Tuesday 27 May 2014

The North is Not Hausa

Image: Home Town
Nigeria is at a very bad place now, with hatred sown deep into the very core of society. No one can tell just how long that hatred has been going on, but one thing most are sure of is that, any attempt at forcibly removing it will further widen the gaping wound which is Nigeria today; and probably destroy the last vestiges which we are holding on to. This hatred is beyond religious: in fact, religious issues are not as deeply seated as those related to ethnicity and tribalism.

The Northern part of the country seems to bear the brunt of this hatred, with the Southern, Eastern and Western parts showing their distaste of the ‘Hausa-North’. Is this too broad (and maybe too bold) a statement? Well...it gets worse.

When I was in the university, just a few months before graduation, my sister came to me and asked that I hang out with her and some friends. They were both from one of the South-Southern states of Nigeria; though one of them had lived in Kaduna State until he gained admission to the university. The other was visiting the North for the very first time.

We primped and went out to hang out with the guys. While talking, I noticed that the new guy was staring at my sister and I in a very unsettling manner. After enduring the Xray-like stare for a while, I shot him a glare. He became unnerved and apologized. He said he had always had the view that the North was a wild land, inhabited by uneducated cattle shepherds who had an unusual thirst for power. He said he had actually told his friend that he hoped he was not bringing Hausa ‘fura da nono’ sellers to come hang with them. Even in that assessment, you can’t help but see how wrong he was about his knowledge of the Hausa tribe. We laughed about it and in the end, he said, ‘I have changed my views about the Hausa man and the North’. When I asked if he had met any Hausa man, he snorted and said, ‘You, now!(For crying out loud, I’m a mix of Idoma and Ebira. But let me continue.)

A little while back, a friend told me of his experience with some people when he went to serve in the Eastern part of the country. They were welcoming until they found out he was from Borno State. Easy camaraderie turned into glacier coldness. They watched him with suspicion and accused him of being among the Hausas who had killed their fellow Igbo brothers. At one point, he was scared for his life. He actually thought they were going to kill him. This only changed when they saw him in church one day. After the service, they accosted him. When they ascertained that he wasn't a member of Boko Haram sent to bomb their church, they asked him how a Hausa man could be a Christian. He explained to them that he wasn't Hausa. 

One of them quipped, ‘Are you not from Borno?’

At his affirmation, they asked again, ‘Is Borno not in the North?

Nodding his head, they said, ‘Then you are Hausa jare!’.

Despite his explanations, they still wouldn't believe that the North wasn't solely a Hausa region. My friend had to resign to their strongly held ideas, even accepting the nickname, ‘Hausa boy’. He just couldn't get it into their heads that Hausa is not even an indigent tribe in Borno State. Kanuri yes, but definitely not Hausa!

A friend on Facebook also told me of his brother who had gone to one of the Western States for an interview. Having scored the job, he set about looking for a house. He asked a security man to help him get a place. When the security guy was free, he took my friend around and they met many landlords. One would expect that he would easily get a house. But he was rejected by all of them! As soon as they realized he was from the North, they clammed up and refused to give him their houses for rent. One landlord went as far as saying that he didn’t want a Hausa man in his house and that he sure didn’t want a "Boko haram" in his house. This man had to resort to living with the only nice person he had met in that town; the security man. His money was not good enough to get him a place as long as he was perceived as Hausa.

The worst part is that there are only five states in the North that are predominantly Hausa. They are Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa. That is to say that of the nineteen Northern States, there are only five States with Hausa people making up the majority indigenous population. Why then are we all regarded as Hausa people?

Adamawa State has about 58 indigenous languages, Kaduna has about 57 and Benue has close to 14. I can talk about these States because I have some attachment and affiliation to them. Add that to the Hausa States and that is just eight out of nineteen. What about the other States? Are their individual tribes not recognized? Must we all be swept in the same boat? 

Now, I have no problems with the Hausa people. They are very nice people. I've lived with many of them and I understand them to a certain point. My worry is that people, especially those from other regions of the country, feel that the North is made up of just Hausa people. What is worse, they attach illiteracy and underdevelopment to the Hausa people, and in essence, the North. Clearly the North cannot claim to possess the same exposure or average level of education with Lagos, but we are not a cluster of huts or open spaces as other regions think.

When I was in camp for the mandatory orientation exercise of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), we had people who openly told us that 'Northerners were like the cows they reared' and that we couldn't speak proper English. These were people whose speech had me cringing at the grammatical errors one wouldn't expect from a graduate.

The North has her problems. So does the South, the East and the West. We cannot continue to have jaded views of one region of the country without invariably increasing the hate we have for that part of the country. We must accept the fact that we are different people, with our many cultural heritages. We must give the same respect to all the tribes of Nigeria.

We can do this by accepting that the North, though a Hausa speaking region, is not a region with only Hausa people. There are other tribes in the North! Secondly, it should be noted that the North has been exposed to formal education; hence there are highly intelligent people in this region. Even those who are not educated are wise in their ways. In essence, we are not a group of dull, unintelligent people. Another thing that should be noted is that, though there are huts in the North, there are also buildings whose architecture can be rivalled anywhere in the world. Most important of all, the religious crisis seen (and heard of) does not mean there are no churches in this region. In fact, it is safe to say that there are as many churches in the North as there are mosques. Better still, there are families with both Christians and Muslims and whole tribes that are Christians. So that ideology of 'Muslim-North' is at best, a lie fed to you by the media.

We must work on our respect of each other, so that we can unite as a nation. Until we view each other as Nigerians first, we will keep plunging into the chasm of national irrelevance, and if unchecked, war.


  1. This is so right. I have spoken to a lot of my tribes people explaining to them that the North is not a majority hausa. But even asides that, there's been so much hate that has brewed in the past. Each tribe needs to come together in a safe and serene environment and write up a new charter so that we are sure that all tribes in Nigeria want to be part of the same country.

    1. Hello Hubbon. I want to start by welcoming you to the blog. Thank you! You are right. There is so much hate in the region as a result of unresolved issues. We can change that by changing the narrative. My hope however is that we all want to remain a part of Nigeria. We can be different and still united. Again, thank you!

  2. Let's start with the main problem being your map. Geographically, the North should end cutting off Taraba, plateau, Abuja and Niger but it has gone further to Kwara, kogi and Benue.some of those people don't even identify themselves as the North. Just as you have assumed so had the public. We all have a job to do fixing it so education and asking questions is key.

    1. Hello Mukosor. Welcome to the blog! Thank you for taking time out to comment. And you are right; education will serve to help in fixing the problem. Thank you.

    2. Very good piece.. Tallies with one I wrote just two days ago..

  3. I was in Borno in 1974/5 when the first Youth Service Corps came. They felt less at home than I the Englishman? Why? There was the dry heat not the southern humidity. But I think it was also the Muslim majority that they feared. The one thing though concerning the north that no-one ever talks about is why the empty spaces for miles? Jihad. But it is never mentioned except in the memory of those who are not Hausa/Fulani, the victims of jihad.

  4. Thank You for your post, you’ve voiced out my frustration with everyone grouping all Northerners as Hausa and Muslim. I’m from Plateau state and anytime I tell someone i’m from Plateau state, they are always shocked and then call me Hausa and are always surprised to see me in church. Worse of all is when they randomly mention how the North just has sand and is dry, I’m not shocked ooo I just regard them as stupid people that have decided to remain ignorant about their country, these people know more about the West than their own country. My cousin found it hard to get accommodation in Akwa Ibom because he’s ‘Hausa’. The annoying thing is when you correct them they think you hate Hausa people and even the Hausa people as well think you hate them because you say you are not Hausa. I don’t know why it’s hard for us to acknowledge and respect our differences while also appreciating our similarities in Nigeria. If you mention more recognition for minority ethnic groups they claim you want to divide Nigeria. It really annoys me.

    1. That is the most maddening thing; when you correct them. We don't hate Hausas or Muslims. We just want to be SEEN as part of the region too. Hopefully, things will begin to change in the country. Thank you so much for taking time out to read and comment. And I apologize for how long it took to respond.