by Daniel Nkado
So today I’m going to ramble a bit, though on a subject [I think] shouldn’t be rambled on.
You see, though I’ve been living in Lagos for quite some time now, I grew up in the east. Had most of my education there too.
As was common in close-knit communities, we had single stories of each tribes in Nigeria.
And they weren’t always fun.
The Hausas were religious extremists. The Yorubas, lazy party freaks, and jujuists.
Calabar women must cheat on their husbands because one man is never enough to satisfy them. This voracious libido, as it was said, they got from excessive consumption of dog meat.
We believed Benin people must have built the first aircraft going from their experience in witchcraft.
What’s more surprising was that these unifying stories did not just end with the far and wide tribes. No.
There was a town in Anambra State [where I happen to come from] you shouldn’t dare do business with. Start up a partnership venture with a person from there and within one year he had somehow [magically, to say the least] converted everything to his name.
A town in Imo State, according to a popular saying, is deadlier than a venomous snake.
If it happens that a person from there is entering your house at the same time as a dangerous cobra, you must eliminate the person first before worrying about the snake—which might only have been on a friendly visit…
Don’t snakes usually come for such visits?
I have to say that these stories are not peculiar to a tribe. Every Nigerian community had theirs—their own version of how others are.
I remember one Yoruba colleague of mine during NYSC calling me a kidnapper at every chance he got. Though he always had a playful smile on, but I usually don’t.
I may not know all the stories, because I may not have heard them, but they are all the same. They all produced the same effect!
Living with them from childhood, they formed major pillars of our reasoning, our perception of others. Even people we never had had a chance to meet and interact with.
And this pillars solidified with age. Yes, adults told these stories too.
The scariest thing [to me] about these stories is that they make us murderers [Tribal Murderers] –either you are the killer or you are the victim.
We meet new people with hearts heavy with precaution.
Handshakes are slow and wary.
Hugs are made incomplete by fear of being stabbed while your face is away.
I remember going to the NYSC Camp in Osun State where I served with four litres of Olive oil. I needed all the protection I could get from Yoruba juju.
I feared to eat egg or chicken because there were stories that some elderly Yoruba folks preferred to walk about as farm animals in the evening.
In my Aunty’s place in Abuja, I never joined the street boys to play. They were dangerous Hausa boys who carried weapons about.
My mouth opened wide when Calabar girl during a testimony speech at NCCF camp church affirmed that she was still a virgin.
Eventually, as I began to interact with the other tribes, I came to realize that the stories were all fairy tales.
From stories as old and mythical as folktales, generalised accounts of people were drawn.
They bear no proven backing.
Not that there ever could be one; individual behavioural pattern is hardly what anyone can study. No theory can explain it without suffering severe faults.
Because people are just people. Behaviours are moulded from not just what’s around one, but ultimately by our perception of it.
No one is same. No one story can explain a community of people.
So we shouldn’t tell these stories. They are not good.
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