Monday, 25 August 2014

Max Siollun: Every Northerner is Hausa (Y! History)

There is a tendency among southern Nigerians to ignorantly refer toany northerner as Hausa. A few years ago there was a massive ethniccontroversy when sectarian violence (and murders) rocked Jos (asusual) as Muslim Fulanis and Christian Biroms killed each other.

I was speaking to some friends recently and they pointed me to someonline debates among Nigerians who refused to believe that there are250 ethno-linguistic groups in Nigeria. Even those that concede thereare 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria, do not realise that a great many ofthose 250 are in the north. The 250 languages in Nigeria stat isactually a gross undercount. There are over 500 (yes I said over FIVEHUNDRED) indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria:***EDITION***
There is a tendency among southern Nigerians to ignorantly refer toany northerner as Hausa. A few years ago there was a massive ethniccontroversy when sectarian violence (and murders) rocked Jos (asusual) as Muslim Fulanis and Christian Biroms killed each other. Asdead bodies piled up in Jos an explosive debate raged with manyChristians, middle belters and southerners accusing Major-GeneralSaleh Maina (then the GOC of the armys 3rd armoured division in Jos)of being pro-Fulani, and of not doing enough to stop the murder ofChristians and Biroms because he is Hausa-Fulani. Even General Domkat Bali (a retired General from the middle belt) joined in withmis-characterising Mainas ethnicity. The ignorance of the furore waspalpable, because Maina is NOT Hausa or Fulani. He is Kanuri, but fellvictim to the generic Nigerian mindset of every northerner is Hausa.
Many southern Nigerians ignorantly label Nigerias past northernleaders like Abacha, Babangida, and Abubakar as Hausa when in factNONE of these men was Hausa. The issue is compounded by the fact thatthe concept of who/what is Hausa is an exceptionally complicatedone. Hausa colloquially refers to more than an ethnic group. It isalso used as a general term to describe anyone who can speak Hausa(whether or not they are ethnically Hausa). The casual misuse of theterm Hausa has led to middle belt ethnicities like the Tiv, Angas,Jukun, Nupe, Gwari, Gbagyi etc being referred to as Hausa insouthern Nigerian discourse.I am sure that many are also unaware thatNigerias Senate President David Mark (i.e. citizen no. 3 in Nigeriais from the Idoma ethnic group in the middle belt.
I hope readers will be enlightened by the diversity in Nigeria -especially in the north. A few sobering statistic (I know some of youdo not like stats, but I cannot help it right now):
1) About 700-800 languages are spoken in Nigeria and Cameroon alone.Two countries with less than 3% of the worlds population speak over10% of ALL languages in the world.
2) Which is the most linguistically diverse region in Nigeria? TheNorth. Many do not realise that there are states in northern Nigeriawhere one encounters different ethnic groups/languages as one movesfrom one town to the next. Some groups like the Big Three, and theTiv, Kanuri and Ijaw number in the millions. However, others are inthe mere thousands and are so obscure that the federal governmentmight not even be aware of their existence.
3) States like Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau and Taraba are reputed to haveover 50 (yes, I said FIFTY) ethnic groups EACH.
4) The former Governor of Adamawa State once said that there areindividual Local Government Areas in his state where 30 separatelanguages are spoken.
5) Who reading this has nostalgic memories of the Koma people? Withapproximately 50,000 people, this was the ethnic group that remainedundiscovered in the mountainous highland area to the north-east,living a naked Pagan lifestyle up in the mountains with no interactionwith modern society. They were discovered in 1986 during theadministration of Colonel Yohanna Madaki then Military Governor ofGongola State. Early missionaries who tried to convert them had to gonaked so as not to make them feel uncomfortable around clothedstrangers.
A few years ago, Libyan leader Colonel Ghaddafi (in response toreligious violence in Nigeria) advocated splitting Nigeria betweenMuslims and Christians. Sounds plausible right? Should be an easy tasksince the north is Muslim and south is Christian? Wrong. TheMuslim north/Christian south discourse has been a massive myth fordecades. Some northern states like Kaduna, and southern states likeOyo have mixed Muslim and Christian populations. Lets not evenmention Kwara state. Aside from having sizeable Christian and Muslimpopulations, no one can even agree whether it is in the north orsouth!
Ask anyone about the far north western corner of Nigeria, and they arelikely to think of it as the home area of former Presidents Shagariand YarAdua former Head of State Muhammadu Buhari. It is alsorenowned as the area of Nigeria where Muslim Sharia law started.Zamfara state in the far north west was the first Nigerian state toadopt Sharia law when it was governed by Ahmed Sani. Yet right nextdoor to the first footsteps of Sharia in Nigeria, there is anindigenous Christian minority ethnic group. Who remembers ColonelDauda Musa Komo former Military Governor of Rivers State and nemesisof Ken Saro-Wiwa? Komo, and other famous individuals like Sani Sami,Ishaya Bamaiyi and Tanko Ayuba are from the minority Zuru area in whatis now Kebbi State which has a minority Christian population. Even theBokostan areas plagued by the Boko Haram Islamic insurgency innorth-eastern Nigeria have Christian populations (the fact that manyof the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls are Christians is a case inpoint).
Nigerians are unaware of the diversity in their own country becausemany do not have experience of interaction with the numericallysmaller ethnicities. Most Nigerians who travel outside their homeareas do so to get to big cities like Abuja and Lagos. It is rare(except for NYSC) to find Nigerians living in the rural/local partsoutside their home area.
Nigeria is Earths answer to the biblical Tower of Babel. Akaleidoscope of different cultures, languages and labyrinth diversity.Let us open our eyes and minds to the breathtaking diversity of thearea called Nigeria. Before you call that fellow across the road an[Hausa][Fulani][Yoruba][Igbo], have a hard think, you might besurprised at what you find out.
Post a Comment