Stereotypes are natural and we are all stereotypical in our everyday interactions – knowingly or unknowingly. I attended Kings College Lagos and I recall that the first day I entered class maybe I should say on ‘my’ first day of school (cos I joined the class a little later than the rest) I got into a fight…immediately. So I was brought to class and introduced to my classmates.

Everything was going well until the first teacher came to deliver a class and asked me my name and I told her Audu Maikori and she said ‘oh Audu Ikoyi?’ And everyone started laughing. I watched them a little pissed that they found the teacher’s deliberate mispronunciation of my name funny.

So after the class ended, one of the boys in my class walked up to me and asked ‘so you are a Mallam?’ in a jeering manner.. I can still remember the smirk on his face. And I replied ‘No I am not a Mallam , I am a northerner from Kaduna State‘ and the guy said in a slightly raised tone ‘abeg go jo! You are just a Mallam and you are……’ Before he could finish I full stopped his sentence with a punch!

That’s how a fight ensued! Sadly I didn’t finish with him before we were quickly separated and arraigned before the class teacher’s office. The other teachers were just surprised that the ‘new boy’ got into a fight on his very first day in school. We were both punished and moved on with our lives thereafter.

The boy grew up in Lagos and what he said was a reflection of what he was heard or was taught .. He knew no better, you see the impression in those parts are that all northerners are illiterate, bush and only good as gatemen (security guards). ‘Mallam‘ was a derogatory term to describe people from the part of the country -where I am from.

Sadly not much has changed. Nigerians are all very stereotypical and this applies to all tribes. The Igbos love money, Yoruba people love parties while Calabar people are only good as cooks. We are still judged based on where we are from and not where we are going.

How can we grow if our first assessment of people is based on stereotypes that have no real basis beyond pre-loaded bias?

I am not holier than them but having grown up around Yoruba people and marrying from the east of Nigeria I tend to judge people on their own personal record not on what people say about them … I feel you need to see beyond the label, test all theories and presumptions. I am as detribalized as is possible under our circumstances.

Finally it’s convenient to think that northerners are all ‘gatemen’ or Security Guards because they aren’t smart enough to go to school or get more ‘prestigious’ jobs… But that’s the old North, that’s changed so much and will continue to change in time .

But have you ever considered that the other reason that northerners were largely in the position was that they are generally very bold and will show loyalty and commitment and ensure your house or building is secure even at risk to their lives? That they are more trustworthy than those from other parts of the country?

Yes and some of you will say it’s a lie they aren’t, it’s just an impression people have! Some of you will even say you know people from other tribes that are more bold and loyal who do a better job than these so called northerners Abi? Yes I agree but that’s my point exactly … It’s stereotype and I think that’s another way to look at it positively .. thats if we decide that we must be stereotypical….

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