TWO major incidents within the week raised the decibels about the content of being Nigerian. We again misjudged the issues and minimised the impact of their consequences on our determination “to build a nation where peace and justice reign”.
A Roman Catholic priest rattled worshippers when he halted a service in Ikorodu, Lagos State, to complain about the dominance of Ndigbo. He considered the singing of an Igbo song in Yoruba land an aberration that he had to stop immediately.
He banned the song and lamented that a Yoruba song could not have been permitted in Igbo land. He was wrong. Worship songs in Nigeria, including Igbo land, are used as “the spirit moves”. Nobody has the time to query the language, not so for our priest.
For the records, the priest was from one of the Igbo language groups outside the South East, some of who consider themselves non-Igbo.
He painted some pictures about how he was refused conducting a service somewhere in Igbo land because he was not Igbo.
Alfred Adewale-Martin, Catholic Archibishop of Lagos, has suspended the priest from duties. Investigations into his conduct are on. The measure ameliorated the splits that the priest’s attitude was capable of visiting on the Church and Nigerians at large.
Nigerians were still grappling with this when the more distressing news from Yola in Adamawa State, was that a Deputy Commissioner of Police had threatened that he would not allow an Igbo man to stay in a property next to his. The seller has no problems with the Igbo man.
Mr. Deputy Commissioner of Police confirmed to a news medium that he would do everything in his powers to ensure that the transaction was nullified. His reason is a lie that has been retold so often on the assumption that it would become the truth.
No non-Igbo is allowed to buy property in Igbo land, Mr. Commissioner of Police alleged as his major reason. The minor reason was that as an indigene, he had a right of first refusal on the property.
His claims have no place in law or even in the warped logic that followed it. Property of owner asked if he was interested. Deputy Commissioner of Police did not respond beyond thinking that his huge entitlement as an indigene.
At the centre of both incidents is the place of Nigerians in Nigeria. What does it mean to be a Nigerian? Is it important we know how Nigerian we are?
Being Nigerian means mustering powers, mostly official, to place others below one. Some think it is their God-given role to make others feel less Nigerian, less acceptable to other Nigerians.
Their acts result in ethnic profiling to blame some groups for all the challenges Nigeria face. Sometimes things get worse. The targeted groups become victims of violence that the lies promote.
Ethnic bashing used to be deployed in street contestations for power, salience, space, and sundry engagements of survival. If ethnic hatred makes official entrance into the sacredness of a church, at worship time, and the officiating priest is the champion, we are in excessive velocity while descending a proclivity of intolerable idolatry.
Love your neighbour as yourself cannot be guaranteed at a church service. It is below shameful. Slightly more shameful is that some people defended the priest for speaking up.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police is trained, at public cost, to maintain law and order. He chose to incite some Nigerians against others. Again, he would have supporters. What did he think would be the consequences of carrying out his threat at a time of steep ethnic tensions in the land?
Both priest and policeman share their hatred of Ndigbo in different ways and circumstances. They succeeded in deepening concerns over safety of Ndigbo in Nigeria. The fears are not unfounded.
A Deputy Commissioner of Police is a high-ranking officer who even has far-reaching influences in the force that affect millions of Nigerians, some outside his immediate jurisdictions. These Nigerians include Ndigbo. Some officers and men in his command could be Ndigbo. What is their fate?
Priests are refuge for the afflicted. Their ethnic background should not be important in his duties. How has he been relating to Ndigbo to this point?
Nothing has been heard about these issues, officially.
What recourses are available to those who suffer ethnic bashing, hatred, profiling and the riots that are usually the outcome of these acts? None. Rather the champions could be deemed as telling the truth.
Had Nigeria been built with the equality, equity, fairness, and freedoms of ownership of property anywhere in Nigeria by anybody, and the vows of the authorities to protect them, we would not have built a Nigeria without Nigerians.
Ethnic bigotry is not seen as crime enough to arrest or prosecute anyone. Haters are emboldened.
If you think the hatred is reserved for Ndigbo, just remember when it gets to your turn. Instead of accepting to be victims of these practices, anyone affected should find some remedy in the law.
There must be something against ethnic bigotry. We all must learn to use it.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues