Nigeria has 371 different tribes so we’re told, the list is impressive. This is not peculiar to Nigeria, many nations of the world are in a similar situation. Nigeria is categorised into three major groups for economic and ease of governance purposes, amongst many reasons.
Nigerians are passionate, often times I enjoy the comments more than the essay itself. I really do not understand what this list of 371 tribes was meant to achieve but one can tell easily that tribal ‘love’ (well, let’s put it that way) is one of the very few things that get Nigerians talking.
Over 600 comments on a list of tribes? Nigeria politicians love fruitless argument like this, they knew it will never lead anyone anywhere but they delight on future of the nation to remain confused.
I decided to look at the list of tribes, partly to see where I am being thrown. I already know I am Yoruba, but Nigeria is a funny country, how? A middle-aged guy only a few days ago tried to convince me that I and my neighbour speak two different languages, I actually thought he was joking but he was dead serious. To him different dialects is seen as different languages which in turn create another division of different tribes. I can’t argue with such mindset so I walked.
Back to the list of tribes. I am not terribly surprised that Nigeria has 371 different tribes, I thought number is higher.
I know we are not meant to look at data closely, that would mean we are doubting or being troublesome. However, I know there is always a pattern that tells bigger story.
Plateau state with estimated population of 3.2M has the highest number of tribes in Nigeria with 68 different tribes, followed by Bauchi with 63 tribes between 4.7M people. This is the story with most of our northern states.
Six southwest states including Kwara has 1o tribes, interestingly Kwara state alone has 5.
To make sense of this list Adamawa, a northeastern state has 58 different tribes while Osun state in the southwest with similar population has 1.
How can a nation progress when the highlight of our conversations is on our differences?
Southeast/southwest have similar low tribal divisions as southwest with Cross River at 26 tribes and Rivers at 11 tribes.
Diversity can be beautiful. Everyone should be allowed to identify with any group of their choice. However, tribal divisions in Nigeria unfortunately only perpetuates hatred which in turn means regression all round.
Within southwest, most of us speak Yoruba with different dialects and therefore happily identify as Yoruba. I am sure if we wanted, we could have broken the region down into tribal bits to match with the northern states but that would not have benefitted anyone. We could have easily say Akoko, Ilaje, Ijesha, Ijebu or even Ife are different tribes but what this would do is to stall development and foster public distrust of one another.
So looking at Bauchi state with 63 tribes – does that mean these are all distinctively separate tribes or they are more like what we have in the SW but we have for a long time happily agreed to be under one umbrella of Yoruba?
I found Bauchi to be quite interesting because even within a local government of a few thousand people, folks still find reasons to divide themselves further. Example of this is the case of Tarawa Balewa LG, the end result of it was endless clash between people.
A region is better off when deserved attention is paid to what we all share in common which we all know are far more than the other way around. I am sure many of these tribes speak very similar language, so why not consolidate for progress?
In SW for example we have a fair share of violence, many embarrassing ones too. However, looking through this list makes me realise the massive work that our past leaders had done, carving an identity that most people are comfortable to relate with.
This post is not about picking on any particular region, it is just an observation in relation to the reality on ground.
We could spend as much money as we like on rehabilitation on parts of the country, it would still not bring permanent change if we continue to ignore fundamental flaw that is hindrance to collective progress.
As a society highlighting what we have in common can only be a good thing for everyone. We have seen enough of what the other side is like.