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Friday, December 7, 2012

From My Facebook Wall (1): My Hierarchy of Identities

From My Facebook Wall (1) By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde My Hierarchy of Identities@@@ My recent postings on Northern Nigeria necessitate a clarification about how we view our identities at any given time.@@@ Personality is what you earn, but identity is many times what others give you, whether you like it or not, by the way they treat you or refer to you. A lot of us would have forgotten the name northerner if we were not constantly reminded by others that we are northerners.@@@ I thus agree with Zubairu A. Rufa'i who pasted the massive map of Northern Nigeria below and said, "If your state falls in the green you are a northerner." someone added, "Whether you like it or not."@@@ After our last presidential elections, I can not remember how many times I was asked by the people I met in Washington DC from which part of Nigeria I came. I was surprised that even our Cameroonian neighbours insisted that I had to tell them. "Northern Nigeria", I replied proudly.@@@ We northerners may squabble and even fight bloody clashes here at home. But as soon as we find ourselves outside the region as students, corpers, travelers, etc, the clock of brotherhood derived from our common regional identity becomes begins to click. We are referred to by our common name: northerner.@@@ Back in 2005, while leaving Heathrow airport in a train to Richmond, judging from my northern accent, a Nigerian from the so called Middle Belt heard my voice speaking to my VSO partner, Hanna Nauke and immediately turned to me and said, "You are from Northern Nigeria. Right." I replied, "Yes." He extended his hands to me, saying, "Hello my brother."@@@ But let me tender my apology, if I must. Confessing my northernness doesn't in any way make me a lesser patriotic Nigerian. It is just my identity at a certain level. Above it is my identity as Nigerian, African, Fulani, Black, and Muslim, just as below it is that of Northeasterner, Bauchi'ner, Toro'ner', and Tilde'ner'.@@@ It is perplexing how we deal with this hierarchy of identities in everyday life. What is harmful is not the identities themselves but our use of them to gain undue advantage over others.@@@ What we must do, despite our inescapable hierarchy of identity that is inherently human, is to constantly embrace and practice the universal values of brotherhood, justice, peaceful coexistence and the readiness to accord everyone we meet his rights even if it is only a smile when our eyes meet on the street, "peace" when we greet him, a kind word when we speak to him, a help when he needs it even without requesting for it. This is important especially when our identities at the level we are interacting differ.@@@ To those we share the same identity, we additionally owe them the difficult duty to prevent them from treating others unjustly whether in business or in government, whether in words or in deeds. We must never support them tocheat, though, of course, we must readily help our own in self defense and doing good. We must not forget that those others also share our identity at higher levels, being Nigerians too, or Africans, blacks, or, more importantly, belonging to the large and all encompassing family of humanity.@@@ This message is for realist who want to reconcile the different forces that compete for his soul in everyday life. In Nigeria those forces are many, given our rich hierarchy of identities. Reconciling them will harness our mutual undrstandng and make our country more peaceful. God bless the human race, whose blood we must never let, whose propert we must never destroy and whose dignity we must never abuse.@@@ 6 December 2012

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