We all have several personal identifiers. These identifiers have rankings of importance per what is important to the individual. I have heard people say “I am a Christian/Muslim before I am Yoruba”, “I am a Nigerian first before I am Itsekiri”, “I am black or African before I am Zulu”, etc. These identifiers get broader and broader depending on the commonality. Humans always find something that differentiates them. It is our nature. When we narrow down to what separates us from the others, we find someone in that narrow box and attach to them.

I remember how I let someone get in my front on a queue, because we had the same brand of hand luggage. Lol. I made sure I told them why they were let in, before they would start feeling special in other ways. Another time, I walked up to someone and made their acquaintance because we had the same eye glasses brand. We went on to become good friends at work until their tenure ended at that location. When I meet a high school alumni, it’s always like magic, with all my mumu buttons exposed. And I’m sure I have several more shared labels.

I have seen folks come up to me smiling, saying “Shotubo? You must be from Remo…”, “You speak your pidgin like you are from Warri”, etc. A work colleague always calls me Nurudeen (my middle name) and greets me with “As-salaam alaykum” and I respond properly. This leaves us both with a good smile each time. For me, the most frequent is “I bu onye igbo?” A nod to this one gets me all the best bargains. Lol. This happens a lot! Don’t go and out me o.

There is nothing wrong in identifying with “your people” or wanting to be around them. However, there is everything wrong in a public official using this common identifier as a basis for making plans and decisions, especially when you are an official with responsibility to a diverse people and interests.

This does not mean you cannot grow and support “your network”, give pointers, mentor or guide. Just do not sabotage processes and break the chain of procedures just to favor people who are just like you…especially when you have to deny others that the system would have preferred based on set guidelines.

I know it is not all cut and dry. Usually there is a fine line to this and you will know when you cross it. When you do so, you deny the organization the opportunity to benefit from diverse perspectives and skills. You not only reduce the chances of success of that organization or entity, you also (inadvertently) create the conditions that will lead to conflict and negative disruption.