Connect with us


BN Prose: Born To Love, Taught To Hate by Kiki Nelson



“Mommy, mommy, guess what?” The little girl turned excited eyes on her mother.
“What Tobi? First of all, why are your socks so dirty today?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you mommy, I made a new friend at school today, and we played together throughout recess. She’s my first friend at this new school and she lives in our estate too.” Five-year old Tobi continued chattering happily to her mom about her day’s activities. “She has a dog named Max and she says I can come play with him whenever I want. I like her,” the girl finished with a flourish.
“Really?” Her mother replied with amused curiosity. “And what is her name? I hope you remembered to ask that too.”
“Of course mommy,” the little girl giggled, slapping her mother’s thigh lightly. “Her name is Chinenye and she turns five next week.”

The woman paused from checking the contents of her daughter’s school bag. “Erm, Tobi, this your friend; I don’t know. Be careful about how close you get to her; you know we’ve talked about how important it is to be sure where people come from. You have other friends like Daramola, Adunola, who your dad and I know. Don’t be in a hurry to make friends with this girl at school just yet okay? At least, not until your dad and I give our ok.

The little girl’s brows furrowed in confusion. “But mom, I don’t know Adunola, neither do you or dad; she only came by with her mom yesterday to say hello because we just moved in. You even said they seemed stuck up; how then are we friends?”

“Tobi, don’t you argue with your mother! Now, you go up and take a shower, and we can revisit this topic later.”
The sulking child strolled up the stairs.


The table was all set. Everyone was excited and expectant, the frenzy mounting layer upon layer since the wee hours of the morning in the Ikemka household. Chief Ikemka’s first daughter was bringing home a man, and the occasion called for nothing less than a grand dinner party in typical Ikemka style. An Italian chef who was also trained in Nigerian cooking had been contacted to handle the catering; several uniformed butlers lined the hallway, and a private top-notch DJ was on hand to provide entertainment. Adaora had begged her parents to keep it low-key, making a case that they wouldn’t want to overwhelm their guest whom they would be meeting for the first time. So, her father had opted for one Dom Perignon per person as opposed to two, and had also declined from inviting some of their close extended family, keeping it more nuclear save for a few.

For the past year, Adaora’s parents had hounded her about introducing a man to the family, they had even tried unsuccessfully to arrange several chance encounters with ‘eligible bachelors.’ She was twenty-six, and in their opinion, should have given them at least one grandchild. Her younger sister Oge, was already in her husband’s house; her mother never failed to remind her as though she couldn’t see for herself. So, when Adaora announced over dinner a fortnight ago, that she wanted them to meet someone, the glee and approval around the table was unanimous. They wanted details- who he was, who his parents were, where he was from, what he did for a living, even where he attended school. Ada wouldn’t give them any answers; she asked them to be patient until they met him; not because she wasn’t proud of her man, but because she was petrified of her family’s preconceived judgement.

And her fears were hardly baseless. As soon as she ushered Tunde into the mini ballroom, she felt her father’s stiffening, and smelt his instant displeasure all the way across. The rest of the room consisting of her mother, two brothers, younger sister and husband, an uncle and aunt, and an older cousin, was equally tense. Tunde wasn’t the kind of individual whose ethnic origin needed any introduction; his sheer blackness of skin tone coupled with certain demeanour, left no doubt as to his South-Western roots.
It was common knowledge in the Ikemka family, that as far as spouses went, one could only marry amongst one’s people, and certain tribes were especially unacceptable. So, Adaora was well aware of the mountain that loomed before her, and though her father’s menacing stare caused her to tremble in her stilettoes, she still managed to force down saliva and say, “Dad, please meet Akintunde Esho.”
The rest of the night went downhill from there.

Gunshots could be heard all over the city. Dunuguwa was a ticking bomb, a landmine. Man, woman, poultry and cattle ran amok about town; mothers calling out for children, fathers trying to salvage what meagre savings they had tucked away for days such as this; everyone leaving house and farm behind, running for safety, running for dear life.
They were coming; they had known this for weeks, save for when. The retaliation never stopped- each group taking turns in slaughtering the other- now it was the Muslims who raged through town, their whetted daggers striking swiftly anyone who remotely looked like they couldn’t recite any of the Salat. The blood of lives unlived tainting the earth, with faces fixed in eternal horror masks in mockery to Mother Earth the benevolent life-giver. And then when the massacre took its toll, the Christians would recoup and go for the kill. The cycle never ended.
As it never did for Abu and his neighbour Kamalu. The two men had raised families across from each other for decades yet they never spat out so much as a ‘good morning,’ and banned their families from doing so. To the one, the other was Christian and South-Eastern; to the other, the one was Muslim and North-Western. These characteristics signified one overriding element- stark distrust.

And so it was that on the morning when all hell was let loose in Dunuguwa, Kamalu threw his wife and three kids into their old Volkswagen, about to speed off into the wind as houses were coming undone, blowing up on every side. He had driven off when his last son began to scream from behind, pleading for his dad to stop and reverse.
“But I can’t, can’t you see what’s going on?”
But the boy’s screams wouldn’t let up and grudgingly, Kamalu quickly reversed to find Abu his neighbour trapped beneath rubble while his seven-year old son Murtala tried to pull him out with all the tears in his eyes. Kamalu was frozen for a moment, not sure how to respond to someone whose existence he’d never recognised. Quickly, he jumped out of the car and tried to help the boy pull his father out.
“Abu, give me your hand.”
“Get away from me!” Abu replied agitatedly.
“Abu give me your hand now!” Kamalu screamed; but the man stubbornly refused, and in an instant, a truckload of burning debris fell on him, as the eerie wail of the son resounded for miles. Kamalu immediately grabbed the boy, stuffed him into the car and sped off into the future.

Twenty years later, in an ample-sized post-graduate classroom at New York University, a white lecturer hands out term-papers before the class disperses.
“Would the following students wait to see me please? Tobi, Nonye, and Murtala.”
“Yes, you three,” she smiled when they gathered around her. “I found your submissions to be quite interesting, even though you didn’t exactly address the topic – Racism and its Contemporary Issues. You will find I still gave you all a pass however. What’s even more peculiar is that you three are of the same nationality and your references in the assignment hinge along the same lines of stark ethnic divides. I’m currently exploring new research topics for my doctorate, so you can imagine that this fascinates me, particularly yours Nonye, you spoke a lot about your mother’s experiences.”
“Yes, Miss Clark, my mom recently opened up to me about how her parents’ prejudices robbed her of the chance of a lifetime with the love of her life, and the rippling effects of infidelity it caused in the early years of her marriage to my dad,” Nonye replied.
Miss Clark nodded pensively. “And you Tobi, you mentioned you grew up disliking a certain ethnic group for no reason that made any logical sense.”
Tobi nodded in response.
The lecturer focused sympathetic eyes on Murtala. “”And yours was quite sad – “Pride over Life” – you captioned it.””
“Yes, Miss Clark,” Murtala answered. “We may not readily identify with racism, but we understand tribalism, and in our minds, they are not world’s apart.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Mary Katherine Wynn

Kiki Nelson is an avid writer particularly driven by the power of story-telling to invoke personal, social, psychological, and developmental deliberations that hopefully would improve the socio-cultural landscape in which she finds herself. She hopes her writing will heal, amuse, enrage, delight, and stimulate its readers. There’s more here:


  1. Eva

    December 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    This was a good read

  2. Daisy

    December 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Regardless of how long and hard we try to tackle this issue of tribalism, i really see no end to it.

  3. Jy

    December 30, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Sad, but a beautiful read

  4. beautifulonyinye

    December 30, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Wow!This is the best prose I’ve read here.We complain about racism when tribalism and religion even denomination tear us apart.As the title says,we’re actually born to love and taught to hate.I almost missed God’s amazing gift to me(my husband and best friend) because he’s catholic and I’m protestant.My mum,his priest and my pastors all gave us a tough time but we prevailed and we have a wonderful marriage.Nice article Kiki,keep it up

    • L.U

      December 30, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Wow. Beautifulonyinye, your experience gives me courage and strength. Am in an ongoing battle with my mum over my fiance’s tribe. Funny thing is that we are both from the south -south and both Christians o. Anyway, I know I will surmount this obstacle with God’s help and I will marry the love of my life and best friend.

    • beautifulonyinye

      December 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks @ L.U.If u feel totally at peace with your decision and u love each other and he’s worth it,take it to God in prayers and stand your ground.They’ll come around.Don’t lose a good thing because of what others think,u’ll only have urself to blame.

    • jenny

      December 30, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      Same here Onyinye. We r so glad we didn’t listen to them

  5. LE COCO

    December 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    this is an amazing piece.. soooo interesting and the topic at hand is one that is soo prevalent and must b discussed.. #AMAZING

  6. SuperNova

    December 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    The end of a problem is in sight the moment we acknowledge that it is a problem. Great write up!

  7. Amy

    December 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    It is just amazing how even in these times of inter-tribal marriages how tribalism and stereotyping are still rampant. The other day as I was buying a bunch of bananas,a shoemaker kept staring at it so I got him a bunch too which he quickly shared with his mates. The shocker was that Igbo women hawkers started to attack me for leaving them and instead getting the bananas for the Hausas. One said if I knew what they do,I would not try it next time. Oya what do they do,I asked her and she had nothing to say.

  8. Colour Purple

    December 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Wow! What you have written is filled with so much truth, sometimes I struggle to understand how people could be so blinded by adjectives such as tribe, Colour, sexual orientation and religion to see that people are ‘just’ people. Its time to let go of learned prejudices and just live in love.

  9. Angel

    December 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    This is really good. Tribalism is one of the major cause of the problem we have in Nigeria now. The story of Adaora is what I am currently going through now. Im in love with an Edo boy but my parents especially my dad is against this because He is just from Edo. I believe if all Nigerians no matter their religion or tribes, we should love one another. the caption is true; born to love but taught to hate.

    • chi-e-z

      December 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Edo guys are the best. 🙂 For all the B.S. I have been told about unfaithfulness blah blah blah never once was my ex unfaithful to me till I was insecure and pushed him away huge mistake. Don’t ever let anyone tell you who to love not even friends and family cause you are the biggest factor in your life and love the strongest motivator in life. Tribalism is just a way for people to pass on their ignorance and insecure nature about anyone other than themselves.

  10. Tunmi

    December 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    This was beautifully written and well weaved. Well done Kiki, well done. You presented a complex issue as simple as possible (and that’s a skill as this could easily have been longwinded).

  11. Nkonyeasua

    December 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I’ve never dropped a comment on BN before but I just have to do so now. This is absolutely brilliant. The best prose I’ve read on any blog and I’ve read A Lot. Well done, you!

  12. ezeofor kelechi

    December 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Kiki nelson always blowing my mind this piece is a masterclass on ethnicity I totally love ansd the fact that u ans my super mom nkeiruka share the same name is. An added advatage… Keep up the best work

  13. NaijaPikin

    December 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Harsh reality that is Nigeria.

    My reality after 4 years of dating a guy. I’m not igbo, so I was shooed away by his parents. Funny thing is I just can’t allow ignorance to breed HATE in me. Next boo after that another igbo guy. Thankfully, history did not repeat itself

  14. Ebonie

    December 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    This is such an amazing story. The issue of tribalism in Nigeria has really prevented a lot of people from achieving their dreams and settling down with the right people. And when the marriage doesn’t work out, the same parents that rejected the right person because of tribalism will start blaming their children for not making the ‘right’ choice. I once read somewhere that the problems we have in our world today are due to lack of love, basically. If we can just learn to love the next person, irrespective of colour or tribe or religion, peace will reign in our world and development is a sure banker!

  15. Fabulicious

    December 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    This really touched me.My good friend has rejected 5 suitors because they are all catholic and she is looking for a Pentecostal. Funny enough,even ordinary daters and toasters are Catholics.She is really in serious denial .

  16. Joe

    December 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Nice write-up.
    As I read down, my countenance fell. But it’s all true.
    We can make things change for the better. It’s in our hands. We should not destroy our children’s future because of sheer hatred for people from other ethnic groups.
    I served in the South South,My dad is from the North Central, got married to my lovely mum who hails from the South West and I’ll be tieing the knot soon with my love who is from the South East.
    Let’s give peace a chance.
    Nice one Kiki.

  17. Dr. N

    December 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Story of my life: inter ethnic things. We stood n prevailed n I became a proverb in my community. Who knows how many other girls were allowed to marry who they wished cos I “stared down the opposition”. Let’s fight all prejudice, racial, sexual, religious, ethnic n more. For eg, if u see a driver making wrong decisions on d road, don’t pull up n say, “It’s a woman. No wonder!” A poor driver is one whether male or female. Don’t attribute bad behaviour to tribe n correct those who do. Let our children enjoy d liberty we did not taste

  18. Sanmi O

    December 30, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    well informed. well written. well done.

  19. Bukola

    December 30, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    I can remember growing up and my dad often tells us not to go beyond Ilesha boundary as per the men we bring home. So funny, both of my parents are well educated Ekiti people.
    To the glory of God, I did not only went off the boundary I went off the continent.
    Happily married to an European for 8 years and blessed with two wonderful boys.
    Now am one of their favourite. Today, my parents have a different orientation and view.
    Wasnt easy in the begining but God prevailed.

  20. bee

    December 31, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Never thought about it this way, thank you and well done!

  21. Pa3cia

    December 31, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Very interesting and so real. Its true, I might not have experienced racism but it doesnt seem far fetched from tribalism.

  22. Diuto

    January 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I heard of a story of a priest living beside poor Muslims who he fed often. During a riot he was the first person they beheaded as pe infidel. Also knew a Muslim family friend who would inform us of when they decided in the mosque to riot so we coukd hide/travel b4 then. Igbos find it hard forgiving yorubas and hausas after the war. Tribalism n Religious intolerance is sad

  23. tunmi

    January 1, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Interesting enough in the movie Selma, Martin Luther King Jr is played by David Oyelowo, a Yoruba guy, and MLK’s wife Coretta Scott King is played by Carmen Ejogo (a non-Yoruba mixed woman). I found that fascinating

  24. Sarah

    January 3, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    This was a very good read. I hope everyone whose heart is touched will strive to teach their children to love all and build bridges rather than cause racial divides.

  25. Kristain

    February 6, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Moving story! its funny how we focus on the things that are different about us, and not what we have in common.
    P.S I am interested in submitting a story…any advice on how i go about it?

  26. Anonymous

    June 5, 2015 at 7:11 am

    I just love the way you told all different stories apart and unified them at the end. Classic

  27. Koffie

    July 21, 2015 at 9:11 am

    This was a brilliant piece, this tribal hate is learned and our generation should know better than to carry on the bitterness and prejudices of the older ones. Let’s also judge people by the content of their character and not by their tribe, religion, denomination, sexual orientation or race and even more recently, age.
    Our differences shouldn’t divide us. I have great friends who are from different parts of Nigeria and I try to break from the cycle passed down to us. I try to see people as people first before I notice their tribe. Funny enough, back in uni, we were a circle of friends from different parts and tribe was never an issue. Its since I got back into ‘society’ that I hear stuff like ‘ohh you’re yoruba, you don’t quite look like it’ *blank look*
    I am first Nigerian, all other divisions are lost on me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tangerine Africa

Star Features