We are all guilty of tribalism BY Tochukwu Ezukanma

We are all guilty of tribalism BY Tochukwu Ezukanma


The ban on Igbo songs by a Catholic priest, James Anelu, at his parish church in Ikorodu, Lagos State irked the sensibilities of the Igbo and stoked the endless debate about ethnic relations in Nigeria; the place of the Igbo in Nigeria and the necessity (or lack of it) for Igbo secession from Nigeria.

The Igbo are yet to find psychological closure to the civil war because we refuse to heal from the psychological wounds of the war.

Consequently, such acts of tribalism that will normally, occasionally come to the fore in any heterogeneous society, like ours, severely bashes our still festering psychological wounds and provides invaluable resources for neo-Biafran propagandists.

The write up listing the fears of other Nigerians about the Igbo: afraid of Igbo songs, afraid of Igbo attire, afraid of Igbo president, afraid of Igbo breakaway, etc that has been circulating in the social media is cheap, tasteful propaganda. By my definition, propaganda is tendentious manipulation of information. That write-up is tendentious; its purpose is to inflame neo-Biafran passion among impressionable and undiscerning Igbo. This article is limited to only one of the fears listed in that gaudy propaganda piece: the fear of Igbo songs.

Tribalism, racism, sectionalism and other forms of discrimination are inescapable blemishes on life. Human beings are inherently discriminatory; discriminating along tribal (and sub-tribal), religious and socioeconomic lines. For reasons psychologists and other experts of human behaviour are yet to fully understand, we, naturally, gravitate towards people of our own kind and, more readily, affiliate and bond with them, sometimes, at the exclusion of others.

Long ago, as I walked through Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, beggars, on both sides of the walkway, besieged me for money; begging mostly in Yoruba and Pidgin English. I had already resolved not to give any of them any money. However, as I passed by this particular beggar, he said in Igbo: nna, biko nye nu m ego (Mr., please give me money). His statement touched my heart; it stirred my compassion. I just could not resist that particular appeal for money. Although I had already passed him, I turned around, went back a few steps to give him some money.

Like the people of Ahiara clearly demonstrated, people, do not like outsiders lording over them. We resent domination by outsiders. The dislike and, even, hatred for dominant foreigners is a universal phenomenon; a natural human tendency. More than any other group of Nigerians, the Igbo leave their home areas to live and work in other parts of Nigeria. And in these places of our sojourn, we succeed and acquire positions of influence and dominance. And, as people generally abhor control by outsiders, the Igbo, more than any other ethnic group of Nigerians, bear the greatest brunt of the resentment and, sometimes, hatred of successful, influential and, thus, “domineering” foreigners by the indigenous people in Nigeria.

Just, as the Yoruba in Lagos, sometimes, demonstrate by words and actions obvious uneasiness about preponderant Igbo presence and influence in Lagos and the Hausa do similar things in the North, the Igbo also have shown noticeable wariness about the overbearing influence of none Igbo in Igboland. So, the discrimination against the Igbo or the fear of our domination by the native peoples in other parts of Nigeria is not tantamount to a universal hatred for the Igbo or a resolve at our extermination. It is an exhibition of human traits and frailties that the Igbo are also guilty of.

What incensed the priest and elicited his ban on Igbo songs in his parish was the domination of the Igbo (with their songs) of the church praise and worship in Yorubaland. It is unlikely that parishioners in Onitsha or Aba will not take offence at the preponderance of Hausa/Fulani or Yoruba songs in praise and worship in their parishes. How they react to it—express their disapproval—will be a question of details. Although Lagos is much more cosmopolitan than these provincial outposts, ethnic sentiments within this sophisticated and broad-minded state can still periodically run high.

The priest erred, not because he is Igbo-phobia and dreads Igbo domination for we all have one phobia or another and dread one form of domination or another, but because he dramatised a lack of discretion and prudence that his office demanded.

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