According to my grandfather, a bird perching on an anthill is still on the ground. Also, if that same bird just sits and prays for rain, it will someday find itself soaked and unable to fly. Wisdom flattens mountains while stupidity sometimes turns mountains into pits of hell.
In African folklore, the goat is one of the most stubborn creatures on earth while the sheep is one of the most peaceful. Yet, in the land of wisdom, the sheep often dies before the goat. It is good to be obedient and respectful especially towards elders. However, the sheep often takes things to the extreme with the hope of pleasing all of mankind which is quite impossible. My grandfather believes extreme obedience and blind faith are nothing but stupidity.
Stupidity kills faster than any weapon of mass destruction. Not even atomic bombs can compare to the destructive power of stupidity. Some of us here in Africa and elsewhere are poor, tired and in despair. We work very hard yet continue to wallow in poverty. Why do we still suffer? We suffer because we allow stupidity to reign supreme in our communities. According to my grandfather, we suffer because we carry stupidity up in palanquins on our heads and sing him praises all day and night.
There is no racism in wisdom and tribalism has no place to lay its troubled head in the land of wisdom. Every now and then you hear about tribal conflicts in Africa. Why all these tribal conflicts? It is because we allow stupidity to reign supreme within our communities. Can democracy, freedom and Justice survive in a land where stupidity reigns supreme? The answer is a very big NO. There is no freedom where the fool reigns supreme and there is no Justice in a land where the stupid is king.
Although Tribalism and Ethnicity are two different words, tribalism and ethnicity appear almost inseparable in the case of Africa, and they have quite different meanings compared to the western definitions. This is one huge mistake some western journalists and writers make when covering stories about Africa. Western journalists and writers often consider tribalism and ethnicity in Africa to be ethnocentrism — a situation whereby one considers his or her own ethnic group superior and all others inferior (very similar to racism) to the point where they fight and kill for no good reasons at all. However, this view is quite extreme and very wrong.
In Africa, an ethnic group is a group of people whose members are identified through several common traits (and not just one trait). These include an idea of common heritage, common culture, a shared language or dialect and most importantly, common ancestry and religion. An Ethnic group is quite big and comprises of several tribal groups. Here is an example. The Ashantis, the Akyems, the Bonos , etc. are all different tribal groups in Ghana yet they are all Akans. Tribalism on the other hand refers to a strong loyalty to one's tribe, party, or group.
Anywhere you hear the word "tribalism", people often think about the ethnic aspect only leaving some other crucial parts. Tribalism however, isn't just about "tribes". It also includes loyalty to one's party or group. "Group" here includes religious groups, political groups, social groups, etc. Loyalty to one's group isn't always a bad idea. It only becomes dangerous when taken to the extreme just like we see in Islam today whereby some extremists commit atrocities and still believe they are doing it for Allah and his holy Prophet. Considering Africa an ethnocentric society is just like condemning all Muslims because of the few extremists.
Nationalism (the sense of belonging to a nation or country) was introduced into Africa by the coming of the Europeans and their further partitioning of Africa a few centuries ago and the purpose was to weaken the tribal loyalty and to instill in people a sense of oneness despite ethnic and tribal differences. Nationalism wasn't and isn't a bad idea. However, nationalism has failed miserably in several parts of Africa in its attempt to mesh together these several different ethnic groups without taking into account the loyalty the people have for their various tribes and ethnic groups.
The tribal tensions and tribal conflicts we witness today in Africa are some of the outcomes of the failures of nationalism. It is true there were tribal tensions and tribal conflicts in those days before the arrival of nationalism. However, it wasn't that bad compared to what we are witnessing today in Africa. Although there were no modern-day court systems in Africa, everybody knew the dos and the donts. It is true there were no modern-day maps but boundaries were drawn in the minds and souls of the people and everybody knew where to cross those lines. These helped prevent several tribal clashes in those days.
However, in today's Africa, people don't care much about the tribal and ethnic dos and donts. Why? Because, nationalism considers those dos and donts unimportant and this is the root cause of the several tribal conflicts we experience in Africa today. In other words, these several tribal conflicts and clashes we witness in Africa today are mostly due to the coming of the Europeans and their further partitioning of Africa into countries without taking the various tribal and ethnic groups into consideration..
The point I am trying to make here is that, extreme tribalism and ethnocentrism are what breed war, tribal conflicts, etc. And these are what we should fight against and not tribalism and ethnicity in Africa. Fighting against tribalism and ethnicity in Africa is just like fighting against indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, etc. which is not the best way to go. Remember, what makes Africa "Africa" is our culture and traditions and we cannot throw these away all in the name of nationalism. We should however learn to live peacefully with others especially our own brothers and sisters in Africa. After all, we are all one people despite our differences.
Take Ghana for example. There are several ethnic and tribal groups in Ghana today yet Ghana remains one of the most peaceful countries in all of Africa. Ghana has perhaps the best democratic system of government in Africa today. Although Akan is the most dominant ethnic group in Ghana today, leaders are chosen not just from the Akan ethnic group but from the entire country. In fact, the former president of Ghana (2012 - 2017) John Mahama, is not an Ashanti and he is not even an Akan yet he was democratically elected by the entire country to be president of Ghana. Ghanaians remain one of the most culturally blessed people in all of Africa and all thanks to their tribal and ethnic pride. Ghanaians have their tribal pride, their ethnic pride and their national pride yet Ghana remains one of the most peaceful countries in Africa today.
We don't have to kill our tribal and ethnic pride all in an attempt to embrace our national pride. We can combine all three and still live in peace. If Ghanaians can do it, there is no doubt other African countries can do it too.