I received more reactions in response to the above article than I can reproduce in weeks. I am sharing only a sample. Enjoy!
In my opinion, prejudice is sustained in Nigeria because it is constantly being taught. Newer generations of Nigerians learn prejudice from the older ones at every stage of their lives. Unless the active teaching of prejudice is interrupted, it will continue to flourish. The most important medium for teaching prejudice to southerners is the private print media while in the north it is religious preaching. Young southerners are raised on a steady diet of prejudice against northerners written in newspapers and magazines from Tell to Newswatch to Punch, to Tribune to Guardian, etc. When a young southerner constantly reads disparaging things about the north written by 'respected' columnists, he cannot grow up to be anything other than a prejudiced Nigerian.
In the north, religious preaching is the medium for passing prejudice to younger generations. Some preachers constantly portray the non-Muslim as an eternal, implacable enemy that is worthless as a person and not suitable for any form of association with a Muslim. Ongoing global conflicts like the Palestinian conflict etc. are cited as evidence to support this premise. A young northerner who grew up on a diet of this will celebrate when a non-Muslim governor dies. Some countries have realised this very early and have taken steps to control the teaching of prejudice, but in Nigeria it has always been fashionable to do so. Human beings need to be controlled, unfortunately, even in what they say in order to have a sane society. We must ,as a country and in view of our situation, legislate against any open defamatory remarks against any GROUP of Nigerians. It should be made illegal for any Nigerian to say or write defamatory things against any ethnic, religious or other demographic group in Nigeria. This should not include saying verifiable facts like "early marriage for girls is commoner in the north" or "the rate of armed robbery is highest in Lagos" but any subjective and negative opinions about any group of Nigerians must be disallowed and penalised. This is the only way forward.
Dr. Raji Bello, Abuja
I once lived in the same compound with a colleague in Abuja when we were newly employed in my place of work. The lady, who was from one of the South-South states, said she never knew there were Hausa/Muslims who were educated up to the university level. She said she thought all Hausa/Muslims were illiterates!
There was a story they were often told as teenagers that any girl that befriended a Hausa man stood the risk of having a snake enter her body! They believed that Hausa people became snakes and entered their girlfriends' bodies! They grew up to believe those stories until she came to Abuja and found out otherwise. But the damage already done to those young minds is unquantifiable! Till today, that lady, with whom we became very good friends, try as she might, finds it very difficult to regard Hausa/Muslims as equals to her Southern/Christian brethren.
Ahmed Abdulkadir , Sokoto
When I was doing my youth service in Akwa Ibom State, a colleague of mine from the South once asked me if I and another lady from Katsina were really from the North. The reason for his question? He thought nobody from the North could possibly speak English as well as the two of us could. When I told him we were indeed from the North, he wanted to know if we also went to school there. I told him I had never attended any school outside of Jigawa and Kano states. Some of these stereotypes are just silly, to say the least.
Aminu Aliyu Abdulmalik, Birnin-Kudi, Jigawa
I have been in a situation where I attended a meeting and the first comment the chair of the meeting asked upon seeing me was "can she read and write?" probably on account of my dressing/veil. And the first time I reported to the HOD of my department, I was asked: "what did you read that you were employed on Gl 10? I replied that I had a M.A. and the lady replied: "You M.A.!? What university?” I said “UDUS” and she said, "no wonder". In addition, the chair of the meeting who asked if I could read and write still had to test my ability by asking me to spell “psychiatrist.”
Salamat Farouq, Abuja
Your article no doubt deserves comments from all concerned. It is certainly a reminder to the fact that a lot needs to be done by those in authority and indeed all Nigerians to keep the Nigerian Flag flying. You will agree with me that this cannot be achieved when the views and achievements of one section of this country is held in contempt by another. It can only be achieved if we sincerely acknowledge the fact that no nation, person or group of persons shall prosper as an island. The Holy Qur'an has provided us with the answer to this contentious issue in (Qur'an 49:13): ''O Mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the best in conduct. Lo! Alllah is knower, Aware''. Our ethnic differences should therefore strengthen us and not divide us as a nation.
Tijjani Abubakar (08029096035)
Very well-put. Thoughtful and cogent. May your words of wisdom be implanted in the minds of our compatriots. Thanks. Happy New Year.
Professor Folu Ogundimu, Michigan State University, USA