XENOPHOBIA

XENOPHOBIA: IGBOPHOBIA, YORUPHOBIA, FULAPHOBIA, IJAWPHOBIA, EDOPHOBIA, EFIKPHOBIA, TIVPHOBIA, HAUSAPHOBIA, KANURIPHOBIA, SHADOWPHOBIA….

Josh Arinze’s articles titled, ‘Reuben Abati’s Igbophobia’ published in http://www.Nigerdeltacongress.com and http://www.Gamji.com made an interesting reading. This is not because of his barefoot pugilism with Reuben Abati, the recipient of his diatribes, but for bringing to the fore, once again the inherent culture of hate amongst Nigerians. The article written in passionate anger clearly demonstrated that there is an urgent need for dialogue among native Nigerians.

Through Josh Arinze’s bitter reaction, this writer was able to see clearly Reuben Abati’s article from another different angle. It became obvious that there was a high degree of insensitivity on the part of Reuben for some of the light-hearted caricatures in his article. One could see the effort in humour by Reuben but it is bound to backfire disastrously in the eyes of the people he used as the subject of his secession discourse. It’s like the case of a comedian that makes funny jokes at the expense of some other innocent people. If the person being made fun of is not in the audience, the joke might go down well. But on the contrary if the caricature is among the audience, then the joke can be called distasteful and could be seen as being unjustifiably disrespectful to the subject of the joke.

Phobia is a psychological term that means “an irrational, extreme fear of something which does not merit such an extreme reaction.” Psychologists argue that this type of fear or anxiety about encountering the object, which triggers off the fear, actually interferes with the ability to carry on with a normal life. Indeed there are lots of irrational fears in the fatherland. Everyone is afraid of everyone and normal life is definitely suffering. Igbo fears Yoruba, Efik fears Igbo, Hausa fears Fulani, Fulani fears Kanuri, Edo fears Urhobo, Urhobo fears Ijaw and so on and so forth. The multidimensional nature of the objects of fear and the number of nations each nation fears have led to shadowphobia or Sciophobia. Nigerians are truly frightened of their shadows. How can this type of society that is riddled with irrational fears make progress?

Of course, the history of Nigeria is a history of injustices, inequalities, enslavements, insecurities and foolishnesses. And unless this history is reviewed rationally and scientifically, Nigerians shall forever keep fanning the ember of hate that has lodged deeply in their psyches. Although some of the fears haunting Nigerians are not totally unfounded because there were vivid experiences of historical acts of callousness in the past. Today there is nothing wrong when a national of a particular nation within Nigeria points out the defects and imbalances of another nation. It is the writing style, manner and attitude with which the analyst or scholar handles the observations and analyses that will determine whether or not the nation under focus shall raise a war party to save their faces because of the perceived slight or insult to themselves and their ancestors.

The anger-bursting essay of Josh Arinze has compelled this writer to jump between two professional colleagues against my avowed principles. Personally, I will never separate two hoodlums when they decide to throw the fists at each other rather than dialogue since common sense tells me I will be the worse for battering. When writers decide to use the gutter language in the analysis of important issues, it is not very different to the act of idiots throwing bare fist at each other in order to draw blood and to break bones. I am sorry if my intervention is again going over the top. This professional contest between two heavy weights calls for a truthful ventilation from well meaning observers. A Yoruba idiom says, an elder does not look away when the head of a newborn baby cradled to the back of his/her mother is awkwardly positioned.

This writer is not a journalist by profession but loves to write as a means of inspiring the best in others. I believe writing is a sacred duty and it becomes very distasteful when this honourable activity is turned into a weapon of hate and war. This writer is calling for a truce amongst pugilist writers in Nigeria. Let us change the modus operandi of writing in Nigeria from scoring a point on so-called enemies to helping our so-called enemies to see his/her weakness in order to improve on it. It is a soul-poisoning endeavour when writers use a noble gift to inflict pain on one another. Let us from today decide, as those involve in a glorious duty fit for kings, to write in order to edify, to correct in order to uplift, and to encourage one another in order to endure and to reach for the top of our excellences as we travel on the mystery journey of life.

Writers are supposed to be representatives of God (Allah) because they are the only ones that travel on the spiritual route. No one can write unless he/she has dug deep into his/her soul, which is the temple of God. The soul is like a well, the deeper you dig the purer and cleaner is the product. But the well like a soul can only produce pure and clean water if the digger discards the first flush of water that flows into the well and insists on going deeper and deeper for that pure water. This writer is hereby inviting all the Nigerian Writers to open a new chapter in your profession. From henceforth let us dig deep into the depth of our souls before committing our thoughts into writing. The first emotional reaction to an issue can never be the best answer to a problem. Let us learn to by-pass our first base emotions as we strife for that pure words of wisdom that is hiding like a precious stone deep down in the depth of our souls.

This age long irrational fear of strangers called xenophobia among Nigerians must stop. An eighty-eight year old association, although it is of a guarded relationship for most of the time, can no longer be called an association of strangers. Unless, of course there is something basically wrong with our human nature. Let our writers become therapist rather than butchers as they perform their duties. A therapist’s main objective is to heal a life by removing pain and suffering while a butcher’s job is to take away life and to inflict pain in the process. And remember both activities are done for good causes. Rather than whisper behind your neighbours on his imperfections, let us mention them in the open but with a higher motive of love that aims at helping him/her to overcome the foibles.

As Nigerians, we are like couples. The late Owelle of Onitsha even said as much when he called his political party in 1979, the Beautiful Bride that every other party was trying to woo. As couples, though cohabiting under a forced marriage, let us acknowledge and respect our differences as a people of different culture and history. And let us strife to share the best of what we have and to borrow the good virtues found in our neighbours that are lacking in ourselves.

As cohabiting couples, it is distasteful if every dirty linen has to be spread in the open for all eyes to see. It is again morally wrong if couples have to wait until there is a quarrel to hit each other below the belt with secrets shared about each other. Therapist and marriage counsellors will advise that it is better if couples raise contending issues at appropriate peaceful moments in order to help each other towards the path of perfection. And until the nations of Nigeria have a divorce settlement or decided to undertake a proper solemnised marriage, let us strive to keep the sanctity of the true love that we desire and the hope of a better and brighter future that we share.

Finally, I will invite every writer in Nigeria to please join me in this little prayer. Dear God (Allah), the keeper of wisdom and power, teach us to know what is called a good fight and give us the courage to fight a good fight when one is known. Give us wisdom never to underrate our enemies and a heart of gold that will rather love the enemies instead of fighting them. At this moment of our national calamity, give each Nigerian writer the wisdom to understand that our enemy today in Nigeria is ignorance, the mother of all fears. And that when every writer has come into this spiritual understanding, give us the passion of love not of anger and the passion of courage not of cowardice to wage war on ignorance. These important requests are what we ask for in our names and in the names of our readers and posterity. And we thank Josh Arinze for his passionate anger because through it we were given an opportunity to touch another important cord in the pain and woes of Nigeria. Thank you God (Allah) for answering our prayers. Amen.

In The Spirit of Truth

SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Common Citizen
January 2002