I have a tribe and am proud of it (2)
By Idang Alibi
My friend Farooq says he does not have a tribe. The question is: did he descend from the moon or somewhere else? Of course, every one of us on earth comes from a tribe. Some may not know from which tribe they are descended. Some may not be proud of the things their tribes are said to have done in ancient times and may still be doing today so they will not be too eager to identify with that tribe but that does not mean that they do not come from a tribe. The question I like to ask such people is why should anyone not be comfortable with mentioning his tribe because his forbears or some of his contemporaries are said to have done, or are still doing, something detestable?
Why must the sins of some ignorant or foolish members of any one's tribe become his badge of identity? If there are some wrongs being done by my people, is it not my responsibility to wage a crusade of enlightenment? Could that not perhaps be the reason God caused me to be a member of that tribe so I can become an agent of enlightenment? If my people were cannibals, is it not my duty to so live my life that it will disabuse the minds of people concerning their long-held belief about my people?
In Nigeria , some see it as a mark of being cultured or a big compliment to be described as detribalized or tribesless. You do not need to distance yourself from your tribe before you can be seen as a nationalist, patriot or good man. All you need do to be a good person is to believe in and practice the following virtues preached in the Bible and other holy books: peace, love, kindness, fairness, truthfulness, impartiality, gentleness, honesty and courage to say and do the right things irrespective of what the crowd is saying or doing.
As an undergraduate at the University of Calabar in the late 70s and early 80s, I noticed something very funny among some of our girls then which I knew was some kind of inadequacy, lack of confidence or what is called in Nigeria "colo mentality". Girls from especially the minority tribes will put a distance between them and any of their tribal persons who love speaking in their tribal languages to them. In their insecure mind filled with a high level of inferiority complex, they thought that it was bush to speak in their tribal languages. It is quite funny and pathetic that these same girls who thought it was bush to speak in their minority tribal group tongue thought it was a mark of transcendentalness to speak in the major tribal group tongues of Hausa, Ibo or Yoruba! I used to feel so sorry for those girls and I still feel sorry for some people who have no pride in where they come from.
My level of self-confidence is so high that even if I were to come from some rat hole somewhere, I will proudly tell it as a testimony to how I have been able to overcome odds to get to where I am now. I also happen to know that many who have shaken our world today came from some insignificant places. If some developed people have become so assimilated and so lost in their history that they no longer know from which tribe they come, they should be pitied and not seen as a superior people who have transcended tribe.
To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with tribe. As a Christian my guide is the Bible. And in that book, tribe is not used derogatorily. The Israeli nation is composed of twelve tribes. And God actively encouraged them to do things according to tribes. Census was conducted according to tribes; contribution to the building of the temple was done according to tribe; mobilization to the national army was conducted on the basis of tribe; their march to the Promised Land was done in tribal groups with each group being led by a leader who was given a flag or tribal banner; land was shared according to tribe. If there is something shameful or evilous about tribal grouping or solidarity, God would have said so. God even allocated responsibilities to each tribe and none is said to have questioned God why his tribe was given one gift and not another.
The tribe of Judah provided kings and rulers; Simon and Levi took care of spiritual responsibilities; Issachar did farm work to feed the nation; Dan judged the people; Nephtali and Asher grew vines to provide wine
All the characters in the Bible spoke with pride about their tribal origin. Paul spoke about how he of the tribe of Benjamin learned under the famous teacher Gamaliel; Saul spoke about how he of the least of the tribe of Benjamin was seen fit to be elected as the first King of the Israeli nation; Jesus Christ himself was first prophesied as coming from Bethlehem the least of the tribe of the king-producing tribe of Judah. I do not therefore see why I should be ashamed of identifying myself as coming from the small tribe of Bekwarra in northern Cross River.
I do not like a people who are always in perpetual denial. We Africans have not yet sufficiently bonded or been assimilated or fused into some ‘national' culture to begin to deny our tribal origins. We still largely regard ourselves as coming or representing our tribes. Even when we eventually cultivate a greater sense of nationalism, there is still nothing wrong with identifying with our tribes. God is not foolish in making each of us to come from a tribe. We may not recognize God's reason but He has a good one.
I know that some readers who have been following my writing will wonder why I who have before advocated the disbanding of all regional groupings such as the Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohaneze Indigbo and the Afenifere am now speaking glowingly about tribe. I am against such regional groupings not because I hate tribes but mainly because scheming elites use these groups to create a centrifugal force and inhibit the forging of a Nigerian identity.