(A Fashionable Restaurant and Bar in Lagos. As usual, Nigerians of different ethnic groups are present. They are having a discussion in between copious servings of Peppersoup, Amala, Isiewu, and other Nigerian dishes, and of course lots of beer)
(Yoruba man): I just broke up with my girl. She is Igbo, and so, I cannot date her any longer or marry her. Igbo women are ridiculously expensive and high maintenance. They are too materialistic and stubborn. Besides when you eventually marry her, you are also marrying her entire family! For what? It is not like there is anything special about them!
(Igbo woman): Shut up! Who the hell are you? This is why I won’t even consider marrying a Yoruba man. Yoruba men are notoriously unfaithful in relationships. They can cheat on their wives with their wives’ sisters. They leave the entire job of running a family to their wives because they are like cowardly little boys who never want to grow up or accept responsibilities!
(Yoruba woman): Go to hell! See how you are flapping your gums here? May Sango bend that your neck for you! How about your Igbo men—are they any better? Igbo men are uneducated market touts; unsophisticated greedy traders. They are too bossy; too controlling and unromantic. Why would any woman want to date or marry a caveman? That is why whenever they think their girlfriends or wives are doing better than they are financially, they go insane and KILL them. Abegi jare!
(Igbo man): May Amadioha dislocate your jaw there, you ugly woman. You have the mouth to come here and rain insults on Igbo men. What about you Yoruba women? The truth is that Yoruba women have poor personal hygiene. Yes I said it—you Yoruba women are dirty compared to the rest of Nigerian women. Besides, you are rude, loud and uncultured market-women. No wonder your Yoruba men are always running after Igbo women. It is not uncommon to see a Yoruba man being chased around by his crazy pestle-wielding Yoruba girlfriend or wife. Your cooking is horrible—you are just like bush women. Go and tame your men—those little player wannabes! But maybe this is futile. Look around Lagos. All these Sisi Eko prostitutes you see around are Yoruba women.
(Edo man): Haba, why are you Igbo and Yoruba people always at each other’s throats all the time? You Igbo and Yoruba people are the two biggest tribalists we have in Nigeria. The day the two of you will learn to get along in Nigeria, maybe the better Nigeria will become. Anyway, I am an Edo/Bini guy. We are the best. We are smooth, rugged and handsome. And Igbo and Yoruba women like us.
(Efik man): You Bini guys are irresponsible serial cheats. You Edo people are just juju-minded irresponsible cowards, and your women are a dime-a-dozen sluts in Europe! Comot for here abegi!
(Edo woman): Come Akpan, so you get liver to talk abi? Why would anyone want to date or marry an Efik woman anyway? They are good for nothing except to be housemaids. And even at that, they are terrible housemaids because they always want to open their legs for the Oga. Are all Efik women bred by their mamas to be little whores? As for you dog-eating Efik men, what else can I say other than that you guys talk funny and you never amount to anything more than blue collar workers and apprentices?
(Hausa man): Wallahi, I am keeping out of this discussion.
(Everyone laughing): If you like don’t keep out now. It doesn’t mean that no one will talk about you backwards Northerners.”
(Ijaw woman): Mallam, is it true that you Hausa men have long gbolas because you people are not usually circumcised? I am just curious.
(Hausa man): Shege, if you want to know, come and find out.
(Itsekiri man): Baba eleran, why you dey vex? I hope this crazy man no go dagger us here o. You know how emotionally unstable and violent Hausa people generally are. Now, why would anyone want to date or marry a Hausa man?
(Idoma woman): You will have to ask a Hausa female to get that answer because Hausa men rarely marry non-hausa or non-muslims. And when I say “Hausa female”, I mean little 11 or 12 year old Hausa girls because as we all know, our friends to the Core north are like little pedophilic deviants drawn to the tender undeveloped bodies of barely teenage girls.
(Urhobo man): Woman, abeg let us talk about the over-18 Hausa girls. I don’t like this ugly visual of an uncircumcized Hausa man with a very long joystick ravaging an 11 year old girl. Don’t make me throw up into my fufu and egusi soup. I think I like Hausa women—they are nice, gentle, loving, conservative, chaste and will not cheat on you. It helps that many of them did not go to school.
(Tiv man): Urhobo wayo! Chai—forget that thing. We middle-belters know and understand the Hausa people more than you Southerners. I have messed with many Hausa women before now. Forget the veils and the scarves—hausa women are very freaky. Behind all that modest and conservative apparel are crazy sexual tigresses. They are just very good pretenders. In public they act like angels, but when you get to know them better, you will find out they are scheming, cruel witches. They deserve their barbarian men I swear. I call them ‘slow poison’.
(Hausa man): Mutum banza, banza barawo, Shege! Allah punish you idiots! Why are you people so hateful of Hausa people? See all the yeye things you are saying about us. I no blame una. Na ignorance and bigotry dey worry una. Madam, give me my bill make I comot here!
(Everyone starts talking at once; some rebuking the Hausa man, others are laughing hysterically. The exchanges continue…)
As you can see from the exchanges above, many Nigerians harbor deep and often negative stereotypes of each other based on ethnicity. In many cases, these prejudices even color the way a Nigerian of one ethnic group might interact with a Nigerian of another ethnic group. It is not surprising to hear about prospective marriages that were annulled because the parents of one of the couple refused to have any extended or family dealings with their son’s or daughter’s love or marriage interest simply because said love/marriage interest hails from a different ethnic group. The same blinkered mindset shapes the choice of partners in business dealings, political affiliation, friendship or social circle etc. This ethnocentrism—sad, ignorant and regrettable—is a cancer that has eaten deep into the hearts and minds of many Nigerians.
Even sadder is the fact that the younger generation has absorbed the xenophobic inclinations of their elders. In a time like this when technology, travel, education and exposure are reputedly breaking boundaries between formerly separated peoples and making nonsense of tightly-held tribal prejudices, it is rather painful to find many members of the younger generation afflicted with these unflattering misgivings about Nigerians of an ethnic group different from theirs.
I have noticed that when you try to talk to many of these latently xenophobic Nigerians, they’ll quickly deny any tribalism on their part. As a matter of fact, if you allow such a person to explain why he or she feels such reprehensible ill-will about others, you will often discover that a great number of such persons have no immediate or direct personal anecdote to draw from. You will be usually regaled with the stories or suspicions passed down to them from their friends or elders. In some cases, you may have some who might have had a genuine negative experience at the hands of a few members of the targeted ethnic group. But what sense does it make to use the unfavorable impression created by one or a few members of one ethnic group to negatively tar the rest? These unfortunate generalizations reflect poorly on those who employ them because it marks such people out as being too fatuous to understand the wide ranging complexities of human nature and behavior.
For example, by the most conservative estimate possible, there are more than 20 million Yoruba people in the world. The same can be said about the Igbo and the Hausa. If there are respectively more than 20 million of each, you can already see that by European standards, each of these ethnic groups is more than qualified, by a strict game of numbers, to be regarded not as mere tribes (as one might simplistically reference some forlorn primitive hunter-gatherer society in some remote corner of Africa) but properly as individual nations. If that be the case, how can one harbor such uncharitable generalized assessments of the members of another ethnic group when in reality one has never even met and interacted extensively with as little as 1% of that ethnic group? And if one were to stick to such persuasions, contrary to logic and basic decency, how can such a person stand excused of accusations of ethnic bigotry or tribalism?
Why then do people continue to prevent or at least discourage their friends and relatives from dating and marrying people of other ethnic groups? Would it not be better if people hearkened to the wisdom inherent in judging other people individually according to the content of their character and not as one might have originally suspected based on nothing but ethnic origins?
The year is almost over folks, isn’t it? It is that time of the year again in the Igbo corner of the country called Nigeria when people do their best to get their finances in order; yes for the great Christmas holiday season. The end of the year period is a time when most Igbo people from far-flung places troop back to their ancestral villages and towns to be with their loved ones, family and extended relatives. It is a time of great festivity; of marrying and giving to marriage; of insane partying, wining and dining with kith and kin; of showing off to others how one has been successful in one’s undertakings in those distant places from which one made the long journey home. Usually, Igbo people would start this yearly migration around the 20th of December and remain in their ancestral lands until the end of the first week of the New Year.
Afterwards, many people would return again to the cities where they lived and worked in for the rest of the year—after having made great resolutions for the year. Therefore, it is not surprising that to keep up with the Joneses, terrible crimes are committed around this time of the year as some people undertake desperate things to make enough money for the annual end of year jamboree in Nigeria’s southeast. This is usually the time that one hears of terrible robberies or terrible news of people participating in one money-making ritual or the other.
In recent times however, the Southeastern part of Nigeria (Igbo land) has been gripped by a bigger fear; there is an even bigger, more present and scarier problem. This is the menace of kidnappers. This is a scourge that is not limited to the seasonal end of year spike in violence—this problem seems to be an ongoing one.
“So what is this kidnapping business?” someone might be tempted to ask.
The stories are legion. You have heard many of them—as have I. You might have even read some of these horror stories or seen TV clips focused on this issue
There is general sense of insecurity and fear in Igbo land because of a number of factors some of which include the paucity of effective police deterrent to crime; an appalling lack of a sense of duty on the part of the local police; a benighted dismantling by state governments of previous vigilante groups which protected local communities from the scourge of robbers and assassins; general unease and suspicion by members of a terrorized community of other members of the community; and finally, a poor and ineffective means of coordinating efforts designed at confronting the issue by members of a targeted or traumatized community. The end result is that desperate and cruel kidnapper gangs have arisen in many parts of the Igbo southeast.
They started out by targeting the rich. For instance, a rich person or his /her relative, spouse or children could be kidnapped. The kidnappers would then call the rich person on the phone and try to negotiate the release of the kidnapped by threatening to inflict bodily harm or murder unless the rich person brings a whopping sum of money to some secret place where the swap would take place. If all goes well, the kidnapped relatives of the rich would live to see another day. If the rich person refuses to comply, then these kidnappers would escalate their actions by murdering the rich man’s kidnapped relative and kidnapping an even more important and closer relation of that rich person. This vicious spate of extra-judicial kidnapper killings could go on for a long time until the rich person eventually succumbs to pressure and goes on with the extortion scheme.