The relativistic nature of Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba stereotypical offensives in Nigeria

Listen to article

By Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
June 10, 2014
The problem of stereotyping is that it is relative. The same way the southerner sees the northerner as inferior is the same way the northerner sees the southerner, too, with inferiority. For example, the average Yoruba parent in Ibadan constructs a dreadful image of a straw man in the mind of his child so as to help frighten the child; to compel the child to behave well, to avoid being consumed by this unfriendly creature: the ugly straw man. And guess who this horrid, dreadful, and vile straw man is? He is the Hausa (pronounced 'Awusa' in Yoruba phraseology) man from Kano! Retrospectively, the Yoruba child grows into a man who sees the 'Awusa' man and his cultures as extremely horrifying, deserving at best, censure, at worst, snob.

But while this is happening in Ibadan, you can't prevent the average Hausa parent in Kano from teaching his child what he thinks of the Yoruba too. First, on grounds of culture, the Hausa thinks that Yoruba people are stinking sully in attitude that all of them, irrespective of social class and/or communal order, defecate in a polythene bag in the convenience of their bedrooms (a term popularly captured in Hausa language thus: 'masu kashi a leda.'). Second, on the grounds of his religion, the Hausa understands that the Yoruba have amongst them Christians and Muslims; the Christian Yoruba, at once, is out-rightly despised on being non-believer (offensively put: 'Arne', so that 'Arnen Bayarbe' could mean non-believing Yoruba), the Muslim Yoruba too is spurned: Musulmin Bayarbe! Literally, the term Musulmin Bayarbe means nothing but a Muslim Yoruba, however, its meaning in dysphemistic terms is often that, although Muslim you are, aggregating your Muslimness with your circumstance of being Yoruba automatically makes the Muslim Yoruba a middling, second-rate kind of Muslim; whose Muslimness and Islam can't just be worthy of being taken with seriousness.

But then where are the Igbo in all this? The average Igbo, to start with, sees every Hausathanks to Igbo phraseologyas 'Ewu-sa', and every Fulani as 'Fool-ani.' 'Ewu' in Igbo language is 'goat' while 'Fool' as we understand it in English is a noun that refers to a person lacking any sense. By implication, to be Hausa is to be a goat and to be Fulani is to lack sense of judgement. Thus, Hausa-Fulani could pass for a senseless goat. How ingenious! Now, give it to the Hausa, and he'll tell you he doesn't believe the Igbo is worthy to go easy on; hence, the Igbo does not deserve being attended to like a human being. All the Hausa would do is to think of any- and every extreme case of depravity, and dissoluteness, and dishonesty, and iniquity, and debauchery, and simply tag it along the Igbo person. It is in this context that once the average Hausa is tasked with the responsibility of head count, he'll tell you that after the head count he found there were 10 people in total; that is, 9 people and 1 Igbo.

The lesson in all this is that we have got to stop the stereotypes. But if you insist, you must simply know that although you could think badly of that guy, but he too, could think worse of you.

The author can be reached at [email protected]