By Patrick Dele Cole
People who complain about racism should also complain if they accept tribalism. Those who practice tribalism have no right to complain about racism.
The Developed Nations no longer celebrate racism as they did some decades back. Their views have shifted from understanding that all men are equal beings to now views about inclusivity and diversity.
Even in the countries that were the most racist, France, Germany and Britain, there are people of other races running for parliament. Now we have them reacting against racism and they have the institutions to fight it.
In the USA today, there is a black, Vice President. A little over a decade ago, Barak Obama emerged as the first Black President. We have also seen an Indian vie for the position of a Black Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. A black person was Prime Minister in Ireland. We cannot imagine an Indian trying to contest an election in Nigeria or a white man born in Nigeria trying to do the same.
Some schools of thought hold that racism is more active than tribalism, they claim that racism tries to stop someone else from moving forward in life. So also does tribalism.
Is tribalism more of an identity issue whereas racism is active aggression towards those who are not one’s people? What happened in Bosnia that triggered the war in 1992, between the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), the Serbs and Croats in addition to the Yugoslav army before the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), imposed a ceasefire in 1995 was racism.
Is it a valid argument that racism can come out of tribalism and could it be described as tribalism gone beyond limits? Whatever it is, the feelings and emotions are the same.
An Ikwere man wouldn’t want a Riverine man from the same state to contest the Governorship election, but when they both go overseas, they unite and become friends to fight the white man who tries to discriminate against them. Is this not the biggest deceit of the Blackman in Africa? Are we ignorant about this or is it sheer stupidity that makes us do this? Should not we break these biases?
We assume it is okay to discriminate against the foreigner but cannot unite under normal circumstances as Northerners, Southerners, Easterners and Westerners each looking for some form of identity. Should we not be seeking human identity? The Westerners and the Europeans have come to that realization. The West should not say that we Africans are far worse than they are because of our tribalism. We despised their racism, we accused them of globally practising racism in our own regions of the world, and we practice tribalism.
Why should anyone in any part of Nigeria discriminate against people from other parts of same Nigeria, without realizing they will reap what they sowed? The war in Rwanda, the Nigerian civil war etc., had people fighting on these ethnic biases.
The Westerners don’t want to carry this racism anymore (except Oban in Hungary and Trump in the US). The Americas and Australia are conscious of the dangers inherent in racism and are determined to fight it. The point about racism in Europe, the Americas and Australasia are that they’re conscious of the dangers inherent in racism and are determined to fight it. There is no corresponding consciousness of the dangers of tribalism and no attempt at fighting it.
It was racism that distinguished the German thrust against the Jews and led to the massacre of 6 million Jews whom Hitler sent to the gas ovens to burn to death. But Hitler and the Jews in Germany spoke the same language. Many intermarried, but that did not stop fascism or the push for the maintenance of the purity of German Blood. The world war was fought against this claim by the Germans to be a superior race and in the end, the fascist theory was largely defeated.
Europe and the Americas have laws protecting black people. There are laws against discrimination, and there are institutions to achieve racial harmony and diversity without discrimination. In all the black countries, there are no laws against tribalism, yet we know that tribalism is a potent characteristic of African countries. – The Kikuyus in Kenya, the Shona and the Matabeles in Zimbabwe, and the polyglot tribes in South Africa, South West Africa, and Rwanda; these areas have a strong tribalistic bent.
It might seem that the whites in these countries may be classified as tribes. They discriminated against blacks or vice versa depending on the time. In Rwanda, there was a tribal /racial war between the Tutsi and the Hutus. This division has not ceased despite the massacre of over 2 million people. Federalism in Nigeria is a response to fear that tribalism would make governing in Nigeria well-nigh impossible.
In Nigeria, there is a nodding acceptance of the existence of tribalism by the sections in the constitution dealing with tribalism. – The Federal Character Commission. (This Commission has been playing dead possum since its inception and has somehow failed to realize that this Federal Character Commission is our nearest tacit acknowledgement that tribalism is here and should be excised.) Unfortunately, the commission has done nothing.
In Europe, racial discrimination is outlawed and at least frowned upon. In Nigeria, we carry the badge of tribalism as an honour, knowing that no one would seriously fight it. In States where ethnicity is strong, there is little acknowledgement of the poison of tribalism, so much so that now in our prime universities like Ibadan, Ife and Lagos, the indigenes where these institutions are located, now agitate that the vice-chancellors of these institutions should be indigenes from the areas hosting these universities. It is curious that we do not see these agitations as horribly tribal.
In Rivers, where there is ethnic multiplicity, Egeni, Ijaw, Ikwerris (Quasi Ibo) Ogoni etc. there is no formal acceptance of these differences. For example, the last three governors since 1999 in Rivers State are all from one ethnic group. There is no acceptance of the principle of rotation in the governorship. No attempt to institute rotation as has been done in Delta and in Cross Rivers. In Benue, there is a half-hearted attempt to acknowledge this. So also in Kogi and Kwara. In Kaduna, there is the dominance of one tribe, so also as in Kogi, Kwara and Plateau.
We should have legislation to ban tribalism as Europe has done for racism. It may be argued that racism is different from Tribalism. Really? How? In the North, if there were legislation against tribalism, perhaps the fear of a Northern powerful hegemony may be lessened. There are many ethnic units in Adamawa. Bornu, Bauchi which have no hope of adequate representation in the office of governor or in government. The same applies to Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa. What hope do the Ijaws in Ondo, Osun, Delta have of ever being governor?
It may be argued that attention to such detail maybe deleterious to unity because Delta to some extent has been able to accept rotation of governorship among three ethnic groups. Itsekiri, Urhobo, Igbo, judging from the governorship history of Delta. After Governor Ibori who is Urhobo came Governor Uduaghen who is Itshekiri and now Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who is Igbo.
In Europe, black people are constantly seen on television, the news, media, in business and in government. Indeed, France in the fifties and sixties had black ministers notably Senghor and Hupheboigny. No Igbo man can be a Premier of the house in Western Nigeria or in Northern Nigeria as was demonstrated by the ousting of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe from the Western Nigeria Assembly.
In nearly all the states in Nigeria, no one who is not from that state has the hope of political preferment. There are White men who were born here in Nigeria whose family are now three or four generations in Nigeria and not one of them will be accepted as a politician. In my view no one who is a tribalist has any right to rail against racism. What is the difference in the feelings between those who propel racism and those that propel tribalism? I would suggest none.
White people have legislated against racism, they are thereby empowered to rail against it, form associations against it and take pride in being non racists. The black tribalist has no such anchor or befitting account. This is why you don’t find a Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo arguing that tribalism is bad. They do not form associations to promote tribal harmonious exchanges, they never argue that a Fulani is equal to an Igbo therefore both are under the law and must obey. The laws that could be construed to carry such universality is more often stepped upon. There is perhaps the houseboy syndrome which encourages a relegation of some tribes as beneath others. The Federal Character Commission does not work and cannot work. Moreover, it has no equivalent in any of the 36 States where tribalism is practiced in each state. It is necessary to have such a commission within each state to sensitize tribal preferences and to stop them.
It is ironic that blacks have progressed in the West, the Vice President of US is black; the Prime Minister of Ireland was black; the Mayor of London is black; there is a black man vying to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Several Ministers in the British Cabinet are black. There are many white people born and who grow up in Nigeria who have no voting rights let alone being accepted to hold political office in Nigeria.
Muslim /Muslim Ticket
This is the subject that now dominates all political discussions. It speaks to the fears which have now been stirred in the minds of the Southerners. These fears have no substance or reality. Nobody in this discuss can speak clearly about what Muslims have done to them just as there are no Muslims that can describe what Christians have done to them. Most Nigerians cannot name one instance where a man from a religion different from theirs has harmed him so why do they fear so much? Indeed, most harm come from a man who is of the same religion and the same tribe. If a religious war occurred in Nigeria, there would be no end to it and there would be no Nigeria thereafter. Unfortunately, this matter has created in the minds of Nigerians North and South such fright that is totally beyond logic. It is like someone afraid of darkness; telling that person that there is nothing to fear about the darkness will not move him or her. You have to hold the person by the hand as you traverse into the darkness towards light. Where are the true Nigerians and true religious leaders who would hold suspicious fellows, frightened Nigerians by hand and lead them from darkness to light? Without them the survival of Nigeria is at stake.
This fear is the breeding ground of conspiracy theories, which now dominate political discourse in Nigeria.
*Dr Cole Ph.D, OFR, is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Argentina and Brazil.