I really enjoyed this write-up because it touched on Stereotypes and societal expectations. I was marveled at the way, this writer created characters that were true and defied all societal standards. He touched on Federal Character and the play of the law and government in uplifting tribalism. This might not seem to be about ethnicity, but its every inch a tale of ethnicity, a topic that is of much concern in our great country.
At this point, I feel obliged to remind you that his series, is a way of celebrating Nigeria.
Read, share your thoughts,and enjoy.
Last Tuesday was our Press Day, you have to do this if you hold any post in a student body. We all went ‘Timberlake’. Suits and ties arranged in front of the many cameras and strange mouths asking typical questions. “What do you think about the Press turnout today?” “How do you feel going out to the Labour market?” ”Who do you think will take your post when you leave?” “Where do you see yourself in the next five years after your Graduation?” “What are your dreams and aspirations?”… We all were eager to give our well practised answers. Answers we gave at the various job interview drills the school made us take these past weeks. It was one of the rare days when you see everyone relaxed and smiling, afterall nobody wants his/her face in the papers with a King Kong expression written all over. I chose my blue blazers matching my blue tie for this day, after long moments of reflection of course. We were simply excited.
All was fine until I heard a tiny girl ask from behind a large microphone- “What do you think about Ethnic Distinguishing?”. “Another smartmouth fresher from Pol. Science” I murmured to myself. Second to the English department students, they flood the Press club of the University. They like to test you. They like to exhibit superfluous depth. They like these political and geopolitical issues. I wasn’t ready for any of that. I simply wanted to finish the interview and return to my almighty Project and the last leg of classes here, so I dribbled around the question in the ‘Lawyer way’ and moved on… until today.
I sit in class waiting on Prof. Mo for Banking Law. You have to be in his morning class before he comes in or you don’t attend his class at all. I sit at my regular aisle seat, far back with Felix. You can easily monitor the entire class from the elevated point and also project your voice without much stress. Small groups of intellectuals gather to do the morning gossips.. we like to call it intellectual gossips. Priscilla is in her regular group with Omolade, Aisha, and Babajide. I cast a stare in their direction for some reason, and before I could blink, I was in a zone. I suddenly remembered the tiny girl behind the large microphone asking me about ethnic distinguishing. I look around and see people of different tongues and tribes, different looks from different hoods… it’s a federal university after all. (Sometimes I wonder what communication would be like if we didn’t all speak English). My mind is traveling fast, asking many questions on ethnicity. I had my share of Constitutional Law some years ago and I hated many Federalism clauses in the Constitution. I hated that we were judged based on our great-grandfather’s choice of settlement. I hated the assumption that you could become a Nigerian because your grandfather was Nigerian, even if you never lived in Nigeria. I hate that the civil war was made totally ethnic. I hate ethnic stereotypes. I don’t understand why my mother can’t contest in an election in Lagos- she’s lived ninety percent of her life here.
I look around the classroom and review my classmates. Priscilla is from the the swamps of some place in Rivers state. She is beautiful in any definition of beauty. Priscilla has to be the most amiable person I have met. Priscilla rarely ever talks. She is one of those people you describe as ‘quietly intelligent’. Priscilla knows more about the Yoruba mythology than I do. She once proved, and logically so, that Oranmiyan never left his staff behind. She speaks Yoruba better than I do, and goes on her two knees when she greets adults. She doesn’t care about refineries nor the oil wells, she even refused to take Oil and Gas Law in our 4th year, and instead opted for Law of Taxation. Priscilla is not about the night life, she doesn’t swim either. I know what you’re thinking, she is a bastard? She didn’t grow up in Rivers state? Well, no. Priscilla visited Lagos for the first time at 17, about to become an undergraduate.
I look to the far left on the front row. Tope Wilson sits proudly. He is brilliant, no doubt. He has been the best in every Commercial Law course we’ve taken since our first year. Everybody expects him to one day lead his father’s business empire, settle in California or Manchester, marry a white woman and produce cross-breed children. His father is wealthy, so was his grandfather. Tope’s father is English by registration and has the larger parts of his businesses in Manchester. He adopted a foreign surname long before Tope was born. Tope’s mother is also Yoruba, but Tope is English by birth. I’m almost sure he was only named Temitope for the sake of future opportunities that would require him to be Yoruba, political accomplishments most likely. Tope’s Yoruba is a little better than President Clinton’s… Yeah, he can barely say “Good morning”. But yes, his Nigerian birth certificate lists him as a Yoruba “Nigerian by birth”.
Sitting by my side is my closest friend, Felix Nnamani. I met him in my second year, a Direct Entry student. He couldn’t gain an admission with us into the first year because he didn’t meet the National Cut-off Mark, but he definitely scored more than the Yoruba fellows who got in on “catchment” consideration. Mrs Nnamani is a full-blooded Yoruba who was born and bred in Lagos. Mr Nnamani grew up in Lagos as well and barely knows the Igbo language. But it didn’t matter on Felix’s admission consideration. He was simply judged by his last name. Patriarchy is applicable here after all.
Professor Umar Mohammed enters the class right on time. He is the Banking Law lecturer, and Managing Partner at a notable Law Firm with offices in the North and the West. He is what most would describe as an untypical Hausa man. He has only one wife and is a Christian.. a self-proclaimed Catholic. He has a Rolex for every Lewis, and a Ferragamo for every Levi’s. He carries his notes in LV’s and drives fast cars on the slow Lagos roads. He is a definition of style. If he imbibes any Hausa culture, it has to be only the thirst to be ahead. Professor Mo, as he is often called, has Degrees from Oxford and Stanford. I reached my conclusion about him after 3 semesters here- he is Western at heart, but no less a full-blooded Hausa man.
I wonder, am I a Doctor because my father went to Medical School? Why am I then Yoruba simply because I have a Yoruba surname? Should I be judged by my last name? Or by my choices? I have many questions, strong opinions.. but my intellectual gossip session is over. I have to pay attention now to Professor Mo. And I really hope that that tiny girl behind the large microphone gets to read this as my answer to her question.
Written by Temi Oladele
His Twitter handle: @prolificphilip
You may read his blog: prolificphilip.wordpress.com