The change begins at home: How Nigerian youth can build compassion through understanding Nigeria’s tribal and ethnic history
We have all heard it before, something like, “Oh those Yorubas are so loud. Those Igbos, all they care about is money, they can kill for it. And those Hausas? They are so untidy! And let us not forget about those Edo women, they are all witches. You better not marry one!” Many of these opinions are deeply rooted in what we know today as tribalism. I asked myself a question a few weeks ago, how can we be fighting against racism abroad, when we cannot show compassion towards people that belong to different tribes at home?
To encourage compassion and inter-tribal relationships, first we must understand Nigeria’s tribal and ethnic history is a good place to start. Before we can be compassionate, we must understand the history of Nigeria.
Understanding History- Nigeria the Jigsaw state:
During the time of the European occupation, also known as the scramble for Africa, Nigeria was known as the ‘jigsaw’ state. Jigsaw refers to a massive puzzle piece grouped by European colonialists that Britain would eventually occupy. Herein, the British mandated the national language as English in a geographical area that was vastly multi-lingual, and ethnically diverse.There was no real regard to the variety of ethnic groups when the nation of Nigeria was formed. It was a fusion of different cultures and customs that had never been grouped before this time. So, by the time Nigeria was made an independent state, the country’s leaders had to work on bringing together different cultures that had to give up their individual uniqueness to agree on one constitution. For this reason, since its independence, scholars have argued that Nigeria has had problems of identity.
The make-up of our nation was not our choice, yet we had to accept our fate. Yet, I think we are far from having problems with our identity. Instead, I believe that our identity is rooted in the fact that we are a culturally diverse nation and we celebrate that. Nigeria is one of the most ethnically diverse nations, not just in Africa but in the world. According to Wikipedia, over 500 languages are spoken and over 250 ethnic groups exist here. This is exactly why I believe that the youth of a culturally diverse nation can learn to love other’s differences here, we can learn to love others anywhere in the world.
It is achievable for Nigerian youth to become pioneers and trailblazers within the #BlackLikvesMatter Movement.
How to have a voice in a diverse nation
When we understand that we each have a voice, we realise that our voice is only truly valuable when it speaks from a place of love, compassion and understanding towards others. Our voice becomes lonely ,unconstructive and isolated when it spews out hatred and selfishness. Why not amplify our voices by speaking towards oneness, harmony, positive change and accessibility for all.
Politics is not a game, it’s an act. An act of understanding and agreeing on what works best for a nation, based on its history or past experiences. It is also an act of compassion and empathy in doing what is truly the best and good for all. Not just for a small minority group, but for All.
So, if you’re reading this, I hope this written piece helped you to think about politics, your voice and the #BlackLivesMatter movement differently. I hope it instilled in you the knowledge that if you truly want to have a voice in society, you must learn to be truly compassionate and empathetic to the lives and experiences of others; and this can easily be done by learning, accepting and appreciating everyone’s culture, ethnicities and tribes.
So, the next time you hear someone say, “Oh those Igbos, they just like money,” or “Oh those Hausas they are so untidy.”, or “Oh those Yorubas they are so loud’’, or “Those Edo women are all witches” even if you are not a member of that tribal group, correct and defend them! just as you would expect our non-black brothers and sisters to defend us around the world!
The change towards racial equality begins at home and we, Nigerians, can be pioneers of this change.
Written By Christina Oyinkansola
Edited By Philip Oke