Aaaargggh! Yoruba Gang Busted, Really?

Thumbs up for Paul Adujie’s spearmint analysis of the state of our tribal jingoism. His inflamingly-titled piece, “Yoruba Gang Busted?” published on NVS on Monday 18 May 2009 is cool, fresh and flavourful, just like a spearmint. The relevance of the piece is timely. The same could not be said of the inflaming title which bears no relevance to the engagingly and enragingly provocative thought solidly calibrated in the story. At the pedestrian level, the article in question achieved its immediate aim- get the tribal jugular of NVS readers/commentators and watch as they spill embittered tribal bile on the square. On the intellectual level, the title is artful, annoying, provoking and a touch alarmist. Why not Nigerian Gang Busted? Why the shallow desire to have a journalistic rush from Igbo readers?

If we could hold a ‘tribo-barometer’ to the heart of an average Nigerian, old or new generation, we all suffer from tribalinitis- a disabling mental condition which glorifies ones clan above others. Hence, the central tone of the piece is a clarion call to expedite action on dredging the poison of tribalism that had infected virtually all Nigerians. The writer agreed that tribalism is a suckling, primitive and nasty bruiser that had destroyed and polarised us as people.

Adujie’s one Nigeria is, if I must confess, like asking for a Utopia in a Nigeria of rigid and distinct tribal arrangement. It is a dismal dream. Why? We all benefit from tribalism one way or the other. Look at the structure of our Military, Police, Naval, Ministerial appointments, ambassadorial postings and scholarship reciepients. What is visible is not merit but balancing of tribal scale in a shameful homage to antiquated national character. Even look at the structure of any privately run enterprise in Nigeria, it is all a banal, tribal arrangement. This is fuelled by a silly and facile notion that it is safe and commonsensical to surround yourself with your people than outsiders, even though outsiders may be more qualified, dedicated and loyal. To quote Paul Adujie, “An observation that I have made, after studying many commentaries by Nigerians in various Nigeria related internet websites is that, Nigerians of various ethnic and language groups put their loyalty and devotion to their ethnic or language group, ahead, over and above, Nigeria’s national interests. It is such that, these Nigerians… more correctly, these ethnic champions and tribal bigots, would engage others monumental debates in prodigious and rigorous defence of their ethnic or tribal domain”.

Adujie’s observation is spot on, but hilariously nauseating to find such sentiment among supposedly enlightened intellectual community. For instance, a justifiable, scathing remark on Igbo personalities by a Yoruba writer becomes a literary duel between the writer and defenders of the Eastern clan. Such erring writer is showered down with clannish ranting which goes to confirm that we are all hopeless, closet tribal merchants. We are all still irritated when a despised or hated tribe step on our oversensitive toes.

This tribal animus finds a kind of paganistic self-fulfilment among the Yoruba and Igbo. The celebrated cases of Rotimi/ Madueke and Aluko/Ugwuonye showed that we are still being sapped by relational disharmony which feeds largely on our collective stupidity.

For example, the story of Awolowo’s demonization in the pantheon of Nigerian politics, especially among the Igbo, could only give this pointer: that our educated elites are still victims of irrational ignorance. Awo’s unforgivable charge sheet was this: at a stage in the rotten history of our civil war, he came up with a demonic policy of starvation as a legitimate weapon of war. Even in death, his soul has not been able to receive liberating forgiveness till today among the Igbo. No wonder, Professor Chinua Achebe published a scathing attack on Awo for his role in the history of Nigeria, thus attempting to obliterate the achievements of the Yoruba hero. Achebe insisted that Awo was not ‘a great national leader’, and went further to describe the decision of the Federal Government to accord the status of a head of state to him in death as ‘no less than a national swindle’.

He further described the effusive praises showered on Awo as a ’clowning circus and expensive hocus- pocus’ of which ‘serious minded Nigerians are highly critical or contemptuous’. Achebe was accused of bigotry or deep-seated animosity against anything connected to the Yoruba people. Even when Soyinka, ‘the genius of a Yoruba man’ won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Achebe sulked by stating that ‘a European prize does not make anyone the Asiwaju (leader) of Nigerian literature.’

Moving on, Adujie would by now be thrown into forlorn astonishment over the unintended consequence of his magic piece. The rallying cry for unity espoused has been rejected for personal self-flagellation. Paranoid and self-hating commentators who see all as hating the Igbo must have enjoyed a feeding frenzy. Out of the abundance of the heart, the keyboard speaks!!! Adujie’s piece has now offered a challenge and also placed a soul searching demand on us to remove the tragic tribalism emblem still being worn by us all. His sobering, trenchant and pleading narrative should not be lost on stubborn, tribal die hard. Brick by brick we have to take down the tribalism wall we all hide behind and erect a new generational structure of Nigeriannes as opposed to clannish bigotry.

Igbo should have no private axe to grind against the Yoruba and the Yoruba no private axe to grind against the Igbo. This is the time to promote a muscular form of patriotism, harmonious renaissance and brotherly love while rejecting the weakened straw of tribalism which exposes our naivety and vulnerability as people and as a nation. The die is cast. We all have to join the rescue mission to wrestle Nigeria from the hands of overeducated tribal overlords who have mulcted us from the dawn of our independent nationhood until the present day. Now, eternal rock of ages, let me hide in thee as a storm shelter from inevitable tribal grenades.