By Ebukun Gbemisola Ogunyemi
Personally, I think one of the greatest achievement we’ve had as Nigerians albeit the marginalization and non-marginalization issue overtime is managing, tolerating and respecting each other’s individual uniqueness as tribes and ethnic groups in a country like ours, but not until recently when it feels like we all can’t hold it together anymore. Being a very sensitive person with the consciousness that there are thousands of my kind in the country, I think it takes a great deal of effort for me to laugh when my brother/sister from the Eastern part of the country refers to my tribe as ‘Ofe nmanu’ or people who like pepper or when they want to take it back to the Biafra days, they refer to the Yorubas as betrayals and every other names one could think of. That’s not a big deal right? Maybe it’s not but I think it’s beginning to become a big deal. The Igbos I must say have their own share of these ‘jabs’ too and same goes for the ‘Hausas’ and every other tribe there is but suffice it to say that most of these jabs and bants we throw at each other that sounds like fun most times is drawn from the way of life and testimony of a selected few from each tribe or from history or from personal experiences of individuals with people from these tribes. I’d cringe at the mention of Ofe nmanu and someone would say what is the big deal, don’t you people love oil and the next thing somebody expected me to do is to not be offended and be prideful in the fact that ‘we’ love ‘oyel’ . . . like give the and so attitude. The Igbos detest being referred to as ‘Ibos’ but ‘Igbos’ which by all standards, they have every right to because it’s their name, who wouldn’t appreciate a correct pronunciation but should I count how many times I would have loved an Igbo man to pronounce ‘Yoruba’ the way I would have pronounced it with my tongue? Don’t get me wrong, I just feel it takes a real level of tolerance for a Yoruba woman like me to be referred to as Ofe nmanu and not feel a slight of offense, the same way it takes a real level of tolerance for an Igbo not to get really bothered or worked up over a missing letter (it’s not just a letter, I know. . . a people’s value and all is in their name, I get it before you people come for me) and then I realized, we all don’t have that tolerance. An Hausa man won’t enjoy being mocked for pronouncing f where he’s supposed to pronounce p after all, he’s trying his best to be good in the colonial language and I kept asking why do I think it’s noteworthy to write on this?
Many weeks back, I had come across a post about a Corp member from the East who was apparently posted to the West and then justified her turning a blind eye towards her students’ involvement in exam malpractice as a result of being scared of Yoruba demons and juju. As if that wasn’t enough, I could perceive myself wasting away on the comment section as people became so engrossed in an inter-tribal exchange of insult and confirmation as to who do juju pass. Then I realized, I was gonna write about this and then again yesterday, I happened to stumble on a video of Sir Shina Peters hitting Tobi Grey so hard with his crotch during her performance and I was like wawu! Sir! Even Zule Zoo no do this one for kerewa video and then I moved on to the comment section only to discover hell had been let lose. There was a particular comment that got to me, the guy was Igbo and he said, Na Yoruba man now. They don’t respect woman. They like toto more than anything. Any skirts is allowed (my bad – I had to munch it). I was like wawu! In my mind, I was like I beg to differ sir! At least our Yoruba angels dey get conscience; if I’m gonna talk from my experience, I would say our Yoruba angels are learners where some Igbo guys dey. There’s this Igbo guy and believe me, I’ve never seen any Yoruba guy with such ‘sadistic’ skills. . . this guy is really good.
My point?. . . Every jab started as fun; we call each other out, shade our way of life, lampoon one another’s struggle as tribes and laugh over it and move on like nothing happened until one partner starts detesting it and becoming uncomfortable. And then I wondered, this shading of a thing that we do to each other because of the tribe we come from – this inferiority and superiority complex we try to embrace, how far has it helped us to appreciate and love one another the more? I think it tears us apart. I think it makes us realize why being together will and should never be an option but to go our separate ways. When we throw shades at each other, we explore our weaknesses, our ugliness – that’s why when someone slips or do something, someone else will shout Kai! Yoruba!. . . another might say, bia, come and carry your Igbo brother o! We don’t become better, we don’t gain anything but more loopholes and division with shaming and tribe calling one another. I think it has done more harm than good and we are already in the days when our cheeks no longer smiles at them but cringe so tightly but the ones who can pretend to be okay manage to keep up the appearances and the ones who can’t are saying, this is not okay.
You know what I think? I think it’s high time we stopped. Nothing good has come out of this and nothing good will.