Stranger: Hi, I am Mary. What’s your name?
Me: My name is David.
Stranger: Where are you from?
Stranger: You are Hausa. You are Moslem.
This is the stereotype I face every time I introduce myself to someone new. The widespread ignorance about Nigeria by majority of her citizens is not only annoying but worrisome. Every country has a character of demography, geography, personality, and purpose. And so is every ethnic group or tribe.
Wazobia is a word coined from three native words of Yoruba. Hausa, and Igbo, the three most populated tribes in the country. It’s the local name given to the fifty naira note that has the images of a Yoruba man, a Hausa man, and an Igbo man. “Wa, Zo, Bia” from Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo meaning “come” respectively. Because these tribes constitute the largest proportion of the population does not make the other over three hundred tribes irrelevant. It doesn’t also reduce them to dialects.
I discovered that even the best educated but less traveled Nigerians believe that the country is composed of only three tribes. We are so ethnocentric and geographically immobile within the country that we hold false assumptions about our compatriots from other regions. Some of the illogical conclusions are: 1. If you speak Hausa you are Hausa. 2. If you are from the north despite having a Christian name, you are a Moslem. 3. If you speak Igbo and are from the south, you are Igbo.
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We speak the English Language as our official lingua franca, does this make us English? A minority tribe is as significant and complete as a majority tribe when we think in terms of the meaning of tribe. A minority tribe by number could be a majority tribe politically. For instance, the Apartheid minority rule in pre-1994 South Africa.
How did Hausa Language become the unofficial lingua franca of the entire north despite the existence of other politically dominant tribes like the Fulani, Kanuri, and the Jukun.The Hausas, a couple of centuries back were chiefly traders. They traded in caravans along routes that traversed the West African coastal plains to the arid Sahara of the Maghreb bounded by the Mediterranean. There was cultural exchanges. The Hausa’s taught others their language and adopted Islam from the Arabs. And Hausa became the official language of trade and commerce.
The enforcement of Islam on the Hausas. Note that, many other tribes in Northern Nigeria were never conquered by the Fulani’s. Before Othman Danfodio’s Jihad in 1804, the Hausas mixed idol worship and Islam. Due to their internal disunity, the Fulani’s triumphed easily and established a caliphate. This desert wandering tribes, however, were no match for the Kanuris whose empire straddles the Lake Chad with great influence beyond the Sub-Sahara. Even the Jukuns were a stronger tribe than the Hausas. So, trade, culture appeal, and the ease of gaining mastery of the language were chiefly responsible for the wide use of the language even beyond the boundaries of present day Nigeria.
“If you know your history then you will know where you are coming from.” Bob Marley. This set of people who know little about the country are quick to say, “I didn’t study history in school.” What a shameful statesmen in this age of the internet. They forbid to travel to other parts of the country with the excuse that it is too far, but they never stop applying for visas to jet out.
It’s said that a well traveled young man is more knowledgeable and wiser than a less traveled old man. The best ways to learn are through traveling and studying.
Let’s now address the language and dialect assumption that Hausa is the only language in the north while others are dialects. We know the definition of a language. A dialect is a variety of a language. The Igbos, for example, are a tribe that speak just one language with different dialects according to communities. The Yorubas also speak one language with different dialects. Since they can understand themselves and decode the dialects, they are all one tribe.
Both of my parents are from Kaduna state. My Dad was from the Jaba tribe, and my Mom is Bajju. They never communicated in their native tongues because each didn’t understand the other’s tongue. They spoke in English or Hausa. Therefore, Bajju and Jaba are not dialects of Hausa but two distinct languages of distinct tribes.
From the foregoing, we can see that Nigeria is not a country of only three tribes of Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba. Former President Jonathan is an Ijo man. President Buhari is Fulani and not Hausa or Hausa-Fulani. We need to behave like the Greeks. They were one of the most inquiring races there have ever been. When we know about the character of the country, then and only then would we know that Nigeria is more than Wazobia.