By JESUTEGA ONOKPASA
I LONG ago came to the suspicion that much of the ethnic hostility in Delta State emanate from a toxic mix of ethnic hatred, rumour mongering and a cocktail of entrenched misconceptions. Right from Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s emergence as a gubernatorial hopeful back in 2007, there emerged an implacable opposition to his aspiration.
While most political traducers hardly ever present their differences on ethnic terms, when, however, drawn into confidence, the ethnic bile they come up with is most profound.
Additionally, their grievances are seldom constructive, be it in presentation, content or context, usually turning out to be unsubstantiated and contrived opinions on the scorecard of their political rivals.
Prejudice, for all its irritating haughtiness, would appear to be often mocked by what it once scoffed at. I have met critics of the Asaba Airport waiting to take flights at its terminal building.
I have encountered many who thrashed the construction of the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, DELSUTH, Oghara, receiving treatment at its state of the art consulting rooms, operation theaters and inpatient wards.
Indeed, it is my projection that upon its completion, the homes of numerous critics of the Independent Power Plant in Oghara, will be powered by electricity produced there.
For a while now, I have been attempting an interrogation of prejudice within the contexts of race, ethnicity, gender and class.
It has become my opinion, that it is always unreasonable to predicate any sort of animosity on grounds of such differentiation. Knowledge is power and when we take an objective interest in genetics, anthropology, philosophy, history, sociology, culture and linguistics, we inexorably arrive at the conclusion that our human differences are mostly superficial, contrived, and accidental.
Perhaps also, if we attempted to watch a bit less of Africa Magic or Supersport and tuned in to National Geographic and BBC Knowledge, we would come to the sentiment that the awesome variety which characterizes humanity is better celebrated in love, cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
If we tamed our addiction to social media and visited Wikipedia and Encarta more often, we probably wouldn’t be so eager to process our naturally derived differentiation into infernal grouses upon which to further balkanize what should be one big happy human family. If we learnt to see a brother in the stranger, we wouldn’t be so convinced we are the only ones entitled to get to the top or that someone from another tribe, who was equally created by God, is not qualified to be governor or president.
Where and when it has pleased God to create humanity into different, races, tribes and ethnicities, having an axe to grind with others for corresponding reasons, amounts to one indirectly telling God, He did not know what He was doing when He made us members of these different groups.
At a secular level, it is enough to invalidate ethnic bias on the ground that everyone, including the most irretrievably prejudiced, naturally feels very bad, if at the receiving end of ethnic or similar hatred, regardless of the lengths to which he or she may go to justify his own opposition to others on those same grounds.
While I am neither some Christian leader nor theologian, it is my suspicion that God is likely to become especially protective of someone particularly hated on unwarranted grounds. The fact that Uduaghan remains governor over certain persons, some of whom went so far as to rejoice upon rumours of his passing, may well be thus interpreted.
I am proudly Okpe, and if I died and came back to this world, I want to be an Urhobo man all over again.
Nevertheless, I would be very much inclined, at any appropriate gathering, to address Governor Uduaghan as ‘Oroghenevwerute’: ‘the one whom God takes care of’. After all, the Itsekiri man he is, happens to speak better Urhobo than the Urhobo man I am.
It is the nature of truth to remain the truth whether it is accepted or otherwise acknowledged. The truth is always worth fighting for, however strongly, falsehood may have become entrenched.
And it is the truth is that in Delta, there is too much ethnic hatred and politically engineered tribalism. It is a challenge we must all strive to meet headlong in service to our shared humanity.
While there will always be those who eternally reject reality, there will also be many who upon encountering the truth are inspired to key into its import.
At any rate, doing nothing would amount to capitulation to the machinations of those who thrive on sentiments to paint a hardworking man bad before his constituents, simply on account of his ethnic background.
*Onokpasa, a Public Affairs Commentator, wrote from Sapele, Delta State.