An old acquaintance told me recently that in Rwanda, ethnicity at its core had been outlawed few years ago to ensure that every citizen of Rwanda is referred to as a Rwandan first, not Tsuti, Hutu or Twa. The genocide of Rwanda is now in the list of worst crimes committed against humanity; it was a lethal result of high levels of tribal ethnocentrism as it were. Thankfully, many reports say Rwanda is now one of the safest environments in Africa which begs the question: If they had the capacity to be this peaceful and united why did the genocide take place? But sometimes, we are better by our experiences and at other times, we learn by the experiences of other people. For Nigeria, we have learnt from both.
The Civil war that began in 1967 which was an aftermath of the military coups, had tribal sentiments at the core of its escalation and even if I am very thankful that the Biafran secession did not come through, the great number of lives that were lost is a painful tale in history and I deeply hope that all the families affected find healing; that our country finds healing! I hope and pray that there would never be a recurrence of that incident.
These instances are a few of relatable events that come about because of our inability to see ourselves as human beings first, and as the great citizens of a great nation, before we identify with our different languages, religion, ideologies, values, personalities and interests. The highest number of killings in many parts of our country stem from our differences in religion, ethnicity and interests.
I once came across a quote by Professor Juan Elegido, of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos which explains that our sameness as humans in that our dignity is equal, is greater than any of our differences; in wealth, status, tribe, religion… and priority must be placed on the former. We all are human beings; No one has a greater dignity than the other and we must be identified and treated as such in our dealings with one another in every place. In my own thoughts, I have come to understand the need to evaluate people in light of their values and character first before any seeming ‘difference’ as the case may seem.
Our Constitution has the articles that provide for the freedom of all citizens and for a very healthy balance, also, provides and checks the limitation of each person’s freedom to the limit that it may affect the peace, law and order of Nigeria. The Sowore case is a case in point. I just think this case should be settled once and for all instead of dragging and keeping him for longer than it is lawful or necessary.
In our different spheres, protection of our heritage as a nation is also breaking the barriers that parents and families have built in the prevention of inter-tribal marriages. We all are one. Let love reign supreme. Engaging people in gainful employment or helping people should not be based primarily on the fact that they are your tribal or religious ‘ brother’ or ‘sister’but by the skills and suitability for the roles, your abilities and by the goodness of your heart; we all are one.
I appreciate the inclusion of foreign expatriates or consultants in our operational and construction systems because it helps boost our relationships with the outside world and because of their many successful projects’ history, it must not be at the expense of great local and indigeneous minds who can equally get the job done if not even better.
I speak to all of us; myself too because I know that someday in the future, it would be the turn of this generation to lead Nigeria at various levels and it would be amazing to see that we all are creators, sustainers and partakers of the Nigerian dream.
God bless Nigeria!
By: Oludara Ogunbowale