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.

“…because you are a woman”

By Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

From Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

I saw this post on Brandon Stanton’s Instagram page (if you don’t already follow him, I recommend you do), and it cemented a resolve I had made from childhood and an experience (shared farther down) relayed by a lady from work, let’s say, further carpeted this resolve: I refuse to live for a man, I refuse to aspire to marriage as a culmination of my life and when I do marry, I refuse to use it as a guise to adopt a grown man-child. I refuse to selflessly give without receiving as much in return.

I have watched many women throw away their dreams, toil in and out of the kitchen. I have heard my mum say, upon quitting her job to meet with the demands of my dad’s job so she could raise the kids and tend to domestic chores, “if my children are happy, I am happy”. Only to later watch her almost slip into depression. I have heard my aunty say “there is no rest for a woman” as she rushed from work to look after her hospitalised son. Sat by the hospital bed brow furrowed in worry, she asked if I had cooked anything for her husband to eat when he comes back from work. She also wanted to know if I dished it and put it in the microwave as “you know he won’t eat if his food hasn’t already been dished.”

In fact, I refuse to rejoice at the prospect of a man who will cook when his wife is sick or heavily pregnant, and I find it appalling that some still won’t (I’ll save you from the story of a man who waits expectantly for his pregnant wife to come back from work so he can usher her straight to the kitchen. Ladle in one hand, vomit bag in the other). There is a list of things I can tolerate and a man who thinks the kitchen is a woman’s only territory just doesn’t make the cut.

Let’s take a few steps back.To cook, you need;

  1. Hands (not a necessary tool. See this amazing chef )
  2. Ability to follow a recipe (from memory or a cook book)
  3. Ingredients (believe it or not: sold in the market to every gender)
  4. A functional kitchen

Now, looking at the above list you must see why I am lost with the “a woman should cook” mantra.

For those who are quick to throw the Proverbs 31 woman at arguments like this, let me remind you that the same book you’re quoting from also asked you to “love your woman as Christ loves the Church”. I’ll also remind you that this is a charge you can only aspire to, you can’t attain it. After all, Christ lived solely for and died for the church. So even after you’ve loved your wife so much so she looks at you alarmingly and says “baby you love me too much I can’t take any more love, not an ounce more!” You’d know you still haven’t done enough.

For those of you who are painstakingly obedient to tradition, irrespective of how irrelevant they become, let me remind you that women didn’t use to work and as partners (key word: partners),  it was only reasonable for them to do the house chores and cook for a tired husband who had gone out to earn a living.

Now, why would you wait for your wife A.K.A Magic Fingers to come back from work, presumably tired, to prepare you dinner? Let me guess, because you lose an inch every time you cook? Isn’t it caring if whoever got home first made sure the other person has something to eat?

So back to the grandmother from work. After a long day at work of running to and back from the kitchen trying to please sometimes fussy customers, she excused herself to go to McDonald before going home “because I am sure my husband is sat at home waiting for me to come cook him dinner after work.” With mouth aghast in shock, I asked;

“Really? You also think it’s unfair for women to cook all the time?”

“Of course! I did it when we had our kids at home, but now that they’ve moved out, I don’t any more.”

(something like that, I didn’t memorise the conversation)

You see this lady encouraged me as I sometimes panic that I’ll never find a man to marry, and wonder if I should just give in to a life of servitude. As a Caribbean lady in her late sixties, she grew up in an era and place where women predominantly embraced house chores. She went on to tell me how she sometimes feel she wasted her life caring for her first husband; cooking, cleaning, picking up after him and the kids and vowed not to do it with her second husband, advising me likewise.

Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, women are brought up to aspire to marriage. I realised that most women never loved it, I mean its tiring and boring, they only did it because it was expected of them and discussions like this wouldn’t have garnered any weight at the time. Growing up, I remember my mum backed up almost every chiding with “when you get married-” whenever I was negligent with house chores.

Now, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with cooking for or cleaning after someone you love, some women even love it.  My friend for instance says while she would want to do most of the chores, she won’t want a husband who requires it of her. Neither do I expect a chart that says who cooks on Wednesday or does the laundry on Friday, but surely as a responsible man you won’t watch your woman labour so much without helping. Even though she barely slept during the day looking after the baby, you won’t expect her to wake up at night when it starts crying.  A relative I know even asked his wife to stay in the guest room with the baby so they don’t keep him awake at night. How is this love?

There is nothing unmanly about cooking, after all most world class chefs are men. It’s also the height of ignorance when a man assumes that cleaning and cooking are intrinsic to women. Cooking is an essential  survival skill and everyone  who feels hunger pangs should learn how to.

Read: 5 Things my vagina doesn’t make me here by Doreen Akiyo Yomoah on the blog, MsAfropolitan.