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Cross-Cultural Relations among Nigerian

Youths: Problems and Prospects


An E-booklet on Intercultural Sensitivity

Okoliko, D. A.
| YDI
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

Preface
This e-booklet was originally prepared as a study material for participants of seminars on
Intercultural Sensitivity conducted for groups of young Nigerians living within Ilorin environ.
The seminars formed part of a program dubbed as Youth Dialogue Initiative (hence treated
as Initiative).
The host groups included:

National Association of Catholic Corps members (NACC), Ilorin, Kwara State.


Seminar day, 21st February 2016
Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF), Ilorin, Kwara State.
Seminar day, 23rd March 2016
Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON), Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic
Church, Danialu. Seminar day, 3rd April 2016

The e-booklet introduces the reader to the complexity of Nigerias diversity and the prospects
as well as challenges that it poses to young Nigerians. Essentially, it is intended to stir thoughts
and discussions among young people on the reality of Nigerias multiculturalism vis--vis
social relationships. Through its thought-provoking discussion, it is hoped that users can grow
in their appreciation and pricing of Nigerias diversity; and in that manner raise the bar of
cultural sensitivity across board in Nigeria. Thus, the booklet is intended to be used in grooming
young people to become multi-culturally smart. Such persons would become empowered to
effectively and productively function in multicultural settings with relative ease as their skills
for effective social interactions would be boosted. Needless to say that today, this prospect is
very crucial given that our world is increasingly diversifying at workplaces, business and
entertainment world, and even living environments (thanks to advances in technology and the
reality of globalisation). Young peoples effectiveness at manoeuvring the modern social
complexity is dependent on how much multicultural competence they can acquire. This ebooklet on multicultural smartness is thus, a handy arsenal for all.

About the Author


Okoliko studied Philosophy (BA) at St Josephs Theological Institute (Cedara, RSA),
and International Relations (BSS Hons) and Political Science (MSS) at the University
of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg, RSA). He also has experience in human
formation. His area of interests include capacity building, research and outreach. YDI
program was carried out during his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Ilorin,
Kwara State of Nigeria.
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

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\\Dedication//
To all victims of intercultural insensitivity

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

iii

Acknowledgement
The success of YDI project was made possible through the support and help from the following
people whom I would like to expressively thank. They include my amiable friends Anthony
Nnadozie, James Unegbu, Mary Okonya, Oparonke Ibukun Esther, Papa Nnaemeka
Onyebueke, Isiolaotan Daniel, James David and Gabriel Darong. Special thanks to these youth
groups: NACC of Ilorin, NCCF of Ilorin, and CYON of Danialu, Gaa-Akanbi and Ganmo
Catholic churches. They not only gave me platforms to conduct the intercultural seminars but
were active contributors in the success story. I am also indebted to my mentors, friends and
spiritual fathers: Fr Kevin OHara (SPS), Fr Phonsie Flatley (SMA) and Fr Anthony Onoko for
their meaningful support, contributions and advice. Thanks too to Mr Olawepo Taiwo of
Alleluia Business Centre (opp. A Division, Ilorin) for giving me unrestricted usage of his
facilities in research and write-ups. And lastly, to my family members, especially Mr Abraham
Okoliko, for their undying support and love. Thanks everyone!

2016 Okoliko, Dominic Ayegba


A Youth Dialogue Initiative (YDI) program.
Cover page picture: a 3D image indicating a celebration of diversity.
Source: google image, available from: https://s-media-cacheak0.pinimg.com/736x/b0/80/36/b08036ae5c46e9bea5cc2eb5e5aeb92b.jpg
Contact info:
No 57, Ganiyu Jimoh Street,
Onireke, Ojo,
Lagos State.
Phone: +234 (0) 9026861144 or +234 (0) 8142100559
Email: okolikoda@gmail.com

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

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Contents
Preface......................................................................................................................................... i
Dedication ..................................................................................................................................ii
Acknowledgement ................................................................................................................... iii
1.

Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 1

2.

Nigerias Context ............................................................................................................... 4


2.1.

3.

Making Choice ............................................................................................................ 5

Focus on the desired pathway cross-cultural ................................................................... 9


3.1.

Becoming a Multicultural Person .............................................................................. 11

3.1.1.

Awareness .......................................................................................................... 11

3.1.2.

Ethnocentrism .................................................................................................... 18

3.1.3.

Ethnorelativism: ................................................................................................. 18

3.2.

Communication ......................................................................................................... 20

3.3.

Evaluation.................................................................................................................. 23

4.

Who is Multi-Culturally Smart? ...................................................................................... 24

5.

Conclusion. ...................................................................................................................... 25

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

1.

Introduction

This e-booklet contains inputs used in facilitating discussions at the various seminars handled
under the banner of Youth Dialogue Initiative (YDI) between February and March 2016 within
Ilorin environs. The e-booklet serves as a reference material for participants. But also it is
useful to any individual who wish to take on the task of growing in intercultural competence
serious. This is a person who seeks to be empowered to become resourceful and effective in a
multicultural society, a society that comprises more than one cultural groups living together.
More so, he or she would come to possess requisite multicultural maturity to function
effectively in a cross-cultural setting. A cross-cultural situation has everything to do with the
ability to go beyond ones cultural comfort to engage others that are not from ones culture.
This is important for all young people as they prepare to take up tasks such as raising family,
schooling, working and doing business in a world that is fast integrating on many fronts. The
competence learned here can boost ones capacity to live-out ones dreams for various
achievements like success in leadership, governance, entrepreneurship, marriage (especially
cross-ethnic/race ones) and community living.
Nigeria fits into the definition of multicultural society given above. It is undeniable that the
country is made up of different groups. In some quarters, Nigeria has been referred to as a
nation made up of many sub-nations1 (Ekhator 2014). Nigerias diversity is on many fronts.
Beside gender, age and geographical differences among Nigerian populace, the country is
divided along lines of religion, ethnicity, region, language and culture. In such a plural social
setting, the goal of national unity remains crucial for the nations survival. This is because
national unity has overarching bearing on virtually all aspects of Nigerias life (commerce,
politics, religion, social, education, etc.). In fact, it is the pillar on which the prospect for
national development stands. In a situation where the different units making up the nation
speaks in varying direction, the synergy needed to drive national development is greatly
jeopardized. Aside this, a divided nation stands to falter on the altar of insecurity arising from
suspicious feelings and outright violent outburst against one another. This understanding is
well reflected in Nigerias evolving history.
Since the past century, Nigeria has witnessed several incidences that have strained her unity.
Notable among this was the Civil War (1967-1970) with its horrible scares (Achebe, 2012). In
recent times also, separationist uprisings have been occurring. Increasingly, the country is
witnessing inter-group intolerance at an unprecedented level. This is encapsulated in the Niger
Delta militancy activities of the South-South, the agitation of the Oduduwa Peoples Congress
(OPC) of the South West, Boko Haram terrorisms of the North, the Fulani-settlers antagonism
taking place in the North-Central, the agitation for the actualisation of Biafra State and others.
A common theme to these events is a growing lack of recognition and acceptance of Nigerias

No one describes the disparities of the discrete groups brought together to form Nigeria than a British
Governor General of Nigeria between 1920-31, Sir Hugh Clifford. According to him, Nigeria is a collection of
independent Native States, separated from one another by great distances, by differences of history and
traditions and by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers (see Atofarati, A. A. 1992.
The Nigerian Civil War, Causes, Strategies, and Lessons Learnt. US Marine Command and Staff College.).
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

2
national diversity. This is alarming given the fact that the so called forced union of the
nations federating groups happened more than a century ago.
In view of this, the task of national integration remains an important agenda. Young people are
important stakeholders in the project of nation building and national integration. While this is
readily appreciated, few avenues are available for young people to dialogue on issues that
bother on Nigerias multiculturalism, its challenges and prospects. This Initiative intends to
create such forums where young Nigerians can discuss and grow in their understanding of the
nations diversity and help them to learn better ways to handle cross-cultural relations within
the society.
To put our discussion into perspective, let us try to understand the central concept of our topic
namely, culture. Culture is a powerful tool for self-identity. In many respect, it shapes how we
perceive ourselves in relation to everything, including other human beings, within our world
of experience. Culture has been described as the set of learned values, assumptions and norms
which are shared to varying degrees with members of a group, and which influence the way in
which members of that group perceive, think and act (Culturewise's Training Team 2015).
Taking cue from this definition, we would like to emphasis key concepts that are central to the
understanding of culture.
The concept of culture, although pervasive as it may seem, is not innate to any man; that is, no
one can truly say he or she is born with the cultural traits that he or she exhibits. Instead, we
rightfully think of culture as acquired attributes of every human being. Individuals are born
into a society and as they grow, they come to acquire traits particular to the society under which
they are groomed2. These patterned traits are what culture is about. As we would learn later in
this e-booklet, thinking of culture this way helps us to appreciate that, like us, everyone else
has culture; a learned way of living and making sense of the world. This thought would help
us to see that we assume wrong position when we think of ourselves as the only privileged
beings to have been cultured. Often times, when others do not view the world the way we
view it, we think that they do not have culture (they are uncultured some would say) or that
their culture is inferior to ours. Misconceptions such as this, are what make relationships in our
diverse society difficult. Thus, this e-booklet is an attempt to share understanding on culture,
albeit in a summary way, and the influence it has on social relationships.
Still on our key points, we must also bear in mind that culture is not accessible to an individual
alone but usually shared and supersedes an individual in time and space. For instance, the
language I speak is a phenomenon that is to a large extent, not my own making. Its structures
and syntaxes pre-existed me. Same applies to many forms of cultural manifestations (rituals of
eating, greetings, dressings, etc.). this point should make us understand that culture is so to say,
a common good, something that can be observed from the outside group about an inside
group. For this reason, it is possible to learn of others culture as an objective phenomenon and
not something hidden in an individuals subjective world that could be very difficult to access
2

This understanding follows the constructivist definition of culture in the tradition of the sociologists Peter
Berger and Thomas Luckman (see their seminal work The Social Construction of Reality (1966) and also
Hammer, M. R., Bennett, M. J. & Wiseman, R. 2003. 'Measuring intercultural sensitivity: The intercultural
development inventory', International journal of intercultural relations, 27, 4: 421-443.
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

3
and understand3. When we take interest in others culture and attempt to understand it, we come
to a deeper appreciation of how and why they behave in certain ways. Understanding gained
from such adventure is what makes intercultural communication possible, meaningful and
rewarding.
The last point that must be made in this introduction is that culture is not just something about
ones society; culture is intrinsically bonded with ones individuality. This makes culture a
decisive factor in identity formation. It explains why when people describe themselves, they
usually begin by talking about where they come from, their root, and the general outlook on
life that they share with people they consider as their in-group members. Being bonded with
ones individuality makes culture an emotional aspect of life. It touches ones ego. Culture
connects a person at a core or fundamental level where passion and ego is at play. To put it
bluntly, my way of life is as dear to me as yours is to you. This makes cultural interaction in a
complex society edgy and sometimes difficult. A cultural society where many groups are
mixed, as we would shortly learn of Nigeria, presents peculiar complexity that if not well
handled can become a source of tension. However, this does not make the task of cross-cultural
relationship impossible. What it does calls for is a deep attitude of respect when approaching
new cultural frontier. When relating across cultures, one must admit that one is faced with
individuals endowed with personal dignity that is deeply rooted in culture.
This e-booklet then, sustains the point that cultural differences are no barriers to meaningful
engagement in society but that through skilful approaches, individuals can grow in their
competence in handling cross-cultural relationships. The discussion that follows draw from
both African cosmology of interconnectivity and Milton Bennetts intercultural
communication framework to establish ground for boosting intercultural competence and
smartness. The e-booklet is divided into 5 sections. First, the introduction articulates the intent
and purpose of the book. The second section brings to fore Nigerias socio-cultural complexity
and how it affects relationship across groups. This particular section enunciates the prospects
as well as challenges inherent in Nigerias diversity with regard to social relationships. It
establishes the argument that while Nigerias diversity is a given, individuals attitude to the
social fact determines social relationships across the diverse groups. Proposing that the attitude
could be termed inclusive or exclusive, the third section focuses on the desirable pathway
inclusive disposition to cultural diversity to achieving intercultural competence for
individuals and cultural integration in Nigeria. It outlines a tripartite mode of growing in
intercultural competence (multicultural smartness) namely, through commitment to sincere
self-awareness exercise, effective communication and unseasoned evaluation exercise. Next,
the fourth section attempts to adumbrate qualities of a multi-culturally smart person. Lastly,
section five gives a conclusive summary.

This is not intended to mean that culture has no subjective aspect. In fact, there is, and it has been suggested
elsewhere that both the objective (e.g. societal institutions, arts, music, cuisine, rituals of greetings, etc.) and
subjective aspect of culture (individual experience of the social reality formed by a societys institutions)
combine to give perfect insight into peoples way of life (see ibid.). However, for the purpose of our interest in
developing curiosity about others culture, it should be stressed that the accessible aspect of anothers culture is
a starting point into the endemic worldview of the unknown; and the knowledge that this is possible suffices as a
motivation for cross-cultural outreach.
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

2.

Nigerias Context

Nigeria
A country with many sub-groups
Tribal/Ethnic
(About 250 tribes Ijaw, Tiv,
Jukwu, Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba,
etc.)

Linguistic

Religious

(About 500 dialects Igbo,


Yoruba, Hausa, Efik etc.)

(3 main Muslims, Christians


& traditionalists)

This is the basis of our


differences our cultural
diversity

Fig. 1: Nigerias diversity fronts


Sources: The World Factbook (www.cia.gov), google picture.
Figure one indicates clearly how much Nigeria is diverse as a country. A country that is made
up of over 250 tribes with about 500 linguistic groups and more than three religious groups can
hardly be described as a homogenous nation. As far as the present entity called Nigeria is
concerned, one can safely say that the above information is a constant variable in Nigerias
social life. However, how individuals and groups respond to this historical social fact is a
question of choice. Arguably, it seems that there are two ways this choice could be made. On
the one hand, one could take the fact but choose to remain exclusive in attitudes. On the other
hand, the acceptance of diversity could lead to adopting an attitude that is inclusive. This is
illustrated in figure two. It is not to suggest that individuals fall exactly on either of these
opposites. In reality, one can find oneself fairly leaning on either of the two through ones
cognitions, attitudes and behaviours. It is important however, that one becomes aware of what
each of these choices entails in terms of their moods and implications for coexistence in a
society like Nigeria.

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

2.1.

Making Choice

We accept we are
different and
choose to remain
EXCLUSIVE in
ATTITUDES

What does
this mean?

Or
We accept our
differences but
choose to be
inclusive in
ATTITUDES

Fig. 2: possible attitudes to Nigerias historical fact of diversity


Note: google map showing the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria (World J. Cardiology 2012)

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

How do we choose
Path 1 = (ethnocentric)

Path 2 = (cross-cultural)

Ga

Ga

Gc

Gc

Note: G represents group


Fig. 3: ethnocentricism vis--vis cross-cultural interaction in Nigeria
Note: google maps, (left) showing possible break up of Nigerian federation
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

Gb

Ethnocentric path leads us to become obsessively preoccupied by the concerns and interests of
ourselves with a pursuant of segregationist exhibitions. But if we go with path two which
supports cross-cultural relations, we can boast of integration, cooperation and harmonious
coexisting with other members of our society who might not share similar background with us.
The diagram presented in figure four of one and two indicate the implications for our choices.
In figure 4.1, we see how gradually, preoccupation with oneself and in-group members can
lead to insensitivity to cultural differences with ultimate repercussion on national project.

Choice 1

Selfcenteredness

Opens doors
to
segregation

Dysfunctional national
system

Insensitive to
other cultural
groups

Difficulty with
living/working in a
multi-cultural
environment

Ultimately leads to
chaos and
developmental
regression

Fig. 4.1: Implications for choice one


The above listed negative degeneration scale are what we can experience if individually and
collectively we go the pathway of ethnocentrism.

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

Choice 2
Aware of self but also others
conscious
Respectful of other groups
Capable of cross-cultural
relationship
Opens doors for
cooperation/engagement
Provides united front for
inclusive development
Fig. 4.2: implications for choice two
In contrast, the second pathway holds lots of positivity for us individually and collectively. As
shown in figure 5.2 in scale of progression, the pathway provides ample opportunities for
inclusive development. While genuinely conscious of cultural difference, it promises respect
for diversity which opens doors for cooperation and integration that are crucial for development
at all levels.
In Africa, there exist a man who tried to walk on the second pathway. Late Nelson Mandela
(1918-2013), a former South African president and an activist of a first order made a
remarkable statement that demonstrates what it means to be committed to the course of
integration. His statement is presented in figure five.

CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN


YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this


struggle of the African people. I have fought against
white domination, and I have fought against black
domination. I have cherished the ideal of
democratic and free society in which all persons
live together in harmony and with equal
opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for
and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for
which I am prepared to die. (Nelson Mandela, 20
April, 1964)

Fig. 5: Nelson Mandela, first democratically elected president of South Africa.


Source: google picture of Mandela; Mandelas Speech from the Rivonial Trial (UN)
In the context of the struggle against apartheid, Tata Mandela held out the ideal for a society
that provides adequate room for all diverse groups to exist with equal opportunities. Thanks to
his legacy, South Africa, in many respects, continues to strive to live as a Rainbow Nation
today. Nigeria has equal opportunity to create a nation where diversity could be seen not as a
threat but a powerful strength for growth and development.

3.

Focus on the desired pathway cross-cultural

Pluralism We accept that


diversity is natural and that all
groups can be given fair
treatment

We strive to become
multicultural persons
(functioning effectively in many
cultural setting)

Fig. 6. Multicultural timeline


The starting point in the task to follow the pathway way of cross-cultural experience is the
acceptance of diversity as a consequential fact of social life. Although, more would be said on
this later, it is important to stress that acceptance of diversity goes beyond having the
knowledge that a society that one lives in has many cultural makeups. I could possess such
cognitive quality and still be indifferent to cultural differences by ways of denial or negligence.
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

10
True acceptance of diversity consists in accentuating the values inherent in diversity and the
affirmation of the validity (meaningfulness/logicality and not necessarily truthfulness) of the
various cultural expressions within a society.
Theoretically, the quest to be inclusive in attitude is not alien to Africans or Nigerians. Have
you ever heard of the concept called African humanness? Well, it is a concept that has been
given extensive popularity from the Southern Africa. Arguably the concept represents a shared
worldview for most African people especially those residing within Sub-Saharan Africa
(Kamwangamalu 1999, Metz 2005). Essentially, Africa humanness hinges on the principle that
all human beings are intrinsically linked together and that the furtherance of ones being is
bounded with those of the others. See figure 7 for its pictorial depiction.

The principle of
Interconnectivity:
Ubuntu
Oneness,
interdependency,
continuum of
relationships,
solidarity,
reciprocity,
sharing and
partnering
Fig. 7: Interconnectivity image4
African humanness as illustrated above is the bedrock of our experience of true intercultural
living in Nigeria. While we might have our differences, at the fundamental level, what binds
us together is our common humanity and historical as well as our environmental heritages.
African humanness is the raison detre for our oneness, interdependence, continuum of
relationships, solidarity, reciprocity, sharing and partnering.

Have you ever thought of the kind of


things you want from life in this world
Many of us would go on to mention happiness, good paying job, wealth, peace, successful
business, bright career and other achievements if prompted by this question. But for some,
pursuing any of these goal is exclusively a personal agenda that preclude others as if these

All 3D images in this e-booklet can be found on google pictures. Google. 3D images [Online]. Available:
www.google.com.
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
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Okoliko, D. A.

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others do not deserve or want same goods. Well, Mandela has this to say to us concerning our
disposition to our ambitions vis--vis our attitude to other people in our society:
A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community
lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so
passionately dreamt of (Mandela, Soweto, South Africa 12 July, 2008)
His statement shows us that when we take care of our common goal of making our world a
better place, our own individual interests tend to find room for fulfilment. There is a saying in
Zulu language that depicts this understanding. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. Literally, it
means a person is a person because of people or through other persons. Thus, it is unmistaken
to affirm that becoming a person in the true sense or actualizing our humanness requires the
consideration of others. How do we become this kind of person?

3.1.

Becoming a Multicultural Person

It is proposed in this e-booklet that becoming a multicultural person can be achieved through
the following three pathways: awareness, communication/dialogue and evaluation.

Evaluation

Awareness

Communication/
Dialogue

Fig. 8: the tripartite modes of growing in multicultural smartness


This tripartite mode of growing in multicultural smartness as shown in figure 8 is not to be
perceived in series but as intertwine exercise through which individuals and groups can better
their relationships in a multi-cultural setting. We shall explore each one of them to see their
relevance to intercultural living.

3.1.1. Awareness
Basically, this exercise consists of taking notice of ones inner and outer world of experience
to sieve were ones capacity for relationship lies (keep in mind that our focus is on crosscultural relationship). It is acclaimed that Socrates, the great Greek sage, once said: man know
thyself. What this lover of wisdom intend to communicate is that the most useful knowledge
about life is that which concerns the individual self. It is important that I know who, what and
how I am because such knowledge helps me to bring into my world of relationships my real
self and can help me to better my approach to issues that arise from relating. In fact, ones
effectiveness at any instance of relating is dependent on how much resources in terms of
CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
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Okoliko, D. A.

12
competence that one taps from within. Inadequate possession of self-knowledge can lead to a
situation where one lives and interact blindly.

Who
am I?

Personality,
roots,
backgrounds,
profession, etc

Fig. 9: self-identity
Self-knowledge includes but is not limited to consciousness of my personality, roots,
backgrounds, professions, etc. (see fig. 9). For instance, having the consciousness that I am a
father of two lovely kids, a brother to five siblings, a son to my parents, a member of the Igala
tribe do have definitive effects on how I relate across these matrix of relationships (see fig. 10
for more of these). More than any of these, I could be a lawyer or dentists with definitive
cultural outlook. Then one can talk of ones religious group and other social affinity.
Awareness of this complexity is crucial to the goal of intercultural sensitivity. In a way, it
reveals that more than as we often like to think, no one is really purely monocultural. Thinking
about this, Susan Fries argues that just as most human beings speak more than one language,
many of us share more than one culture with different groups of people we interact with
(Fries 2009: 6). In similar tune, John Metta (2016), writing on Race in the US: what if your
identity was a lie? for Al Jazeera, argues that we interact in layers of cultures. Admittedly
then, we are more multicultural than we think. You would appreciate this point well if you can
think of how differently you behave when you are with your business colleagues, or school
mates, or work pals as compared to when you are with your family, or friends, or social club
mates, or town mates, etc. These variability suggests that human beings are capable of
multicultural experience. Thus, you would do well to boost your competence to actualize these
human relationship potentials in you.

My
relationship
matrix

Father/mother,
son/daughter,
fianc/fiance, friends,
associations,
institutions, ethnicity,
nationality, etc

Fig. 10. Relationship matrix

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Beyond having a comprehensive knowledge of ones relationship matrix, there is a need to be
aware of the kind of things one brings into social relationships. I have termed such things as
relationship baggage for want of a better concept. There are illustrated in figure 11 below.

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Okoliko, D. A.

14

ETHNOCENTRISM

RACISM
The practice of
domination by a
race over other
races

The tendency to
view the world
through ones own
cultural filters

STEREOTYPES
Generalized images
that we have about
group of people on
the basis of
underlying
characteristics or
traits

What baggage
am I bringing
into these
relationships?

PREJUDICE

ETHNIC BIGOTRY
The practice of
discrimination
based on ethnic
identification

The tendency to
prejudge others on the
basis of their group
membership, solely in
terms of their
stereotypes

Fig. 11: Relationship baggage


CROSS-CULTURAL RELATIONS AMONG NIGERIAN
YOUTHS: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

Okoliko, D. A.

15
Included in the figure are ethnocentrism, stereotypes, prejudice, ethnic bigotry and racism.
Ignoring any apparent bias, this set of human dispositions to diversity is presented
progressively in a clockwise circular movement. In other words, each successive item is fed by
its predecessors. Thus, to empty oneself of any later phase requires investigating the earlier
ones. Let us explore them briefly.
Ethnocentrism as one of the baggage presents a stumbling block to intercultural living.
Essentially, it represents a tendency to have just one filter through which one makes sense of
the world. Unfortunately, this filter is judged as ones own cultural worldview perceived as
superior to others. But as Late Chinua Achebe, a first generational legendary writer in Nigeria,
made us to understand, taking ones cultural standard as the default for judging all experience
in life can be dangerously misleading. Hence, Uchendu in Achebes Things fall apart, argues
that we should be weary of ethnocentrism because What is good among one people is [can
be] an abomination with others (Achebe 1959). Failure to recognise this can lead to serious
cultural frictions in ones intercultural experience. Take the case of simple menu as an example.
To the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria, Ewedu5 and Amala6 are delicacies. While they might
not appeal to an easterner (say an Igbo person) as menu, their worth is irreducible as far as the
Yorubas who delight in taking it are concerned. In fact, a potency to experiencing meaningful
relationship with a Yoruba person who fancy these delicacies can be ruined if the preceding
point is not respected.
In similar way, stereotype, which is almost a natural mood of making easy and simple
categorisation of peoples behaviours based on their group identity can adversely affect
relationship if not well guarded. Stereotypes are generalized images concerning persons
identified as belonging to a particular cultural group. They can be positive or negative and it is
held against every cultural group that you can think of. For this reason, the often stated claimed
that only my tribe is picked on in terms of stereotypes is an overstatement. Meanwhile, since
they are by definition an oversimplified description of persons group identity and by nature
judgmental and often derogatory, they certainly do not encourage effective intercultural living.
As a suggestion, do not deny the existence of stereotypes but in their application to individuals,
treat them as tentative hypotheses that is open to verification. Hammer et al. (2003) endorse
this view when they argue that cultural generalisations serve the purpose of comparative
cultural studies and understanding. It is the ground on which we can make comparisons
between cultures. However, in applying to individuals, care must be taken so as to respect the
dialectic between the objective and the subjective culture; that is, the institutionalized and the
individual experience of societal institutions.
Within Nigerias context for instance, pool of stereotypes exists about almost every group. One
often here things like the Igbos are money lovers, the Yorubas are dirty and lousy people,
the Hausas are illiterate and killer freaks. Even on the basis of logic, it is impossible to
validate these claims as well as others about any group in experience; hardly can anyone claim
to have experienced every Igbo there is or Yoruba or Hausa. Thus, more than it is often
admitted, stereotypes are partial or shadowy truth at best. If you want real truth about any
person or thing, seek experience with the person or thing. This leads us to the third of the
package in the baggage, prejudice.
Prejudice is the tendency to prejudge people on the basis of their cultural or group identity. It
is built on held-up stereotypical knowledge. At the cognitive level, having the generalised
5

A particular Yoruba soup-like delicacy made from a vegetable called ewedu


It is a special swallow food made out of yam or cassava flour that is cherished among the Yoruba people of
Nigeria.
6

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knowledge about the Yorubas is one thing. But taking this out in attitude towards persons from
that group leads to prejudice. Once taken further on the large scale in practice, one would have
ethnic bigotry which is the practice of discrimination based on ethnic identification. Needless
to emphasise that prejudice and ethnic bigotry are very rife practices across our nation. People
are reported to receive favour or disfavour based on their ethnic affinity. In other instances,
genocide and racist practices can result from this. In the case of the former, one can think of
Rwanda of 1994, and for the former, our sister country South Africa before mid-1990s. In
many ways then, the items of the baggage stand as dangers to intercultural sensitivity and one
would do well to be familiar with their presence. Below, Dr Milton Bennetts Developmental
Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (see fig.12) is introduced. The model explains how people
conceptualises and adapt to cultural differences (Bennett and Bennett 1993, Bennett 1993).
Listing six orientations that people adopt in response to cultural difference, Bennett proposes
them as ways to move away from ethnocentrism to a mode of living that favours
multiculturalism which he termed ethnorelativism. Essentially, they are considered as
pathways to intercultural competence the ability to think and act in interculturally appropriate
ways (Hammer et al. 2003: 422)
According to (Bennett 1993), in a simpler way, ethnocentrism can be understood in terms of
attitudes toward cultural differences: those in the denial stage deny the existence of cultural
differences, those in the defense stage demonize them, and those in the minimization stage
trivialize differences.

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`

Ethnocentrism and Ethnorelativism


Dr Milton Bennett

Denial: theres no cultural differences.


Mine is the only real one
Defense: cultural differences exist; but
theirs isnt as great as ours!
Minimization: assumes that all cultures are
fundamentally similar; everyone is same
like me

Ethnocentrism
Denial

Defense

Minimization

Acceptance: recognises the existence of other


cultures as viable alternative worldviews.
Im culture neutral
Adaptation:
cultural
differences
are
perceived as positive. Adapt behaviours to
environment
Integration: effortless shifts between
worldviews while still maintaining cultural
self-identity

Ethno-relativism
Acceptance

Fig. 12. Dr Bennetts Developmental Model of Cultural Sensitivity


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Adaptation

Integration

18

3.1.2. Ethnocentrism
At the Denial stage, a person would not recognize the existence of cultural differences. He/she
believes that there is a correct type of living (i.e. theirs), and that people who behave differently
simply are not better. In this state, there is a failure to appreciate cultural diversity which pushes
the individual to psychological or physical isolation. As such, the denialist is prone to imposing
his/her value system upon others, believing that they are right and that others who are
different are confused. In most cases, such a position is taken due to lack of or inadequate
experience in cultural exposure (Hammer et al. 2003: 424).
For the defense phase, there is a failure of an individual to accentuate the validity of other
alternative mode of living present in the individuals culturally rich world. They could easily
affirm that differences in culture abounds. But there is a prevalent feeling of wanting to assert
the superiority of their very own culture as the valid mode of living. Hence, cultural differences
become problems to be overcome, and there is a dualistic us vs. them mentality (Hammer et
al. 2003: 424). Because of this, those in the defense phase feel threatened by competing
cultures. Consequently, they tend to surround themselves with members of their own culture,
and avoid contact with members from other cultures.
There is a sense in which defense can be experienced in reversal. It happens when an individual
adopt a new culture takes a stand against his/her culture of primary socialisation as inferior to
new found culture. Consider a Nigerian folk who goes to America and returns with a total
disdain for his culture of origin. He now considers his experience of home peoples way of
behaving as threats. It is a nave denial in the sense that the dichotomy is still maintained except
that the role is reversed.
Minimization: the key feature of the minimisation phase of ethnocentrism is the tendency to
focus more on the shared or common values in a multicultural setting to the detriment of the
differences. The assumption here is that there are no differences, we are all one Nigeria as
some persons in Nigeria would say. However, as they are obsessed with this mantra, they
neglect fundamental differences that exist and through that hit cultural blockades in their
intercultural living. While this might come across as positive, the failure to recognise
differences is as grave as those that denies similarities. Hammer et al. (2003: 425) reasoned
that this can happen because universal absolutes like the language of one Nigeria, one
religion, etc. hide deep cultural differences such that other cultures may be trivialized or
romanticized. Where there are dominant groups, this can even mask the recognition of the
institutional privilege belonging to the dominant group and the weaker position of the smaller
group. Progressing beyond this three modes, one goes into the other three phases of
ethnorelativism.

3.1.3. Ethnorelativism:
It must be said that ethnorelativism as used here is strikingly different from the concept of
ethno-relativity which is an ethical principle in Philosophy. The latter argues that morality or
the rights and wrongs of behaviours are based on cultural standard with no appeal to
universalism. In other words, what is considered a taboo in one society is not necessarily
considered an offence in another. This principle which is logically and morally misguiding is
different from the concept of ethnorelativism discussed below. Basically, ethnorelativism
argues that while morality shares both universal and particular elements, there is a need to
approach cultural differences with an attitude of respect that allows room for learnings,
cooperation and integration. In this respect, Hammer et al. (2003: 423) argue that intercultural
sensitivity is the engine that drives intercultural experience. In practical terms, it means that
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to be effective in another culture, people must be interested in other cultures, be sensitive
enough to notice cultural differences, and then also be willing to modify their behaviour as an
indication of respect for the people of other cultures (Bhawuk and Brislin 1992: 416). On this
ground, ethnorelativism holds in a balance, the tension associated with exclusive affirmation
of either universality or particularity of human social setting. Essentially the context experience
is prioritised. Let us consider the stages now.
Acceptance: the principal character of the first stage of ethnorelativism is the realisation that
besides ones culture, other cultures are accepted as viable alternative worldviews. People
within this phase of intercultural development know that people are genuinely different from
them and accept the inevitability of other value systems and behavioural norms. As a limitation
however, they are yet to adapt their own behaviours to the cultural context they find themselves
admiring. However, given the general acceptance of cultural difference, they are less threatened
by cultural differences.
Adaptation: as a built on from the earlier stage, the acceptability of cultural differences leads
to willingness to adapt. This is because cultural differences are seen as valuable resources and
this leads to the ease of adapting ones behaviours to the different cultural norms of ones
environment. Individuals in this state can engage in empathy the capacity to take perspective
or shift frame of reference vis--vis other cultures (Hammer et al. 2003: 425). It is different
from the previous state which only stops at acceptance. Adaptation involves willingness to shift
worldview and behaviours. Here lies the foundation of bicultural or multicultural competence.
Integration: Integration as the last stage presents a case of people being at home with their own
identity while still possessing the capacity to effortlessly and even unconsciously shift between
worldviews and cultural frames of reference. They become truly multi-culturally smart as they
are able to integrate other cultural outlooks with theirs. But experts in the field do not consider
this stage as the superior to the previous. As Hammer et al. (2003: 426) present it: Integration
is not necessarily better than Adaptation in situations demanding intercultural competence, but
it is a descriptive of a growing number of people, including many members of non-dominant
cultures, long-term expatriates, and global nomads. These group of people through their
long term exposure to multicultural experiences tend to incorporate the new cultures into their
definition of self-identity.
What we can take from the foregoing discussion is that individuals can work to grow in their
intercultural competence by learning to outgrow the first three ethnocentric orientations which
are ways of avoiding cultural difference. Afterward, the individual is to focus on adopting
dispositions which favour worldviews that seek cultural difference either by accepting its
importance, adapting perspective to take it into account or by integrating the whole concept
into a definition of identity (ethnorelativism). This task is under the purview of awareness
exercise. We would now explore the second concept of our tripartite mode of growing in
cultural competence.

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3.2.

Communication

Communication

premised on the
principle of
interconnectivit
y/solidarity/reci
procity

More than just sending


(encoding) and receiving
(decoding) information

Subject to
subject, not
subject to
object

Fig. 13. Communication attributes

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It is the
totality of
interaction

Okoliko, D. A.

As shown in figure 13, communication is not restricted to mere passing of information. Beyond
the assumption that communication entails sending and receiving information, communication
involves the totality of interaction or relationships between persons. To have a meaningful
communication in any social setting, parties involved must take cognisance of the following
facts. First, the parties (in the sense of intercultural living, we speak of persons from different
cultures) engaged in the relationship must have the assumption that they are both subjects
and not one party being reduced to an object. There is a clear difference between the two
instances. Consider the act of talking to a chalkboard. No matter what one says or do, the board
as an object would only be a passive recipient of ones actions. But when it comes to a human
being, we must understand that we are active participants in any interaction. Hence, whenever
one party fails to appreciate this point and take the other person as an object in the relationship,
there is bound to be a problem. Essentially, each party must be allowed room to initiate modes
and terms of the interaction without prejudice to the other.
Secondly, intercultural communication must be built on the principles of humanism as
explained earlier: interconnectivity, solidarity and reciprocity. Understanding that we share
same humanness can inform our approach to persons within our world of experience. The same
factor would engineer the feeling of empathy that is central to the ability to be present to one
another during communication and that is central to the concept of intercultural competence.
Other than this, in the context of intercultural living, one must be familiar with certain factors
that can affect communication across all relationships. They are shown below.

What affects our communication?


Values & Beliefs

Perceptions

Assumptions

Stereotypes

Communication
styles/modes

Fig. 14: Factors that affect communication


Given that values/beliefs, perceptions, assumptions, stereotypes and communication
styles/modes are often idiosyncratic, it is self-defeating to assume that parties in a relationship
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that is multicultural would operate from common ground. This immediately creates complexity
that can only be broken down through conscious effort to respect differences in these areas.
Take for instance, the case of beliefs. They are concepts or assumptions we hold to be true, but
may or may not be backed by evidence. For example, a person or persons may hold the belief
in the potency of witchcraft or the existence of mermaids. This cognitive action can subsist
with or without the aid of demonstrable evidence. While beliefs may be an intellectual
experience for those who hold them, they constitute shaping factors on the individuals
attitudes to the world. Similarly, the closely related concept (although, quite different from
belief) called values shape attitudes in communications. Values are deeply held beliefs which
guide our actions. They describe the worth or importance we attach to a particular entity or
beliefs. Again, we can consider the case of time. In some places, it is highly valued that people
stick to time for appointments (E.g. U.S.). That might be different in other cultures were time
is dependent on social ties, e.g., that I am able to carry my family along well enough to a social
function is more important than getting there in time (in some African settings; e.g. the concept
of African time that is well instituted into social norms in Nigeria). Failure to factor this in a
relationship can go a long way to affect cross-cultural interaction. In the case of Nigeria, we
can think of how different tribes prioritise things like family, celebration, meal time, dressing
codes etc. and the magnitude to which these values impact on social interactions. Experiencing
the other can become revelling once awareness of these differences and respect is nurtured.
I would like to tell a personal story here to illustrate the power of communication. During my
years at St. Patrick Formation House in Ijebu-Ode Nigeria, I remember one significant cultural
learning experience among many. The religious community I was part of was very diverse with
members made up of about nine tribes in Nigeria and three Irish priests. One day, one of the
Irish priests who was also the Director of Formation accosted me while I was passing him by.
I had just greeted him Good afternoon Fr. as I would do at almost every instance that I come
across him. To my surprise, he did not like it that I was fond of greeting him at every instance.
This was what he called me to discuss. Meanwhile, to me, the practice was an acceptable norm
in the way of life that I was brought up. My formatior7 was not only uncomfortable with my
over-greeting, he was equally not pleased that I could not address him by his name but by the
title of his office as a priest, Father! That day, we dialogued about these issues and both of us
came to understand that we were operating from different cultural outlook. We did not stop at
understanding why we both had different reactions on these issues, we had to make shifts in a
manner that respect both parties positions. After our discussion, with efforts, I was able to
make shifts with the issues. My frequency of greetings gradually reduced to accommodate his
feelings; and although, I could not bring myself to address him straight by his name, I
eventually learnt to add his name as suffice to his tittle anytime I address him. In our discussion
that day, I told him why it was difficult for me to address him by name alluding to my cultural
value of respect for elders. He was respectful of my position and never raise the issue again.
From our open chat about experienced cultural difference, we both gained more understanding
about each other as we live and interact.
The above story illustrates the power of having genuine intercultural dialogue. Given our
different background, it was noticeable that our beliefs and values on the issue of
communication was not the same. But having that honest talk opened room for more
understanding that helped us to move on in our relationship. More than that, it helped us to deal
with untuneful assumptions about each other.

The time describes one who is in charge of students training in religious formation houses

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In general, the following tips on intercultural communication are handy8. (Some are derived
from Lindsay McMahons blog on English and Culture Tutoring Service).
Be aware of your own culture: here, there is a need to be conscious of ones cultural
norms about communication. For instance, while some cultures favour being direct and
forward, others are less direct. Also, the use of nonverbal gestures (facial, hand and
body languages) and how they are perceived are crucial points to note. Having this
awareness can aid open dialogue when one confronts challenges across cultures. It helps
one to be able to appreciate in what considerable ways ones mode of communication
differs from others and see where the need to accommodate differences lie.
Secondly, respect: consider that those who you experience in your intercultural living
have self-worth just like you. Their way of life has validity likewise yours. However
backward they might first come across to you, resist the temptation to write them off.
This would allow a reciprocal appreciation for your own self from them. Remember,
human communication is only meaningful when it takes place between subjects, not
between subjects and objects.
Thirdly, be disposed to learn. Humility in front of the unknown is a necessary attitude
to learning. Instead of rushing into judgement based on assumptions, take time to weigh
your assumptions through experience. Be less assertive with your own preconceived
ideas and give room for the other to let you see through their own lens. This would
foster greater understanding and enhance intercultural experience. Note that even your
own culture was learned. Likewise, you could learn about others way of life.
Fourthly, be curious: do not settle with the surface observations or mere hear say about
others culture. Yearn to experience others way of life. This is the drive towards
exposure which enriches intercultural competencies. The more you reach out to people
that are different from you and welcome them, they more exposure you get to
experiencing cultural difference which is the exact thing you need to stretch your
intercultural competence.
Fifthly, be positive: take as a ground rule to think first of the positive aspect of peoples
way of life. Instead of dwelling on the negative stereotypes (which come too easy to
access from hearsay), try to look forward to experiencing other positive aspects that the
people might have.
Let us turn to the last of the tripartite mode of perfecting our skills of experiencing
multiculturalism.

3.3.

Evaluation

Like the first of the tripartite modes of intercultural competence, evaluation is an introspective
exercise. It is more about taking stock of ones journey through intercultural living. Evaluation
is both a personal and collective task. It requires regular reflection on the past journey
identifying areas of progress and negligence. From there, the former is consolidated and the
areas of weakness is reviewed as growth points. For any mixed group or plural society that
considers integration as a worthy project, this exercise is imperative.
At the personal level, it takes cognisance of core questions that bother on personal attitudes to
differences, behavioural exhibitions on occasions of cross-cultural experiences, and ideas or
8

Some are adopted from Mcmahon, L. 2011. Your Intercultural Comunication Skills: 5 Ways to Improve
[Online]. English and Culture Tutoring Services. Available:
http://www.englishandculture.com/blog/bid/71208/Your-Intercultural-Communication-Skills-5-Ways-toImprove [Accessed 09 November 2016].
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knowledge of cultural edges. It asks questions like how much has my ideas about the mixed
societies where I live, work, or study been changed through my experiences? Are they still grey
areas? (Cognition). What are my dispositions towards particular groups that are different from
me? (Attitude). Why do I get frightened when I come across an incidence of cultural practice
that is different from mine? (Behaviour). Questions such as these can help one ascertain ones
level of growth with regard to intercultural competency.
At the communal or group level, this exercise is also important. Any diverse community that
neglect reflecting on their living together is often prone to misgivings that weigh down progress
on integration and group building. In the case of Nigeria, this task has been largely a failure.
Diverse local communities, local government areas, and states rarely organise dialogue forums
where honest talks about how each party is being carried along, on grey areas of relationships
and on way forward. And sometimes, when similar platforms are created, discussions
indicative of either obsession with one Nigeria that obscure underling differences or
idiosyncratic agenda revealing separationists tendencies dominate Nigerias national discuss.
The implication is that dissenting voices are not heard and proper atmosphere for genuine
dialogue is missing. I believe that the near-absence of seasoned evaluation from the bottom-up
of Nigerias national life is responsible for feelings of marginalisation, suspicions, mistrust and
uneasiness that have led to wanton violence and crisis across the nation. The same can be said
of smaller groups, business partnership, schools where cross-cultural challenges stare.
Having looked at all the three exercises that grow ones intercultural competence by way of
enhancing ones intercultural sensitivity, it is now proper to describe qualities of a multiculturally smart person.

4.

Who is Multi-Culturally Smart?

It must be admitted that spelling out the qualities of a multi-culturally smart person is a daunting
task; hence, those outlined here are not exhaustive. The attempt is to adumbrate expected things
from one who has taken the task of becoming a multicultural person serious. There are three
fronts to articulate this: the level of cognition/knowledge, attitude and behaviour.
The knowledge part bothers on awareness acuteness. He or she has acumen for cultural
diversity and possesses requisite experiential knowledge about his own culture as well as
others. This is what the Bennetts school would describe as Acceptance orientation to
cultural difference. The individual is a repository of categories of cultural differences with
conceptual capacity.
Attitudinally, this knowledge has shaped his or her affect/attitude such that he or she can be
truly said to have the following qualities:

Respect, empathy, flexibility, patience, interest, curiosity, openness, a sense of humour,


tolerance for ambiguity, a wiliness to suspend judgment, etc. If you like, you can think
of Bennetts Adaptation and Integration orientations to cultural difference here.

Behaviourally, a multi-culturally smart chap possesses the skills or competencies that are truly
intercultural. They include but are not limited to the capacity to

develop and maintain relationships across boards,

communicate effectively and appropriately with minimal loss or distortion irrespective


of persons involved,

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5.

attain compliance and obtain cooperation with others across boards.

Conclusion.

In the present world where ease of mobility and crisis of economy, politics and religion is
making the possibility of finding pure homogeneous community or society increasingly
difficult, the task of taking intercultural competence serious is important for everyone. While
this point is readily appreciable, many people, especially young ones are insufficiently given
necessary lessons and experience to enrich their intercultural competence. In Nigeria where
diversity is an unquestionable fact, the task of grooming young people to be multi-culturally
smart is a necessary condition for the project of national integration. Through this study
material designed for series of intercultural seminars held for group of young people within
Ilorin environs, attempts were made to establish why national integration is paramount for our
nation. It was argued that all fronts of national development hinges on the extent to which we
are integrated on the ground that development among other things, requires synergic effort.
Having established the necessity for taking the intercultural competence task serious, it was
further demonstrated that to become multi-culturally smart, there are three modes to operate
from: awareness, communication and evaluation. These modes which are not sequenced in
reality define individuals as well as communities knowledge, attitude and behaviours towards
diversity. Lastly, traits particular to persons on the track of multi-cultural smartness were listed
out. They give a clear picture that behaviours that isolate, discriminate, disrespect, maim and
generally coerce others into forming a relationship with people fall short of intercultural
sensitivity or smartness. Unfortunately, these are the sort of practices surfacing across our
nation. Thus, it seems that individually and collectively, we are yet to get it right in respect of
our intercultural living. This makes it an imperative for us to live out the principles outlined in
this handbook.
Finally, for rhythmic impression of all that has been said, I leave you with this poem I wrote
on intercultural sensitivity.
Im not alien
Im not alien,
Im just different.
Dont you hear natures comment?
Variety is complement.
I might have different tongue.
It doesnt mean I am a dung.
Like you, Ive a life.
Live lets live!
Like the rose and the bee,
We can together be.
The tongue and the teeth fight,
Yet their difference they often put to flight.
Observe the beauty of the rainbow;
Different colours adding style to the bow.
Like them, we can live and work;
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25

Together, building a better world.


But you! You keep calling me names,
And on that wants me maimed.
Cant you see?
Im not alien, Im just different.
Okoliko 16-02-2016; 12th hr.

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