The “Them and Us” Syndrome; Fear of the Other

 

 It seems the world revolves and strives on the fuel of segregation and division; the habitual seeking of a reason to segregate and something or someone to sink our teeth into.

If we are the same colour, we have to emphasise on the difference in our gender, and if we are of the same gender, then we need to remind ourselves of the difference in our colour or culture or ideology and religion. 

I was still reeling with shock from watching Nigeria sink into a new low in the recent elections; the blatant use of religion and tribe to garner support by state officials, both learned and illiterate, the verbal hurl of tribal stereotypes on social media by citizens without. 

South Africans, however, topped that. The Zulu king even exceeded the Yoruba King in the shameful game of acrimony and his target yet again were foreigners. 

His words like the blowing of a whistle, the uncapping of a furiously steaming pot already threatening to overpour set the South African “natives” in motion, and the bludgeoning, stabbing, burning and abuse of “foreigners” commenced. Never mind that they are humans.

Foreigners are always an easy target. In order to make inexcusable actions against them seem logical and warranted, reasons as to why they deserve to be punished are fabricated. 

The first word often saddled with “immigrant” is “illegal”. It’s therefore rationalised that since they entered the country illegally, they deserve what they get. Or they are blamed for personal ineptitude. A well known example is the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative. 

The media then jumps on this wave with sensationalist news, politicians seeking votes also tag along and the “natives” cry murder; Bloody foreigners! Nasty immigrants! 

It’s a well known story.

Nonetheless,  it is ironical that South Africa, a country well known for its struggle against segregation and apartheid, a country with a history of oppression and pain will mete out the same treatment. 

The Zulu king acknowledged the part other African countries played in bringing an end to apartheid “…the fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals”, but of course it isn’t enough reason to be accommodating. 

He went on to say “I know you were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries.” The scroungers were setting up businesses, earning a living and contributing to the economy. How unacceptable!

The truth is no country can survive in isolation, and the terms “foreigner”, “immigrant”, “native”, “indigene” are merely amorphous  words that change with context and time.  

How ever we move on from here, this act of xenophobia is a scar that will forever marr South Africa. It will be told and retold.

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Tribalism; the Fuel of Election campaigns in Nigeria

The Nigerian 2015 elections have come and gone, but that we cannot deny that it left a trail of necessary discussions and uncovering in its wake. A predominant one being, the prevalence of tribalism in the country.

Having grown up in Nigeria, I studied with and befriended people of different tribes, shared a neighbourhood with them and even saw countless of inter tribal marriages. Moving to the UK, I have seen even more diversity and engaged myself in racial debates, it was impossible not to.

I was therefore gob smacked to see the consistency and outright use of tribalism as a tool in the 2015 elections and campaign. The sheer disregard for political correctness even more more so amongst learned state officials.

In retrospect, I realize it shouldn’t mount to so much surprise. I remember registering surprise as a kid, when I saw inter tribal couples. I recall thinking “how unusual” or “it must really be love”. I remember being teased by my friends when I was with my first boyfriend, an Igbo. I remembered smug comments laced with derision after watching a Nollywood film portraying Igbo culture.

However, I was surprised with how justified politicians felt in using tribes and religion as a means to garner support.  Discussions on social  media ranged from Yorubas being called traitors, Hausas being called Boko Haram or terrorists to Igbos being labelled as desperate criminals. Some Igbos in all boldness took up the term Biafrans. It seemed the nation was again on the verge of a civil war.

People were justifying their votes with phrases like “he is a Christian” “why do Hausas think they are born to rule.” When an Igbo friend realised I was supporting the president elect General Buhari, a northerner, he asked “a Boko Haram?” and I was so befuddled I didn’t even know where to start with my comeback.

To remind him that these same people are the ones suffering from the terror of Boko Haram? Or that owing to the failure of the government to protect them, these same people, risking their lives, have bravely set up vigilante groups to protect themselves with makeshift weapons?

Having lived in a city known for its diversity, having participated in debates against racisms, having seen people from almost every race claim to be British. I am greatly ashamed that a country of people with similar phenotype and culture can so easily be divided along tribal and religious lines.

Now, I could propose that Hausas have found themselves governing the country more than any other group because of their significant population. I could also reason that the presidential seat shouldn’t be rotated along tribal lines, and so If an Igbo/Hausa or Yoruba candidate fits the bill 20 consecutive times, he has every right to be elected.

I could propose all these, but who will listen? Wouldn’t that just make me a traitorous Yoruba in the eyes of those fully sold to stereotypes? After all people tend to doggedly follow beliefs that makes them more comfortable. And if we are to address this problems woudn’t we be doing a great injustice by forgetting the other 300 plus tribes that makes up Nigeria?