My name is Chekwube, born in the nineties in the beautiful coal-city state of Nigeria. I am Igbo, and I have lived my entire life witnessing the destructive effects of tribal conflicts on the people of my country.
Growing up, I heard countless stories of violence and bloodshed that resulted from clashes between different tribes. I vividly remember the first time I watched a documentary about the Biafran War on YouTube. The conflict, which took place between 1967 and 1970, resulted in the deaths of millions of Igbo people. My heart sank as I watched the documented works of the horrors that took place during that time.
Sadly, Nigeria, home to over 250 different ethnic groups, has struggled to overcome tribal tensions that have plagued it for decades. In many parts of the country, tribalism remains a major issue, leading to countless conflicts and violent clashes.
I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of tribalism in my state of Anambra and my birth state of Enugu. In the early 2010s, there were violent clashes between tribes, resulting in dozens of deaths and many more injured. To keep people of other tribes safe, they were asked to go to the nearest MOPOL barracks for security. It was a stark reminder of just how dangerous tribalism can be.
Tribalism creates an “us versus them” mentality that leads to a breakdown in communication and understanding. It breeds distrust, suspicion and often leads to violence.
The consequences of tribal conflicts in Nigeria are far-reaching, leading to the loss of countless lives, the displacement of millions of people, and the destruction of entire communities. Tribal conflicts have also hindered economic development and prevented Nigeria from reaching its full potential as a nation.
Tribalism has also affected individual lives in many ways. I had a situation in 2019 where I could not rent an apartment in Lagos because the landlords would not rent their houses to me because I was Igbo. In another case, a friend of mine could not marry the love of his life because his family forbade him from marrying a person from another tribe.
The government has rolled out some programs to combat tribalism, including the National Youth Service Corps and the Unity School, which foster national integration and build detribalized citizens of academic excellence.
However, the sad reality is that tribal conflicts in Nigeria are mostly fueled by politicians who use tribalism as a tool to gain and stay in power. They stir up ethnic tensions to mobilize their base and win elections. This is a dangerous game that puts the lives of ordinary citizens at risk.
To combat tribalism, we must first acknowledge it as a problem. We need to have honest conversations about the role that tribalism plays in our society and work together to find solutions. We need leaders who are committed to promoting unity and who are willing to put the interests of the nation above their own.
Education is a crucial tool to combat tribalism. We need to educate our children about the dangers of tribalism and the importance of embracing diversity. We need to educate them that our differences should be celebrated, not feared.
Above all, we need to promote a culture of peace and understanding. We need to build bridges between different tribes and work together to promote harmony and mutual respect. This will require patience, understanding, and a willingness to listen to others.
As an Igbo person, I am proud of my heritage, but I also recognize that I am a Nigerian first and foremost, and I am not more Nigerian than anyone else. Igbos have a proverb: agbusi gba ala, ya na onye adi na mma? means when the ant bites the ground, who will be there for him again? We are all we have, we need each other, and we must all work together to build a better future for ourselves and for generations to come. Tribalism has no place in a modern, progressive society, and it is up to each and every one of us to do our part to combat it.