Nigerian Inter-ethnic Love Stories: Vivian, Olive, Lamide & Sogie Share their Experience on Growing up Mixed

Finally, here's the concluding part of this blog post where I asked some 'cool kids' to share their experiences growing up in a mixed home and their thoughts on inter-ethnic marriages.

As I've probably said before, it's one thing for two individuals to get fall in love based on their own interests. But what if it's not the best circumstance and environment for the kids?

It's a bit of a stretch but sort of like two AS genotype couples ignoring the fact that they could potentially have SS kids and that wouldn't be best for the kids. Thankfully, judging from the responses of these four (and the earlier four)... I think inter ethnic homes are thankfully safe, and sound like so much fun.

I must admit some of the stories clearly got me laughing & wondering what it'd have been like if I grew up in a mixed home. I guess my kids will be lucky and hopefully have such fun stories to share!

I spoke to Viv whose dad would almost twist his tongue trying to speak her mum's language; and to Olive who considered getting married to a Hausa man just to complete the circle. Lamide shares the one food he thinks we shouldn't eat & Sogie says she often uses a common opinion held about Bini people to her advantage!

Enjoy. 


FullSizeRender.jpg
Cool Kids. L-R: Vivian, Olive, Lamide & Sogie 

1. Vivian A
  • Change Manager, Aspiring Data Scientist + Business and Innovation Strategist. 
  • Blogger only during Blue Moons: www.thealaroro.com - I talk about how much money I don't have and how I want to buy everything.
  • Father - Esan, Edo State; Mother - Boki, Cross River State
1. What were the best bits of growing up in an inter ethnic home, and if applicable, the not so good bits. 

LOL! My mum throwing a quick insult in her language and my dad trying to say the same thing and literally twisting his tongue. Other than that, I don't think being inter-ethnic was made obvious in my home.

2. What was your favourite food from both sides, that we should all definitely eat!

On my dad's side: Pounded Yam and Black Soup
On my mum's side: Heavy-Laden Afang Soup

3. Which of the languages can you speak? 

Can't speak any of the languages. My father and mother were both bred in Lagos, so we all speak Yoruba.

4. Are you more or less likely to marry (or have married) from outside your ethnic group because of your childhood environment? 

Yes, I am getting married to a Yoruba man.

5. Why do you think a lot of Nigerians are implicitly biased and what can we do to change this?

People are influenced by the words and (in)actions of their parents when relating with people. So, if there is bias there, it will follow the kids. Except an individual works hard to correct that bias, it remains forever.

6. One bias or opinion you've heard about either or both cultures that is so not true and has to be disregarded.

Opinions? A lot. Is it untrue? Uhm... let me get back to you on that.

7. Last words on Nigerian Inter-ethnic marriages and raising kids?

So, I wish my folks exposed me to more of their individual cultures, instead of picking a completely different one and advancing with it. Don't downplay the individual cultures, ensure that your partner and kids are exposed to the beauty of your culture.


2. Olive Osuoji
  • Medical doctor, former pageant girl.
  • Father is Igbo, Mother is half Yoruba and half Urhobo
1. What were the best bits of growing up in an inter ethnic home, and if applicable, the not so good bits. 

I could share pages on this. I will try to keep it brief. By far the best thing was getting to experience a number of Nigerian cultures and languages under one roof! We would travel to the east for Christmas, and every now and then my maternal grand-mother would host a party at her home in Ilorin, Kwara state so we’d all have to travel there. I’ve been to some Urhobo celebrations in Efurun, Warri in Delta state (which my maternal grandmother is a native of). When my parents get phone calls from their siblings they would speak their different languages.

I particularly enjoyed watching them being so different culturally but still being a functioning couple. My grand-mother would call my brothers and I “little maps of Nigeria” being that we are living, breathing mixtures of 3 different Nigerian cultures! I also have Igbo, Yoruba and Urhobo first cousins which made for a fun and exciting childhood.

One of my mother’s cousins even went on to marry a Hausa woman expanding our cultural reach. Another cool thing is I got a name from all the tribes, so I have both Igbo and Yoruba names. I got to learn how to make different meals peculiar to the tribes, dinner one night could be a Yoruba meal and the following night could be an Igbo one. I do have to admit you become a bit more interesting to people. The reaction I get when I go through my family tree with people never gets old. It’s definitely a conversation starter.

With my background I have the luxury of interacting with people from any of the tribes without bias and easily blending in. Often people can’t even guess what tribe I’m from based on my looks, and I wonder whether the cultural mix is what has afforded me the ability to morph.

The downside to growing up in a mixed culture home is it could be a challenge learning any of the languages of the tribes you are a product of, or becoming a master of that language if you are lucky to learn it. Children learn a language from listening to their parents converse with each other in that language. My parents didn’t understand each other’s languages so we only spoke English at home. People are quick to point fingers because I don’t speak Igbo, but I know they can never understand the reasons why. 

2. What was your favourite food from both sides, that we should all definitely eat!

My favourite food from the east has to be my village soup ofe amaegbu, Efo riro with anything (plantains, rice, amala) is hands-down the best thing from the west and my favourite urhobo meal is Owoh soup and starch (this happens to be my favourite Nigerian dish overall. My mouth is watering at the thought).

3. Which of the languages can you speak? 

Yoruba is the only Nigerian language I have a handle on. Mainly because I grew up in the west. Favourite Yoruba word? That’s a difficult one. The only word I know in Urhobo is the greeting “Migwo”. My favourite word Igbo word is “Ngwanu” because it’s currently high up in my vocabulary, I probably use that word two to three times daily. You know how you pick up a Nigerian slang and it becomes a part of you for a season.

4. Are you more or less likely to marry (or have married) from outside your ethnic group because of your childhood environment? 

Well this is an easy one for me. Being that I’m a product of multiple cultures I’m pretty much open to having a partner from wherever. My background has definitely opened my eyes and as a result I’m so unbiased towards any of the Nigerian tribes. On the contrary I look at people from other tribes through curious eyes.

A persons tribe (or race for that matter) is not as important as who they really are as an individual. You may miss out on a good thing because you put people in a box based on their tribe. But I’ll be honest for the longest time I wanted to end up with a Hausa man just to complete the circle! (laughs)

5. Why do you think a lot of Nigerians are implicitly biased and what can we do to change this?

I find our mind-set towards inter-tribal marriages in Nigeria quite offensive but I think the percentage of such unions is now on the rise and that’s a good thing. Determining the cause is a whole other conversation. Nigerians are generally not friendly to anything “different” unless it is Western culture. We tend to restrict our minds with regards to our perception of cultures different from ours. What’s so funny is the minute you leave the shores of the country you are viewed as African, not Nigerian or Ghanian, not Igbo or Yoruba. So why the internal segregation.

Take a look at how divided we are as a nation and I guess that tells you why we struggle with moving forward. As to how to change the mindset? It starts from that small unit of a community called a home. It’s a slow and gradual process but you can change a whole society just by the values you teach your children. Teach them not to treat people a certain way because of the part of the country they are from. Teach them to be “non-tribalists” . Mothers, friends, cousins, colleagues stop telling a Yoruba man (just citing an example using this tribe) “not to bring an Igbo girl home”. Love people equally. Nothing sets me off more than that kind of talk. If my parents had not been allowed to marry each other I wouldn’t be here today, being able to talk about the beauty of my childhood. I’m so proud of my heritage and would want more Nigerian children to experience the same. It’s something that is better experienced than described. 

6. Do you think our strength is really in our diversity?

I think our diversity is what currently has us broken as a people. I would love for us to embrace it and have it become our strength.

7. Last words on Nigerian Inter-ethnic marriages and raising kids?

People should try as much as possible to accommodate the spouses of their relatives who are from another tribe. Treat them the same as you would a person from the exact same tribe as you. Open your hearts to them, you’d be surprised the depth of love, friendship and understanding that can stem from such relationships. Take it as an opportunity to learn about a culture different from yours. As Femi Anikulapokuti said all Africans are pretty much the same. “Some people” just came, divided the land and gave us all different countries. We are more similar than we are different.


3. Lamide Aranmolate

  • Web developer.
  • Father is Yoruba, mother Is Urhobo.
1. What were the best bits of growing up in an inter ethnic home?

The diversity. My maternal grandmother is Ghanaian, so it was a mix of different cultures, different food. My family feels like a really big salad bowl with all the vegetables (that are great by themselves) coming together and complimenting one another in ways you can’t imagine. Having my cousins over for the holidays was always something to look forward to.

2. What was your favourite food from both sides, that we should all definitely eat!

Ha! I won’t advice anybody to try out the ijebu ikokore. As a child, I’d pick out just the fish and throw out the rest. But I like cold (day old) eba and egusi. From my mother’s tribe, I like the fisherman soup. The banga is really great too, but not the starch. Something about using the same starch during laundry just made it weird for me as a child.

3. Which of the languages can you speak? 

Main stream Yoruba -  the Ijebu dialect is really difficult to learn. I can’t speak Urhobo. My father still jokes about the only thing my mother brought from her side of Nigeria being the temper because it’s easy to forget she’s Urhobo till she gets mad and she starts to speak her language. When she’s in a good mood, she speaks Yoruba. My Yoruba is fluent enough, my Urhobo is still at beginner level, I know just enough to greet people “Migwo.”

4. Are you more or less likely to marry (or have married) from outside your ethnic group because of your childhood environment? 

I’ve never really thought about it like that. I dated an Igbo girl last year and for this most parts of this one and it was the most beautiful experience, I got to meet her parents and they were really lovely people too, we had plans to get married as soon as we were ready. Ethnicity isn’t something I look out for and thankfully because of the type of family I grew up in, it won’t be a problem (not like I’m one to let my family’s ethnic bias stop me).

5. Why do you think a lot of Nigerians are implicitly biased and what can we do to change this?

I honestly don’t think there’s any definitive reason as to why things happen, particularly when it comes to human behavior. Pick ten Yoruba men at random and ask why they resent Igbos, you’ll get different answers and I can assure you that a greater number of those men never had a firsthand experience their reasons for resentment rides on. I think people need to realize that before anybody is Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba, they’re human. There’s no way being from a particular tribe can influence a person’s character. While it’s okay to not like a person because of something they did wrong, it’s really stupid to take it out on people from the same tribe they come from. The “tendency to be fraudulent” is not an inherent trait of any ethnic group.

6. One bias or opinion you've heard about either or both cultures that is so not true and has to be disregarded.

There are a few of them that I find really laughable. Till date, I’m yet to be scammed by an Igbo man. I honestly do not know any Edo girl who is a prostitute in Italy and I’ve never seen anyone fly either. These things are just propagated by the media.

7. Do you think our strength is really in our diversity?

 In the event that we can’t find strength in uniformity which is the case everywhere, it’s only logical we draw strength from somewhere. Lol


4. Ogieriakhi Iyesogie
  • Physiologist and a fashion / lifestyle blogger at www.itsdivadiaries.com
  • Father is Bini (Edo State) and Mother is Urhobo (Delta state)
1. What were the best bits of growing up in an inter ethnic home, and if applicable, the not so good bits. 

Thinking back to my childhood I can't pick a moment that I can say was great or bad just because of my parents ethnicity. I grew up around a lot of inter-ethnic homes so it was a norm, never an issue. I've great memories but different ethnicity never really had a part to play. 

2. What was your favourite food from both sides, that we should all definitely eat! 

Oh, definitely starch and banga (Urhobo) and pounded yam & blacksoup (Bini). Basically anything with black soup actually, that's my favourite soup 

3. Which of the languages can you speak & favourite word, phrase or sentence in each of the languages

Hahahaha, none! I can't speak any well except the greetings and basic words.
I wouldn't blame this entirely on my parents being from different ethnic groups, but it definitely had a part to play. 

4. Are you more or less likely to marry (or have married) from outside your ethnic group because of your growing up environment?

It's still not an issue to me but I'm more likely to marry from some ethnic groups than others, just because... I don't have a problem with inter ethnic homes. I can pick any ethnic group but if I was given a board with all the tribes and asked to pick a girl has preferences. 

5. Why do you think a lot of Nigerians are implicitly biased and what can we do to change this?

Tribalism - and this is a big problem in Nigeria.  Ethnic groups feeling superior to the other, a need to help their "brother" before another.  Tribalism eats deep it goes way beyond marriage. 

Changing it? Nigeria is still quite traditional and some people stick with their beliefs. If you notice some ethnic groups see this as an issue more than others. Some families see it as an issue and some don't even know the issue exists. 

Enlightenment, time or even having children in mixed families can help change it.  

6. One bias or opinion you've heard about either or both cultures that is so not true and has to be disregarded.

This is a good one. Oh, Bini people are witches - we are not, well not all of us. The thing is I've used this line a lot, like if you know any Bini person they've probably used it to instil fear or make a joke. 

7. Last words on Nigerian Inter-ethnic marriages and raising kids?

I asked my dad what he thinks of Inter-ethnic marriages and he replied with "Is that an issue?" but after a lot of thinking he said the only thing he has noticed is that most times the kids can't speak any native language. 

But on the flip side, I know people with parents from the same ethnic groups that can't speak. 

When you relate with someone it's all about who they are and what they about but never about ethnic groups. It has never been a big deal to me and shouldn't be. Raising up a child in an inter-ethnic home is no different than any other home. It's all about what you teach them and what you put in them.  


Well, this was kind of long, but again it was good to hear more perspectives. It sort of confirms my suspicion that within Nigeria, people from the east & west are more likely to inter-marry. This was an open call, and it was tough to find kids who was in a mixed home with one parent from the North. Olive, maybe you really should still marry a Hausa person to complete that circle! I think I'm going to make it a mission to find & share some Northern stories!

And starch and Banga seems to be a delicacy for a lot of people. Maybe I need to try it. But like Lamide, it's hard to imagine eating the same starch people use for laundry! I guess it's first a food first right. If people began to use rice for laundry, it probably wouldn't stop me from eating rice.

I love Sogie's last words that ultimately, it's what you put into kids that matter. But also Vivian noted an important point, that the kids should be exposed to both cultures. I'll definitely try to emphasise that with my kids!

Any thoughts guys? 

I really hope this has helped broaden a few people's minds! If you know who would benefit, please feel free to share. Next up, we'd be sharing more stories from the couple's themselves & maybe some anonymous ones as well! 

Love, 
Kachee.. Xx

pS: Apologies again to non-Nigerians. There's so much to explain - but Nigeria has over 250 different ethnic groups with quite distinct cultures & languages!  But trust us, all of Nigerian food is amazing and you should try it once you get the chance!

ppS: If you missed the first one where YJ, Berry, Anire and Ekene share their experience, you should check it out. 


Follow