By Patrick Dele Cole
From last week, the piece continues the argument that Africans who support or encourage tribalism have no moral right to rail against racism
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 realise 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 honor, 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 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 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, Borno and Bauchi which have no hope of adequate representation in the office of governor or in government. The same applies to Benue, Plateau and Nassarawa. What hope do the Ijaws in Ondo, Osun and Delta have of ever being governor?
It may be argued that attention to such detail maybe deleterious to unity because Delta, to some extent, have been able to accept rotation of governorship among three ethnic groups. Itsekiri, Urhobo, Igbo, judging from the governorship history of Delta. After Governor James Ibori, who is Urobo, came Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who is Itshekiri and now Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who is Igbo.
In Europe, Black people are constantly seen in the news media, in business and in government. Indeed, France in the fifties and sixties had Black ministers, notably Senghor and Houphouet boigny.
No Igbo man can be a Premier of the House of 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 political leader here. 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 sensitise tribal preferences and to stop them.
It is ironic that Blacks have progressed in the West, the Vice President of the 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 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 have harmed them; so why do they fear so much? Indeed, most harm comes from a man who is of the same religion and the same tribe. If a religious war occurs in Nigeria, there would be no end to it and there would be no Nigeria thereafter.
Unfortunately, this matter have 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 fellow, 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.