After the Election dust settles: a look into the cultural discord present in Nigeria today
As I write my fellow Nigerians are at the polls voting for a new president and all the hope it may bring. By the time this is published there may be a new king on the throne however I chose not to vote and let me explain why. It is in my opinion and that is exactly what this article is- an opinion, that true hope arises from real change and as of yet I can see none on the political front. We are still mired in a game of musical chairs with military rulers past who have changed attire from formal officer garb to traditional wear, while playing campaigns as elaborate operas to goad the general populace into believing that we live in a democracy. I for one am not amused. I refuse to have the wool pulled over my eyes that detracts from the main issues- rampant corruption, improperly managed institutions, poor infrastructure and a growing cancer in the form of Boko Haram. Yes, these just some of the real issues facing our new president but I would like to draw your attention to a different one, one that is deeply rooted at the center of all the other issues listed previously. It is a problem that we are all a part of – Cultural Bias/Tribalism.
Yes it’s something we don’t like to talk about but yet we all engage in daily, every time our inner dialogue says Hausa’s are all uneducated and fanatic, Yoruba’s are dirty and loud, Igbo’s are greedy and manipulative. The needling doubts that form whenever you meet someone outside your culture because somewhere deep down there is a sliver of distrust, but where do we get this from? I believe it is something generationally passed down within each culture. It is important to note there is inherently nothing wrong with this, as ‘liking’ is one of the forms of persuasion or influence that governs human interaction according to Cialdini. We tend to gravitate towards those who are ‘like’ us, therefore someone sharing the same culture makes this process of ‘liking’ easier which is true but where we err gravely is using it as a basis for discrimination. We as Nigerians are guilty of using tradition to justify actions of inequality as we see fit. If it is not in or part of our tradition then it is inherently evil. As is human nature when something is seen as fit or unfit and majority of people agree with it becomes norm hence the term ‘majority rules’. However, man fears what he does not understand and as such clings to what makes him feel comfortable even while he may be wrong. Some of us will knowingly associate with tribesman solely for that reason alone regardless of their character placing bias above rational pertaining to the present situation. Better the evil you know, than one you don’t right?
I was born in the mid to late 1980’s and have been blessed or cursed depending on who you ask to have been beyond the shores of our fair nation and seen what we can be capable of if only we stop infighting. These places are not perfect and these issues still present themselves but here coalitions in many a workplace are formed based on the flawed tried and true of ‘ we are from the same village’ so I will install him there even though there is a more qualified individual from another area. This leads to marginalization of necessary resources and ineffective workforce due to politicking. I ask you dear reader to take stock the next time you are in your office and ask yourself if you observe these parallels. This methodology is now taken as a template and applied in all works of life. There needs to be fostered a true understanding of our various cultures and not differentiation based upon it which allows us to treat each other as we would like to be treated. This is can only be accomplished by honestly adopting a mantra of One Nigeria as the founding fathers did who strove for our independence and not Nigeria just for the Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. I humbly offer up two possible suggestions for consideration;
- A total assimilation of all cultures slowly to one majority. This will take time, possibly decades as cultures will die off through mingling of its members with others from differing ones largely through marriage. One cultural identity is lost in favor of another, with time this becomes the majority and therefore the norm. This is a sad outlook which begs the loss of rich traditions and customs. It is one that some other nations have adopted however there is still difficulty here due to a vast majority of the parents of my generation harboring wounds from past slights (real or affected) at the hands of each other and sadly passing this drink down to some in my own generation. Only the other day I heard of a family forbidding a son to marry a girl from another culture for that reason alone without any other consideration. This quite frankly is ridiculous to me and in this day sad to hear. We should celebrate the opportunity to learn about another custom and assess people based on their character.
- The integration of all cultures through a shared understanding. This is the option I can get behind as it embraces that which makes us unique but we still remain whole. This could lead to an evolution of sorts that births new cultures from the combination of two or more. This could be a beautiful thing where the best of each can be coopted and the negatives dropped. I liken this to a marriage where each partner supports the other while downplaying their less desirable traits. The same difficulties here are present as I mentioned above in point one regarding cross cultural marriage.
The Cultural bias I discuss was evident in the lines of division that were again allowed to play out in the lead up to the election where more likely than not most people sided with whoever they felt was close kinsman. Those who perhaps may have done some more assessment would realize that choosing between the two is akin to choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. Whichever of the two you chose is up to your personal prejudices and I judge you not for it but applaud your conviction. However, one cannot deny that for real change there must be a handing over of the guard from old to new.
I for one will not vote till I see a candidate who is praised for their capability and not the culture he is from or religion he belongs to. One that is not borne from the ‘oh it’s our turn now’ cultural camp that specifies presidency be passed from defender to midfielder to attacker along the pitch without a single shot on goal. Some may say this is all just wishful thinking borne of the fallacy of youth and that this is just one other article to add to the heap. True perhaps, but to them I say you have fallen to the contentment of age, where you have accepted this sad state of living as the norm. Change good or bad comes from the destabilization of the accepted norm; we must see ourselves as one people, one nation, one Nigeria. I have a dream that one day we the people realize our collective power, celebrating our uniqueness and not condemn ourselves based on our differences. I ask you Mr. President whoever you are to please give us order and give us peace but we must give ourselves hope. We must look inwards for change, as hope however irrational an emotion is also the seed of change. We must hope for change that allows us to see each other not through the lens of cultural bias or tribalism but as we all would like to be seen, man or woman- simply as human no more, no less.
- A Naija man