On “Otherness” and the 2023 Nigerian Elections

I have so many concerns and sentiments about this past election in Nigeria, but a theme that has continued to bother and shock me is the theme of tribalism.

These tribalistic sentiments comes from an unfounded fear of “otherness”.
The unfounded belief that “allowing” the people we view as “others” enjoy their full rights somehow diminishes our own rights.
It comes from this slippery slope fallacy and fear that if and when “others” are given the chance to govern, their government will neglect us.

I acknowledge my shock and surprise comes from a place of privilege. I am a Yoruba girl and I have always lived in the southwestern part of Nigeria, a region with a majority Yoruba population. I have never explicitly had to deal with tribalism. I was always a part of “us” never “them”. This privilege definitely made me oblivious to the subtle and overt tribalism that people from minority tribes face.
Seeing all the reactions on social media and listening to people share their experiences on tribalism thus came as a rude awakening.

And while reflecting, after my initial shock and surprise, I came to a better understanding of racism and sexism. I have always wondered how it is impossible for white people to see the obvious racism in different situations. Or how possible it is for men to be so oblivious when I talk about certain issues that women. I have always wanted (and sometimes actually did) to shout at the top of my lungs and show people my perspective. To point out the obvious injustice in the words and actions of those that enjoy privilege. The injustice in our systems and structures and how they work to disempower minorities, the “others”.
Now I can understand how easy it is to live in oblivion about the injustices when we ourselves are not privy to it. I understand, a little bit more, how our perspectives are influenced by our worldviews.
I understand, but that doesn’t mean I am accepting.

“Othering” is evil. Plain and simple!
We need to recognize and call it for what it is.

This tribal precedent we are setting in this time is a very dangerous one. The genocide in Rwanda readily comes to mind. But then, even closer to home, the events that predated the Nigerian civil war comes to mind.

It is hypocritical of us to condemn racism and sexism and then turn a blind eye to tribalism.
Remove the log in your eye before removing the speck in someone else’s eye the Bible says.

We need to question and get to the root of this unfounded fear. Ask yourself, will someone else enjoying their full and equal rights as citizens really take away my own rights?
What exactly am I afraid of?

It’s the 21st century. Rishi Sunak is the prime minister of the UK. We all cheered when he was elected and rightfully condemned bigots that voiced racist concerns about his appointment. Why then do we say someone from a different tribe can’t lead or govern in a state they were born and grew up in?!.
How does a native name, or “indigenous” parents give us more qualifications for leadership.
A Yoruba name?? Yoruba parents?? Speaking flawless Yoruba?! Are these necessary qualifications for leadership?! Is that how we intend to build a new and better Nigeria?
Ask yourself these questions the next time you come online to discredit someone’s leadership qualifications because of their “tribe”.

It’s the 21st century. We can do better!

Leave a Reply