While I was doing my NYSC, a young man at the place I was working aka PPA, advised me to not marry an Igbo man. His reason was because his sister got married to an Igbo man, despite the fact that their parents didn’t support it. And because she didn’t give birth to a male child, her in laws brought another wife from the village for their son, because they wouldn’t accept a non-Igbo daughter in law that couldn’t produce a male child. This is not an uncommon story for me. I’ve have had a lot of elderly people around me tell me to not marry an Igbo man for similar reasons, even though not all Igbo families are capable of doing such, but because their culture allows them to do it, and some of them do it, it has become a stereotype attached to the tribe. A stereotype born out of a single story of one non-Igbo woman’s experience, or maybe more than one non-Igbo woman’s experience, which has led to tribalism against Igbo people.
Although I’ll probably not listen to any of these advices from these people who only care about my future marriage, and still go ahead to marry an Igbo man, that does not make me any tribalist than I am, because they are tribes that I would rather not marry from. For example, a Hausa man who is a Muslim. Why? Because I have seen a lot of them marry more than one wife and marry underaged girls. Well is it okay that I am stereotyping Muslim Hausa men? Not exactly. Is it justifiable? Yes, because I am only trying to stay safe and protect myself from the things that the Hausa culture permits.
More often than not, when people talk about tribalism, they talk about it like it is one unjustifiable evil borne out of complete hate or jealousy, that can be automatically erased. The truth is, it cannot be automatically erased, because stereotype is the major reason for tribalism, and stereotype is usually true some times, but not always applicable to everyone. People often attach stereotypes to some tribes, sometimes without knowing: ‘Yoruba people are dirty’, ‘Igbo people are loud’ etc. All of these are stereotypes, just as ‘I can’t marry a Yoruba man because Yoruba men are…’ is also a stereotype. Also, these mindsets or quick judgement about a particular set of people is usually as a result of an experience that they have had with someone/people from that particular tribe, or what they have heard about that tribe from other people’s experience. So, is it not high time we look into the problem of Tribalism from a difficult angle? Is it not time that we focus on the actual problem, instead of simply judging and accusing people of being tribalistic?
Of course people are different, and they should therefore not be judged hastily based on the actions of those similar of those with a similar cultural background, we are people who hold our culture dear to us. We do things, sometimes wrong, and then justify it using our culture, some of us, although the society is evolving, still cling to the unhealthy and toxic parts of our tradition. If we would continue to do this, I don’t think people are at fault when they stereotype us, because they are only trying to stay safe and protect themselves. You do not expect me to want to marry an Hausa man after seeing a lot of Hausa men come out to defend child marriage, due to the fact that as a person, child marriage is against everything that I stand for.
If we are tired of being stereotyped or discriminated against based on culture, then it’s time we do away with the some of our traditions that are unhealthy. Dump all our the scary ways of life that make people to not want to associate with us, or to discriminate against us.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Tribalism is not only borne out of stereotypes that can be fixed, therefore people should endeavor to judge other based on their personalities, as opposed to their origin, character traits should not necessarily be attached to tribes, because it is completely unnecessary. Eradicating unhealthy traditions may not be the complete solution to tribalism, but it is definitely a good step towards eradicating it.
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