Opinion

I am a true Nigerian, by Olajide Abiola

As a Nigerian, I have come to understand that people who know the least hold the strongest views. In the past, I have had people remark, “Jide, you don’t know these people”. I mean people who have never travelled past their region.

I have had to ask, how much more should I know them?

My mum grew up in Katsina. Went to boarding school in Katsina. Tertiary education in Niger State and Zaria.

My two siblings were born in both Sokoto and Niger. We lived in Yawuri and Minna.

I schooled partly in Minna (Hilltop Model School) and my secondary education and military training were in Zaria, Kaduna. I know Zaria like the palm of my hands. At age 11 and 12, I would journey to Mando from Zaria to board luxurious bus heading to Lagos unaccompanied. No GSM, nor prior phone calls ahead. I adventured in my teens throughout Zaria city. From Sabo, to PZ, to Kachia, to Samaru, to Tudun Wada, to Wusasa, to Congo etc.

In primary school, during the holidays, we travel to Funtua in Katsina to enjoy it with our maternal grandma who called the place home for almost 70 years. In the mornings, we used to enjoy Tuwo da miyan kuka or kubewa. Good memories.

During the recent lootings of warehouses, I had over N200m worth of Commodities in a warehouse in Kano that was meant for delivery to an international organisation after sourcing, cleaning and bagging it. My friend and industry associate who was instrumental to that transaction is reading this. I received calls from those who were aware of the transaction. “Ha! Jide, are those goods safe?”, “what are the measures being taken to secure them?”. I calmly told all those who raised concerns that I can vouch for the people there. They will never loot the goods. I took my time to explain…. “okay oooo”. That was the responses they gave as they weren’t convinced. I was so at peace. I did a proprietary social mapping and analysis about the situation that made those who were concerned to have a better understanding during the circumstance.

You can then imagine people who have never left their region always telling some of us who grew up in the North (or who are even the north sef) that “you don’t know these people”. I should be the one saying “It is you I don’t know”.

My best friend is Ebira. My Co-founder, friend, brother and colleague is Igbo. My close friends and associates are from Kaduna, Adamawa, Kano, Kogi, Delta, Anambra, Rivers. To be honest, those I have enjoyed doing seamless and hassle free business with the most in Nigeria are Hausas and Fulanis. I have more team members of Igbo extraction than any other ethnicity and it isn’t deliberate. It is those who show up and demonstrate stewardship that are given opportunity. My co-founder is one of the most ethical human beings I have ever known in my life. I have senior friends and associates across religious faiths and ethnicities. What I look out for in people are values and ideals. People’s cultures and traditions for me are just beautiful expression of human diversity.

I am entrepreneur building for now and the future. I am operating actively in 4 industries across the country. Even if I started life with prejudice, it would have become incumbent to discard them to be able to make advances and progress, but most importantly, enjoy the fellowship and friendship of beautiful people from everywhere.

How can an ethnic bigot network broadly and widely? Yet, you bemoan having limited choices and opportunities in life. Why wouldn’t you when all you see is your myopic Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa? For some, it is their own other tribe.

As a boy soldier in the Military, a Christian senior will punish a Muslim junior for missing mosque. Will chase a Muslim junior to mosque. Will wake a junior boy to go and pray. And vice versa. In the Army, we serve corporal punishment together as one. No tribe, no religion. Just brotherhood. And there was respect. In secondary school, I had a Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo masters at different times. I didn’t even know the difference. I had room mates from Cross River, Rivers, Abia, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna. Interestingly, when I also became senior, my boys were from Kaduna, Anambra and Ondo. Where they came from was of no consequence.

Diversity is such a beautiful expression of the divine and nature. I wonder how and why people are so myopic. Admire and delight in the beautiful culture and traditions of others and respect their faiths.

I have never been part of an ethnic nor religious mob in my life and will never be.

If healthy and death doesn’t strike prematurely, life is still very short to wallow in such stupidities.

Network broadly. Expand your worldview and understanding. Your relationship building skills is as much, if not more important than your technical skills.

Some of you only have friends and associates that are of the same tribe and faith and from only your secondary school and university. It hasn’t gone beyond that. And worse off, you have never travelled beyond your state and region. Everything is narrow. Begins and ends with your tribe and locality.

Good morning to my friends and kin across the country. Especially the Indigenous people of Nigeria. Tribal warriors should go and collect theirs from erm, hmm… the tribal lords of their regions.

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