Scholar and international affairs expert, Femi Aribisala in the article below shares his views on stereotypes and how it’s spreads hatred.
The hatred between the Yoruba and Ndigbo has gone on for far too long. Let there be love shared among us!
The Yorubas and the Igbos, two of the most resourceful, engaging and outgoing ethnic groups in Nigeria, are becoming implacable enemies. Increasingly, they seem to hate one another with pure hatred. I never appreciated the extent of their animosity until the social media came of age in Nigeria. Now, hardly a day passes that you will not find Yorubas and Igbos exchanging hateful words on internet blogs.
The Nigerian civil war ended in 1970. Nevertheless, it continues to rage today on social media mostly by people who were not even alive during the civil war. In blog after blog, the Yorubas and the Igbos go out of their way to abuse one another for the most inconsequential of reasons. This hatred is becoming so deep-seated, it needs to be addressed before it gets completely out of hand. It is time to call a truce. A conscious effort needs to be made by opinion-leaders on both sides of the ethnic divide to put a stop to this nonsense.
Both the Yorubas and the Igbo stereotype one another. To the Igbo, the Yorubas are the “ngbati ngbati” “ofemmanu” who eat too much oil. They are masters of duplicity and deception; saying one thing while meaning another. To the Yorubas, the Igbo are clannish and money-minded. They are Shylock traders who specialize in selling counterfeit goods.
But the truth is that stereotypes are essentially generalisations and exaggerations. In a lot of cases, they are unreliable and untrue. Stereotypes must be recognised at their most effective as a joke. They are the stock-in-trade of seasoned comedians; the garnish for side-splitting anecdotes at weddings and social gatherings. Stereotypes should not be taken seriously. We should laugh at them without being offended by them.
The more Nigeria develops as a melting pot of nations, the more we should be able to laugh at ourselves. The greater inclination to do this denotes increasing strength of character and self-confidence. However, with the advancement of social media, the banter has gone way beyond the jocular and innocuous to outright malice and unadulterated hatred. Increasingly, what you hear are abusive and pejorative labels of “Yariba,” “Yorubastards” and “Yorobbers;” as well as “Eboes,”
“Zooafrans” and “Biafrauds.”
As the insults fly with abandon, you begin to wonder where all this comes from. What is the basis of all this hate? In the sixties, the Igbo were slaughtered in pogroms in the North. However, the principal exchange of hateful words today is not between Northerners and Easterners, but between Easterners and Westerners. Why are these two ethnic groups so much at loggerheads? How did we get to this pass?
Malicious stereotyping often involves denigrating the strengths of others. The Igbo are very enterprising; a very valuable resource in a developing country like Nigeria. But then this is castigated as mercenary. The Yorubas take great pride in education; another valuable asset in today’s modern world. But then they are derided as using this to get one over on others.
The saving grace is that the two groups live side-by-side in peace and quiet in different parts of the country. Moreover, the animosity between them, especially among the younger generation, has not prevented their boys and girls and men and women from falling in love. Yoruba men marry Igbo women; and Igbo men marry Yoruba women. Meanwhile, “a lutta continua.”
The Igbo tar the Yorubas with the brush of Awolowo, who they label as “the father of ethnicity in Nigeria.” In that narrative, it is conveniently overlooked that the broadmindedness of the Yorubas enabled Azikiwe, an Igbo man, to win a regional election in the Yoruba heartland in 1954