I wrote this poem on January 2, 2017, upon my return from Northern Nigeria. Before this, I have always viewed people from other tribes suspiciously. This is because of the bitterness and rivalry amongst Nigeria’s tribes. But having had experience living in several parts of Nigeria, things took a spin, and I started seeing the humanity in everyone.
I schooled in the South, in the riverine region. I have been to the West for seminars conducted by my fellowship and then served in the National Youth Service Corps in Lafia, Northern Nigeria. Through my stay in all parts, I have witnessed humanity and looked beyond tribalism. I have learned not to judge people by their tribes. I still believe in my mantra: whether a Northerner or Southerner, black or white, farmer or banker, leader or follower: we are the same and should have equal opportunity to succeed in life.
This poem below reminds me of my friends and how they tried to make me feel at home during my stay away from my land. I have edited some of the lines, and still, the message remains intact.
Nigeria should rise above hate and tribalism. We can do better with good leadership.
You have smiles on your face
Reminds me of my beloved siblings
I need not see you thru your race
You are you; one, unique and winning
Igbo kwenu! Kedu, olee, how do you do?
Come in, have a sit, taste this dish
You come in peace, I surely know
So to you, good things I gladly wish
Have you seen or heard the names we bear?
We are the people of God; Oluwa, Tamuno, Abasi and Chukwu
We are unique; our food and the dress we wear
We say ‘oshe‘ which mean the same as my ‘kwongo‘
Kei! Listen, my cattle moo behind the huts
Can you hear it? Do you like to taste this morning’s milk?
When the nights come, gather for some cream sauce
Don’t forget; come once, come all, salaam walekum
I can be Berom or Mumuye; I can be Efik or Igala
Don’t seek first my race before meeting me
I am Ijaw or Bini; I am Hausa, I am Ibibio and Idoma
So don’t judge me because I was born a tribe to be
I am Nigeria.
Kwenu, kedu, olee: Igbo greetings.
Oluwa, Tamuno, Abasi, Chukwu: Names of God in Yoruba, Ijawa, Ibibio and Igbo respectively.
Oshe, kwongo: Yoruba and Isuikwuato ways of saying thank you.
Kei: exclamation used by cattle rearers.
Salaam walekum: Arabic greeting meaning peace be unto you. The northerners who are predominantly Muslims use this.
Berom, Mumuye, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ijaw, Edo, Bini, Ibibio, Idoma, Efik, Igala, etc: Nigerian Tribes. There are more 250 of them.