OJUKWU’S PHILOSOPHY OF DETRIBALISM: THE PANACEA TO THE NIGERIAN POLITICAL PROBLEMS

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

TITLE PAGE…………………………………………………….ii

CERTIFICATION…………………………………………iii

DEDICATION………………………………………………..iv

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT……………………………………v

TABLE OF CONTENTS……………………………....ix

GENERAL INTRODUCTION………………………………..………xi

Statement of the Problem………………………..xv

Purpose of the Study……………………………………………….….xvi

Scope of the Study…………………………….….xvi

Division of Work………………………………..….xvii

Brief Biography of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu …….. xviii

 

CHAPTER ONE

THE BACKGROUND TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF DETRIBALISM

1.1   Tribalism and Nigerian Political Development ..1

1.2    The Meaning of Tribalism………..…..7

1.3     Dangers of Tribalism…………………..11

1.3.1  Tribalism Leads to Disunity…………………...12

1.3.2  Tribalism Enthrones Mediocrity……………………13

1.3.3   Tribalism Creates Social Injustice ……………………15

1.3.4 Tribalism Retards Individual National Development 16

1.3.5 Tribalism Promotes Cultural Underdevelopment . 17

1.3.6  Tribalism Leads to Disintegration ………………..18

1.4  The Positive Aspect of Tribalism ………………..…18

 

CHAPTER TWO

THE PHILOSOPHY OF DETRIBALISM

2.1 Tribalism: The Precursor to the Philosophy of Detribalism ….… 22

2.2   Detribalism in Ojukwu’s Thought………….....………...23

2.3 The Practical Elements in Ojukwu’s Detribalism …33

2.3.1 Detribalization of Award of Contract ………33

2.3.2   Broadening The Lines of Political Parties ……….34

2.3.3 Exercise of Political Rights …………………..35

2.3.4 De-emphasizing Ethnic Origin………………….37

2.3.5  Abolishing Ethnic Ghettos ………………………..39

 

CHAPTER THREE

SOME MERITS OF DETRIBALISM

3.1  Detribalism Ensures National Unity ….………….…41

3.2 Detribalism Ensures Equal Political Participation …….43

3.3 Detribalism Ensures Even and Rapid Development .…….46

3.4 Detribalism decreases insecurities and ensures political Stability ...48

 

CHAPTER FOUR

EVALUATIONS AND CONCLUSION

4.0           Evaluation .…………………….………50

4.1           Conclusion …………………...…….…..57

BIBLIOGRAPHY …………………………….…..60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

The British colonial masters made the first attempt to build a nation now referred to as Nigeria in 1906. This they did by the amalgamation of the colony and protectorates of Lagos and Southern Nigeria. This was followed by the subsequent amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria. The marriage between the Northern and Southern protectorates signified the birth of the nation, Nigeria. Ever since this bold attempt was made, it has been struggles. The struggle to keep the colonial masters at their proper place on one hand, and the struggle to convince the apparently incompatible nations that make up Nigeria, of the need to forge ahead as one united people on the other.

For a nation brought into being from the political, but more importantly, the economic convenience, of the British imperialist, there is no doubt that the word “unity” will mean a lot. Beneath the real desires of many Nigerians is this unity. There were and still are many struggles by Nigerians to ensure this all-important asset. We have had various constitutional conferences namely: Richards’s constitution of 1944, McPherson constitution of 1951, which introduced federal constitution that never achieved its objectives, the 1954 London and Lagos conferences. Equally different systems of government were introduced one after another all in the search for unity, which constantly and conspicuously eludes us. This is to point out how dear the word unity is to Nigerians. It will not be an overstatement to say that every Nigerian desires this unity. Yet many engage in activities that are rather inimical to the desired unity.

Having got their independence, many Nigerians saw it as the sure foundation for the development of Nigeria. Instead of serving as a great stepping-stone, the months after independence served as the right time for many pseudo-politicians to show their true colours. It was a period of revelation with regard to the real interest and orientation of many of the so-called father founders. It was a time when the interest of one’s region, tribe and (though not all that serious) party, must override that of the nation, which some others have lost their lives to build. Bearing this in mind, Ojukwu said, “the struggle for independence gave the Nigerian peoples a togetherness but not unity. It gave Nigeria confidence but not strength”[1]. There seemed to be no room for the most desired gift­­, which is unity. B. Gbulie captures it all when he said; “right from the country’s attainment of independence in October 1960, many a tribalist parading as a politician had been busy farming the cinders of tribalism into frantic life”[2]. The politicians who appeared to have believed firmly in national unity and had the courage to preach it to fellow Nigerians had inadvertently ended up practicing the only brand of unity that could favour the people of their own tribes, to the exclusion of others. This no doubt made Gbulie believe that “some Nigerians purely by accident of birth, or tribe of origin, had clearly become more Nigerian than others.”[3]

This deadly separatist tendency didn’t end up only in the civil society; it was also introduced covertly or overtly into the army, an act that has sown the seed of eternal discord. As all these were taking place, some even believed that Nigeria never was.

These attitudes and our politicians’ predilection for the banal greatly provided the fertile land for the speedy growth and maturity of tribalism, and under tribalism, there is rancour, acrimony, disaffection, inequality, corruption and so on. One thing they say begets another. Thus tribalism and its attendant destructive effects gave the military the patriotic initiative to strike. As J. O. Ojiako rightly observed,

Nigeria’s special problems and complex political forces had successfully overwhelmed our leader’s ability to negotiate, made nonsense of our parliamentary system of government and plunged the country into a civil war fought with bitterness and vengeance[4].

 

As we go into the analysis of Ojukwu’s thoughts, we shall see his passion for unity. Nearly every page of his book has one thing or the other to say about unity. He believes we can unite, but we cannot do that with our tribe-oriented postures. Therefore, his thoughts are all about reducing the impact of our tribal affiliations in order to be truly united. And this for him is achievable through detribalism.

 

i.              Statement of the Problem

As a country, Nigeria is troubled by a lot of problems. But the biggest problem is that of unity. There is a kind of ‘to your tents oh Israel’, because everybody wants to protect his tribe of origin to the detriment of the whole nation. This being the case, Nigeria becomes a foreign land to Nigerians while their tribes of origin become their real homes. Several attempts have been made through conferences to solve this problem, but many of them failed. What then is the cause of this disunity? Certainly, it is not the outcome of our divergence and that is why Ojukwu maintained that: “the problem here, in Nigeria, cannot be rooted in our divergence. It is our will to unite that is at fault.”[5]

 

ii.             Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is that same purpose that pushed Azikiwe, Macaulay, Ojukwu, and other nationalists to fight for one Nigeria. It is an attempt towards finding the best option for Nigeria, where tribalism will give way for detribalism. That is to say, the effort aimed at encouraging Nigerians to diffuse their ethnicity and work for the unity of the whole country for it is only in such a condition that Nigeria will make progress. It is a way of creating still some kind of awareness concerning the dangers of tribalism and its numerous brothers as nepotism, favouritism on one hand, and exposing the benefits accruing from unity-a situation where the above mentioned ills are non-existent, when all Nigerians will say like Ojukwu “Nigeria is my home and it is only in Nigeria that my destiny truly unfolds.”[6]

 

iii.            Scope of the Study

The scope of this study still remains the Nigeria political environment, which is fraught with all forms of tribalism. In doing this, the principles or philosophy of Ojukwu, which has been described as the philosophy of detribalism, will be the main focal point. It is mainly concerned with making Nigeria a home where every body will feel at home. This philosophy cannot claim to hold all the ideas needed to make Nigeria better; it is only an attempt and a contribution, perhaps one out of many already made by many others. Ojukwu was aware of this when he said, “I have no pretension to a monopoly of political wisdom”[7].

 

iv.            Division of Work

This work is divided into four chapters. The first chapter looks at the background to the philosophy of detribalism. It examines tribalism exposing its inherent dangers.  Chapter two centers properly on the philosophy of detribalism as Ojukwu conceptualizes it. In chapter three, we shall look at some merits of the philosophy of detribalism, while chapter four takes care of the evaluation and conclusion. The method to be used in this work is purely hermeneutical, analytical, and explanatory.


v. Brief Biography of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was born on the 4th day of November 1933, at Zungeru in Northern Nigeria, to Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu of Nnewi in the present day Anambra state.

He had his early education in Roman Catholic School, Anglican Grammar School, and Kings College all in Lagos. In 1949, at the age of 13, he gained admission into Epsom College, a reputable British public school, where, apart from his academic attainments, he won medals in Rugby and athletics. At the age of 18, in 1952, he went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1955 with bachelor’s degree and M. A. degree in modern History.

He came back to Nigeria in 1956, and joined the civil service in Eastern Nigeria as an administrative officer at Udi, in the present day Enugu state. He joined the Nigerian Army in 1957 as the first indigenous University graduate. In the same year, he entered Eaton hall officer Cadet school in Chester, England, where he was commissioned with the rank of second Lieutenant. Later, he attended officers’ courses at Hythe and Warminster, returned to Nigeria in December 1958, and was instantly appointed company commander of fifth battalion of the Nigerian Army.

While in the Army, he had to his credit, an impressive variety of activities and responsibilities, such as the Cameroun Campaign in 1959, against armed uprisings in the Bamaliki area of the French Cameroon. His task in that assignment was to guard that sector of the Nigerian border. As a full lieutenant, he was also a lecturer in tactics and military law at the officers Training School of the Royal West African Frontier Force in Teshie, Ghana; Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster to the First Nigerian Brigade in 1961; U. N. Operations in Luluabourg. In May 1962, he attended the joint services staff college in Latimer, England. In December 1962, he was promoted to lieutenant Colonel and was appointed Quartermaster General of the Nigerian Army, the first Nigerian to hold the post. At the end of the second year at the post, he was transferred to Kano where he was in charge of the fifth Battalion of the Nigerian Army.

On January 19, 1966, he was appointed the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria following the January 15, 1966, military putsch. He later became the Head of State of Biafra, as well as the commander-in-chief of its Armed Forces. By a unanimous resolution of the Biafran Consultative Assembly, he was promoted General in May 1969. As the Head of State of Biafra, he manifested high leadership qualities, which enabled him and the Biafrans pass the difficult days of the war. Under his leadership, the latent resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Black African was brought to bear, thus making false the claims of the Whites that Africans lack ingenuity. During those difficult days, Biafran engineers were able to construct a functioning airport, effective weapons, and petroleum refineries. It is on record that it was the fear of the catalytic effect a technologically advanced black Biafra will have on the global power equation that motivated the erstwhile colonial master, Britain, the USSR, and the entire Arab world to take an active part in the war against Ojukwu’s Biafra[8].

As a result of his ardent belief in peace through dialogue, he handed over power to his second in command, Chief of General Staff, major General Philip Effiong of the blessed memory, and left for Cote D’ Ivoire on the 9th of January 1970 at the invitation of President Felix Houphet Boigny. It was during his stay in that country that Biafra collapsed. After thirteen years stay in Cote D’ Ivoire, Ojukwu returned to Nigeria in 1982 and was accorded a hero’s welcome. His people of Nnewi gave him the now famous title of ‘Ikemba’ of Nnewi. In actual fact his return has not been a return to rest for since then, he has involved himself completely on any issue that affects the well-being of the people of Nigeria. For instance, he used the occasion of the launching of his scholarly book, Because I Am Involved, to demand for the immediate release of chief Gani Fawehinmi and the other human rights activits that were then being detained without trial.

Without being economical with the truth, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu means different things to different peoples: a challenge to the government, the delight of the men of pen profession, an orator to political scientists, a Hero to the victimized, a detribalist for those who believe in Nigeria, a true leader for the Igbos and for me a political philosopher of no mean magnitude. Though born wealthy, he is an advocate of the Welfare state, a confirmed anti imperialism, and a firm believer in the destiny of the black man. He is at present married to Barrister Bianca Ojukwu (nee Onoh) and has children.








CHAPTER ONE

THE BACKGROUND TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF DETRIBALISM


1.1            Tribalism And Nigerian Political Development

Ever since the marriage between the Northern and Southern Nigeria became a reality, Nigerians have made several attempts to preserve this marriage; but constantly, it has nearly broken up. No doubt Ojukwu said that;

Since Nigerians took their own destiny into their own hands, every national intercourse has borne the sterile aspect of a coitus interruptus-a primitive method but very effective in preventing the birth of a new nation.[9] 

For a strong political, economic, and infrastructural development, the various ‘nations’ that make up Nigeria should be united to achieve these. Several efforts have been made, albeit some are pseudo-efforts, to see that Nigeria is united. However, tribalism has constantly threatened the road to Nigerian unity.

At independence, and subsequent first republic, Nigerians had expected that the political actors then would have used that period as a time for laying a solid foundation for a united Nigeria. This never was; rather the so-called father founders considered it paramount to play tribal politics that stunted the growth of the nation. Nigeria is basically below the waters today because wonderful opportunities that would have fostered national development were dashed at the early days of her life as an independent nation.

A good number of politicians in these early days of this nation did not consider Nigeria a reality, let alone, work for her unity. This was evident in their utterances then. Some of them are Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Yakubu Gowon, to mention a few. Commenting on these differences, Gowon said,

Suffice it to say that putting all consideration to test, political, economic, as well as social, the base for unity is not there[10].

 

On his own part, Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and a tribalist par excellence said,

Nigeria is so large and the people so varied that no person with any real intellectual integrity would be so foolish as to pretend that he speaks for the county as a whole.[11]

 

Still skeptical about this word unity, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the first prime minister said “ since the amalgamation of the southern and northern provinces in 1914, Nigeria has existed as one country on paper”[12]

 

One cannot forget so easily the ignoble statement of Awolowo that “Nigeria is a mere geographical expression”[13]. These are not the only ones; they have a lot of disciples, however, their positions made them outstanding. In fact, they made these statements when they have the opportunity to retreat into tribe in order to check their more successful rivals from other parts of the country.

Tribalism retards development especially political development, and since other developments hinge on that, all other aspects of development will also be grounded. A lot of instances from the first republic up until the present third republic show how tribalism has left Nigeria in a comatose. First, it is generally believed that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe won the premiership of the then Western region, but could not occupy the position because he was of the “wrong” tribe, albeit he showed a bad legacy by rushing to the East and manipulating himself into power by edging out Chief Udoma. In 1964, a group of young Nigerian officer cadets mainly Northerners, were declared academically unfit and repatriated by the Canadian military authorities. These cadets were declared commissioned by the Nigerian Federal Government no sooner than they had arrived at the Ikeja Airport[14]. In 1961, the premier of the North and Sarduana of Sokoto paid a visit to the Royal military Academy, Sand Hurst and wanted to meet with the Nigerian cadets. When he eventually appeared to see his fellow Nigerians, he asked an embarrassing tribal question to one of them: where do you come from? From Nigeria, was the answer. But the premier was not satisfied, so he went on, where exactly in Nigerian?[15]. In 1962, the then Federal Minister of State for the Army, Alhaji Tanko Galadima, officially visited the Nigerian Military Training College [NMTC] Kaduna.  As he was about to leave, he presented both pocket money and kola nuts to only the Northern officer cadets[16]. As expected, this caused great ripples in the army then. In 1960, shortly after independence, the then prime minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, directed the principal of Kings College, Lagos, Mr. P.H Davies, to secure available places annually, for at least fifteen boys from the North, whether or not they passed the required entrance examination[17].

Collaborating the existence of tribalism in the army, Janet Mba-Afolabi said:

records have shown that the army is one in which an officer’s ethnic origin determines the nature of strategic appointments he holds.[18]

 

The absence of Federal presence in certain areas of the country has no other reason but tribalism. The whole of South-east has up until this stage, no international airport or seaport irrespective of the fact that there is a big market they will serve. The federal roads in this same zone and other zones are death paths rather than high ways. It is even a “divine decree” that people from certain areas can never be among the service chiefs, inspector of police, defence and agriculture ministers to mention just a few. Many of the policies initiated by various governments had, in all intent and purposes, tribal undertones. A case in point is the indigenization policy.

In the various states of the federation, there is rancour everywhere because a particular part of the state will like to take all. People tend to forget that “we cannot dominate; all we can do is to accommodate”.[19] These instances show the extent we have allowed tribalism to take us. It is against these that Gbulie observed that:

the most dreadful of our county’s insuperable monsters was tribalism, Nigeria’s number one killer disease, a canker worm as old as the hills, the fundamental factor of the problems of Nigerian unity.[20]

 

 

1.2            The Meaning of Tribalism

 

Etymologically, the term tribalism has its root and origin from the Latin “tribus” (tribe) meaning “one third” which originally referred to one of the three peoples that united to found Rome. The Encyclopedia Americana defines tribe as ‘a group of families who have a feeling of community through occupying a common territory and following similar customs.’ In the same vein, the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary defines tribe ‘as a group of people, families, clans or communities who share social, economic, political ties, and often a common ancestor and who usually have a common culture, dialect and leader.’ More recently, the term tribe has been applied to any people having a common territory and customs who are not part of a state society. One thing that is basic with tribe is that the members of a tribe are usually held together by common dialect, customs, social, economic, political sameness as well as observing major religious ceremonies. Tribe and tribal have been observed as convenient terms for indicating that a people still follows customs rather than state law.

In view of the relatedness of tribe with ethnicity, it is pertinent to define ethnicity as well. According to the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary ‘ethnicity means relating to or having a common race or cultural tradition, seen from the point of view of race, rather than nationality.’ In other words an ethnic group consists of a people who share the same culture, and we know, culture comprises the whole gamut of what the people do. This being the case, tribe and ethnicity are interwoven. This perhaps explains the reason why Ojukwu used both of them interchangeably. In this write up therefore, the two terms will be used to express the same idea.

Tribalism is the extreme and obsessive protection of one’s tribe to the detriment of the whole nation. The chambers 21st century dictionary defines it ‘as the system of tribes as a way of organizing society, the feeling of belonging to a tribe.’ It is a political attitude guided by tribal customs. While tribe sets out to define a people, tribalism is mainly that negative political attitude that tends to favour only persons from one’s tribe. But this usually retards national growth.  Tribalism promotes such evils as social injustice, inefficiency, moral decadence, unproductivity, and mediocrity. Tribalism thwarts every effort towards unity and integration in any multi-ethnic/tribal nation.

In an attempt to explain tribalism, Achebe has it that “tribalism is discrimination against a citizen because of his place of birth”.[21] This for me is a practical definition of tribalism, but something appears to be missing in it. One’s place of birth may not be his tribe. A Yoruba may be born in Onitsha. This does not make him an Igbo. Tribalism applies more to one’s tribe of origin. A lot of southerners are born in the North, but they greatly feel the pains of discrimination irrespective of the fact that that is their place of birth. Likewise, a lot of Northerners have various places in the south as their places of birth, yet they are seen as strangers. For Achebe,

tribalism manifests itself in acts such as preventing a citizen from living or working anywhere in his country, or from participating in the social, political, economic life of the community he chooses to live.[22]

In what seems to be the most insightful explanation of tribalism, Ojukwu has it that

tribalism is nothing other than ethnic nationalism i.e. a limited, constricted nationalism, a stunted growth. It means a nationalism that has become fixated in adolescence. Tribalism is a consciousness, which emerged as the broadest viewpoint in a society organized on personalities. Tribalism, as a social philosophy, is based on the construction of a series of imaginary boundaries which establish the “us” and the “them” dichotomy.[23]

These explanations show that tribalism is such a negative force. It divides a nation more than it builds it together. One factor that encourages tribalism, I think, is the fear for the truth about how the various components of Nigeria are; we are afraid to come together.  Many Nigerians, no matter the intellectual heights, are afraid of coming together as a united entity. Hence, tribalism has become the proper avenue of dealing with this fear.

 

1.3     Dangers of Tribalism

Tribalism breeds a lot of dangers impeding the overall development of a country. In Nigeria, for instance, tribalism performs the function of a political tool. According to Ojukwu  “tribalism manifests itself more as a function of politics than as an innate xenophobia amongst the various groups in Nigeria”[24]. Achebe adds that

a word will stay around as long as there is work for it to do, in Nigeria, in spite of our protestations, there is plenty of work for tribe, our threatening gestures against it have been premature, half hearted, or plain deceitful[25].

 

There is some work for tribe in Nigeria, and as it does its work, there are bound to be many effects on those who use it and those on whom it is used. Hence, below are some of the dangers of tribalism in Nigeria.


1.3.1    Tribalism Leads To Disunity

Since the independence, every regime sets out to achieve the unity of the country. But these regimes fail regrettably in this project. Most Nigerians have intense desire for this unity, but at forty-five years of existence, we have lived more disunited than we had expected. It is the desire for this unity that has taken Nigeria through various experiments namely: the North-South dichotomy of early colonization, federalism or rather pseudo-federalism, the famous three regions structure and later four, the unitary system of government, the imposition of a twelve state structure, nineteen state structure, a twenty-one state structure, a thirty state structure, and at present, a thirty-six state structure, constitutional conferences particularly the 1995 constitutional conferences, and the just concluded national political reform conference. All these efforts have been to ensure unity, but we have always had pseudo-unity. Disunity comes in when people are attached to their tribes. As Ojukwu said,

the biggest obstacle to unity is that which is commonly known and referred to as tribalism.[26]

 

Commenting on the dangers of disunity, he noted that

 

disunity is a danger that the people of this country can no longer endure. Disunity has laid to waste all the noble dreams of our founding fathers. Disunity has nullified all our efforts at national reconstruction and disunity has led us into war. Disunity has also destroyed our peace. The consequences of disunity are too terrible to contemplate and too obvious to require any further demonstration. The legalized barbarism of the contemporary Nigerian situation is the fruit of disunity.[27] 

 

The first danger posits by tribalism is disunity. This is not a mere ideological disagreement, but the type that constantly makes us stand “on a soil soaked in fratricidal blood”.[28]

 

1.3.2    Tribalism Enthrones Mediocrity

Tribalism favours mediocrity. However, this advantage is the type that destroys not only the persons involved, but also the nation. Mediocrity reigns where tribe of origin is placed over and beyond merit and competence. Tribalism encourages mediocrity mainly in the award of contracts and in employment and promotions. Two contractors may be campaigning for a particular contract, and most often the less qualified “contractor” wins the job, while the one with better qualifications goes home a loser. The amateur contractor wins because he is of the “right” tribe while the other is not. As expected, the so-called contractor eventually messes up the job. In all these,

the greatest sufferer is the nation itself which has to contain the legitimate grievance of a wronged citizen, accommodate the incompetence of a favoured citizen, and more important and of greater scope, endure a general decline of morale and subversion of efficiency caused by an erratic system of performance and reward.[29]

 

The same thing is experienced in employments. These days, certificates worth nothing once you know somebody in a higher position, your area of specialization not withstanding. It is still a living memory that Bola Ige was appointed a minister to man a sensitive power and steel ministry, despite the fact that he never specialized in that. At the early stage of our nationhood, the effects of tribalism with regard to mediocrity were so evident. Lamenting about the existence then Gbulie observed that

the terms ‘long legs’ and ‘as man knows man’ had been injected into the vocabulary of the Nigerian public. Thus, double standards had been created which, in turn led to frustration among millions of Nigerians. Mediocrity now sat unchallenged on the throne—mediocrity that was sustained by blind leadership. For merit meant nothing. Nor did talent and industry mean anything.[30]

 

 Against these backdrops, Ojukwu maintained that:

no amount of sanctimonious injunctions and no amount of erudite constitution-writing, can lift Nigeria from her mediocrity, to the greatest she deserves.[31]

 

 

1.3.3    Tribalism Creates Social Injustice

Tribalism goes with a great deal of social injustice.  A lot of injustices have been perpetrated in Nigeria, as a result of our myopic comprehension of the term tribe. Some Nigerians, because of their tribe, can never rise to he position of permanent secretaries in their ministries, some can never become the inspector general of police, defense and agriculture ministers. Certain industries must not be sited in certain places, and if they were put in place, a substandard firm would be assigned to handle it. This kind of situation does not help for any development.

 

1.3.4 Tribalism Retards Individual /National Development

A nation cannot exist without the citizens. In the same way, Nigeria cannot exist without the concerted mental and physical efforts of Nigerians. Because tribalism is separatist in nature, it retards the development of the nation. Tribalism retards development because in such a situation like Nigeria, due process is thrown to the winds and as such the people who are qualified for certain positions to keep the nation moving will not be given the opportunity. This being the case, the individual’s potentialities are left undeveloped, which in turn affects the entire nation.

 

1.3.5 Tribalism Promotes Cultural Underdevelopment

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. One major advantage that accrues from the existence of many tribes is the capacity of producing a variety of cultures that will eventually add more beauty to the national life. The languages and cultures of the various peoples that make up Nigeria have in different ways something to offer for national integration and development. Every culture ought to be open to other cultures, and through that way grows. But when people are too attached to their tribes as well as cultures to the exclusion of others, the cultures will hardly experience any growth.  The silent adherence to tribe has made this possible, and as such, the various cultures remain dormant and underdeveloped.

 

1.3.6    Tribalism Leads To Disintegration

In a tribalism-infested society, there is always uneven distribution of the available resources, denial of equal opportunities, double standard,  the born-to-rule mentality, and neglect of persons from other tribes. In such a scenario, some people tend to be marginalized. As expected, they will seek to defend themselves. And one way of defending themselves is to assert their autonomy and work towards secession. In this way, the things that hold the country together will start to fall apart. This is exactly what is happening in Nigeria.

 

1.4            The Positive Aspect of Tribalism

Tribalism is a word every individual who believes in Nigeria as a united country abhores.  It would be very difficult for any Nigerian to envisage something good in it. The general understanding of this word has been and still remains in the negative.

On the contrary, the term tribalism is not entirely bad, if anything, it is the way people use it that is bad. “Tribe is very natural and normal; no one is without a tribe.”[32]  According to Azikiwe, the fact of tribe is not specific to Africa alone, it is a universal fact. However, irrespective of tribal differences, the common identity in the association with one another as a nation should uphold and endure.

Discussing tribalism as a pragmatic instrument for national unity, Azikiwe maintained that tribe has a positive meaning, the positive meaning of community. This means that tribalism could then become a pragmatic instrument for national unity not disunity. Thus Azikiwe said:

if the concept and practice of tribalism would be a mode of adaptation to reality, then tribalism is an instrument for national unity.[33]

Still for Azikiwe, tribe is an anthropological fact. A tribe is made up of race, language and culture, and these, as it were, are the major anthropological factors that determine the level of integrability and assimilability among the tribes. Countries such as Switzerland, United States of America, U.S.S.R are examples of countries that are made up of less integrated tribes. Yet, they maintain their identities as single nations. This goes to show that over two hundred and fifty tribes that make up Nigeria are not disasters but great assets.

In this line of thinking, Achebe notes also that

everyone agrees that there are manifestations of tribal culture, which we cannot condemn such as peculiar habits of dress, food, language, and music[34]. 

These and many other manifestations are positive and desirable and confer richness on our national culture. They add to the beauty richly embedded in African culture.

Tribalism has some positive benefits, and for Nigeria to achieve the desired positive aspect in tribalism, Azikiwe was of the view that loyalty to tribe must be transferred to loyalty to Nigeria as a nation. This will be well achieved when, according to him, “permanent guarantees of a constitutional, political, and economic nature are met”[35].

Our differences are therefore assets rather than tools for destruction. The practice of tribalism, I will maintain, is a defective attitude of the mind that eventually manifests itself in the utterances and actions of men.


 



[1] E.. Ojukwu, Because I am Involved, (Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd., 1989) p.8.

[2] B. Gbulie, Nigeria’s Five Majors (Onitsha: Africana Educational Publishers Ltd., 1981) p.9.

[3] Ibid.

[4] J.O. Ojiako, Nigeria: Yesterday, Today and … (Onitsha: Africana Educational Publishers Ltd.,     1981) p.4.

[5] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit.,  p. 7.

[6] Ibid.  p.81.

[7] Ibid.  p.14.

[8] cf. ‘Citation Of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’ in the programme of Events for the 2nd Ogirisi Igbo Annual Lectures (Dec. 13, 2003)  p.10-11.

[9] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit. p. xiv.

[10] Cited by J. Uwalaka., The Struggle For An Inclusive Nigeria: Igbos, To Be Or Not To Be? (Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd., 2003)  p.11.

[11] Ibid., p.50.

[12] cited by A.Waugh and S. Cronje, Biafra: Britain’s Shame (London: Michael Joseph Ltd. 1969) p.22.

[13] cited by C. Achebe, The Trouble With Nigeria (Enugu, Fourth Dimension Publishers Ltd. 1983) p. 5.

[14] Cited by B. Gbulie, Op. Cit., p. 13.

[15] Ibid., p. 27-28.

[16] Ibid., p. 32.

[17] Ibid., p. 36.

[18] J. Mba-Afolabi, Still An Army Of “Anything Is Possible”, Insider weekly magazine, no 42, October 24, 2005, p. 17.

[19] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit., p.18.

[20] B. Gbulie, Op. Cit., p. 8.

[21] C. Achebe, Op. Cit., p.8.

[22] Ibid., p.8-9.

[23] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit., p.19.

[24] Ibid., p.20.

[25] C. Achebe, Op. Cit., p. 7-8.

[26] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit., p.19.

[27] Ibid., p.28.

[28] C. Achebe, Op. Cit., p. 7.

[29] Ibid., p. 21.

[30] B. Gbulie, Op. Cit, p.8.

[31] E. Ojukwu, Op. Cit., p.52.

[32] M. I . Nwoko, Basic World Political Theories (Ibadan: Claverianum Press,1988) p.200.

[33] Cited , ibid., p.199.

[34] C. Achebe, Op. Cit., p. 8.

[35] Cited by M. I. Nwoko, Op. Cit., p.200.

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