This is a post I originally put up on 15/03/2014 but it still rings true today. As we begin a brand new chapter in the story of Nigeria with a brand new president, why don’t we take the opportunity to begin a brand new chapter in what it means to be Nigerian.
I once heard a preacher say that in a marriage, you should never wonder if your partner is cheating because it is none of your business, instead of spending time worrying about what they might be doing, you should spend your time on being the best partner you can be, do your part and do it well. Because the fact is that, if you keep wondering about it, whether or not they’re doing it, you’ll start to react sort of negatively towards them eventually.
I think this can be applied to Nigerians, a friend once told me that Nigeria was not meant to be one country and it is simply an invention, but whatever the case, we are one now and it is up to us to make it work. This can only happen when we stop suspecting the next person of something just because they’re of a different tribe, when we stop assuming that just because we don’t speak the same language, they won’t be nice to us. Many of us have never actually experienced these things, we just work off of the stories and insinuations we’ve heard over and over. Let’s simply work on being the best version of us we can be.
Just like in all human interaction, be kind. Always.
In a class a few days ago, the teacher asks, “of the 3 major ethnic groups in Nigeria, which one has the highest percentage in Abuja?”… an argument starts among the Nigerians in class, the arguments ranged from, “Abuja does not belong to anybody” to “it depends on which part of Abuja you go to”
In another class, the teacher asks us to each select an on-going violent conflict to write a research paper on, and one Nigerian boy asks if he can write about Boko-Haram in Nigeria but the teacher says no, you cannot write about a conflict going on in an area where you are from and this boy, with almost equal parts of pride and maybe, disgust in his tone and body language responds “I’m not from there, I’m from the South of Nigeria”
Do I even have to tell you the teacher looked a tad confused?
Honesty, in both classes, I felt a strong urge to just scream, maybe the urge was a little stronger in the former actually.
But seriously, people!!! Why do we fight over everything? Do we ever feel like one people? Does being Nigeria mean anything?
Most “Nigerians” now feel more igbo, or hausa, or yourba or jukun before they feel Nigerian, if they even feel that at all.
When we meet people, why is asking what state in Nigeria they come from one of the first questions we ask, are we asking just to know them better or do we judge them based on that information?
Most of the conflicts in the world today are within countries, citizens fighting and killing each other for reasons such as ethnic, religious or political differences… do we really just want to live in a world where its just people that live and think exactly like us? Wouldn’t that be kinda boring? Or isn’t that the end game of killing people who oppose us or are different or pray to God in a different manner or speak a different language? We’re looking to get rid of anyone who’s different to us, right?
A friend said to me recently that all conflict is built on a foundation of pride and selfishness. I don’t know.
I know that ethnic differences and conflicts are not peculiar to Nigeria. It just saddens me the most.
There’s no real point to this post actually, except to throw out some of these burning questions that play over and over in my head. Maybe someone out there has some answers that can help me sleep better. Because let me tell you, these are some of the questions that keep me up at night.
And please, my dear Nigerians, the next time you meet another Nigerian, when you get the urge to ask, “what state are you from?”, ask yourself, “why do I really need to know that right now?”
©Adeola Matemilola 2015
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