A young northern shoemaker came to mend my slippers. I kept him with jokes and exchanged banters with him. He’s from Kano. l asked who he would vote for in Kano, Ganduje? His face changed to a scowl. Kwankwaso he said, with smiles. Of course I asked him why. He answered, “Ganduje is Fulani but Kwankwaso is Hausa”. He completed without asking that Shekarau is Baro. What is the difference between Fulani and Hausa? l bet many of us don’t know. We dwell and have our lives in a country whose basic geography we don’t know or care less about.
Yoruba erroneously call Edo persons ọmọ ibo. Only a few know that Ilorin is culturally and linguistically Yoruba. Ṣegun Adeniyi of ThisDay newspaper is Ilorin and despite the faked fulani accent of Bukola Saraki, he is a proper Yoruba boy when caught pants down.
There are more muslims in Auchi and its surrounding towns than you would find in Ikare Akoko. But in certain riverine communities of Ondo, Delta and Rivers, many fifty year old persons have never seen a mosque in their entire life nor witnessed how Sallah is celebrated. Yet in Ebonyi State, there are Igbo muslim women completely covered in hijab, some even put in purdah. And there are numerous Igbo men who pray five times daily, are Alhaji with four wives, also in Ebonyi.
The security situation in Nigeria in the past 20 years has limited internal travel and by extension the experiential education of a generation of Nigerians. Our locomotive of prejudice is driven by ignorance. For instance, it’s unbelievable to:many southerners, that there exist street people and ordinary folks in Kaduna, Kano and Kastina who speak better English than most Lagosians. And that those three states offer more economic opportunities than most southern cities except perhaps Lagos. Maiduguri is not only the everlasting desire of Boko haram, but a city of beauty with a prestigious and beautiful university. And there are more catholic churches and bigger cathedrals in Makurdi than you can find in Benin or Onitsha.
There are 34 aspirants for the house of assembly in Adamawa, 16 out of the number are Christians. Out of 19 states politically zoned to the north, only Sokoto, Zamfara, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano, Kastina can be completely referred to as politicaly Islamic. Kebbi and Gombe indigenuos northern Deeper Life members would shock you in numbers, fervour and devotion. In Yakubu Dogara’s village in Bauchi, the entire local government is almost 100% Christian. l bet you think l am writing lies. But I am not. We just don’t bother to know this country enough.
Islam is not a religion in the north. It is a culture. A way of life. l am a Christian. But I am culturally Yoruba. Marriage, child naming funerals, inheritance and Will may be administered without my recourse to common law, church or even Bible. But the northern muslim knows no other way – of marriage, life, death or burial. His culture, tradition or custom is totally islamic, and regulated by the Quran and Hadiths of the prophet. He marries under shariah, and must be buried within 24 hours at death. In fact, there is no customary court in muslim northern Nigeria. None. Why should they have? Since there is no other customs to codify as law outside islamic norms and beliefs. Therefore shariah court is a necessity and not a favour. Now you see why shariah is recognized and permitted under our 1999 Constitution. Thus, rearing of dogs or pigs is prohibited under law in northern Nigeria, alcohol consumption attracts sanctions, and Nigeria Police would arrest, persecute and jail you if you commit adultery with a married woman in Dutse or Daura. But adultery is not an offence under law in southern Nigeria, a.k.a Sodom.
Friday/Jumat Prayer in northern Nigeria is also opportunity for community meeting, similar to southern Nigeria landlord association meeting. An Emir is not only a king, he is the defacto religious leader of the town or community. He’s required to personally lead the worshippers at prayers, but he may conceed that to the imam if he so wishes. Cultural, traditional, social and economic issues are openly discussed at jumat. It’s their form of bible study. Decisions reached are binding on the subjects, because in lslam, leadership opinion is seen, trusted and believed as an inspiration of Almighty Allah. That’s why the northern voter does not need to be given 5k before he could vote. He trusts the decision and wisdom of his emir and imam because Islam believes promotion comes from God.
Igbo are mercantile and competitive. Most do not live in large cities or urbanized political socialization like the Yoruba. They are acephalous individualistic persons, devoid of central headship or concentrated authority to stir thoughts or philosophy. Rather, the umunna, a family or clan centred body, headed by a system of controls involving men, women and youths operate the balance of power. It is the particular commune’s interest that matters. Not that of the Nigerian or lgbo nation.That is why Ipob cannot be controlled, because Nnamdi Kanu does not answer to a central political system in Igboland. Compared to a Sunday Igboho who could be summoned, stopped, rebuked by Afenifere or the Ọọni of Ife. Little wonder Ipob had to use force and deaths to coarse and get the buy- in to its vision. And that individuality of communes is why Enugu and Ebonyi have not joined the Ipob war in the east.
Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers are a fused nation, and not ethnically Igbo as erroneously termed by Yoruba and Northerners. They live on the fringe of Nigeria, and had an economic island of their own until Godswill Akpabio and Donald Duke brought them to federal gaze. Both states share boundaries and ties with Cameroon. Uyo and Calabar parade some of the most beautiful and handsome beings in Nigeria, and are noted for out of this planet foods and cuisines. Because of the contiguity of the states to northern Nigeria and shared life with the hausa tribes of Cameroon, the people have learnt to live peaceably with migrant herdsmen from upper Benue and Taraba. However, these southern cities are so far from western Nigeria, the Calabar man still sees Lagos as some London.
Southwest is a region of many universities, and cities of dashing young men in agbada and used 2012 C Class Mercedes Benz. The men are called Yoruba demons and there is a growing and booming whore trade that eclipses the market size of Benin and Benue. Yoruba is defiantly spoken, standard of English keeps falling, and the people still live economically and politically in the 60’s. Ibadan folks don’t believe Owerri is now richer, neater and more beautiful, and Akure thinks Abakaliki is the city of Obioma the tailor. But times and positions have changed.
The Niger Delta is my favorite place in Nigeria. I feel safer there than any other region. Because, there are more private guns in the region than anywhere else in Nigeria. Have you ever heard that Fulani bandits or herdsmen killed or kidnapped someone in Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa or Portharcourt? It’s an abomination. ln the oil rich delta, only a dog is permitted to chop a dog. The region is a network of cities, creeks and towns connected with banga soup, starch and gin. Death is defeated in the delta, hence the people are never afraid to die. And it is the only known place in the world where the oyinbo man does not feel super or racist. An Urhobo photocopy boy would slap a Briton oil engineer over nothing, and an Ijaw technician could threaten to push an Italian driller overboard a rig. And heaven would refuse to fall.
Nigeria is a geographic drama.
©️ Taiwo Olanegan.