Isn’t it oxymoronic that everyone loathes tribalism yet everyone, by way of association, practice, identity, and belief system; seems to diligently cherish it? It really is seldom possible to clearly draw a line between tribalists and non tribalists. But one thing- congruent to common belief- is certain: there is some perceived elevation of status and pride that comes with leadership. Perhaps the problem lies in man’s natural tendency to attach new desired meanings to established conventions; usually for self- gain.
Except in scenarios of distinct rarity, isn’t losing imminent for candidates who don’t get endorsed by their tribe mates? Aren’t those defiant of pieces of advice from ethnic political kingpins considered villains? Isn’t there a seemingly moral conviction that necessitates tribal bias? Don’t we feel secure and comfortable amidst a people conversing in our tongue? Aren’t most of our confidants members of our tribes? Now, that’s what tribalism is. We attempt to distance ourselves from it to save face yet deep down our hearts, we allow it to grow to full bloom.
Pretence aside methinks one must garner home support to form a formidable political force. That, to me, is not tribalism. It’s setting things right from within in a bid to face and conquer the world without. Thus, there is no fault in holding tribal or regional meetings to endorse a preferred candidate. But there is a grievous misdoing in presenting pseudo-national image to subtly woo votes across tribes. Leaders who rise above tribal cocoons do not need to show it during campaigns. The sure test lies in one’s standard ability to serve all comrades equally. And this can’t be measured at a time one is running for office. We tell it in one’s earlier campus life or soon after they get into office. The former, even at its best, cannot be efficient. The latter, though inefficient in terms of timing, is the most ideal. No one could have agreed better than Sophocles; an ancient Greek playwright when he said, ‘‘No other touchstone can test the heart of a man, the temper of his mind and spirit, till he be tried in the practice of authority and rule’’.
Don’t we know of certain outgoing directors who declined to attend tribal meetings on pretext of being non-tribal? Didn’t we observe, during their term, the apathetic hate with which they dismissed some comrades on the basis of their ethnic pedigree? Haven’t we for an umpteenth time seen student leaders boldly say they can’t argue with comrades from a given ethnic group? Unless we want to take guileful opportunism for truth, we cannot judge any aspirant now. The very people who passionately preach against tribalism are its very propagators; wait till they get to office.
Tribalism is not a social vice, it is a natural proclivity; a moral bias. Tribal segregations aren’t social constructs; they are the very basis of identity. Education can’t change it. Politics won’t. We got to pay homage to these maxims.
The writer is a 3rd year, SASS Moi University Main Campus