Instead of hiding our faces in collective shame or at least, marvel at how effective other policing systems are while our is not, considering all the culprits were arrested with all monies recovered, some have chosen to react irrationally. In response, eleven names of south-westerners, awaiting the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, were released as a form of reciprocity!


O Mankind, we have created you from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you… – Glorious Quran 49:13

Five Nigerians, all in their twenties, were arrested in Dubai for committing armed robbery. These supposed tourists bought tickets, obtained visas, boarded a plane to Dubai in the endeavour to rob some of millions of dollars. Many would agree that was a genuinely stupid move. But before other details were revealed, the mad Nigerian cyberspace went viral, with not the stupidity or embarrassment of the crime and its effect on the image on Nigeria, but on the ethnic origins of the suspected criminals.

You could read through comments depicted with so much internal joy and, for some, relief that the perpetrators were all not from their tribe or religion. Many bigots were celebrating the ethnic origin of the robbers. Their names were being peddled on social media with a hidden intent to malign. The person who disclosed the information with a high sense of patriotism and responsibility was Honourable Abike Dabiri, the Diaspora Commission boss. Whether it was her responsibility or that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is another discussion altogether but, yet again, the attack now shifted to the tribe of the deliverer of the message. She is from the South-West.

Instead of hiding our faces in collective shame or at least, marvel at how effective other policing systems are while our is not, considering all the culprits were arrested with all monies recovered, some have chosen to react irrationally. In response, eleven names of south-westerners, awaiting the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, were released as a form of reciprocity! The madness continued to the level of which tribe commits what category of crime abroad. It simply became a discourse of which tribes have more propensity for different types of criminal activity. As in, your criminal versus my criminal. It may have been more productive if the discussions were for social science research purposes but no, it was about vilification and having a feeling of being absolved from certain types of criminality. As if the Dubai authorities would ever grant visas or business opportunities to Nigerians on the basis of their tribes.

Ironically, it’s the same attitude we applied when approaching previous issues of national concern. The Boko Haram crisis was seen as a Hausa-Kanuri problem. For sicker ones, it was a Northerner-Muslim problem. Same with the oil theft and kidnapping in the South-South region. Other parts of the country didn’t care because the petrodollars were oiling their survival. Among the worst were the politicisation of and ethnocentric approach to the century-old herdsmen and farmers’ crisis. Fulanis everywhere were lumped up and termed as one bunch of muderous people.

Every tribe in Nigeria seeks out the best doctor to get good treatment… Same goes for pilots and owners of airlines. We diligently check out the safety records of the airlines when even going to Israel or Saudi on pilgrimage. At this point, the inanities of tribalism do not matter. Once we un-board the planes or get healthy, we put back our Nigerian un-thinking caps on again.


Now, that’s the sick world some Nigerians live in. That is what some Nigerians have become, and it cuts across all geo-political zones, ages and genders. Those in the diaspora are sometimes even worse. Everything is seen through the prism of tribe and religion.

Unfortunately, that’s the level of thinking we apply in terms of politics, in who to give appointments to, who to give contracts to, etc. We have simply refused to integrate towards nation-building. And, where has the lack of integration taken us to? Planet no-where! So why are we sticking with it? We surely can’t make much progress as a nation with such an intolerable level of bigotry.

But there is some hope. This is because our decadence has not reached the level where we apply such judgemental values when seeing a doctor or are about to board a plane. These are professions that once due diligence is not applied, lives could be lost.

Every tribe in Nigeria seeks out the best doctor to get good treatment. No question about that; its simply about qualifications and competence! Why don’t we insist on being treated by someone from our village or religion? Same goes for pilots and owners of airlines. We diligently check out the safety records of the airlines when even going to Israel or Saudi on pilgrimage. At this point, the inanities of tribalism do not matter. Once we un-board the planes or get healthy, we put back our Nigerian un-thinking caps on again.

Perhaps we should stratify past and present looters on the basis of their tribes. Let us categorise how much each tribe and clan has stolen from the commonwealth. Maybe, just maybe, it may reveal how united the looters are, while those that can barely afford half of one square meal a day are using cheap data to spur lunacy amongst themselves.

As Africans, we should reflect on history and recall a few countries that have been torn apart because they were plagued by tribalism. The Rwandan genocide, as well as the recurrent problems experienced by Sudan, can also be related to a lack of ethnic, religious, or racial cohesion within the nations.


We still have a long way to go in building this nation. Some say we are yet to begin. Nation-building is supposed to focus on the unification of the people. That’s the reasonable way to remain politically stable, promote economic growth and remain viable in the long run to effectively compete with other nations.

As Africans, we should reflect on history and recall a few countries that have been torn apart because they were plagued by tribalism. The Rwandan genocide, as well as the recurrent problems experienced by Sudan, can also be related to a lack of ethnic, religious, or racial cohesion within the nations.

As of now, there is too much carnage everywhere. Most highways have been taken over by bandits. Nigeria is the only country where tens of people can be kidnapped with no single trace. Bandits have taken over Zamfara to make it more of a failed state, even though it has always been one. Criminals are in control, with poor response from law enforcement.

All these crimes do not happen in Dubai due to a variety of preventive measures. And when they occur, culprits are apprehended within days, not weeks. Dubai has one of the world’s lowest crime rates and in 2018 was ranked the eighth safest city in the world.

We should be asking questions about how effective their policing system is, so that we may learn a thing or two towards improving ours. May we develop the capacity for proper thinking in Nigeria.

Umar Yakubu is of the Counter-Fraud Centre.