By Mubarak Shuaibu
I became very much acquainted with the above statement during my service year wherein, I met people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. No superlatives to describe the experience I have accumulated over the period of one year, but in a short tongue, it’s a worthwhile one. From camping to my relocation all buried is a lesson.
Starting from the camp, I was in a room of 10(Annex) which comprises the major ethnic group in Nigeria; Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Fulani. Thus, it was a rare opportunity for us to come together, rub minds and learn our differences.
Shafii Abubakar Wababe the oldest in the room is a journalist (Senior Broadcaster at Radio Nigeria Kaduna) who has a vast knowledge of different cultures and places. Sadiq Kurawa(Computer Scientist) the youngest in the room, never travelled out of Kano except for the purpose of National Service. Although, Habibu Eleyinla is from Lagos had his B.Tech in ATBU Bauchi which gave him a brief knowledge about the Northern setting. Ogenna Oluigbo is a very jovial man from Imo state. Alu Owoichi(Information Technologist) from Benue.
While the rest of us, Sulaiman Funtua (Microbiologist) and Hamza Abdullahi (Economist) are both from Katsina, Ahmad Kwara(Civil Engineer) from Kwara, Bashir Abdulhamid (Archeologist) from Jigawa and myself (Industrial Chemist) from Bauchi. Can’t mention the number of debates we had about contemporary issues ranging from academics to sociopolitical.
These have expounded my perspectives on numerous issues. After our successful camping, we all parted as “better informed” personalities than we were. Then in came the next chapter of my NYSC experience, when I relocated to Christian dominant environs.
After a series of deliberations and outreaches, my initial plan was to ‘reject’ the PPA I was sent to. But I later convinced myself to stay, as it will be a wholesome experience. And as they say, the rest is history.
On arrival in my PPA, my heart was busy pulsating thinking about the new chapter I was about to embark on. It was a missionary school under the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
And within a walking distance from the school was a ‘Theological College, this had me thinking with my heart in my mouth. I was out of sorts at that moment but meeting with the principal, a very kind Reverend Doctor Yusuf Hatiu proved to be the cornerstone as his warm reception dampened my fear. He even jokingly asked whether I can cope with the environment. According to him, most of the Muslim Corp Members use to reject that PPA, I irruptively replied to him by saying ” I’m here to change the narratives Sir”. He exclaimed, with a smiling face “that’s a very welcome idea shu’aibu”.
He asked Tenerj Akeji (a corp member from Benue) to accompany me to our lodge. To much of my surprise, this pal carried my luggage up to the lodge. Amarachi Sheetal Grace from Abia state, in my first days, use to bring me food, Yemi will always come to me and ask whether I’ve any problems. This is how we mingled beyond the ethnic and religious line.
I quickly become much acquainted with the environment. Although I was later joined by another group of Corp Members as those we met were passing out, the mixture was always a good one to remember. The people of the environment welcome strangers with open arms. We equally respect their culture as respect is reciprocal. Muhammad Ameer(Maikudi) has helped me settle down quickly well, as he’s Fulani and knows a lot about the environment. The experience is mammoth to recount here. But overall, we have to embrace each other, learn to live together in harmony. The election is underway and politicians are setting ethnic and religious traps for the gullible Nigerians to fall foul. 2023 should be an election year devoid of ethnic profiling. There are “bad eggs” in each and every tribe but that has not made justification for stereotyping a particular ethnic group. NYSC scheme has emancipated a lot of youths from ethnicity and Elite’s manipulation. Some have established businesses in their town as a primary assignment while others have gotten a job.
The key takeaways:
1. It’s high time to do get rid of the deep-seated persecution complex that makes us see enemies where there are none. Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani is not your enemy.
2. We should read, learn and if possible travel to learn about other people’s culture. The lack of our interrelationships with tribes other than our own exacerbates the issue of ethnicity in Nigeria.
3. The National Youth Service Corp(NYSC) is sacrosanct, and thus FG should enhance the scheme to achieve the primary aim.
4. We must do away with ‘stereotyping’, never put a particular ethnic or religious group in one basket. An exception always proves a rule.
5. Even, if you enter a room and before you enter, you believe everyone in the room hates you, you will not be confident when you enter, and as a result of your lack of confidence, you won’t make friends. And you will blame it on them not liking you.
That’s a sad indictment on all of us as Nigerians.
Mubarak Shuaibu writes from Hardawa, Misau Local Government, Bauchi State.
What’s a very good write-up