Countless times in my short life ,I have come across countless people who think I’m Igbo. The conversation usually begins with me speaking English, then the other person replies in Igbo. Then I say something like “I’m sorry , I’m not Igbo.” There is usually clear disbelief written on the person’s face. Then he/she goes “You mean you are not one of us ? But you look so much like us.” Then I go on to divulge my family history and genealogy, to make them believe. “You mean there’s no Igbo blood at all in your lineage?”
“Yes. We are all Yoruba”, I reply. Then gradual belief comes on their faces, still tainted with a hint of disbelief. I then become then automatic listening ear for the whole of the Yoruba race. They go on to tell me how Yoruba people are dirty and garrulous. I walk away smiling but with deep anger at the waterloo of Nigeria, ethnic hatred. No matter how many ‘occupys’ or patriotic articles we write ,this flaw in our national fabric runs deep. It is our waterloo. It is the same reason a Yoruba mother would tell her son not to bring an ‘omo nna’ home. The same reason an Igbo man can’t tolerate the Hausa man. Our history is frought with several examples, the civil war, and endless killings during ethnic conflicts.
How can Nigeria ever be great again when we have so much baggage and scores to settle? Even the intelligent and exposed Nigerian is still plagued with this national illness. Takes us back to 1914, when the protectorates of the country were amalgamated. Some say Lord Lugard should have known better and not expect oil and water to mix. What do the British care, they were only protecting their own interests. So they left us in 1960, with a huge rift and festering hatred for each other. The Civil war began merely 7 years after, a further proof of our differences.
Some say it is time to divide, but I say we’ve lived 98 years together. We’ve intermarried, settled in each other’s lands and done business together. I ask, how do you separate 98 years of an intricate mix? It is not some chemical mixture you can just distil and separate into components. We are talking about people: living, breathing beings. How then do we fill a gulf so deep, even our great grand fathers were involved? How do you wipe off 98 years of hatred, segregation, killings and pain? How do we remove this log in our national eye, so we can see clearly on our path to a greater Nigeria?
The key is recognising our differences for what they are; a cancer that has eaten deep into the fabric of our national unity. Then we should accept and live with these differences. As for the hatred, I do not know where we’ll begin to wipe out 98 years of it. Nobody is saying we should all live as one. The truth is ,we will never be. But let us embrace our differences and respect one another for who we are. Let us wipe out ethnic hatred and conflict and focus on our collective goal of building Nigeria. Then, only then, can Nigeria be on her path to greatness.
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