Tribalism is to Nigeria what Racism is to America.
Majority of Nigerians are oblivious as to how tribalism works, especially the ones who have never left their regions; think of the Yoruba man who has never left Western Nigeria, or the Igbo who has never left the East.
They don’t really care about tribalism and their only insight into tribalism would be the hate/distrust people have for each other which they hide under statements like, “Yoruba people are like this…”
But for members of ‘minority’ tribes in Nigeria, tribalism is something you “eat” every day, especially when your state or local government area is too small to contain you, and you drift to the other people’s side because we are one Nigeria. You’ll experience it in little ways, from school, market, church, on the road, etc. People will treat you differently because you are not one of them.
In Lagos, the most obvious form of this nonsense is in markets. I was haggling with a woman over bananas once when another girl joined us. She was in a hurry so I allowed her buy first. The woman insisted on N200, even though I didn’t think the bunch was worth N200.
Anyway, this girl, did I mention that she is yellow? So, of course she’s Igbo. She bought and went. Me I was dragging N100. Finally, the lady sold to me, and maybe she saw the look in my eyes like, you just sold the same thing for N200. She smiled sheepishly and said, “Omo Igbo ni, she get money.” she said with a wink under the assumption that I am Yoruba because I stringed a few words together while we were haggling. LOL.
Another time I was out late so I decided to take a taxi. The friend I was out with, bargained with the taxi driver, a smiling old man, and he agreed. So, I got in.
On our way he started speaking Yoruba, I wasn’t in the mood to even try to banter with him, so I said, “I am not Yoruba, I don’t understand what you’re saying.” That is how oga changed face, and said he was no longer taking N1,000. He dropped me half way because I refused to add a dime for him.
On the street I live, all the traders sell at exorbitant prices for me and my sister. It’s a Yoruba area, they know we are not Yoruba so it’s okay to cheat us. Well, when I found out, case closed. I buy all I need before going home; including biscuits.
This is not just a Yoruba thing, the northern guy I buy pineapples from daily has sold pineapples at N50 for a man who came and was speaking Hausa with him, right in front of me, while I buy same pineapple for N100 from him every day. I asked him why he smiled and said, ‘na my brother.’
Igbo folks have sold things for me at cheaper rates because I stringed a few Igbo words together (five years of schooling in the East) and I became their sister while they didn’t budge for the other non-sisters and non-brothers. I remember my time in the East and how people always reminded me I wasn’t Igbo. From church to school, to the hostel, and it wasn’t always pleasant.
Lagos is supposed to be one of the most detribalised cities in Nigeria, but even here, the people you interact with on a regular basis: traders, taxi drivers, okada riders, often treat you different once they realise you’re not ‘one of them’.