Nigerians are showing solidarity to Igbos with #IAmIgboToo. What does this say about us?

Adressing Nigeria’s mounting security crisis last night, President Buhari sent out a blizzard of tweets committing to combat the issue. In there was also a bit of reassurance, but all was ruined with one particular incendiary statement. The tweet now deleted by Twitter, the president turned squarely towards the unrest in the Southeast and the dissenting voices on social media, evoking the traumatic memory of the Civil War and the genocide of millions of Igbos, and stated that they will get the same treament.

This genocide-mongering remark rubbed Nigerians the wrong way, especially the Igbos who just commemorated Biafra’s Remembrance Day and have been navigating targeted violence from cattle herders and the Nigerian army in Southeastern states.

In response, Nigerians have been pushing the hashtag #IAmIgbos on Twitter to show solidarity to the Igbos. There’s an impassioned video of rights activist Aisha Yesufu that has since gone viral, and celebrities have joined in for the cause. It is heartwarming, for the most part. The reason Buhari’s ‘genocide’ tweet has galvanised Nigerians is because it fits into comfortable parameters of prejudice or marginalisation, in a way that doesn’t clash with large belief systems across religions or culture. This is not to say that people from certain tribes haven’t held anti-Igbo biases.

Politically, we have seen the Oba of Lagos in 2015 threatening the Igbos with death if they don’t vote for PDP candidate Jimi Agbaje, and 2019 saw Remi Tinubu openly stating her distrust for the Igbos. There’s also the Civil War to consider, and how it gives legitimacy to the Igbos as a prejudiced-against collective. But more closely, #IAmIgbos shows that Nigerians are cherry picking on which marginalised group deserves their empathy and solidarity.

LGBTQ Nigerians are essentially second-class citizens, facing state-sanctioned violence and dehumanisation in online and offline spaces. As we know it, there has been no show of solidarity towards them. Bringing up LGBTQ Nigerians in a conversation about Igbos might seem like an attempt to derail the discourse at hand, but it is far from that. Queer issues and survival absolutely disrupts what it means to be marginalised in Nigeria. Because standing with queer Nigerians would only naturally mean interrogating existing beliefs around sexuality and gender, Nigerians would rather not venture that far. And so, what it means to be marginalised is not given a humane re-assesement.

This also happens to women and sex workers, and others with marginalised identities. While #IAmIgbo is commendable, it calls for more sincere introspection of our politics.

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