On tribalism
Cheta Nwanze

A few relatively recent incidents have coloured my view of ethnicity in Nigeria and encouraged me to view myself as Igbo 1st and Nigerian 2nd.

The 1st came during the 2015 elections. Having lived most of my life in Lagos State, I took a greater interest in the elections there than I did in my state of origin.

After having witnessed state-backed extortion for close to 16 years with little (in my sphere of experience) to show for it, I felt the state needed change. I backed Agbaje over Ambode. He was more erudite, could clearly outline his plans for the state and was far more convincing.

I was having a conversation about the differences and the problems with the lack of a widespread reaction to the “lagoon” remarks when a friend said no “true-blood Lagosian” that he knew would vote for Agbaje as they were OK with BAT’s influence over the state. Another friend (also Yoruba) reacted to the veiled insult on my behalf before I even realised that I had just been dealt a cyber backhand.

Lagos is the New York of Nigeria. There are people local to the state (Yoruba) but the long history of the state as a melting pot gives many other Nigerians a sense of belonging probably not as widely felt anywhere else in Nigeria often voiced in the “no man’s land” sentiment (which I disagree with BTW).

I was born in Lagos. I went to school in Lagos. I lived most of my childhood in Lagos. I have a Yoruba middle name courtesy of my Yoruba Lagosian grandmother. I am very happily married to a Yoruba Lagosian but apparently my links count for less because I am not a “true blood” Lagosian. Initially I was offended and brooded over the matter for a few days. Then the lightbulb came on. My friend was telling the unvarnished truth.

No matter how much I weave myself in the tapestry of Lagos life, my state of origin is in the East. I have a better chance of running for political office in a foreign country and winning than I do of running for governor in Lagos State because the day I stand up, the overwhelming argument will not be whether my experience can move Lagos forward but why this “omo Yibo” thinks he can try this nonsense in Lagos State.

Rather than rail against the tide like King Canute, I have accepted it. There is no shame in being Igbo and so I am happy to embrace that label since that is what many Nigerians see when they look at or listen to people like me.