Elnathan John, award winning Author has a different view from those who think colonialism was bad for Nigeria. While he doesn’t romanticize the era, he provides ample proof that the Europeans’ coming rescued many tribes who were being maltreated as slaves in pre-colonial times.
When you do not read you can say foolish things like our oppression began with British colonialism. A hundred years before the British, many of us were being enslaved, oppressed and erased by people who looked like us. And yes many of our people celebrated the British “ending” it
So before you speak like the erasure of languages and culture began with the British, go and read. Find a chair. Get a drink. Pray to whatever god you worship for comprehension. Then fucking read.
Before the British colonized us, the Caliphate colonized us. For 100 years. Many of our people were slaves and sub-human for much of that time. At best second class human beings doomed to forever walk behind our masters with the superior language and religion.
Even some purely ethnic Hausa celebrated the coming of the British to end feudal slavery. So no, just because a language or ethnicity is “African” does not mean it cannot be destructive, oppressive, hegemonic or colonial.
This is Baba of Karo, a Hausa/Habe woman talking about the coming of the British…
Of course we know that the British came with their own damage and in fact reinforced those feudal positions as it worked well for control and colonialism. No need to control everyone if you can control the feudal lord. It took many of our ethnicities decades after to be “equal”.
Anyway I am not arguing with people, especially these ethnic nationalists, who don’t know my history. Go and read a fucking book that is not Wikipedia.
Someone who worked in the palace in Zaria looked at me once and “reminded” me that our people from Kafanchan used to be the one who would feed the kings horses, bringing hay on foot all the way to Zaria. Some constantly remind us of our ethnic inferiority. So yeah FOH
For a lot of us in places under the Caliphate, 60 years of British rule was not enough to erase the feudal class structure, the almost “racial” superiority we had to deal with since 1804 and even before. The British left and it was war for some of our chiefs to become 1st class
100 years after the British left, making formerly second class ethnicities have first class chiefs still caused riots. Because how dare you upset the status quo that places one ethnicity and religion above another?
Do your hustle. But please don’t call it progress. We see you.
Hausa as a language I keep saying also needs to be “decolonised”. Thoroughly. If you are a non-Muslim non-ethnic Hausa Hausa speaker, there is a lot that can be pretty offensive. Things which have through use become normalized. I’ll give just one example.
I had an intense back and forth with the editor of one of the Hausa newspapers in Nigeria. I noticed that in every instance when they reported deaths of non Muslims, they used the word “mutu”. And when reporting a Muslim death they used “rasu”. I tracked and pointed this out.
Guess what this Muslim editor said? That I was being dramatic and that the two words meant the same thing. Then I asked why do you say when a Plateau chief dies ya mutu and when an emir dies ya rasu. He did this consistently. He accused me of raising issues that didn’t exist
Of course anyone, even a child who grew up in Northern Nigeria knows what this difference is. As a child I hear this all the time. My Muslim friends would correct me if I ever said “mutu” in reference to a Muslim dead person. “Musulmi ne, kar ka ce ya mutu, ka ce ya rasu”.
This editor of a “secular” Hausa newspaper had transmitted his unconscious bias into his professional work and thought that I shouldn’t care. Because it is OK that a non Muslim death is reported using the same word for an animal death. Because animals don’t “rasu”. They “mutu”.
Language is not neutral. Language can damage as it can build. It carries baggage, historical, cultural, political. Because a language is “African” does not give it inherent value. Because a culture is “African” does not make it inherently better for use than others.
Yes, a lot of this decolonization will come through popular use. A lot of our languages still need a lot of work in this regard. It is important not to assume that languages and cultures have value just because they exist. They pack a lot of baggage. Often, a lot of violence.
For me that Muslim editor insisting that the distinction between mutu and rasu was neither deliberate nor consequential was just like a white person in Amsterdam insisting that black face is not racist.
I was like, of course you don’t think it means anything, because no one has looked at your dead loved one and described their death with the words they used to describe the death of an animal while reserving the nice word for their own relatives of a different religion.