In Nigeria we have a lot of issues that are hindering our progress in all facets of life – dehumanisation is one of them. It’s effect is so profound that ethnic differences is the first defence mechanism used whenever there is any disagreement, it doesn’t matter what the subject was, someone has got to bring the fact that his or her tribe is better than the other up. And of course tribalism is only second to religion as a way of keeping people chasing shadows.
Dehumanisation comes in different forms. Ethnically Nigeria is a very diverse country and to be able to see how brain-washed we are, you may need to throw away the ethnic cap to see clearly how heavily wounded we all are due to mentality that we all grew up with and also the constant reminders that we are better than our brothers and sisters not because of our humane attitude or our talents but simply because we belonged to a superior ethnic group, we are so sure of our superiority because our leaders and our elders say so.
Growing up I became fascinated about issues relating to tribe and ethnic groups, hoping to find one where I could raise my head high. Then, as it turned out, this is the problem all around Nigeria and it is only fuelled by small interest groups scattered around the country.
There is a very common joke the type you could only hear from people who considered themselves superior just by virtue of where they were born. It goes:
Market lady 1: There was a terrible auto accident on Ife-Ibadan road this morning. Lots of produce coming from the north to Ife were wasted on the road as the 9/11 truck fell on its side. Thank God no one dies!
Market lady 2: That’s so unfortunate, the traders will be in debt for a long time but thank God they all survived the ordeal.
Market lady 1: Yes, thank God the traders are alive to tell the tale. Too bad the Hausas were all dead.
Market lady 2: Oh well, shrugging shoulders.
This is the notion that we Yorubas are better than Hausas, and of course Hausas have their own versions too, the ones that portrayed Yorubas as mugun (push overs). We were fed with all these terrible lies about ourselves, so that when we hear about another ethnic group, we instantly see them as enemies or less human.
As citizens of Nigeria, we hear quite a lot about our ethnic differences daily, how they define who we are as people and how this generation should follow exactly what our fore fathers did so as to set ourselves aside from other tribes – the inferiors, the backward thinkers. We hear the same thing all the time we step out on the streets, how Hausa has lead the country the longest but really they are animals with no hearts, how Igbos suffered from Biafra and really they are crying babies and 419s and how Yorubas have had it all handed to them, they are lazy and they really could not stand one another at home and of course the Fulanis now are the day light robbers on our roads.
When you step back and see who our past leaders in recent years were, put them all in the same room, they are all friends, they have commons interests and they are in each others circle of friends. They do not care about the common people, they only cared about their immidiate families and most damaging of all was the fact that most of them do not believe Nigeria would ever change for better so they continue to sink us deeper in mess.
The stories we tell about ourselves is usually over simplified, we are much more than ethnicities and tribes and we could do more to help move our country out of the rot by celebrating our commonness – being Nigerians.
The ongoing killing spree of Boko Haram in the north has further shown us how backward we are as a nation. Reading from different online posts, the killings are reported daily and most Nigerians whenever there is a new report of fresh killings would show empathy followed quickly by the same old comments that indicate the tribe deserves what they get. Our president is waiting until all the innocent people – adults and children alike are wiped away before we could take drastic actions. I bet there is measure in place to minimise the killings but not nearly enough to put an end to the mindless act. I wonder what the president would do if the crisis were to have started in his home town?