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E O EkeMonday, February 27, 2017
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UNDERSTANDING ETHNIC PREJUDICE IN NIGERIA

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he evidence would suggest that there is deep seated ethnic prejudices against Igbos in Nigeria, but not in the form many believe.

I am not talking about the ethnic banter that sees Igbos call Yorubas Ndi ofe nmanu and Yorubas call Igbos Aje okuta ma Mu omi, or Hausas call Igbs Nyamiri and Igbo call them Ndi Awusa. I am talking of prejudice of the type that resulted in the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide, which is why I am alarmed.

The evidence does not support the generalisation that Yorubas, Hausas and other ethnic groups hate Igbos. The facts would suggest that a percentage of Nigerians, as is the case all over the world, harbour ethnic and religious prejudices and, every ethnic group in Nigeria has their good, bad and ugly.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, which include the way Nigerians are educated, the Nigerian bad and ugly almost always, end up in position of power, where they hide behind ethnic and or religious identities to act out profound immorality, wickedness and depravity hatched in the dark recesses of their ignorant and prejudiced minds.

This is why it is dangerous for any society to tolerate or normalise ethnic prejudice the way Nigeria appears to have done.

There are prejudiced Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Ijaws, Ibibios, Fulanis etc. It is their actions that are projected to their ethnic groups, which creates the impression that one ethnic group hates another and perpetuate the ethnic discord in Nigeria. These are the people who will lead in committing crimes against those they hate.

In other words, the unacceptable behaviours of an individual or group of people from an ethnic group is projected to and ascribed to their ethnic groups. This is stigmatisation, which is first step towards prejudice

I say these because I lived and schooled in west Nigeria among Yorubas and worked in the north amongst Hausas, Fulanis, Biroms, Kuramas etc., and east amongst Igbos. I have seen the best and worst of the diversity of Nigeria and how easily it can be upset by the actions of a few people.

When I was in the university of Ife in the 80s. I bought a room in the post graduate Hall in my year 3 from a student from Edo state.

When I wanted to move in, another student from Rivers state, who also bought his bed space from another post graduate student said that I would not move in because he did not want to share a room with an Igbo man with my Igbo sense.

He threatened to deal with me, if I moved in. I left the room I paid for and pirated with a friend, in Fajuyi Hall, with a friend Chinedu Onuoha, a computer science student.

A year later, I was elected president of Ife University medical student Association by majority of Yoruba students in preference to a 'son of the soil'.

If Yorubas and Igbos hate themselves the way some people would want the world to believe, this would not have happened.

Today, there are many examples in Nigeria of good interethnic relationships, but these are not highlighted and given the same coverage and consideration like the negative examples.

As president of IFUMSA, I was also in charge of making sure that the rooms on campus halls earmarked for medical students were in fact occupied by medical students.

On one of such inspections, I found out that the man, who chased me out of Post graduate hall the previous year, was occupying a medical student room in Fajuyi hall. He had failed his exams and was repeating the year.

When he saw me his countenance changed and I felt he thought I would evict him. I had every right to evict him, that was what the rules stated. If I did, it would not have been because of what he did to me, even though it would be impossible to convince him otherwise.

I made sure that every clinical medical student, entitled to a room got one and left the man alone.

Unfortunately for him, my room was in Fajuyi hall and any time we met, he appeared uncomfortable. One day, he stopped me and apologised. He told me that what he did was wrong and I reassured him that I was not waiting for the day I would repay evil with evil. We made up.

I knew that Ijaw people did not hold a meeting, where they decided to hate Igbos and I have never attended any meeting, where Igbos decided to hate people of other ethnic groups.

I believe with education and leadership, the mistrust and ethnic tensions, which Nigerian politicians, turncoats and ethnic nationalist are exploiting for their selfish ends can be addressed.

Nigerians are incrediblely caring, hardworking and generous people and, it would be a shame, if we allow ethnicity, religion and men, who think like, Jonathan, Buhari and Obasanjo to provide the excuse that makes us decide to go our different ways.

I belong to the Nigerian generation, whose future was stolen by the Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida and Abacha generation. These men raped Nigeria and wrecked her future and expect Nigerians to bow down, whenever they appear.

They are responsible, to a considerable extent, for many things that are wrong in Nigeria. The corruption they embraced, ensured that the country has been unable to make the necessary investments and grow the values that ensure strong and peaceful nations and their contempt for due process and rule of law has allowed autocracy, brutality and impunity to flourish.

No people would be happy to be part of a country, which consciously excludes their region from developmental projects, subjects them to discriminatory treatments and find excuses to slaughter them in large numbers. Why should Nigerians expect Igbos to accept this systematic and deeply engrained injustices and prejudices?

I believe in Nigeria, but actions like exclusion of Igbo state from interconnecting rail network make me wonder, if Igbos have a future in a Nigeria, where the likes of Buhari, who keep silent, when they Fulani herdsmen slaughter them, would be in position to determine their fate. If the decision to exclude Igbo state was made by Jonathan, what stops Buhari, if he is governing for the whole Nigeria, from remedying the injustice?

This discrimination must now stop. The civil war ended more than 40 years ago. How long do the likes of Buhari and Obasanjo want Igbos to be punished for wanting to be free before they realise that what they are supporting is pure evil.

The continued pursuit of policy of discrimination and active underdevelopment of Igbo regions, is an act of economic violence, collective punishment, abuse of power and misuse of position for political vendetta.

This policy of the federal government of Nigeria, will only make more Igbos resolve to leave Nigeria and seek their future in an independent country or in any arrangement that would grant the regions the powers to develop at their own pace and control their destiny.

No people with any atom of pride and sense of what they can achieve, would choose to be part of a country, where they would continue to be treated the way the government of Nigeria has treated and continue to treat Igbos and their region.

It is time to end government discrimination against Igbos, link Igbo regions to the East-West rail line, repair federal roads in Igbo regions and build a new Niger Bridge.

These will assuage the just anger of Igbos. An East-West rail line that links Igbo towns will be one of the busiest rail lines in the world, if built and it will be win win for Nigeria. In fact, it will be one of the best strategic moves, to make it more difficult for the region to break way from Nigeria.

Nigerian government should stop hurting the country, by pursuing policy of sectarian empowerment and trying to punish Igbos. Igbos have done nothing to deserve the prejudice and punishment we have endured. It is time to end this madness.

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