THE HAUSA FULANI MUST LISTEN by Auwal Sani Anwar



Bahaushe mai ban haushi, na Tanko mai kan bashi! Goes the Hausa saying, which is an excellent self-rebuke that may be loosely translated as, ‘Some Hausas may do some embarrassing, self-annihilating things that would make you want to slap some sense into them.’ It is an old saying, but clearly, it is perfect for the Hausa Fulani of today. I am Hausa (and a fringe Fulani) through my father, and I am Fulani (and a fringe Arab) through my mother. I have the height and other structural features of the Fulani and I have the dark skin of the Hausa. Hausa is my mother tongue, Islam is my religion and I was in born inside the old city of Kano. I think this is as Hausa Fulani Muslim as it may get. Yet, I have to agree that the saying above perfectly describes me and my kindred in the political, social and economic situation that we, largely, created for ourselves today. And we are paying for it. But can we change it? Yes, if only we will listen.

This is a rejoinder of sorts to the controversial piece that was written by Mal. Adamu Adamu of Daily Trust titled ‘Is the North a Lip?’ It came in two parts on July 19 and 26 of 2013. The second part is the most controversial because in it, Adamu blamed some utterances of the late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi at certain periods of Nigeria’s history as the foundation for the unfortunate mutual distrust that prevails between the Muslims and Christians that inhabit northern Nigeria at present. So many rejoinders have been written to not only absolve the revered Sheikh, but also to place the blame back on the sect that Adamu is believed by others to belong to. One such rejoinder came from Dr. Salisu Shehu of Bayero University Kano. Yet, important as this part of Adamu’s write up is deemed to be by many, I choose to dwell on the aspect where he spoke on the self-destructive tendencies and practices of the Hausa Fulani that is, more than anything, behind the current confusion that reigns in our land. 

I choose to do that because at the root of the former issue (without prejudice to Adamu’s claim of being a sunni) is an unproductive, unwinnable argument that has been around between Muslim groups since the demise of the Prophet (SAW). As an ordinary Muslim, I appreciate the contributions of Sheikh Gumi to Islamic scholarship in Nigeria, but I am fully aware that he was not infallible just like Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, Sheikh Kabara and Sheik Alzakzaky. If he made mistakes as Adamu claimed, may Allah forgive him and his followers. If Adamu was wrong, given many angles that are being illuminated now, may Allah give him the humility to ask for the Sheikh’s forgiveness through beseeching Allah and offering a public apology through the same page in which he laid the accusations. This is all I can say in that regard. But where I stand fully with Adamu is where he identified the Hausa Fulani as a haughty, self-annihilating lot that need to re-examine their ways. This is what I wish to approach and underscore.

However, as espoused by the finest traditions, I need to lay the foundation with praise if I want the bitter truth that will come later to be received, understood, appreciated and worked with. The praise is not a lie. The Hausa Fulani were generally regarded as some of the most hospitable, honest and godly people amongst the ethnic groups of Nigeria. They reserve the finest reception and accommodation for guests especially if the guests profess the same religion with the Hausas. Examples are the quarters inside the old city of Kano that were allocated the Yoruba, the Kanuri, the Nupe, the Igala, the Igbira, etc. Two past governors of Kano State came from such quarters or background. As for non-Muslims, quarters were allocated for them outside the old City so as to give them maximum opportunity to practice their religion and to live according to the dictates of their culture which may be strange to the Muslim inhabitants of the towns. This arrangement suited all perfectly because while Muslims will call for prayers, five times a day, without the sound disturbing anybody, and maintain a tight grip on their culture within the town, the non-Muslims can have their masquerade, consume alcohol and dress as scantily as they liked without offending anybody. The two groups meet in the markets and carry out businesses that are mutually beneficial. And before you knew it, Kano became the house of all, the centre of commerce. This practice earned the Hausa Fulani a lot of social capital and goodwill.

In fact, as recently as 2010, while I was a part of an engineering team that worked in Ebonyi State, an interesting event played out. We ran out of some special materials of construction on site in Uburu LGA. I simply placed a call to one Igbo seller of such materials in Abuja that I had one time bought some things from. He recognized me and immediately arranged for somebody in Enugu to supply me with the materials. The materials were delivered on that day. As I thanked those that brought the materials to the site and then asked for their account number so I could credit them ‘in two days time,’ they said he had paid them already. One of them laughed and said, ‘If you think we would embark on a journey to bring these things to you in this village without being paid, think again. But Aboki, you are not the problem. We know ourselves.’ And he spoke in Hausa! Stunned, I immediately phoned that Igbo man, Mr. Chris, to thank him and to ask him for his account number. I also told him what they said. Chris laughed and said, ‘Don’t mind my people Malam. They are my brothers but they won’t trust me. We don’t trust each other. I had to pay them. But don’t worry. I will send you the details later. ‘Flash’ me when you finish on Monday and get to Abakaliki.’ I couldn’t help but ask, ‘But why do YOU trust ME?’ He laughed again and said, ‘You are my Hausa friend.’ He only had my phone number and we had met only once.

Now I have just reaped the benefits of the famed, venerable principles, practices and values of my forefathers. They were responsible, honest and trustworthy. The question is, are the principles, practices and the values that rule my life today as a Hausa Fulani not a perfect negation of those of my fathers’? Can I honestly expect others that live with me to trust me with their lives and property? Can I in all sincerity expect non-Hausa Fulani Muslims to believe that I respect them and have their interests at heart? Can I be confident that even my fellow Hausa Fulani Muslims will trust me with their property and wealth? In fact, can I honestly look at the poor in the Hausa Fulani community and tell them that I got their back?

The truth is that we have departed from those values that defined, guided and elevated us to a position that commanded reverence. For those reasons, we are where we are today. We are the butt of every joke because we unfortunately deserve it. From being industrious, energetic and resourceful, we have become lazy, complacent and daft. From being centres of scholarship and commerce, we have become centres of ignorance and destitution. We lead in almost all the negative indices of development: Highest poverty rate, highest maternal mortality rate, highest illiteracy rate and lowest productivity. The only negatives that we do not lead in are promiscuity and indecency which makes us have the lowest HIV rate; but even in that, we are catching up. We are just lucky that the pillars that our religion and society drilled in that respect are too strong. But you and I know that we are gradually chipping away at them. 

So what happened? I am not saying we are entirely at fault, because we are not living in a vacuum. But we find it so easy to blame others. Indeed certain stimuli might have come from without, but how you respond depends entirely on you. We were always having our fate in our hands. We were in control of our destinies as ordained by God; but not anymore. We now rely on crumbs from without. If the union feeds us, we live. If it starves us, we die. We have become such a pathetic lot that cannot even raise a credible finger to defend ourselves.

If the Hausa Fulani rightfully or wrongly feel like they are under siege, they are not the first people to be faced with that kind of situation. The Hausa can turn that siege mentality (or reality) to an excellent opportunity that would give rise to advantage. So many examples abound in history as to how to go about doing just that, and winning. These materials are in the books, but unfortunately, the Hausa Fulani have stopped reading. The materials in the books require not only reading, but assimilating, drawing inferences and then building. This requires rested, primed and energetic brains. But most Hausa Fulani stomachs are so hungry that their brains cannot think beyond the next meal. Little wonder both their poor and their rich line up during elections to receive peanuts and sell their future – and their souls. 

The funny thing is that at the time that we are so poor in every aspect of value imaginable, we still have the guts to look down upon others. When Adamu Adamu said that some Hausa Fulani Muslims think of other Nigerian Muslims as not Muslim enough, he was not wrong. We think nobody is good enough. This is borne out of the ignorance that rules our land. We have lost even the religious education that clearly abhors that mindset. We meet to fellow Yoruba, Igbira and other Muslims the same disdainful treatment that some ignorant Arabs meet to blacks (including Hausa Fulani) when they go for Hajj. Some do not even want to stand in next to a black man. You are not Muslim enough! Now if we will think that lowly of Muslims, what regard do we reserve for the non-Hausa, non-Muslim? That is why when non-Muslims are flaunting some achievements online, wearing some air of superiority, I just laugh. They have no idea that in spite of every negative index of development, the Hausa Fulani would never envy them. Even if he will die, he will never want to be identified as anything other than a Hausa Fulani Muslim.

Now a moderate pride in one’s tribe, religion, culture and heritage is not bad. But we should be sensible enough to know that we need to re-invent ourselves, because we have strayed from the ideals of the religion and the culture long ago. We are now a people in disarray. We are neither here nor there; everyone is for himself. If things continue this way, the days of the Hausa Fulani as a viable community are numbered. This truth, whether it comes from an Adamu Adamu or from a Chris Okotie, it is still God’s honest truth. And we ignore it at our own peril. The same Bahaushe said, ‘Gyara kayanka ba ya zama sauke mu raba.’ By telling me to put my house in order, you are giving me a good advice. I lose nothing by heeding it. It is to my benefit whether it comes from expected sources or not; and whether the premise of your advice and your intentions are fair or not.

It is time to go back to the drawing board. We need to go back to the good Book and find our bearing as per values, principles and practice. We need to listen to what the world is saying. We need to listen to what friends and non-friends are saying. We need to, as individuals and as a collective, look inwards and honestly appraise what is happenings, what we are doing to ourselves, what others are doing to us, draw up an executable plan to bail ourselves out of our present predicament. We don’t need anybody to put our house in order for us; we only need God and ourselves to save ourselves from our destructive attitudes. But we must work hand in hand with others to foster peace, entrench harmony, elevate our politics and generate economic growth and development, all with mutual respect and dignity. Nobody can afford to live in a vacuum, not even the Hausa Fulani. And the time to start is today.
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