No Nigerian tribe is collectively good or exclusively evil. People, individually are! We need to appropriately address the false narrative and perception that one tribe or the other is either kind, nice or cruel. I write this piece with every sense of objectivity, respect, responsibility and conviction that the information shared below would persuade your prejudiced instincts to reckon well enough that most fairy tales we hear about others may not be true after all. I was born in Enugu and attended early and tertiary education in the state and I can confirm that many Igbos are kind hearted. Some are wicked descendants of Satan. I spent my adult and productive life in Sokoto and Kaduna States in northern Nigeria. Having worked and traversed many states in that region, I can bet you that many Hausas, Fulanis, Gbagyis, Ikulus, Atiyaps, Jukuns etc, have good and quality milk of human kindness flowing in them. There is also a good measure of some devil incarnates in the north. The myth portraying one tribe as wicked or the other as cannibals are unfounded conjectures made by people who never encountered first-hand those they accuse blindly and falsely.
Before the eventual privatization of the power sector in 2013, I had an inkling clearly enough that the chances of many of us retaining our jobs was hanging on a scale of 1:99. I had to do everything humanly possible to escape the impending quagmire. In view of that, I had applied to several organizations and one of such remarkable applications was done on April 25, 2015. On July 31, 2015, the expected happened. The son of man and many of my colleagues were thrown into the labour market. We lost our jobs. Not long after, I lost one of my phones containing the contact number in my CV. This means that if there was any opening for me, it will be practically impossible for my would be employer to reach out. Here comes in Hamza Jarma Usman.
On November 30, 2016, I got a call from my referee – a former boss saying that one man called him talking about engaging me on a job but with what had happened to us; he took the call with a pinch of salt. He painted a picture of a con man trying to swindle either him, me or both of us using employment as a bait. I agreed with him but requested for the number of the caller. He sent the number immediately but I did not call. No deep thought did I give to the good tidings lurking around. My position was that it was someone who knew my situation trying to take advantage of it. I had calculated the time it took before the man called my referee and concluded unwittingly that no company has the luxury of waiting for more than one year before calling on successful applicants on board. Moreover, I was not even interviewed.
Five days later, I decided to checked my mail and behold someone with the same number which called my referee had sent me a mail referring to the application and also the call he made to my referee. I was startled and quickly adjusted my sitting position, removed my eye glasses, cleaned my two naked eyes and looked closely. The sender of the mail was Hamza Usman Jarma – Country Manager, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. A world class consulting conglomerate present in over 70 countries. Hamza did not stop at calling my referee and sending me a mail, he also sent my bio-data to his friend who was newly employed by my former organization to see if there was a way of reaching me. One of my old colleagues got wind of it and informed a close friend of mine who called almost immediately cajoling me of switching my phone off while a job was waiting for me. The whole scenes were playing out simultaneously. At the time all these was happening, I never heard of or met Hamza before.
I later called him, referred to the mail he sent and appreciated him for the selfless steps he took to engage a stranger like me. He made a veil reference to how my referee reacted when he called him and I sincerely apologized over the wrong perception my referee had of him and he accepted with equanimity. As we settle down for business, what seemed to be unusual happened. Hamza sent a mail asking how much I would like as take home. In fact, my enthusiasm on the entire discussion was extinguished completely. Which company asks that kind of question in Nigeria even without scheduling an interview? I did not reply. Was this not my initial fear? He rang me the following day and I informed him that we lost someone in our area and that was why I could not reply. He commiserated with me over a death that never took place and told me that he was waiting for my response. I grudgingly replied! The following day in the night around 1:00 am, I went to the convenience to ease myself only for a notice of a new mail to pop up. I read the mail and I could not believe my eyes! No interview and a contract was sent for me to sign? I still reverted back to my old shell. It was a conman! In fact, I reluctantly signed the contract thinking that nothing like that could ever happen. Not in Nigeria. But it happened! Some unbelievable and near impossible incidents can only be the handiwork of God. In January 2017, I was mobilized to the project site in Zaria but could not find Hamza there on arrival. However, he was a household name among the team including expats. I got my first baptism of developmental job in that project. Having worked in the usual Nigerian civil service, what I got into was a different but interesting sector. I almost got lost on the job like a niddle in the hair sack. Thanks to the immeasurable assistance of the team lead –Ricardo Miranda, Matthew Omolade, Prof. Ismail Zango and Abebaw Habte.
Although the state government’s policy brought the project to an abrupt end, I maintained contact with Hamza, however, we could not meet on or even after the project. Four years after, he called me up on May 5, 2021 and asked me to share my CV. I did and in July 2022, we were mobilized to site in Ibadan. On arrival, Hamza was not there again, but three individuals we worked together in Zaria and other new faces were in the new team. It was a happy reunion. On December, 15, 2022 in the night, the Project Accountant ushered in a man into our guest house in Ibadan and when he spoke, behold it was Hamza Jarma Usman, my Aboki like no other. We had a bearish hug and it was very momentous for me. We shared convivial banters and reminisced on the past. How many people from my tribe or yours could possibly do what Hamza had done? With the benefit of hindsight, people of tribes other than ours seem to be more compassionate, easily accessible and willing to assist.
Hamza threw a challenge at me and all of us to see people from the prism of who they are – human beings. The unfortunate false narrative shared about the Igbos or Yorubas amongst the people in the North and vice-versa have wrongly shaped opinions about these tribes and their people. Those who have not associated with either of the tribes are currently prisoners of what they watch, hear and read. The likes of Hamza Jarma Usman – my Aboki like no other can be found in our environments but they are rarely referred to in our conversations or celebrated for their compassion. People like him exemplifies humility and humanity – kind hearted, a detribalized Nigerian. I am proud to say he is my brother, and friend – a Muslim from the north. When they tell you that Igbo, Yoruba, Aboki or Hausa people are wicked, it is totally a draped blackmail. Everybody cannot be the same. Yes! This assertion majorly emanate from politicians, religious or ethnic bigots, the uninformed and or the mischievous spewed for their selfish interest. We will see more of this jaundiced narratives now that 2023 elections are around the corner. Every tribe has both good and evil men. Do not be surprised the man accusing a tribe of being evil has not visited his village for many years owing to fear of his wicked uncle. Hamza, chose humans with competence and professionalism while he recruited manpower for jobs without minding their tribes. All he wanted was those who can deliver results. Do same if in a position for the good of the society. My encounter with Hamza has deflated the notion of collective kind-heartedness or exclusive viciousness ascribed to some tribes in Nigeria. As we inch closer to the general elections, Hamza’s approach is recommended for the leadership recruitment process in Nigeria. Vote competence for a better Nigeria!
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze is a Media and Development Communication Specialist. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and 08060901201