Trib­al­ism, en­mity and re­struc­tur­ing

Daily Trust - - PHOTO NEWS -

The cur­rent buzz word in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles is “re­struc­tur­ing” which it’s claimed will cure all Nige­ria’s prob­lems. There is no doubt that our most fun­da­men­tal need is to or­ga­nize our af­fairs in such a man­ner that en­sures ev­ery­one feels safe, has a sense of be­long­ing and feels re­spected. But the prob­lem is that the main bane of growth and devel­op­ment in Nige­ria isn’t po­lit­i­cal struc­ture, it’s trib­al­ism and en­mity.

The main rea­son why so many cit­i­zens feel marginal­ized, dis­crim­i­nated against or threat­ened, and fear for their fu­ture, is be­cause trib­al­ism has robbed the na­tion of the spirit of na­tion­al­ism which ex­isted in late 1950’s and 1960’s. In its place, we have de­vel­oped a parochial­ism, self­ish­ness and en­mity which now suf­fuses our po­lit­i­cal space.

To­day we are reap­ing what we have sowed over the years and no amount of pro­pa­ganda, threats, prayers, ap­peals for unity, prom­ises or brib­ing of prom­i­nent cit­i­zens can bring back true unity. Nige­ria has be­come a coun­try of trib­al­ity over­pow­ered by a po­lit­i­cal pre­tence of na­tion­al­ism. The only way for­ward is to fight trib­al­ism in all its ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Our in­abil­ity to do so is sim­ply an­other ex­am­ple of fail­ure of the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and the Na­tional Ori­en­ta­tion Agency to be rel­e­vant to na­tional devel­op­ment. Gov­ern­ment’s ab­di­ca­tion of their re­spon­si­bil­ity to fight trib­al­ism has freed highly po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to pro­mote trib­al­ism for their own ben­e­fit un­der the guise of “eth­nic na­tion­al­ism”. They have high­jacked the demo­cratic pro­cesses by en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to cast their votes on tribal iden­tity rather than ide­o­log­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions.

Trib­al­ism has neg­a­tively af­fected the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment be­cause peo­ple are en­cour­aged to do busi­ness only with their tribesman. It has also af­fected pos­i­tive so­cial in­ter­ac­tion by cre­at­ing neg­a­tive so­cial stereo­types. It’s the main rea­son why Nige­ria de­spite its riches in hu­man and nat­u­ral re­sources has failed to reach its full po­ten­tial. It’s in­dis­putably a curse and hin­drance to na­tional devel­op­ment. This doesn’t mean Nige­ri­ans are nec­es­sar­ily evil, but they do be­lieve in a strong cul­tural or eth­nic iden­tity that sep­a­rates them from other groups. We sim­ply con­form to a way of think­ing or be­hav­ing in loy­alty to our own tribe as re­gards kin­ship, oral com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ge­neal­ogy and mythol­ogy. We are sim­ply more com­fort­able stick­ing with the fa­mil­iar.

In­deed, many Nige­ri­ans re­fer to their tribes­men with their lan­guage’s word for “peo­ple”, and re­fer to other tribes with deroga­tory names. The chal­lenge for Nige­ria to­day is that trib­al­ism has been el­e­vated into the sta­tus of a na­tional cul­ture which con­trols how we think and talk and de­ter­mines who we sup­port or op­pose. It has been pro­moted by the most pow­er­ful amongst us and passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. It has even be­come in­sti­tu­tion­alised in our Con­sti­tu­tion through Fed­eral Char­ac­ter, Quota Sys­tem, State and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment creation.

This in­sti­tu­tion­alised trib­al­ism and per­va­sive en­mity, not our po­lit­i­cal struc­ture, is re­spon­si­ble for the medi­ocrity, sup­pressed merit, cor­rup­tion, and com­mu­nal vi­o­lence which stands in the way of na­tional co­he­sion and progress. Most Nige­ri­ans who re­fer to them­selves as “de­trib­al­ized” aren’t re­ally aware of the in­flu­ence that trib­al­ism has upon their way of lives. We all iden­tify our­selves as mem­bers of some sort of tribe. When Nige­ri­ans ar­gue about is­sues, in the most part their views are shaped by agree­ing with the be­liefs of their tribe. Nowa­days trib­al­ism in Nige­ria is so preva­lent it over­rides rea­son and con­trols a lot of peo­ple’s be­hav­iour.

De­spite the in­va­sion of the western way of life in our cul­ture, we are yet to re­spect the cul­ture and tra­di­tions of other tribes. Each tribe throws dis­re­spect­ful jibes at the other. Some cul­tures in Nige­ria are alien to any­thing that comes from an­other cul­ture, in recog­ni­tion of this be­fore po­lit­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing can com­mence we need to learn to be­come more tol­er­ant of each other and ac­cept that just be­cause some­one doesn’t speak our lan­guage or prac­tice our cul­ture it doesn’t make them less of a hu­man be­ing. The real is­sue is how to bring it all to an end.

Sadly, trib­al­ism has been deeply em­bed­ded in our psy­che and doesn’t ap­pear to be go­ing any­where soon. It’s quite clear that the Na­tional As­sem­bly who are pre-oc­cu­pied with al­lo­cat­ing them­selves out­landish al­lowances and perks can­not be trusted to be pa­tri­otic in this mat­ter. In the ab­sence of con­trol­ling in­sti­tu­tions fake tribal cham­pi­ons get into gov­ern­ment only to de­ceive Nige­ri­ans to kill each other while they are busy lin­ing their pock­ets. The irony is that their trea­sury loot­ing doesn’t take tribe or re­li­gion into con­sid­er­a­tion. By the same to­ken the gen­eral poverty and op­pres­sion in the na­tion isn’t lim­ited to any tribe. Some com­men­ta­tors place the blame for the cur­rent mess on our found­ing fa­thers who all made state­ments that sup­port trib­al­ism. Others blame our his­tory which has been glo­ri­fied and re­fuses to fade into the past. Others blame our un­der­de­vel­op­ment. What­ever the rea­sons the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion and in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of trib­al­ism has bred the en­mity which is at the root of our prob­lems. Nige­ri­ans are clos­ing tribal ranks and be­com­ing en­e­mies.

Un­til this sit­u­a­tion is re­versed no amount of po­lit­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing can bring about progress. Iron­i­cally the worst en­e­mies of most cit­i­zens aren’t even strangers, but rather their own fam­ily or tribal mem­bers, be­cause as we say in Nige­ria “na who know man dey kill am”!

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