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The general consensus was that Tribalism is nurture, not nature. That there is nothing ‘natural’ about ethnic identity. So, the same way people say there is no Nigerian Dream or National Vision is the same way there is no Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba Dream or Vision. Identity is a choice.

We joked about how so many Nigerian ethnic nations are as much products of British colonialism as Nigeria itself. How the idea that everyone speaking the same, or a related, language belongs to one nation is a function of colonial classification. If you had asked the people who they were, pre-colonialism, they would not have said Igbo, Hausa, or Yoruba. They would have said Ozobulu or Abam, Ijebu or Ekiti, Kano or Daura. Identity is a choice.

And it is okay to make it. Because culture adds colour and spice to life. It is absolutely okay to enjoy, preserve and promote your unique cultural expressions – from language to fashion to food to music. Because diversity of expression is natural, and nature would not be so beautiful if it were only palm trees. So being a Nigerian is not about being cultureless or tribeless. It is about being as proud of your culture as you are willing to accept, coexist with, and learn from other cultures.

When we are proud of our culture but unwilling to let other cultures breathe, then we are exhibiting the toxic aspects of Tribalism. That sense of superiority and exceptionalism makes one culture look down on the other and leads only to conflict. But we observed that every culture that truly focuses on growth and self-development will eventually arrive at the same values – Justice, Fairness, Respect, Merit – as any other culture. Because cultural expressions are just the branches. At the root of it all is one humanity. And all truly developed cultures eventually arrive at this recognition.

At our next Patriots Connect meeting, we will host a workshop on practical things we can do every day to help us overcome the more toxic aspects of Tribalism in ourselves, so we can become more open towards, and accepting of, other cultures. This capacity is essential to being a true Nigerian.

For there is indeed such a thing as a true Nigerian. That man or woman who has emerged from that confluence of cultures that came before. When rivers meet and mingle, they can form a new river. That is how life works, where like human beings, cultures too are born, can grow, marry, have children, age and die, so their descendants can go through the same cycle. And so the world spins on in all its enigmatic beauty…

Patriots Connect is a meeting of ethically and rationally patriotic Nigerians. Or those who would like to become. Join us.

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