A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. In social psychology, a stereotype is a thought that can be adopted about specific types of individuals or the certain ways they do things.
This is what we do very well in Nigeria, we give each tribe a stereotype and make distasteful jokes about them not minding the consequences and damage it’ll cause.
We say the Igbo man is addicted to money or the Yorubas are loud and dirty, or the Hausas are vicious or the Calabar people are houseboys and housegirls, the Calabar girls are sex maniacs and the Edo girls are prostitutes.
Whether we wish to agree or not, these stereotypes incite anger so don’t blame anyone who fights back if he/she feels that his/her tribe or race has been insulted.
I remember one time, my husband was narrating to me a conversation he had with his Igbo friend who was married to an Akwa Ibom woman. They were having problems in their marriage and heading for a divorce. The man told my husband that he regrets not listening to his parents who told him not to marry “this Calabar woman” when the whole world knows that Calabar women are the worst cheats and prostitutes and are never loyal.
I found that remark particularly insulting and I didn’t know when my eyes turned red and my fangs came out. “And what did you say to that?” I asked my husband as he shrugged indifferently. I took his indifferent shrug to mean that he supported his friend. Then my husband said, “but the truth is our [Edo] women are very good and faithful to their husbands sha, no matter what.”
Lawd, I went into ‘condo’ (intense rage) and launched an atttack. “So why didn’t you marry your so called ‘good and faithful’ Edo women then?” I spat out violently. By this time my whole body was vibrating with rage. I washed his full life down. I gave him statistics of Edo women prostituting in Europe. How at least one household in Benin City had one female sex worker in Europe and how the then first lady, Eki Igbinedion had launched an aggressive campaign to salvage the situation that was becoming an embarrassing menace. I reminded him that if not for anything, Calabar girls were well known as housegirls. So a girl who’d rather take the humiliating job of being a maid is a girl who’d rather choose work and hard manual labour to selling her body, pride, family name and dignity for money.
By this time I saw the look on my husband’s face, he was defeated and speechless, so I went in for the kill. After cussing out his Igbo friend that he was too busy spitting on his fingers and counting his money to give his wife attention and make his marriage work, I warned oga finally that next time he went out for a drink with his ‘I-married-a-Calabar-woman’ union of friends, he should tell them I said they all have been pussy-whipped so bad by the almighty Calabar woman…the queen of pussy-whippers…that they couldn’t find their way home to marry from their own tribes. That they were all greedy to marry sex machines who could cook food fit for gods to eat…all that edikan ikong, afang, afia efere and ekpang nkukwo.
I entered Calabar mode and cussed under my breath: “eke yem e fib mfi!” (You guys wanted to suck prewinkle). Periwinkles are those sea food we put in our meals with the shells. You have to suck the meat out of the shell while eating and it is peculiar to our cuisine. By now, I was so sure the ‘Calabar Woman’ conversation would never come up again, ever! When oga saw my red eye, he quickly surrendered and said “I agree!”
Does it even make sense to leave your whole tribe, and then come to another tribe to marry, all to throw stereotype slurs at the woman each time you have a fight? Personally, I hate using stereotypes, but something snapped in my head that day, when I head that general insult about my people. It didn’t matter if it was coming out of the mouth of a man I love, all I knew is whoever said it must ‘pay.’
So it is with every region in the country who has suffered one stereotypical slur or the other, from mocking their accents to their way of life, it is most times not acceptable. Refined politics comes with diplomacy, and to some extent we must mind our choice of words, if we must work in unity as a nation.
While I still maintain that I saw nothing wrong with Mrs. Aisha Buhari‘s speech in Edo state, sometimes it is good to speak the language of the people. In Edo State for instance, pidgin English is the most popular lingua franca and if you can play with the unique way they speak it, then you’ve won their hearts in its entirety. Perhaps if she had addressed Edo mothers in pidgin saying she wanted a better life for “our daughters”, it would have been better embraced.
Stereotypes divide us. Whichever party we belong to or whoever candidate we are going to give our votes to on March 28, let’s not forget the most important thing: we can only move forward if we throw away religious and tribal sentiments and work together in unity.
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