While I still stand by the benefits of inter-tribal marriages, recently, something happened that opened my eyes to the fact that I had been rather simplistic in my thinking. I have this friend who is slightly older than I am. We met during NYSC in the north. A few days ago I had cause to go with him to visit his uncle. We got into his uncle’s office and I curtseyed (you know, that thing Nigerian girls do with their knees when they are greeting an older person) my friend bowed and we sat and had quite a good chat with his uncle. I noticed however, that he was rather distracted. After we left I asked him what was wrong. “Nothing!” he said testily. Perplexed by his behavior I kept at him till he said he was unhappy that I didn’t kneel down to greet his uncle. I’m sure you have guessed by now that my friend is Yoruba. In the part of Nigeria from which I hail; it is not required for me to kneel down when greeting an elder. It honestly did not occur to me. When I realized that I had committed a faux pas by Yoruba tradition, I apologized, quite abjectly, to my friend but he would have none of it. Even though he’s talking to me again there is still a strain in our conversations that lets me know he hasn’t totally put the incidence behind him. Despite how bad he feels about it, I can’t guarantee that there are no situations where I would forget to kneel and greet an elder Yoruba person. I’ll have to build it up as an instinctive habit that’ll likely only become second nature after a period of constant practice.
In any relationship where both parties stand to benefit, each must be willing to compromise at one time or the other. The rigidity that refuses to consider a compromise and must have things its way is often the death toll that marks a descent into conflict. The next time you interact with someone from a different tribe, try a little compassion and communication. You will be surprised how amiable people are when we try to see their point of view.
By Dooshima Tsee