Nigeria is a country made of many ethnic groups with divergent views, beliefs and cultural practices. The complexity of the Nigerian people has made coexisting together sometimes nearly impossible as issues of mistrust and favouritism along ethnic and religious lines continues to spring up. Hence, the tension among ethnic groups remains; ticking like a time bomb and waiting for a stimulus for it to explode. It is not uncommon to hear parents tell their children to be wary of members of other ethnic groups because of certain characteristics which have been attributed to these groups from time immemorial. Some are regarded as been violent, others are seen as been too materialistic, some are said to have higher powers and special skill in witchcraft and others are concerned only about money while we are reminded that some groups cannot be trusted no matter the circumstances. The myths are endless. We erroneously generalise and label groups differently probably because of what we were told by friends and family or what we read in newspapers, journals or magazines even if we have never really had any direct contact with these people.
The quest for education and improved economic conditions has made it necessary for individuals to migrate from their places of origin. This has offered them the opportunity to relate and deal more closely with people from other ethnic groups. It is not uncommon to see an Igbo man residing in the North or a Yoruba in the North and people from other ethnic groups moving to “foreign” places. New friends are made, new cultures learnt and accepted and sometimes it goes even deeper than that. People find love in places they probably were told they should be careful of. This sometimes offers some serious and difficult challenges.
The problems usually faced could make the weak give up. It is not uncommon to have serious and fierce opposition from both parents and if the couples involved are not willing to put up a fight, the love usually dies even before it begins to blossom. The adaptation period is also an issue. Many have never been able to understand why they would have to lie down or kneel, as a sign of respect, before their father-in-law and other elders because they were not trained that way. And while we learn new customs and traditions, we realize that it may not be a walk in the park to adapt. We could get easily offended when we discover how a certain people live their lives. For many, because they were not brought up that way, it is usually a reality shock. Children born into such homes may not learn the languages anyway. These homes usually are “English homes”. This is understandable especially if the man doesn’t understand the woman’s language and vice versa.
However, the benefits of intertribal marriages and relationships cannot be overemphasized. With the growing level of mistrust and violence in the country, such marriages have helped to foster unity amongst families and tribes. And in successful cases, it helps in changing our erroneous views on others. It teaches us not to generalise and label a group simply because of an old encounter we had with a random person or stories we were told by our bitter parents, friends or relatives. The chance to discover a new way of life is also important. We learn to see things from a different point of view. We learn about new foods, places and traditions. These are things we ordinarily would not have learnt if we married that lady or man whose house is less than one kilometre from my home.
Finally, in every relationship, the most important factor is to have two individuals who understand and love each other truthfully. Issues like ethnic or religious difference should never be the most important factor. After all, what is the point in marrying someone from your village if that will translate to a lifetime of unhappiness? So we must learn to love without restrictions. We should not have a list of places we cannot marry from. People find love in places they never thought was possible. We may just be the turning our backs on people who sincerely care for us. There is no guarantee that the so called “safe option” of an intra-tribal marriage will have a happy ending. The single most important thing is to find someone we love, the one whose heart and ours will be in perfect synchrony. By limiting our choices, we may have turned our back on that one person who will love us in ways we never imagined.
Have a nice day.