Silence in the Face of Tribal Politics: A Recipe for Disaster

'Tosin Adeoti
3 min readMar 19, 2023
Bayo Onanuga is the director of Media and Publicity of Bola Tinubu’s presidential campaign council

The phrase “Don’t lose friends over politics” is often thrown around lightly, as if it’s a mere suggestion to be taken or left as one pleases. But this naivety ignores the reality that tribal politics can have devastating consequences if ignored or dismissed.

Take the example of the Rwandan genocide, which occurred in 1994. The Tutsis and Hutus had coexisted peacefully in the region for centuries, sharing a common language, culture, and traditions. However, political propaganda and ethnic hatred fueled tensions between the two groups, eventually leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis.

It all started with the kinds of words being spewed by politicians like Bayo Onanuga, telling Igbos to “mind their business” and not “interfere in Lagos politics.” These seemingly harmless words were the kindling that lit the fire of ethnic hatred and violence.

And it wasn’t just the Tutsis who were targeted. Moderate Hutus who spoke out against the barbarity or failed to speak out against the Tutsis enough were also killed. Even those who harbored Tutsis in their homes or refused to participate in the killings were not spared.

So when you see your friends celebrating thugs beating voters or gloating over the robbery that took place yesterday in the Nigerian gubernatorial elections, because they believe that people looking forward to exercising their constitutional rights want to capture Lagos and are “on a grudge mission”, it’s not a sign of maturity to keep quiet. In fact, history shows that your silence and inaction can be deadly.

When the ethnic cleansing comes because they want to “teach them a lesson they will not forget,” you will not be spared because you have many friends across your region’s borders or have spent most of your life away from your ancestral home. In fact, just looking a bit off in your appearance can single you out for elimination.

This is why I feel sorry for those from Edo, Bayelsa, Cross River, and every other state sharing a border with a Southeast state supporting this carnage. Deceive yourself all you want, but to these cultural illiterates, you are “Omo Yibo.” They see no difference between you and the Igbos.

As you encourage this vile behavior through your silence and inaction, know that you are not as safe as you think when the rubber hits the road. I beseech you to study the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom and its aftermath, which targeted not just Igbos but also non-Igbo Eastern minorities and Midwesterners in the North who were attacked because there were no ways to differentiate them from Igbos by appearance.

So I implore you, do not take politics lightly. Do not dismiss the warnings of history. Do not lose sight of the humanity of those on the other side of the political divide. And do not lose friends over politics, but also do not sacrifice your principles and values for the sake of friendship.