---Dr. John Prentice, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, 1967
Oria began his career as a columnist with an excellent article titled Balkanisation. You can read it here at NEXT's website. In the article, he talks about one of the many problems we face as a people, the proliferation of functional illiterates. You see, he is actually drawing us back to something that we discussed on these 'ere pages back in 2007, and the Igbo 'leader' he referred to in his article is Ralph Uwazuruike who has been quiet lately. I wonder why..?
I spoke to a friend of very mine recently, and was quite disappointed to find that he had broken off his engagement to his girlfriend of a few years. The reasons that he gave me initially were less than flawed, so I pressed him further and finally he cracked and told me the truth. A is a Yoruba chap you see, and happens to be his dad's first child. The girl involved here is Efik, and A's parents made it quite clear to him that they would rather die than let their first child get married to a non-Yoruba. The reason given is that they want their kid(s) to be happy, and that for a happy union of man and woman, you should marry someone that is "the same" as you. The irony of the whole scenario here is that A's mother has an Igbo lady as her closest friend. Rain check: so Mrs. O, your closest friend is not the same as you? Why continue such a flawed relationship then?
I do not know who to feel angry with in this whole (sordid) scenario. Is it A for throwing away the love of his life over some artificial concern, or is it A's parents for being so insular?
The truth is that I have heard even my parents express similar reservations in the past, and as I think about it the more, I have to face the awful realisation that it is a thing with their generation. In my own ancestral home-town, it is very difficult to find people of my parents' generation getting married to people further afield from our village. Even if the villages are separated by a creek, something suddenly becomes wrong with those people. Each time I hear such sentiments expressed, I wonder whether the people of Mbaise were so cursed by the Almighty that all the thieves, crooks and murderers on the planet somehow found their way there. What of the thieves, crooks and murderers who originate from our own neck of the woods? Then I understand that unless the girl that I bring home comes from within a very small radius, someone somewhere will look at her askance. That though is not my problem.
What is my problem however, is the effect that this insular attitude is having on my own generation. Granted, there has been a far greater number of inter-ethnic marriages among my age group than any other before me, but I still think that the majority of people my age are all too unwilling to challenge the words of their parents, no matter how wrong those words may be. Routinely in Nigeria, parents make life defining decisions for their adult children almost as if these adults have no reasoning abilities of their own. And when those children attempt to make a stand, they are met with phrases such as, 'Did I not give birth to you?' Then in most cases, they back down.
The question that comes to mind here is this: our parents' generation, and generations before them have been doing things in a particular manner with no effort at change. The lack of change is the case simply because across the board in almost all (if not all) Nigerian cultures, gerontocracy is the order of the day. There is this belief that the older you get, the wiser you are, and as a result there should be no challenge from anyone younger. Whilst I accept that there is a certain wisdom that comes with age and experience, I refuse to accept that that wisdom is infallible, and as a result I will pass if I do not think that such a person's advice is the best decision for me. I would rather assume responsibility for my own failure based on a decision that I made myself, than resent someone else because I was too much of a coward to take the leap based on my own judgement.
To the members of my own generation, until we stop accepting orders hook, line and sinker and learn to think for ourselves and assume our own responsibilities instead of shirking them under the blanket of being respectful, we run the clear risk of having our own children in the precise same position we are in now. And that position is not good.