An article by Tony Ogunlowo
Nigeria is a country of many nations; many different people of different tribes, customs and religions fused together by our then English overlords in 1914. Different people of different religious denominations and tribes forcibly put together can only spell one word – trouble! When the English put us together in 1914 it was on the basis of ‘divide & rule’. It worked in their favour as it was easier to rule a country divided against itself – and at each other’s throats – than for them to rule a united people.
But that was over a hundred years ago. Since then we’ve managed to stay together like an old married couple – though we don’t often like each other most of the time – through a civil war and countless uprisings. Whether we like it or not the Federal Republic of Nigeria is here to stay and nobody will be carving out a new Fulani or Yoruba Empire or a Biafra state. At the end of the civil war in America and the abolition of the slave trade, Abraham Lincoln was quick to point out that a ‘ house divided against itself cannot stand’. Since 1776 America has managed to stand, as a nation, despite all its inherent race, religious and tribal differences.
In Nigeria, when things go wrong, we’re quick to blame the Hausa man, Fulani man, Igbo man or the Yoruba man. We’re quick to point out that he’s either a Muslim or a Christian, a Northerner or Southerner. Very petty in deed! We’re Nigerians. We’re family whether we like it or not. Family sticks together through thick and thin, through the good or the bad (sic- well most of the time!).
We’ve let sibling rivalry enter our family, blaming that one because he’s a Northern Muslim, ostracizing those ones because they are Biafran separatists, ignoring those ones because they are from the West Petty bickering! Silly excuses to avoid dealing with the real problems at hand – passing the buck! Yes we have problems but allocating blame to a person or persons because of their tribal or religious affiliations will not solve the problem. A nation divided against itself cannot stand!
So the first step in nation building – or re-building as is the case for Nigeria – is to act as one people, one nation. So if something is wrong, or going wrong, blame the person in charge as an individual and don’t bring their religion or tribe into it. So Buhari is there now and he’s only favouring the Northern Muslims. Or when Goodluck was there everything he was doing was to favour the Southerners or Obasanjo only put the Yoruba’s first. Likewise our politicians, especially those in opposition, should stop playing the religious and tribal race card. It’s cheap, petty and inappropriate in the 21st century. It’s strange that race and religion doesn’t come into it when they are sharing stolen public funds!
The collective blaming of an entire religion or tribe for the misdeeds of a few is morally wrong! For instance Fulani herdsmen are out of control. They terrorize and murder people who oppose them taking their herds wherever they want to. The problem here is not the ‘Fulani’, a northern tribe of more or less peaceful people, but the ‘herdsmen’ who have taken the law into their own hands. In the absence of any enforced law in Nigeria governing their movements as herdsmen they will get up to mischief, resorting to anarchy. You deal with them as the offending individuals and don’t put an entire tribe on trial. Also when we hear of the Boko Haram atrocities we are quick to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a deluded few.
Is every Yoruba man a cultist or armed robber? Is every Igbo man a drug smuggler? No! A Yoruba proverb says that the King cuts off only the offending finger and not the entire hand. Blame the offending individual as a personality and not as a representative of their tribe or religion.
This country has stood for over a hundred years through out all the problems that has been its history and will continue to stand. We can make things a lot better if we face problems as they are without having to resort to bickering about religion and tribal differences.