The older generation has failed. Are we comfortably failing too?

Okenyi Kenechi

While growing up in Nsukka, Nwa Nsukka was the derogatory term used to antagonize Nsukka indigenes by those who felt that they were more urbane than the natives of the town. It was most prevalent in University of Nigeria Nsukka that most Students of Nsukka origin started learning how to speak ‘Ugbo’ or what they referred to as central Igbo so as to escape the verbal lynching from their friends and enemies .

I don’t know if they still use such derogatory words in that school up till date but, it was one of the reasons I detested that school. In short, it was said that the first Nsukka indigene that was given accommodation at the Senior staff quarters after almost 30 years of that institution in Nsukka town, went and gave testimony at St Peter’s Catholic chaplaincy in the University.

It confronted us daily as we were looked down at, as cave men who live on tree tops, as a people without a mind of their own or whose cultural beliefs were akin to those of the 17th century barbarians.

Hearing mothers scold their children with talks like “stop behaving like Wawa people” was very common. In short, marriages between the Wawas and the non Wawas were highly frowned at. Only brave minds went into it as there was a kind of isolation that it breeds. How these things originated, Kenechukwu don’t know, but we see it every day. The Nsukka boys and girls who spread out to places like Onicha, Aba and Nnewi had their own share of the organized stereotype.

Those from Ebonyi state are always worse hit as the Wawa people also look down on them as Animals that live on trees and they are referred to by some as Hausa people . Enugu State government under Sullivan Chime deported some of the Ebonyi State indigenes begging for alms back to their state some years ago.

One of my friend wanted to get married to a girl he loved so much. He is from Nsukka while the girl happened to come from a part of Anambra state. The discouragement was intense. Our people told him that Anambra people don’t respect our people, that he should marry from our side. In short, it is like a taboo in my own community for you to marry an Imo state indigene. I don’t blame them. The two girls that tried didn’t live to tell their stories. Their husbands bullied them till death. I know the girl must have passed through the same useless stereotyping.

My friend’s case was so intense that some of the elders threatened not to accompany him to his in-law’s house and they made real their threats. To them, he was on slow motion suicide mission and should be totally on his own. So he called me and explained everything to me.

I am not an elder and if what it takes to be an elder is to shower discouragement on a people who have known each other for more than 4 years from ending up together, thereby littering the streets with broken hearts, I don’t want. So we arranged with some older men and women who accompanied us to his in-law’s house.

The reception, well, was normal but not what we expected. They themselves had this notion that Nsukka people were timid people who are deep into diabolism, juju and whatever. Nevertheless, they accepted us and the marriage sailed through. Today, they’re happily married with a son, living comfortably in Abuja .

In my community, their are some villages that are blacklisted. The ignorant ones call them OSU and so, you can’t marry from there. Associating with them is frowned at even to this day.

Someone, with blood and brain and sense, a Christian and sometimes, one of the militant type prayer warrior, will look at his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in the same Church and refers to them as OSU. These people are often, isolated.

This ancient stereotyping happens all over Igboland and those who try challenging it are often ex-communicated from their families. I know people who were at the verge of getting married but when it was discovered that the girl happened to come from where the rest of the world do not like, the marriage was called off.

The guy couldn’t even stand up for her. I mean, if tomorrow I want to marry from anywhere I deem fit, someone I know is everything that I want and need, some people who didn’t create the person will come and tag her one thing and ask me to discontinue? And tomorrow, we all will be in church praising God? I don’t get it.

I had this girl I was trying to put up with. I frequented a particular community in her town because my friends were from there. This community was isolated and do not inter-marry with the rest of the town because they had been tagged slaves. She called me one day and said she doesn’t want our relationship to continue because of the people I associate with, that she is scared that I might be Osu. I was sad but I couldn’t do much to convince her that we are all humans and bleed red.

She must have heard from the mouth of elders, that avoiding such persons, people I have known all my life, people who have shown me nothing but love, would wipe out hunger and starvation and she was doing her best for it to come to pass.

Why am I writing this?

Every day I wake up, I try to interact with young people like myself and the evidence of these ignorant stereotypes farts in your face–be it in real life or the Internet, and I will be forced to ask how we got here.

A child’s mind at birth is a tabula rasa. Experiences write daily on that empty sheet of paper and so, no one is born with hatred. It is not an innate factor, it’s a learned. Why is it that our society teaches hate first before tolerance?

Our elders sowed the seed of disharmony, watered it and watched it germinate and that tree has kept us down in our filth as a people. This tree affects us in our everyday lives, in our education, in our work environment, in the market, in our houses and in our love lives. I think that it is time, for us as young people to cut it down as we will be defeating whatever achievements young people in other climes have gifted the world if we end up imparting the abilities to hate first and tolerate later in our own children.

It is no longer news that formal education as we know in Nigeria has failed us. This type of education that is meant to produce a man free from the shackles of stereotype, a rational reasoning man, has become a tool through which these vices it is meant to eradicate is being planted.

Our Education system has become a breeding ground for hate and such other vices that trap man in the state of nature. That is why the system has continued to produce men and women whose only stock in trade is total destruction of the larger society.

Only few persons pass through the system and still reason like educated persons as it encourages herd mentality while discouraging free thinking. You run the risk of failing some courses if you dare challenge some lecturers in class. So, you have to chorus Amen just to pass the course even when you have different opinion that is logically correct.

This dictatorial tendencies have produced individuals who are emergency historians who claim to know it all, people who declare the rubbish they spew as Bible, people who think it is their duty and obligation to tell others how to live their lives and what they should aspire to in life.

They used to tell us, go to school, graduate and get a good job. These days, one graduate into the waiting arms of joblessness. Then try and open a business and the same government will send their touts after you to pay for one Levy or the other and if you don’t have strong support financially, you will return to your retinue of walking from one office to another looking jobs

As young people, we have not thought it wise to brainstorm on how to improve our lives and solve our daily problems like lack of electricity and other health problems. We know that the older generation has failed but should we be comfortable failing too?

I mean, in the year of Uber and Tesla, in the year of electric cars and silicone Valley, we sit in front our screens every day just to denigrate ourselves. In the year of Macron and other young people taking the mantle of leadership, we scramble to be SSAs on social media or new media and we brag about it?
When they take it up a notch higher and make us commissioners at 40, we feel like we have achieved the impossible when some of these old ones started holding sensitive positions at 25?

As young people, we should know that we have a lot of catching up to do. The rest of the world is leaving us behind and it our duty to carry on no matter the obstacles before us. Hatred and ethnic jingoism does not produce anything, rather it robs of whatever we think we have. Most innovation championed by young people all over the world didn’t start by throwing ethnic jabs but through hardwork and resilience. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg spent his whole day insulting blacks in America, Facebook as you know it today wouldn’t exist.

Our education has failed us and there should be a total overhaul of the system. But we cannot afford to fail us and our children. The system does not in any way encourage critical thinking.

It’s said that national development does not lie in structures and high rise building but the education of the citizens of the country. In Nigeria, the high rise building, we do not have, the right type of education, we equally do not have.

Our energy sector, construction etc is populated by foreigners, people who did not even pass through universities and instead of finding solutions to these problems, we buy data every day to abuse each other and yet remain poor?

The greatest gift a country gives to it’s citizens is quality education but our so-called leaders are doing everything to reduce the half education they are giving us to rubbles.

Do I blame the young ones who manifest the only thing society equipped them with? No. Yet I stand here and call for truce, for a change in the way we abuse one another, a change in the way we see one another, a change in the way we act and to be more tolerant.

If we dedicate half of these energies into problem solving rather than creating new ones, rather than widening the gaps between us, rather than breaking the bonds that hold us together as an oppressed people under a vicious and dangerous leadership, we will achieve a lot.

I am not the reason why the East-West road has not been completed. You are not the reason why the second Niger bridge was abandoned or why Enugu-Port Harcourt express Road or the Enugu-Onicha express roads are the way they are. We know the people who are responsible and it is in our best interest that we channel our energies towards them.

I know it is not going to be an easy fight but we should have the courage to start. It is almost impossible to get anything in this country without know-towing to one politician or the other. That’s why they splash feaces on our faces daily knowing we are too engrossed with insulting one another than getting them to account for what they did.

We need to wake up. Nobody can save us except ourselves.