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Northern Nigeria Before Colonization And Amalgamation: Sarkin Tabshi Echoes



By Sadiq Aliyu Waziri

In 1897, the English colonizers started their conquest of the Northern Nigeria and by 1903 the conquest had flooded even cities like Zaria, Kano, and Sokoto. Southern Nigeria, meanwhile, had been invaded by the same colonizers many years earlier. In 1914, the two colonies were merged into a single colony – Nigeria. Eventually, after 46 years the Nigerians fight against colonialism got to fruition.

Since then, the relationship between these parts of Nigeria would intermittently have bad blood. It would be too unthoughtful to say it began 1960 afterwards – but every ardent follower of Nigeria’s current affairs would pinpoint the bond started to drastically loosen up from there and – continuously.

Every time these debates on whether or not Nigeria should split arise, the denizens would enter the war zone, crossing swords nonstop. The war of words would give one a feeling that the sides being under the same umbrella is like dicing with death. My standpoint is, however, not to advocate separation.

In these said arguments, many are of the opinion that the Northern Nigeria can simply not to do without the Southern Nigeria, referencing to oil, which comes from South, and Nigeria’s over dependence on the money generated from it. This cannot be denied. But, the Northern Nigeria was doing fine before colonization and amalgamation and would have probably gone farther than this “current mess”.

I am a young man but obsessed with the Hausa traditional songs – ones hardly listened to by my generation. Mamman Sarkin Tabshin Katsina is one of my favourites. Listening to his “Babu Habaici, Babu Zagi” is always a time traveling to the North before it was forced into Nigeria. Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule, in an interview, once claimed that the Northern Nigeria “is not a backward place and it has never been”. The singer thus confirms it.

Sir. Ahamdu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the North, in the 1960s, incepted the Annual Cultural Festival in his region. After his assassination, the festival did not die with him. Yakubu Gowon as Head of State and Abba Kyari as Military Governor of North Central State, now Kaduna State, came another cultural festival. It was at this event that Mamman Sarkin Tabshi premiered his “Babu Habaichi, Babu Zagi”.

Even though no man is an island, but listening fervently to the song, I got to realize that Northerners would be very foolish to take pride in colonization and amalgamation – without the pair, the region would have become, by now, a rose with few thorns – and saved from getting stuck in this quicksand. In this satirical song, the singer recalls and reminds the white man of when he forced his way into the North. People already had skills and occupations which they had mastered and relied on. There were blacksmiths, builders, fishermen, tanners, leather workers, barbers, spinsters, dexters, knitters, etc.

On knitting precisely, he prods at Hausa traditional clothes made across the Hausa cities. Wandon Kano, saqi, rawunan Kura, and tsamiya are some of the Hausa clothes mentioned. All this is to tell that Northerners were not naked when the white intruded and they shouldn’t take pride in the textiles which the colonizers brought to Northern Nigeria.  In the same manner, the singer points out that the white’s brought medicines like Cafenol and M and B but they should not be too proud about that. Our people had medicines like hannu, runhu, sabara, and kirni, all of which were used as cure for diseases.

In the end, the singer would succumb to the white’s superiority but only to send them yet another blow, alluding to their multiple deadly weapons. To him, this is the only aspect that the colonizers have bettered the Northerners. Why? Northerners are peaceful, entrusting God their matters, using rosary to symbolise that.

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August 2021
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