs and orientations are negative.
How about a renewed mindset? It begins with a deliberate action to behave contrary to our vain suspicion and blind hate. Even if you get betrayed, ridiculed or hurt (these must surely happen in the process), see it as a necessary sacrifice for the future of Nigeria. See people as humans first, because that’s what we all are- HUMANS. No one hand-picked their tribe; we were all born without preconceived notions about anything or anyone. It’s the society that brands us and shapes our minds, indirectly controlling our thoughts and actions in the process. Be numbered among those that reject ethnic and religious biases; do not be a coward about this. I tell you, it takes courage to move against the multitude but none at all to go in the same direction as everyone else. BE DIFFERENT.
I know some would discard this as the rambling of an uninitiated minor; they are the ones who prefer to sit and argue rather than take principled stand for positive change. Well, this “inexperienced writer” believes that a person doesn’t need four eyes to know when his house is crumbling on him. May God endow Nigeria with the gift of foresight.