It annoys me when people ask where someone is from and immediately go. ‘Ah, na so una people dey behave.’
I hate it when people say Jukun women are like this, Birom men are like that, or Kataf did this and that (yes, these are tribes in Nigeria).
So you will remember my story about my aunty telling me not to enter aboki bike and how I scoffed and told her okada men are generally rough, it’s not about tribe. She insisted that the abokis ride rougher than normal, that they usually say ‘if we die na only two/three people die, not like a full bus’; that they accept death too easily.
The words passed through my left ear and came out of the right one, especially after I read this post about IDPs in Lagos. Most of these guys are here struggling to make ends meet, looking after relatives who ran away from the war in the north. If I cannot do anything about the war and the IDPs at least let me assist by patronizing their businesses. That’s what my mind told me, and I was doing it until…
One day: I boarded a bike home. From the guy’s accent, I knew he was from the north. This guy drove like devil was pursuing him; my heart came loose from its place and was bouncing in my chest till I got home. First thing I did was to make the sign of the cross and mutter ‘Thank you, Jesus.’
Another day: When I got to the park, it was a Hausa bike man that first approached me so I boarded. This one drove well, till we got to an intersection. Now, he was supposed to wait for the road to clear before he crossed. Everyone expected him to wait, but no, brother ran into the road. I was 2 seconds from what would have been a very bad accident. When we got to the other side and I asked him why he did it, he laughed and said, “I know say I go pass before the motor reach.” I swallowed and we continued our trip without any other drama.
That’s how I began to think maybe my aunty was right, and subconsciously began to avoid bike men that looked even a little like they came from the north.
Until one day I got to my bus stop late and was too tired to look out for who is from where, I just wanted to get home. So I climbed on the first okada I saw, gave him directions and we moved. Soon I noticed other okadas were zooming past us, weaving in out of the traffic but this guy was going jeje, I started teasing him, ‘see everybody dey pass us,’ and he replied, ‘I no dey drive rough, we go reach where we dey go.’ He had a Hausa accent.
In that moment I felt ashamed of myself. I realised that all the times I had been avoiding northern bike guys I had ridden with some very careless okada men but because they weren’t ‘Hausa’ I made excuses for them.
I engaged the guy and he said he is from Borno; the crisis in his state brought him to Lagos and he is living with relatives and riding a bike is his way of helping out with finances. He got me home without any incident and we parted ways.
And the moral of the story is? Children of God, never ever buy into stereotypes, especially tribal ones. Our tribes have nothing to do with our character. People will be kind, or wicked, or silly if they want to be, it has nothing to do with where they’re from or what they worship. Give everyone a fresh slate, no matter how many times you think ‘their brother’ has offended you. How would you like it if everyone judged you based on what some idiot from your tribe did to them?
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