The slither and falsity of perception
“There goes the man who murdered your father.” The uncle told his nephew Onuche, but he failed to tell him why. Onuche didn’t ask. That seems to be the Nigerian way. We claim to be an evolving people but we don’t ask why. And Onuche in turn grew up hating, the “murderer.” It is not out of place. It is human nature. Ojonugwa was with his daughter Ele-Ojo when Onuche walked past. “There goes the son of the man who laid ambush on me and brutally attacked me with a cutlass over my ancestral land which he claimed as his. I killed him in self defence.”
Social Anthropologists say there is nothing like historical fact because history can be re-written and are always doctored by raconteurs. Two people never relate the same recollections of the event they witnessed. They give different versions to the same events. Most men have ulterior motives for the things they do. They wear satanic rictus and we must be careful not to fall for the wiles of Satan. The average Southern Nigerian thinks he is better educated, more sociable and wiser than the ‘backward’ northerner. It amazes me. Especially, when it comes from people who lack capacity and are dependent on the state for almost everything.
It amazes me when these so-called educated southerners find it hard to distinguish between the corporate social responsibilities of companies and duties of state. These educated people picket companies for their failure to provide this and that to their communities. How are they to know that CSR complements government efforts. It doesn’t take the place of government.
The other day, someone in his 40s who claimed to know Nigeria and world history asked what apartheid meant and another asked who Jews were. These aren’t northerners but southerners who say they are better educated. They were lucky not to have asked these questions in the midst of secondary-school children. Some southerners didn’t find it incongruent to invite Ali Modu Sheriff and made him the chairman of a political party. He is from a backward region after all and can be tamed to do their bidding. They must have assumed. He proved not to be and now that he is a pain in their necks, they want to unmake him.
During the last general elections my friend from the south gave me reasons why the incumbent president would win the election but he didn’t vote. Not the backward northerner. They all trooped to the north to vote. They have transistor radios and listen to international/local news. They are so politically-conscious but my southern friends rely on the recycled opinions of others to make political judgments. Many know next to nothing about politics other than being Denizens serving people with Molotov Cocktails.
Up north they have been taught to believe they are special breeds. Breeds like these don’t have outsiders superintend them. Outsiders must not have a foothold on affairs of state. They must be made aware of their outsider status. Even when we all pretend to be Nigerians. It is commendable though that Sokoto State employs indigenes of other states in her civil service (I wish other states would do so as well). They offer outsiders employment on a contract basis, renewable from time to time. I was born in Sokoto and so if I were to work for that state all of my life then I would not be entitled to a pension as an outsider.
How would these “Tribalists” react to say 30/40 different nationalities being thrown into the mix? I guess multiculturalism wouldn’t go down very well in Nigeria. I hear HAMAS is re-branding by reaching out to FATAH both of which want to work with the Egyptian government to seek a political solution to the
Palestinian crisis. Does this make sense to us at all?
My good friend from Eastern Nigeria loves to remind me that he is a Jew and that they are ingenuous. The problem is that he expects me to blindly accept his premise without breaking down each rationale. So I ask him, “how can a Jew be a Catholic?” “Your mother is a Lady of the Catholic Church and your father is a Knight of same church.” “Is your mother a Jew?” “Do you not know that Judaism is a tradition, religion and not nationality.” “Why claim Jewishness on the basis of nationality?”
“If you use nationality as a bench-mark, then please know that there are five district races on earth, Caucosoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, Malayan. Now which is the last? I can’t remember. Man must not live only for research. So how can a negroid claim Jewish nationality? If you are not born a Jew, your mother is not a Jew, you can only be one by conversion not by genealogy.
And so he said Igala land is part of the separatist movement wanting a separate sovereignty. I asked him how much history he knows. While Igala land was a famous Kingdom before colonialisation just like the Oyo and Kanem-Bornu Empires, Sokoto Caliphate and Benin Kingdom, his was neither of these and never conquered any land. The Igala Kingdom signed a treaty with the British two score years before Lagos in 1841.
Can we also not dwell on ingenuity? Survivalism away from the land of birth is different from ingenuity. Discourse for another day.
The minority question is one that hasn’t been well managed. It is made worse by the minorities themselves. Unlike Jewish Americans and Asian Americans who have built a culture of excellence, are highly educated, have stable families and always negotiate from a position of strength, the minorities in Nigeria have left their fate in the hands of the majorities without negotiating from the power of strength.
To reinforce this: how many notable minorities do you know that have made inroads in industry and other spheres of life competing with the majorities? We must like act pyromaniacs blowing oil pipelines, right? Always stoking persecution complex right?
The differences in perception in Nigeria are caused by failures in communication. I wonder what work our TV houses do other than showing religious programmes. There are no programmes on the building of bridges to the future and not to the past. Programmes to counter lies being told in all regions. The differences are jaundiced further by a curriculum in school which focuses on cramming and not solving problems.
Nigerians ludicrously receive and interpret messages with bias. We assume that our point of view is superior to that of any other person. It is our oil I am told.
Mention is never made of cocoa money and groundnut money which were used to prosecute a war that won for some people an identity which they take for granted. We may well be within our rights to view people and things differently. Isn’t it also probable that we could be wrong?
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.