by Chimeka Garricks
Which of Nigeria’s over 250 tribes are you from?
Is it your tribe’s turn to produce the next Nigerian President (or First Lady)? If it is your tribe’s turn, will there be no more Nigeria if your people are denied? If it is not your tribe’s turn, isn’t it selfish for others to threaten the disintegration of Nigeria before your people have had a chance to gorge from the trough?
It is important for us to pause, reflect and fully appreciate the importance of having the President come from our respective tribes or regions. In Nigeria, because local governments are mainly figments of our imaginations, and perhaps the only constitutional role of state governors is to form forums and hold contentious elections among themselves, it is clear that without producing a President, no tribe or region can realistically expect to develop. For example, after producing the majority of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of State, ‘the invaders from Fouta Djallon’ a.k.a. the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy have transformed Northern Nigeria into the infrastructural paradise which it now is, where peace reigns because everyone is wealthy, educated, gainfully employed, and there is no infant mortality.
Similarly, the few years of Mr. Jonathan’s rule has ensured that every Ijaw village has constant electricity, clean and pollution-free water, and excellent roads: (and in 2015, after barrels of oil shall outvote everyone else and secure the Presidency for another 4 years, Ijaws shall also boast of flawless mobile phone service and free Wi-Fi). Still on the Niger Delta, I speak for my people when I say we are sick and tired of other Nigerians looting and mismanaging our oil money. We are quite capable of doing that all by ourselves (as can be confirmed by most of our elected public officers). Therefore, we shall continue to demand for our own nation or 100% control of our resources. If any of this happens, we guarantee that we will not oppress each other, the Urhobo and Itsekiri will always live in peace, the Ogoni and Okrika will never reopen old feuds, and the Ijaw won’t subdivide themselves into core-Ijaw, Epie-Atissa, Ogbia, Kalabari, and Nembe.
If your people are being marginalized (because it’s not yet their turn to produce the President,) perhaps they can make do with other positions as they bide their time. With progressive principles like zoning, federal character, and indigenization, Nigeria is now structured in ways that should allow everyone to get a piece of her (of course, some pieces must always be bigger than others). For instance, section 147 (3) of the Constitution guarantees that each of Nigeria’s 36 states must produce a federal minister (whether we need or can afford 36 ministers is irrelevant). Hopefully, the minister from your state is your kinsman, because that may be the last chance for your people to get that much needed road, or hospital, or school (I am assuming that your people’s needs are altruistic, not materialistic). Probably, your people have long given up hope of receiving these things from the honorable folk representing them in the national assembly (who, when they bothered, used the crumbs from their multi-million naira constituency project fund to buy motorcycles and JAMB forms for your people, and demand fawning gratitude in return).
Some people complain about nepotism, cronyism, tribalism, favoritism and other meaningless ‘isms’. They fail to understand that this is how Nigeria has always worked; it is the only way Nigeria was built to work. And it is only fair that we continue to blame the British for this, even in 2013, after over 50 years of self-rule.
First, the British created many of us with a fundamental flaw in our design – they omitted to give us the capacity to treat people who were not from our tribe with fairness, justice and empathy. Then they shoehorned different tribes into an artificial nation, played us poor hapless zombies against each other for fun, and eventually left us to our own devices. Small wonder the Nigerian picture is incomplete without tribal and sectional coloring. And we have turned it into a higher art form in almost everything including education (catchment areas, squabbles as to where Vice Chancellors must hail from, etc); religious leadership (the controversy surrounding the new Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, Mbaise); and even in our terrorism (Boko Haram – Kanuri, Anasaru – Hausa/Fulani). As they say, it would be scary if it wasn’t so funny.
Many of us believe that the only authentic identity for us is the tribe. Many also believe that the idea that things can and should be different is nothing more than a fantasy, and we must be realistic. But what does being realistic mean in Nigeria?
From experience, it seems to mean that we should continue with the mutual suspicion, the easy stereotyping, and the subjective perceptions of entitlement and marginalization – because that is our unchangeable reality and predestined fate. Perhaps it also means that we should continue to smugly accuse others of tribalism, because, God knows, it is always them, it is never us. Being realistic implies that the recent histories of countries like Rwanda, Kenya, and Liberia cannot teach us anything new: we already know everything simply because we are Nigerians, the smartest guys in the continent.
So, let us goad our ethnic court jesters to crank up the volume and entertain us with the war rhetoric – Nigeria is unbreakable, the Teflon Giant of Africa. We must also forget that we have gone down this road before. We must not remember the Civil War (it’s easier to do particularly if you’re not Igbo, and to a lesser extent, from the Niger Delta). We must forget the numerous ethnic battles and pogroms, the injustices and impunities, the blood and the tears. We should continue to use our history, not for apologies and reconciliation, but to tear off the scab of old wounds in never-ending debates and point scoring.
We must keep repeating our history – perhaps, that is what it means to be realistic.
As they say, it would be insane for us not to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
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