Today I went to a salon with my friend Fatima.
Now here are a few things to know about Fatima. Fatima is great. Fatima is basically the best person I know. Fatima is Selfless, Fatima is generous. Fatima is a genuinely happy person. Fatima is a Muslim. And you are probably tired of reading about Fatima; so…. On this fine Saturday Fatima wants to tie her hair into Bantu knots so we drive to this salon on Mayne Avenue . But soon as we walk in , one of the stylists who from her attitude I assume is in charge of the place points to Fatima and says “you can’t come in here, We no dey do hair for muslims”. We both start to leave but then she says to me. “Fine sister, no be you na. Come tell me which style you wan do?”
I immediately go into a fit of laughter because isn’t it too “judgy” to assume every one with a hijab on is a Muslim? And then You just drove the actual person in need of your service away. So I say, my friend wants to get her hair done if you wouldn’t attend to her we’ll just leave. This time she is the one that bursts out laughing. Then she speaks in igbo to her colleagues “Onye na- akpa okuko ka obulu ihe nkili ga-egbu ya otu mbosi were mere ntri”. translation? He who keeps a chicken as a pet would kill it one day for food. Then she turns to me and says “if wahala burst for this country, na you she go first kill”.
As we leave I tell Fatima, I’m your pet chicken but she doesn’t understand. So I let her be. She doesn’t seem bothered by the whole situation.
She’s probably used to people thinking she’s Hausa because she’s a Muslim or people thinking she’s a Boko Haram because she’s Muslim, she must be used to the thorough search of her hand bag or car when she goes to the mall or the cinema. The hushed whispers when she passes in her hijab and … the awkward look from strangers when she socializes with her Christian friends.
And I think to myself isn’t It sad really, that we have to define ourselves, our friendships and relationships along religious and ethnic lines.
So this is when I start thinking of the relationship dynamics in Nigeria.
For example; I’m Adiah, I’m efik and I’m a Christian. So what happens when I meet Chidiebere who is a Christian too but is igbo? Nigeria says we are incompatible. Fatima’s case becomes even more complicated because she is Yoruba and she is a Muslim. So let’s assume she meets Bankole who is Yoruba too but is a Christian? Not compatible. Oh wait! What if she meets Abdul who is a Muslim but is Hausa? Still not compatible.
This on the other hand is what Nigeria expects;
Oge, igbo , Christian + chidiebere, igbo, Christian = Compatible
Fatima, Yoruba, Muslim + Jibola, Yoruba, Muslim = Compatible
Bisola, Yoruba, Christian + Lawal, Yoruba , Christian = Compatible
Aisha, Hausa, Muslim + Abdul, Hausa, Muslim = Compatible
Do you get the point I’m trying to make? Basically everyone is to stay within their ethnic and religious lanes. Do not switch lanes for any reasons.
I wonder to myself, when did we get so divided? My mother says it started during the civil war. But then what was the cause of the civil war? Struggle for power? Religious differences or ethnic diversity? I don’t know because I wasn’t there and to be honest not most of us alive today were alive then. We grew up hearing stories about the war, reading history books about the division between the Igbos and the Hausas, the Igbos and the Yorubas, the Muslims and the Christians. And we keep passing down these stories of hate we didn’t experience or wars we didn’t witness.
I look at Fatima again, and I think, maybe her grand father fought against my grandfather in the war, I don’t know. She doesn’t know either. And why does that have to determine if we could be friends?
Why can’t the new generation leave the past in the past?
Why must we constantly choose to identify ourselves by our tribe, state and religion?
Why can’t we just simply be “Nigerians” ?
But I guess it’s too much to ask for a Nigeria where a Yoruba Muslim walks into a salon and has her hair made by an Igbo Christian.