A Raped Generation

by Patrick Okigbo

Since the end of the unfortunate Biafran civil war, most Nigerian parents seem to have sworn an allegiance to ensure that the war goes on forever. The battlefields may have gone silent for the past 32 years but we all know that the theater of war has been moved to the impressionable hearts of babies and sucklings.

Nigerian children are initiated into the cult of ethnic and religious bigotry as soon as they give out the first cry. As soon as an Ibo baby experiences his first headache, he is told that if not for Papa Awo (and by extension, all Yorubas), Ibos would have won the Biafran war, and life would have been one big carnival. On the other hand, if a Yoruba pupil cannot memorize the multiplication table, he is told that the Ibo man must be responsible, because the Ibo man has no other god but “ego”. Yoruba and Ibo children are taught that the reason why their fathers cannot change their rickety Peugeot is because the Hausas have siphoned all the oil money to the North. Yet, the Hausas are reminded that they all would have been living like princes if only Nzeogwu did not assassinate the Sarduana. The Ogonis, on the other hand, blame everyone else but themselves for their plight, refusing to find an answer to the hands that collected the “egunje” from the oil companies.

If we move to the religious space, Christians are taught that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ while the Moslems believe that anyone who does not believe in Mohammed is an infidel. For the Buddhists, Hindus, and plain atheists, I guess they are being marginalized in the national “religious” cake. I wonder whom they are taught to hate and fear. Note that ethnic lines do not limit the hatred hyacinth from spreading. We have theaters like Ife-Modakeke, Ijaw-Urhobo, Aguleri-Umuleri, where brothers have sworn not to live together as one. This is quite hilarious sometimes.

The more I think about these scenarios, the more I am convinced that our generation has been raped. Why did our founding fathers decide to take us down the treacherous path of hatred and fear? Was it for political gains? By why will man be so callous as to mortgage the future of a nation for mere transient financial gains?

I blame our parents more than I blame the political shylocks. I blame our parents for refusing to think. They refused to peer through the façade of political and religious rhetoric to behold the deceitful ploy that lay beneath. They failed to identify that the issues were not between the Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas, Ijaws, Efik, but between a group of players in a game called politics. Our parents were all pawns in the hands of the people they trusted, and voted for. Our dear parents swallowed the bait: hook, line, and sinker. To make matters worse, as the politicians exited the stage, our parents picked up the mantra, sat in their high altars of ethnic and moral superiority, and preached gospels of hatred and fear, poisoning the minds of babies and sucklings. What a rape! From our parents!

But let us pause for a minute. What will our sons and daughters say about us in the years to come? Will they, like me, cast blames on us (their parents)? Would they blame us for being so naïve and unintelligent? Would they look at us, with all our fancy degrees and claims to wisdom, and laugh at how we let ourselves fall captive to hatred and fear? Or can we rise above these inclinations and say, “Enough is enough”?

How do we start un-learning decades of ethnic and religious bigotry? How do we start untwining this devious cord that has taken years to weave? The truth is that no one can do it for us. There is no short cut to it. We have to step outside our comfort zones and meet people with different beliefs, inclinations, and cultures. We have to learn that different does not mean “wrong”.

Love is a liberating feeling. Let’s all un-learn this hate.

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