AM I IKWERRE? AM I IGBO?

Written by   on   May 17, 2017 / 23 Comments

AM I IKWERRE? AM I IGBO?

Daily, I get to introduce myself to at least two or more persons. I do so in a simple 5 worded sentence: “my name is Chizzy Odilinye”. The follow up question is usually “are you Igbo or Ikwerre?”, and depending on which is being asked, I can almost decipher the tribe of the person asking.

In Port Harcourt, saying “I am Ikwerre” will usually be welcome with a warm smile and an “Nda” (how are you?), but if I were in the coal city [Enugu], it will be responded with “I thought you people claim you are not Igbos”, and the underlying and unspoken statement being made through this is “what are you doing in our land?” The same can be said of the Ikwerres’ too when the tables are turned. So I adopted a strategy; if after accessing you, I can decipher your origin (which is really difficult to do), I tell you where you are from instead of where I am from. By that, I am assured of acceptance.

What does this mean for me as a Nigerian nationalist? It shows the extent to which tribalism has been enshrined in our DNA. Your fate is almost dependent on your state of origin and ethnicity.

In 2015, I participated in a much publicized recruitment exercise for a new refinery. I had just resigned from my previous company and was thinking through available career options. The number of candidates was so much that we had to use Nigerian law school Lagos as venue, and still write the examination in batches.

The recruitment process was in four stages, and as part of the successful ones, each of the stages cost me 10,000 Naira spent on transportation. On getting to the last stage, we were given a form to fill indicating our tribe and states of origin. I was perplexed at such request. We were being recruited for the soon to be biggest refinery in Africa for Christ’s sake! What else would have mattered if not intellectual prowess and some soft skills? I quickly counted the number of chemical engineers in the last stage whose native state was Anambra, and the hope of possible recruitment slowly ebbed away.

Shortly after my NYSC, I went to Abuja, briefly with a slight hope of getting employed in either the Ministry of Petroleum or Science&tech. On getting to the Civil Service Commission, I was ushered to the high commissioner’s office covering Enugu and Imo states, where I was frankly told that our quota for such employment was already filled, and that, except I was from Zamfara or the likes, I didn’t stand a chance of being employed. This experience is all too familiar with several people in Nigeria. Need I say that all the forms I filled in Abuja had slots for ‘state of origin’ and ‘LGA of origin’?

In his book “Because I am involved”, Dim Ojuwku questioned why a national document should have columns for ‘state of origin’ and ‘LGA identification’. I agree with him on this, for all we need is our green passport.  

What does tribalism mean to millennials? A chunk of it I fear is the name calling on social media. It is either ‘Biafraud’ or ‘Afonjas’, ‘Yoruba demons’ or ‘Igbo ritualist’ amongst other social stereotypes.

However, tribalism is to me what stands in our way of economic dominance, true leadership and intellectualism. It diverts our focus from nationalism to fight for resource control. It forces me to cast my votes along ethnic and religious lines and if I do otherwise, I am considered a traitor by/to my entire tribe. It rubs millennials of their power to make a change because they would rather justify villains than let their kinsmen be punished for their crime. The cycle keeps repeating itself, preventing us from addressing real issues of accountability and transparency in government.

It appears that it is on this basis of tribalism that Goodluck Jonathan pardoned Diepreye Alamieyesigha of all charges levelled against him. In a similar feat, General Buhari may have as a similar result, in 2008, ‘absolved’ Abacha of any financial crime with the claims that Abacha never stole from the covers of the country.

Ending tribalism in Nigeria will be a very slow but steady stride if young people can have the same oneness of mind they had when they together voted Efe as the winner of the just concluded BBN. Though I never watched the show, I however followed the discus (thanks to FGGC Owerri old girls’ association) and saw how Nigerians all over Africa came together with almost undivided unity, for what they considered to be a common cause.

Young folks need to get indoctrinated in the Nigeria mantra with such strong sense of patriotism as can be observed in the USA. We need be to have an ownership mentality of the nation. The word ‘minority’ should be eschewed from our national discuss.

Frankly, questions pertaining to ‘State of origin, LGA or Home towns’ should not be included in official forms. If we claim to need the results from them for demographics, then, a visit to the National Population Commission can solve that, or rather, candidates can fill those forms anonymously.

If we must we must continue this steady stride towards true unity, Federal Character should not be celebrated. My famous example will always remain the cut off marks for the Unity colleges across the federation.

‘Much ado’ has been made in view of ethnocentrism and tribalism, with heightened religious and cultural differences and crises. And unlike the Shakespearen classic, this ‘ado’ is not about nothing.

So, the next time someone asks about my tribe/origin, I will simply answer “Nigerian”, for therein lays our unity.




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Comments (23)

May 28, 2017

Kevin Ezeoke

I took time in the death of the night to read with joy and patience your lengthy treatise wherein you amply demonstrated the twin malady that needs surgical operation and exorcism from our national life.I must state by way of adumbration and clarity that this twin demon that has infiltrated virtually all the facades of our national existence stemmed not only from the mistake of Luggard 1914 but also from the failure and willful institutiinalization by the successive government after the exodus of the colonial masters from our father land this monsters dubbed tribalism and favouritism in our national affairs. Again,it must be known that until the chapter 2 of our constitution which embodies the principle of federal character which at present is a mere cosmetics and paper tiger is raised to be at par with chapter4 which enshrined the inalienable rights of the citizens,sacredly and religiously enforced,the problems of our dear country will continue to rigmarole and remain unabated. I most humbly and passionately too share your views,regrets,worries and agitation while in the same breadth proffer the above solution to cure the anomalies which have for too long become a fashion. I also commend and salute your courage and revere your brilliant mind and facundity.keep fit My dear and may your pen never run dry in exposing and condemning in a strong terms the national ills which have lampooned our dear fatherland in the theater of comity of nations. Once again,Weldon my great and indefatigable friend and comrade! I will stop here to avoid the boredom of repetition of the accolades! Thank you and God bless.

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Aug 01, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

You are indeed a Lawyer.


May 22, 2017

HMC+

God bless you Richly IJ. Your voice must be heard....

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May 22, 2017

Kambi Ngwu

Well done Chizzy! Good to see that some people can put our thoughts and experiences in to such detailed writings. I do hope that we learn from it, even if we cannot effect the changes we wish now. It will indeed be terrible if we do the same when we have eventually reached those privileged positions.

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May 22, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

Thank you Kambi. I like the fact that you pointed out that we'll eventually reach leadership positions. We need to prepare ourselves for whenever opportunity will arise.


May 22, 2017

Nkem

Nice piece.... Tribalism a big problem, founded by the colonial masters.

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May 22, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

Did colonial masters define you as Igbo? or Ijaw?


May 21, 2017

Chinedu Francis

In Nigeria, so many factors not just tribe divides us.... Religion and political affiliations and parties is also a problem to be tackled. That's was an intelligent write up Chizzy....

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May 22, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

Esther, once you come to hospital, your religious inclination should not matter anymore. Chinedu, you were spot on. There are so many factors that divide us, but should tribe add to the number?

May 22, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

Michael, I understand you well. It's indeed a big problem in the East. It's always a tussle between Anglican and Catholic church. Down to who becomes VC of schools. God help us all

May 22, 2017

Anonymous

There is a relationship between religion and medicine because there are different beliefs system. Some do not take drugs ( like faith), some do not believe in blood transfusion and so on. I am sure that was the reason for him asking you.

May 22, 2017

Esther

There is a relationship between religion and medicine because there are different beliefs system. Some do not take drugs ( like faith), some do not believe in blood transfusion and so on. I am sure that was the reason for him asking you.

May 21, 2017

Michael

Not just religion, but Denominational affiliations.I was left wondering why a doctor wanted to know my denominational affiliation during a consultation, at Amaku General Hospital few years ago, while I was still in Awka. He was actually the second Doctor I saw on my second visit. The first time I visited, the Physician who I met didn't ask me such question. I have had very few encounters with Doctors, but none has ever asked me, if I was Catholic, Anglican or Pentecostal. That day the stories of Catholic Church being the Most recognized Christian Denomination, in the eastern states, followed by the


May 21, 2017

Miracle

This is a very compelling and timely piece. I hope we the younger generation and millenials , will rise up to this daunting challenge and plague called tribalism that has slowly eaten deep into our society and prevented any form of growth and development; but have succeeded in setting us far backward than our forefathers envisaged. This is indeed a call to rise up and say no to tribalism and all forms of corruption.

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May 21, 2017

Scad

I can relate to almost every line of your write up. Nice one dear.

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May 22, 2017

Chizzy Odilinye

We passed through the struggle together. (most of them though)


May 21, 2017

Wise man

Nice piece. Unfortunately, it has become a norm to treat people based on their tribe and religious belief. It robs even the elite their sense of assessment many time. However, its not a bad idea to make efforts towards returning to the right way of life. Keep the good job.

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May 21, 2017

Chinedu

You said it all Chizzy, tribalism is the grass root problem which has hindered a lot in this country and like u rightly said it stands in our way of economic dominance, true leadership and intellectualism. Like a friend once said, as part of a way for us to surpass this virus called tribalism that is if we are to remain as a nation, your state of origin will b the state and LGA in which one is born. By so doing in the nearest future the tribalism issue will b buttressed once and for all. The problem with we blacks is our one sided manner of reasoning. A typical Igbo man or an Hausa man or Yoruba man as the case may be will fly his pregnant wife to america to have the baby whom they both would gladly claim to b American. Everything about the child becomes American. I pray the same is the case when an Igbo child is born in kano, god forbid his state of origin to b Kano, it will remain Anambra as the case may b despite place of birth being kano and reverse is the case with other tribes. common sense...

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May 21, 2017

Onochie

Nicely put... Tribalism is one of our problems that has continued to fester... Simply stating to people that you are Nigerian doesn't solve it at all neither does it mitigate it's effects. We need systems and policies that will mitigate the effects of tribalism and this can only be implemented from the top.

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May 21, 2017

Rene

Abolition of state of origin and LGA origin will put us on the real path of progress. Until we value merit above federal character and catchment, we only can continue in a circular movement leading to no destination. I must say that I am a victim of this evil when I applied for job positions in the military, federal civil service, tertiary institutions, banks, etc. Most of the times my name was short changed or mysteriously disappeared for no reason. In some cases, people who did not participate in the selection tests were called upon and given the positions based on federal character and quota and such likes. In summary, I align my opinion in agreement with that of the writer, my friend Chizzy, to urge our youths to put an END to and not just say NO to this enemy of national. progress

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May 21, 2017

Izy gee

Proudly Nigerian

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May 21, 2017

Emmanuel Charles

I became a victim of this schooling in the eastern Nigeria though its not something I like to remember nor 5k about. It was painful but thank God for seeing me through. It is well my sister. We are Nigerians.

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May 20, 2017

Ginikachi

Oh my. Had this Nolstalgic feeling as i read through. You just penned down my agelong thoughts. I am Nigerian. Chekina

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