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The Challenges Posed By Racism And Tribalism On Stable Societies


Racism and tribalism are found within societies with diverse ethnic groups, varying religious backgrounds and an array of cultures, norms, values and beliefs. 

According to the Oxford dictionary, Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority of marginalized. It is also the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. The slave trade is believed to have opened the world to the idea that skin colour guarantees sovereignty. 

Tribalism is the state of being organized in a tribe.. It also signifies a sense of identity for the tribe members that transcend the national identity with’’ feelings’’ of primacy over other tribes. While tribal societies have been forced to the edges of globalization, tribalism is perhaps undiminished simply because people have ‘’strong feelings’’ of common identity.  

With tribalism being predominant in Nigeria, it is important to note that the British played a significant role in ensuring tribalism remained during the colonial era and beyond. The country we know today was forcefully merged and was ruled with the “divide and conquer” principle. 

When the first sets of political parties were created after independence from British colonization,  they were formed along ethnic lines: 

  • Action Group (AG) headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was dominant in the Western region  which comprised of mainly Yoruba speaking people.  
  • Northern People’s Congress (NPC) formed by Jammaa Arewa was dominated only in the  Northern area of the country. 
  • National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was made up of mainly Igbo people. 

Apparently, the British colonial administrators’ ethnic policy and the regional autonomy reinforced the division of the three regions. This influenced the ethno-regional character of governance in  Nigeria.  

It is evident that tribalism has been elevated to influence national conversations, opinions and what the people support or oppose. Little wonder tribalism is as powerful as a religion in Nigeria. 

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, the Black-Americans have continually complained of marginalization by the white supremacists. It is necessary to note that these facts are seldomly reported by media, thus, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public. Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects. The murder of George Floyd by a white cop raised the dust of racism which birthed the Black Lives Matter(BLM) protest that rocked the United States.

It has been said that racism and tribalism are two sides of the same coin. Anyone guilty of tribalism is presumed to secretly possess subtle racist tendencies. Societies with these issues will face  problems like: 

  • Unemployment- because employers will only employ people that identify with only their race or ethnic groups.
  • Underdevelopment- areas with a particular race or tribe as the majority and at the helm of affairs will only tend to the needs of people that identify with them. 
  • Promotion of mediocrity. 
  • Inability to fight corruption: this is a major problem in Nigeria because the justice system is unable to prosecute corrupt public service officials because they belong to the same ethnic or tribal group as the president. 
  • Civil unrest and disobedience: an example of this is the Black Lives Matter movement that gained ground in the Unites State early this year. 
  • Indiscriminate killings- the Murder of George Floyd, the French teacher who was beheaded by his student are examples.  

By and large, a stable society is one in which the people of that society are in harmony with themselves and maintain calm with each other. It is only fair to say that any society with problems of racism and tribalism is not a stable society.



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