We must rise against ‘Tribesmen’ and ‘Idiots’, By Omoniyi Ibietan

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I had earlier submitted the statement below as a comment to a post made much earlier by Joel Nwokeoma

Thank you, dear friend and brother. I am happy to occupy same geographical space with you as a citizen and compatriot and I look forward to God, whose prerogative it is to decide who we are, to strengthen the bond of friendship and the fraternal relationship we share.

What’s happening in Nigeria today depresses me because it undermines my vision for social cohesion, and no society makes concrete, measurable, and sustainable growth, progress and development without social cohesion which is marked by love, bonding, belongingness, fairness, equity and justice.

I am aligned ancestrally to the nationality called Yoruba, because my parents, who are both from North Central Nigeria states of Kogi and Kwara, exhibited the matrices of that nationality as I also gleaned lessons of their liberal worldview and attitudes by observation, though they also insisted I must love all persons, irrespective of how different they may be and however they are circumstanced.

I was born in Kaduna but I have been to all the states in Nigeria while Abuja has been my base since 1986 when my mom and I moved here following FG’s relocation of the Federal Ministry where my mom worked to Abuja from Lagos. I have friends across Nigeria and beyond because I have been fortunate to travel considerably and reasonably around the world. There was a time I celebrated Christmas in Abia State for 5 consecutive years. I know and lived in every village on the spectrum of Akara Junction to Uturu. Anyone who’s had my kind of orientation yet ends up being unreasonably tribal, prejudicial, and bigoted is a failure.

I state this because I have read lots of things since the disputed election took place, and I couldn’t believe I would read what I hitherto considered unprintable. Some people even ruptured their relationships of many decades because of politics, yet they suffer no twinge of conscience and suffer no iota of loss. I find it hard to process how someone will through away so blatantly, decades old familial and friendship relationship because of people aspiring to leadership of Nigeria, people for whom we cannot talk with certainty that they will rekindle our hope.

I mean, people can hold different opinions on candidates, political parties, faiths, and ideological beliefs and remain friends, and you can engage in arguments or logical reasoning without insulting people or get uncivil, discourteous and insolent. Anyone who is not able to tolerate another person’s right to hold a different opinion is a fascist and fascism has no place in Nigeria or any part of the civilised world. Suffice it to say, that, I have come to realise that the mark of education is the ability to be comfortable with dissension. We need to be transparently tolerant and build on values that strengthen our mental health and unite us because ‘difference’ is ever present in all things and circumstances, and it beautifies. It does not destroy. It depends on how we construe it.

The Somalis are in many countries contiguous to Somalia, but Somalia is made up entirely of Somalis, but when the country’s elites decided to destroy the country, they began to be atavistic, to see themselves as atoms and became clannish. That’s when they realised that Mohammed Farah Aideed is from a clan different from Said Barre. And they proceeded to set the country on fire because of inoridinate ambition and personal interests.

The American journalist, Isabel Wilkerson, has offered us a treatise on why we should never allow ourselves to be divided. I continued to recommend her book, CASTE: THE LIES THAT DIVIDE US, to everyone who desire to live in a more peaceful world devoid of racism, bigotry and atavism. The problem is that some people read without deriving education because they will rather live in denial and hold on to their destructive fixations.

Our fathers fought in a civil war over 50 years ago, and Nigeria has not recovered from that catastrophic incident. If we pardon those who were not alive at the time of the war, should we pardon those who witnessed the war yet continue to fan the embers of disunity?

We really need to pull back from the brink. Real Nigerians, I mean citizens, need to rise and save Nigeria, and the increasing army of “idiots and tribesmen” need to have a rethink.

Ibietan, PhD is Head of Media Relations, Nigerian Communications Commission

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