Ace Nigerian performance poet, Dike Chukwumerije, has lent his voice to the calls for unity in Nigeria, and berated ethnic groups calling for a dissolution of the country.
While speaking ahead of his next ‘Made in Nigeria’ performance poetry show slated to hold at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, on July 29, 2017, Chukwumerije described the calls as unwarranted because an average Nigerian today is a product of shared experiences drawn from multiple sections of the country. He also said the uniqueness of the character of the Nigerian is a result of his/her interactions with other Nigerians over time.
“Call me what you will, but Nigeria is my mother,” he said. “She is responsible for it all. If I amaze you with this ability to constantly pull light out of darkness, to combat recession with a heady mixture of kokoma and gyration, to climb out of any pit you throw me into, and instantly become recognisable anywhere I go, it is also because of this: that I was shaped by her contradictions and forged in the fierce furnace of her womb. So that somewhere on my soul, burned into its very essence, is a stamp no adversity or hate-filled speech will ever erase… And it reads, simply: ‘Made in Nigeria’”.
Chukwumerije emphasisied the need to avoid that dangerous tendency to stereotype others, saying it has been the root of many of Nigerian’s modern conflicts. He was quick to point out that it does not mean that there aren’t conflicts or misrepresentations, but that these should always be seen for what they are – the exceptions and not the rue.
“So, yes, a northerner has called me nyamiri before. But for each one, I will show you two who have called me ‘friend’. And, yes, a westerner has called me omoibo before. But for each one, I will show you two who have called me ‘brother’. And, yes, an easterner has called you ‘animal’ before, but I am here, not alone, not willing to judge you for the actions of people who did not confer with you before they acted.
“Remember that for every recording of two people talking xenophobia, there are hundreds of conversations, up and down the country, about tolerance that no one ever records and sends around on Whatsapp. This urge to inherit the fights of our ancestors is the greatest abdication of responsibility possible. For they lived their lives. Shall we not live ours?”
The ‘Made in Nigeria’ performance poetry production is a 120-minute long linked series of poems telling of Nigeria’s history from amalgamation to the present day, projecting the uniqueness of the Nigerian experience, and conveyed through a mix of comedy, music, dance and drama. It has been performed before thousands from Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and Benin over the last 10 months and is making its next South-West stop at Ile-Ife.
Chukwumerije delivered the last poetic thrust of his anti-tribe salvo, saying, “To me, you are not the re-incarnation of Ahmadu Bello, or the continuation of a 19th century jihad. To me, you are Salisu, the same Salisu I strolled with from Boys Hostel to Lecture Hall One, telling stories, sharing jokes, looking ahead to what the future might be.
Ramalan, the same one I teased endlessly for your hopeless crush on Amina. To me, you are Duzu Mustapha, whose death I still mourn, because a good man is a good man in whatever tribe, tongue or religion. Do you understand? That you are not the second coming of Awolowo? Not to me. Or the return leg of a grudge match? No. You are Tunde Okeowo, best friend, the same one I jumped molues with at Race Course, exploring the contours of growing up, together. Do you understand? That I am not Zik. Or Ojukwu. That I am not even my own father, Uche!”