The atavism of tribalism and ethnic-bigotry refuse to die. What started like a play with Zik and Awolowo, sought consolidation with Nzeogwu and the military boys. Though, Ironsi wanted to strangle it, it escaped and continued its trajectory. That tribal-hate consumed over a million lives in the Nigerian civil war. Forty years on and after ten tears of pseudo democracy, a generation has emerged; a generation that is both techno-savvy and imbued with information. Again, that Abiku - ogbanje - of tribalism is raising its head from its hibernating grounds, not only in the larger context of politics but in the anonymous world of the internet.
This enlightened generation has a moral task. It is, whether they make up their minds and sever the umbilical-cord of tribalism and ethnic bigotry so that tribalism will die or they end up in the catacombs of history. History has a very wicked way of repeating itself. The muses of the past months have been seriously pulling the strings of this atavism. Some people have dug into memory and tried to refurbish the story of Tafawa Balewa; whether he was shot or he was not. While others like Chief Mbazuluike, a.k.a "the boy is good" restored the narrative of the attempt on Zik's life by one of the boys from the North. The story culminated in the famous or infamous carpet-crossing. That particular story attracted rebuttals and counter-refutations.
The political arena remains charged with the issue of zoning - the North and the South, East and West. Recently, the internet has been awash with stories and news lased with tribal poison and hatred. It's either Emeagwali and the Igbos' or Toyin Falola and the Yorubas.' Those with a sense of history must thread with caution. After all, is this not how it all began? The hideous game of history must be jettisoned. This generation must stand up and proclaim, "History we reject this game of yours." A game akin to what I witnessed in my home town Owerri. A family whom most people branded Osu (outcast) lost their father at a very young age, all the pretty ladies of the family have grown nubile. Any in-coming suitor is alerted on the danger of premature death associated with an Osu. Suddenly the mother of the family, a young woman, died. I shouted "myth why must you re-create yourself."
Myth and history will continue to seek ways and avenues of recreating themselves. But the demand we must make of them is "for whom are you attempting this?" the recreation of history of course, is possible because of two conditions. (1) that history is characterized by movement and in movement there is a surfeit; something which remains and of course another which changes. (2) Because the past is not extraneous to us. Memory as an intrinsic part of the human species will continue to play its game of amnesia and retrieval. However, we must chart a clear course where we project any history that tries to restore itself. We must appropriate such history for our own service.
The nation-state can never be a finished product; each generation contributes its quota. It is like the chain-novel allusion made by the American Jurist Ronald Dworkin. Every successive generation must give a new flavour or tune to that story while being mindful of what past or earlier generations have said or penned-down. Therefore, each generation must determine what they think the nation-state ought to look like. In this regard, I think that the will of this generation has been forged in a furnace. It will no longer be enervated but continue to affirm itself boldly in rejection of that destructive myth and history of tribalism.
It is on this note that I take off my cap for Goodluck Jonathan a.k.a GEJ who looked straight into the eyes of those ethnic and zoning jingoist and affirmed "this time must be different." GEJ, we must continue to remind you that most of us - the internet and info-com generation - did not see Awo, personally I had a glimpse of Zik from afar, only came close to his hearse. We have heard stories and read our history books. We are aware of what happened but we insist that our generation will have to be different. And you must know that any task of the will has never been easy. The atavism of sentiments and the passions will continue to strike in order to deflect the will. But a resolute and tenacious will always prevail.
The agents of repulsive history and their info-age servants will continue to call you names. They may call you a dullard or even an outright moron; just remember as you once said "you must keep faith with this generation of Nigerians." Doesn't the good book say that the humble are raised to shame the proud? We have seen governance by frenzy, all movement and no action. We have also seen governance by those who think that they are omniscient and wiser than all. We have also seen that of the somnolent spider. They led us nowhere. Just remain steadfast and steer us on.
Our generation resolutely insist that this time must be different. It is a "do or die," not the kind associated with OBJ rather that kind which insists that we must get it right or implode. We must quarantine the remaining agents who want to recreate the repugnant myth of tribalism. Our nation must be an open society; you will be called names and be threatened. In all, we hope that the "lion-hearted cedar forest" become the "gonads for [your] thunder." May it "hide [you] and deliver [you] from your nakedness." And then in turn become "exile for our laughter." Completely rest assured and keep focus despite the envious, given the fact that:
In time of race, no beauty slights the duiker's
In time of strength, the elephant stands alone
In time of hunt, the lion's grace is holy
In time of flight, the egret mocks the envious...
In my own language we say "Osinachi, Onyinyechi, Ikechukwu."