The huge protests against racism in the United States have caused many Nigerians to point out the similarities between racism and tribalism. Some Nigerians believe that both concepts are one and the same thing because they both exhibit prejudice against a particular group of people. Many went as far as calling for protests against tribalism in Nigeria.
This intimation of the similarities between the two concepts is made more glaring when one considers the discrepancies in the appointment of people by the present Nigerian administration. As of May 2020, the appointees of the present administration are 33.7% Southwest, 19.5% Northwest, 15.3% Northeast, 12.6% Southsouth, 11.1% Northcentral, and 7.9% Southeast. Premium Times of June 5, 2020 further broke this down and gave total number of appointees as 64 appointees from Southwest (mostly from Ogun State), 37 appointees from Northwest, 29 from Northeast, 24 from Southsouth, 21 from Northcentral (0 from FCT), and then 15 from Southeast. All these happen despite the existence of the Federal Character policy.
Looking at the discrepancy in the appointment of top political officers by the incumbent administration, it will be unwise to say that racism and tribalism are different. However, unlike racism, it is hard to find hate-crimes in tribalism. Not that it is not possible or that it doesn’t happen, it is however rare. What actually distinguishes racism from tribalism is that the former is borne out of hatred while the latter emerges from loyalty. Put simply, racism is the discrimination of people of a different race because there is the existence of hate for the discriminated race. On the other hand, tribalism is the act of discriminating against a group of people because the discriminator wants to favour another group. Hence, tribalism in Nigeria comes because the people in power want to favour a particular group of people at the expense of other groups.
But the major question for this article is, “Are racism and tribalism natural human behaviours?”
To answer this question objectively, let us consider the following:
1. A mother was outwitted into hatching eggs of turkeys, ducks and chickens together. Of course the farmer did it in such a way that the hen hatched all the eggs within a space of two or three days. When these eggs hatched, this hen had chickens, turkeys and ducks as her “babies”. She brooded and reared them till they were independent. But this same hen hit and chased off other chicks and ducklings because they weren’t hers. This makes one wonder why this hen was loyal to her own “children” and took care of them while she chased off other people’s children. Now, the questions here are, “Why do mothers naturally care for their children more than they do other people’s children?” “If mother’s love discriminates, is it connected to tribalism and racism?”
2. Lions eat flesh and snakes swallow smaller animals. But these two animals have never been known to kill their kinds, unless there is power tussle. They protect their kinds and species but “destroy” other kinds. They don’t hunt one another no matter how hungry they are. They seem to have a common goal of preserving their species. Now the question here is, “Do tribalism and racism exist for species preservation and protection?”
There are so many other instances that will show that every living thing remains more loyal to its in-group members than to the out-group members. In-group members are protected while members of out-groups are destroyed. Hence there seems to be constant competition and antagonism between different groups. In fact, there is a struggle for survival and supremacy that most of us do not know about.
It is therefore possible that racism and tribalism exist because different human groups are struggling for supremacy and survival. It is possible that there is a natural competition that exists between humans which is beyond human imagination. The only problem here is that unlike the mother hen that wanted to protect her chicks and provide them with the limited foods available, and the lions and snakes that hunt other animals for food, human-group competition is baseless. In fact, it is illogical.
The humans’ competition should not be against other humans but unfortunately, that’s the way it exists. The worst thing here is that those that benefit from the divides are fuelling the competition with hatred and fanning this flame of hatred until it begins to consume both the haters and the hated. Worst is that this same unhealthy competition is passed on to younger generations who continue with the tradition. Humanity is indeed in deep trouble.
The way out of this mess is not by enacting laws because several laws that will battle natural human behaviours that harm others are in existence but those crimes still persist. Besides, lower animals do not have law courts and law enforcers but they live their lives the way they should. All that mankind needs to do is to retrace their steps to the beginning of their trouble and fix it from there. This will not come without its challenges because those that reap out of the chaos will prevent the rebirth of humanity. However, there is hope if our younger generations are taught of the beauty and importance of diversity.
To answer the key question of this article, racism and tribalism are borne out of the human innate desire to protect and preserve their species. However, racism became destructive because it is laced with hatred FOR the discriminated. But then tribalism is brewing destruction because it encourages hatred FROM the discriminated.