WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? – By Ify Omeni

Quite a deep question this is.

I thought about it from several angles and came up with this message which I share with you all today. My pastor asked the question on Sunday during the Children’s Day celebration. He was discussing a topic that so many people know about and often deny that they practise. Can you imagine this situation I am about to describe?

A young man walked into a sitting room, his face caked in smiles. He stepped into the warm embrace of the people who had been waiting for him. Their smiles were as broad as his. They sat down and he took a seat in the the room that was as familiar to him as his own palm. He spoke for a while and one of the people he was sitting with asked a question. When he supplied the answer, the smiles vanished. He was perplexed as he wondered why.

Now let us pause and take a trip to another part of this same universe we live in.

A young lady opens the door and is drawn into a tight embrace by the woman who walks in. They sit down and are soon engrossed in a deep conversation. The young lady is so excited, talking animatedly about the topic of discussion. Her visitor watches her, smiling at her obvious fascination with the topic.

Then comes the same question and the face of the visitor crumples like a piece of paper squeezed by an angry child. The young lady’s excited demeanour evaporates in a wisp of smoke as she wonders what has gone wrong.

The young man and young lady in the stories narrated are confronted with a situation that has become a noose in the neck of our nation, threatening to choke the life out of it. As they tackle the problem by trying to reason with their contenders, they see the futility of their words and realise the need to do something before the noose is tightened too tight and the result becomes fatal.

And so, let’s go back to the topic of my pastor’s message.
He spoke of PREJUDICE, a situation simply defined as having a negative impression about someone or people from a particular tribe, sometimes even before interacting with them or that person. It is also called BIAS. Someone who is prejudiced or biased makes sweeping statements about people and clings tight to a particular opinion.

My pastor said that one way of proving that many people are prejudiced is the question that many parents ask their children when they tell such parents about the people they intend to marry.

The parents ask the question that the young man and young lady in the story I just narrated were asked by their own parents.

A question that has now become the dread of bachelors and spinsters in our great country, Nigeria.

A question that can wipe smiles off happy faces and turn excitement to gloom.

The dreaded question, which could be, WHERE IS HE FROM? Or WHERE IS SHE FROM?

The question sounds so simple on the surface but its roots reach deep into the soil. It transcends generations, dispensations, cultural orientations, spanning ethnic clashes and behavioural traits. It is a question that brings prejudice to the forefront and often destroys the joy of many intending couples.

And one wonders why all this should be happening in the 21st century. We never grow pass that one? as my pidgin speakers will say. If the British Royal Family can break their traditions of BLUEBLOODISM and welcome two women of ‘not-so-royal-an estate’ into the close knit enclave of THE ROYAL WIVES OF WINDSOR, then what on earth are we still doing clinging blindly to ancient traditions that have done nothing but cause harm?

Storried Nigeria Our Pride

I know there were times in this nation when it was A TABOO for people of certain tribes to get married. The Nigeria Civil War did not make matters any better. Many of the people who saw the war were confronted with a divided Nigeria and hatred for certain tribes sprouted in many hearts.

And so many biased statements emerge:

People from this tribe are too stingy.

People from this tribe love money too much. They can steal money from a dead person’s hand.

People from this tribe are deceitful. They are ‘wayo’ people.

People from this tribe are cowards; they will plan something with you, then chicken out and betray you.

People from this tribe like party too much. They can sell their last clothes to organise a party.

People from this tribe are morally bankrupt.

And so many other stereotypes. This unfortunately influences people’s behaviours and it causes disunity. I was shocked when a lady said that in her all-girls secondary school, the students (who are allowed to appoint The Head Girl) always ensurde that The Head Girl came from a particular tribe. They said they cannot allow a girl from another tribe to oppress them in their own land. So young and already so prejudiced! Sad!
This prejudice is not only evident in the marriage institution. Its footprints can be seen in almost every sector of the economy. People are biased against certain tribes and make no attempt to hide it.

There is no need for all this discrimination. We once complained that the colonial masters oppressed us and rejoiced when we got our independence. Now, are we going to return to bondage when we have been set free? Why should we of the same nation oppress each other? If we cannot accept our own country people as brides and grooms, try to imagine the fate of a foreigner. More like THE FATE OF A COCKROACH if you ask me! Even people from the same state sometimes refuse to get married to each other. Some people can even say, ‘In this village, we don’t marry people from that side. In fact, the people from after the stream, we don’t marry them.’ And they say it with so much pride as if they should be given medals!

I have two sisters-in-law that are not from my family tribe but they were welcomed with open arms and are still welcome. I have even been accused of treating one of them better than my blood sister. They are members of the family and are treated as such.

There has to be ‘the way forward’ for our great nation. To come to a place where everyone will be judged by THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER and not THE TAGS OF THEIR TRIBES.

It is not wrong to ask where the woman or man your child wants to marry comes from. It is not wrong to research into the family history of the ‘intended addition’ to your family. But it is SO WRONG to discriminate against people on the basis of situations they can do nothing about. If they could change their ancestry, they would have. But they cannot help being a part of another tribe. They were born there. That is home to them. Do not make them feel less than human because they are not from your tribe.

We are all Nigerians!

And wait just a minute, we are ONE BIG FAMILY. Everyone in the whole wide world. You don’t agree with me? Let us read Luke 3:38.
……….which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

This chapter of the book of Luke was tracing the genealogy of Jesus and it ended at one universal source…ADAM….., from whom all mortals came, was the son of God. So we all came from ONE SOURCE. We should live as one big, happy family.

So the next time someone asks you that question, WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Give a universal answer:

I AM FROM GOD. MY TRIBE IS JUST SECONDARY.

My fellow Nigerians, as we celebrate Democracy Day today, let us get rid of our prejudices and biased attitudes. Let us in one accord sing this song as we decide to have a UNITED NIGERIA:

You’re my brother
You’re my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will walk
Until He comes
There’s no foe that can defeat us
While we’re walking side by side
As long as there is love
We will stand!

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WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

By Ify Omeni

Quite a deep question this is.

I thought about it from several angles and came up with this message which I share with you all today. My pastor asked the question on Sunday during the Children’s Day celebration. He was discussing a topic that so many people know about and often deny that they practise. Can you imagine this situation I am about to describe?

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