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?

The Birth of a New Nigeria

2015 Election, Nigeria

2015 Election, Nigeria11082425_10205050468560465_7420701953760957151_o

For the first time in the history of Nigeria, since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria’s ruling and incumbent party PDP experienced its first fierce competition and subsequent power shift. General Buhari of the opposition party APC, following the two days collation of votes has today been declared the winner of the 2015 Presidential Election by INEC.

This elections trumps many in the history of the country, as it bears a significant meaning to Nigeria and even Africa in general. It has succeeded in proving that the people’s vote can count and Nigerians have not given up on their civic duties, as might be expected considering the country’s track record for immense corruption, and the nature of previous elections where there have been clear evidence of rigging.

General Buhari, a military man known for his iron fist and severe clamp down on corruption, represented the promise of a new beginning to the people. He stood as the answer to Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group that had claimed lives and dislodged millions in the north part of Nigeria, as well the hope of justice for those responsibly in the misappropriation of funds under the last regime.

Nigerians in the months leading to election resiliently chanted the word Change and on the d-day, 28 of March, went out to put their votes where their  mouth is. Defying rain, sunshine and even threats from the insurgency, Boko Haram. Nigerians trooped out to decide the fate of their nation under the full glare of the World, overcoming the challenges raised by the new voting system of card readers and  PVCs  to exercise their civic duties.

Though the elites, who conveniently have their family outside the country, tried to sow discord along tribal and religious lines with the threat of a civil war looming, Nigerians stood in unity, respecting difference in opinions.

A clear message has been sent by the outcome of the election;  as Nigerians we will not be scared by threats of violence from a terrorist group or the few elites that are bent on appropriating the wealth of the nation for their personal gain. We will not be lethargic in our fight for transparency and accountability. We as Nigerians reserve the right to vote out leaders who have failed to deliver the mandates of the people. The power belongs to the masses not the leaders and we will not be divided along tribal or religious lines. We stand in Unity!

And as Chief Obafemi Awolowo predicted, “a day will come when Nigerians from the North and South, Christians and Muslims and Animists will merge as a force for progress and unity, and kick against rigging and corruption and tyranny”. that day came and it was today.

Nigeria made history and the people celebrate.