“Nigeria is blessed”, Peace told me.

Nigeria is “blessed with abundant resources, beautiful scenery, entrepreneurial people with a strong work ethic. Everything needed to be successful” described Bem, a young Monash student from Nigeria.

© Marion Cabanes - 29/06/2013

© Marion Cabanes – 29/06/2013

His name meaning ‘Peace’ in Tiv language, Bem is originally from the Benue State where a majority of Tiv and Idoma tribes live together. Unlike Victoria known to be “The Place to be”, in Bem’s State car plates hails Benue the “Food Basket of the Nation”. His State is only a small picture of the tribal diversity that exists across the country. Nigeria is a giant in terms of population and is land of more than 500 ethnic groups speaking more than 700 languages. Even with so much diversity of cultures, all Nigerian tribes “head to the same directions of respect of the elders”, exemplified by men bowing and women curtseying to greet an elderly person and the English language is their unifying bond.

Although divergences among the inhabitants are based on religious grounds between Christians and Muslims rather tribal differences, Bem describes Nigerian people “living according to family and everybody feels related”.

He is very proud of being a Tiv as they are reputed for their hospitality which has impacted on him immensely in his international student life in Malaysia and Australia. He happily shares with me the common saying that “a Tiv is so hospitable that he would offer you his wife”.

He goes on about Nigeria saying that it is “a blessed place where soils are rich in minerals and people have a hard working mindset as they believe that nothing gets handed down to them” and hundreds of tribes manage to live peacefully. As Bem clearly explains, Nigeria has tremendous potential but it is only held back by the quaint Nigerian political system managed by Godfathers. Godfatherism isn’t a form of mafia or a religious group yet a group of well-respected men who have the power personally to determine both who gets to run for elections and who wins in a state.

Having studied International Business Administration in Malyasia and Bem arrived in Melbourne 6 months ago and is committed to helping Indigenous youth through the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME). He also represents Monash students on the Faculty Board while completing a Master in International Relations. Thirsty for knowledge and experience, Bem a.k.a. Peace hopes that “one day people would see beyond skin colour. I don’t blame people for being racist but I don’t accept racism when people had the chance to discover that a person is qualified, experienced, had good values and so forth”.

He sees Australia as a beautiful country with friendly people and he advises Nigerians to be good representatives of their country, and to an extent of Africa, by “not living the African stigma”. “Be open-minded and prove yourself but more importantly maintain your cultural identity. I am happy to be in Australia but also proud of having an accent” he says with a smile.

His international experience and his father’s influence have taught him that we should all help with the little we have. Bem pays great respect to his father and dreams to help him to run the hotel he owns back home to develop it to a larger scale. For the time being  he is “looking for gaps in societies to make a difference”, also filling up a suitcase with experience across his travels to one day bring back to Nigeria.

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