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?


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