By Anne Fatusin
I have witnessed recent events and realised that there must be something wrong with 'us', or at least some of 'us' despite the Western education and the fact that we have lived in the Western world for several decades. Yet, the 'mindset' is so hard to change.
Now, let me break it down without being censorious. As a race, it is very challenging in some areas, even as a continent from which I originally come. Then I have to break it down to my country and the bone of contention for me is my TRIBE! In the 21st Century, it is rather sad that discussions are centred around 'tribe'. The truth is that if we do not like ourselves and help one another, no one is going to do it for us. May I just mention that I am a fan of ALL tribes! In fact, some friends have teased me saying that they are surprised that I did not end up with some of my brothers from the other side of Nigeria's political zones such as the South-East or South-South as I know many of them. Well, maybe in another life.
Not to digress too much. I watched in dismay how the social media has been bastardised lately by the same tribe and wondered why we enjoy slandering each other whilst other tribes would do anything to avoid people having negative perceptions about them. Last year, we all witnessed a businessman who turned himself into a laughing stock because of what his 'own brother' did to him. He went starkers in front of the other man's house to ask for the money he was owed. The whole drama went viral on all social media platforms. Within a week, the whole episode was forgotten. Almost as if nothing happened. Yet amongst my tribe, vituperations continue - as a matter of contest.
Another example of how this tribe fails to adhere by the principle of 'my brother's keeper' is that of employment. I remember a friend telling me that she once helped a friend to get a job at the same company she worked. Few months later, they turned into sworn enemies that during team meetings, they hardly talked to each other. Eventually, the company director had to call them and declared that one of them would have to leave the company. The person who was helped to secure employment was first to respond that her benefactor would be the one to leave and that was exactly what happened - forgetting that you do not bite the fingers that feed you. Years later, the same friend who left the company helped the ungrateful one to secure a contract overseas. I wonder how many people who do this after being treated badly.
To flip this story, during my IT Consulting days, I was in discussions with a potential client. Details of the client was given to me by a Headhunting agency. I realised that the information seemed to match that of a client that one of my friends worked with. I was so excited and quickly phoned her to mention that I might soon be joining her company. As soon as I put the phone down, a relative listening to the conversation admonished me for telling the friend when I had not yet secured the job. I responded that having a contact who was already working for the company was to my advantage. The friend assured me that she would talk to her Project Manager. So wrong, I was! I never heard anything again either from the Head-hunter or the company! I informed my 'friend' that I was still waiting to hear from her company and she responded that I would not hear because the Project Manager was eccentric! Yet, this was the same friend who told me years prior to this incident, that she admired me for juggling my European IT assignments and motherhood. She said she felt so inspired and had changed career to IT. Hmm! Who can know the heart of man?
When it comes to real estate, you will note this same tribe treating their own kind like refugees. What they cannot do to Caucasian cousins, they will do to their fellow tribes persons. They hardly maintain properties they rent out, yet expect the full amount to be paid. There was a story of a fellow country person who thought that his tenant was an illegal immigrant and constantly harassed him by reporting him to the police each time he (tenant) complained to the agent that he had not kept to his promise on repairs to the rented house. Eventually, the police came to the house, requested for the tenant's passport and realised that he was a citizen of the country. Consequently, the police gave a warning letter to the agent for wasting police time! Why do we do this to ourselves?
The same unpalatable behaviour is demonstrated in the education sector. I was on a research programme and had a fellow tribesman as a Supervisor. We were to go on a field trip to Iceland. None of my colleagues could travel as they were all foreigners with no valid visa to travel out of the UK. No other person could travel in the group except me and so my name was put forward by the university. I waited to get the actual date of travel but nothing came forth. I asked the university authorities and was told that the person in charge was 'my brother' and would be in touch to provide details. After waiting for several weeks, I decided to visit 'my brother' in his office. He had no reason not to go on the trip but gave me a cock-and-bull story which was evident to anyone listening that he just did not think a 'sister' should be on the trip. In short, the trip took place after I completed the semester and no longer in his group. On the day of graduation, he saw my children and from then on, addressed me as 'Madam'. Yes, I am older than him but not impressed. Eye service, I call that! The following year, I had another Supervisor. I think the university thought they were doing me a favour by assigning a 'sister'. These days, there are so many Nigerians in the education sector. I thought, should I now inform the university that I have had enough of my own kind? No, I could not do that. It would mean I do not trust them. I was proved right. This one was a coconut! I thought - what is wrong with these people who for economic reasons are in the Western world and now see themselves even better than the indigenes? Her name, walk, dressing, diction - everything, revealed her nationality! Why the fake attitude? I thought, she must have felt a bit of a complex knowing my background in terms of education, age, experience and status being British-born. All these are discriminatory which should not be used against anyone. The Caucasian lecturers were always supportive but my 'sister' who probably bent the rules to travel across the Atlantic ocean, was of no use! Brilliant lecturer, I must say, but for whatever reason, lacked empathy or what it takes to be a role model for my tribe.
We are our own worst enemies! No wonder there has been little progress. For those who have made monumental achievements, abroad, check them out. They hardly hang out with fellow Nigerians! What a shame! A time for renewal of mindset for positive achievements for our community, by our community, for our tribe, by our tribe. Let us learn to celebrate one another and help each other.
We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. (Charlie Chaplin).