i

THE RETURN OF THE PRINCE

ii
PREFACE
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the idea
to write a book has been on my mind since 1973 when I was serving
as a Police Officer in Calabar, Cross River State of Nigeria, but it was
not to be then as my pre-occupation was chasing the criminals all over
the place. However, with my retirement in 1987, the idea was
rekindled and continued to haunt my thoughts, nay, prodd me until
one day I put pen to paper and this is the result. A policeman-turned-
novelist!
This book is a religious book, no, it is not a religious book but
there are some elements of that. This book contains nothing but
cultural entertainments only, no, it does not contain cultural
entertainments only but there are to a large extent some elements of
that. This book is on social criticism, no, it is not a book on social
criticism but it highlights some aspects about that. This is a political
book, no, it is not a political book, but it speaks about politics of some
kind.
The central theme of the book, is a window from which we peep
at the colour and the pageant display of the culture of the people of
Kwoya. The book is arranged in sequence of events on their merit.
The Koranic graduation ceremony comes first as religion is the oxygen
of the people of Kwoya while culture and traditions are their
ventilators.
The Koranic graduation ceremony which features Prince Iro
Sada, the star in the novel, was conducted in the most solemn and

iii
serene manner befitting its piety. It was concluded successfully and at
the end the District Head, the father of the celebrant, provided a
hearty meal in the traditional manner.
There is the mini durbar in honour of the Prince, an event staged
by the ruling class but its glitz and glamour depict a high watermark of
cultural civilization.
Bringing the rear is the civic reception which is a social event
designed for the people who had had a whole day of full enjoyment.
The three events put together provide a full picture of the
society of Kwoya and its divisions as shown by the different
participants in each event: the clerics, the aristocrats and the masses.
The beauty of it is that these three segments are complementary but
not antagonistic to each other hence the ability of the society to live in
harmony, peace and tranquility.
The narrative of the events is interlaced with gripping and
thought provoking comments which strike at the heart of the novel in
that they highlight its themic argument. There is the conflict between
the dual system of education operating in the area with the advent of
the colonial masters. The vexed question of divorce needs to be
addressed in accordance with the laws of Allah which have been
interpreted too much in favour of men with disastrous consequences
to women. Another important issue is child education. It is quite
apparent that the parents are remiss and indifferent to their
responsibilities of the up bringing of children in this part of the
country, the Kwoya society, hence an attempt to read the riot act to

iv
them by reiterating the ABC of Good manners. The level of civilization
of the people at the time the colonial masters came is remarkable. The
society is well organized with well established and effective system of
governance and beautifully laid-out chain of command. The health
care delivery system is something to marvel at with the Chief Surgeon
(Sarkin Aska) appointed by the authority and these people were able
to treat and cure certain diseases not by the use of primitive magic
but by operation based on western medical principles like the case of
vaccination against the spread of small pox.
The prime motive of writing this novel is to expose the rich
cultural heritage of Kwoya and the level of its comparable civilization
to the outside world but not to pander to any body‟s appetite by
portraying the people in bad light. There is also no intention of
deliberately offending others; neither malice nor flattery is intended. It
is my desire to make my debut in albeit an already crowded literary
world with saturated stock, in order to make my humble contribution,
for I know there is always a place for something new and original.
The book is intended for the general reader of all ages but with
preference given to the youths who not only constitute the majority of
the population but are badly in need of spiritual guidance.

Masha Allah, Alhumdullahi.
Assalamu Alaikum,
M.A Kurfi CP(Rtd)
Katsina
20/11/2007

v
DEDICATION
To My Creator, Almighty Allah (SWT)
“My Lord! increase me in knowledge” Chapter (29:114) Taha.

To my Religion of Islam
“The religion before God is Islam” Chapter (3:19) Ali Imran.

To the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S.A.W)
“Behold as for me, my Lord has guided me unto a right path, a true
Religion, the Creed of Abraham, the sound in faith, who was no
idolator. Behold my salat and my sacrifice, my life and my death are
(all) for God, Lord of the World‟s. No partner hath He. This am I
commanded and I am the first of those who surrender unto Him”.
Chapter (6:14) An‟am

TO ALL
“Well pleased am I with God as a Lord, with Islam as a religion
and with Muhammad as a prophet and a messenger”. Hadith.

To my Parents
“My Lord! have compassion upon them both as they reared me
(with compassion) when I was little”. Chapter (17:24) Isra‟i.

To my wife & children
“Our Lord Grant us in our wives and offspring the coolness of
(our) eyes and make us patterns unto the pious”. Chapter (25:74)
Furkan.

vi
The Return of the Prince
CHAPTER ONE
Quote: Home, Sweet home
A graduate of Political Science from a prestigious University
overseas where he sojourned for four years in search of the golden
fleece, Iro Sada was anxious to return to his native country full of high
hopes and great expectations.
It was the practice in those days for students to fly out of the
country while going on overseas studies and return home by sea on
completion of their courses. This was a device put in place in order to
enable returnees bring back home possibly large luggage by sea which
was much cheaper than by air; cheaper for the authority which was
responsible for the scholarships.
“Oriole” was the name of the ship which conveyed passengers
from the overseas port to Iro Sada‟s country on monthly basis as it
took two weeks to arrive and another two weeks for the return
journey.
The journey was smooth except for a short period of sea
sickness which was normal with first time passengers like Iro Sada.
The ship docked in at the port on the fourteenth day and Iro Sada was
anxiously looking for his friends who had come to welcome him home.
There were not many people who came, only a handful of friends, as
the port was located in the capital city which was far away from Iro
Sada‟s home in the hinterland. Suddenly, he sighted Adamu Balarabe
who was unaware of the presence of Iro Sada who came from behind

1
and gripped him. For a moment there was silence as the two friends
were over-whelmed by the joy of reunion as it had been long since
they saw each other, corresponding only occasionally whenever time
permitted. They shook hands and exchanged greetings until Iro Sada
broke the silence and said, “You have not changed one little bit
Adamu”
Adamu replied “You know, I have been fasting every other day
as is the practice with bachelors until they get married”.
“How about you, Iro” he enquired. Iro did not reply but started
to walk towards the Customs and Immigration sheds to clear his
personal effects. Adamu followed him, quickening his steps to catch
up with him. They went together through the customs and
immigration routine without any significant incidents.
On coming out, Iro Sada and Adamu Balarabe met the trolley
boys who hauled the belongings and followed the duo out of the port
and to Adamu‟s waiting car. Near the car other close friends, a few in
number, were waiting to welcome Iro Sada who wore a suit and
looked quite different from the others who were all in their flowing
three-piece gowns. Causing him to change his dress later. They all
jumped in the air and grabbed Iro Sada‟s hands in greeting and gave
him a bear hug. They were all ecstatic, laughing and shouting until
they could not control themselves. It took sometimes before they
could separate to enter the car and start the journey home which was
about two hundred kilometers away from the capital city. Iro Sada had
already obtained permission from the National Scholarship Commission

2
to go home on fourteen days holidays before he came back for formal
appointment in the State Civil Service.
The road to Iro Sada‟s home village was typical of any in the
developing world; meandering, narrow with many potholes and rough
tarred surface. The road which was built during the colonial era had
now fallen into bad state of repair as since independence it had not
been re-surfaced by the government. Adamu Balarabe being an
experienced driver especially on this road which he had been plying
regularly, kept on dodging the potholes by swerving from one side of
the road to the other. At one time he nearly had a head-on-collision
with an on-coming truck and at another he almost hit a car when he
was about to over-take it. In both cases it was a narrow escape which
could be described as a close shave. Iro Sada could no longer keep
quiet and so he asked Adamu Balarabe “when is this road going to be
repaired?”
“The government said it had no money,” Adamu Balarabe replied
in a sombre mood.
“But I learnt that a new presidential plane had just been
purchased with billions of matt (the national currency),” retorted Iro
Sada angerily.
“That was a national priority,” Adamu Balarabe quoted the
government statement during the presidential jet public debate.
The journey continued as Iro Sada was making a mental note of
his observations on both sides of the road. There were many bits and
pieces of the remains of accident vehicles on both sides of the road.

3
This must be as a result of the bad condition of the road Iro Sada
believed and the authority did not seem to be doing anything about it.
However, his mind was taken off it as Adamu Balarabe drew his
attention to inform him about the preparation he left behind being
made at home for the grand reception for his homecoming.
Adamu Balarabe continued to tell him that his father who was
the District Head of the area had invited almost everybody in town,
(men, women and children including their neighbours) to come one
and all in order to do honour to their son who had been away from
home for many years. Iro Sada who was listening with rapt attention
and keen interest, became anxious to reach home.
“What kind of arrangements were being made?” Iro sada asked.
But Adamu Balarabe and others in the car would not let the cat
out of the bag. They would prefer to keep Iro Sada in suspense. He
would be casting his mind anxiously in trying to guess as to what kind
of welcome home he would receive. He knew his father would not do
anything by halves. He would go to great extent to satisfy everybody
and to create the impression that the reception would be the best of
its kind in the town for many, many years to come. From there he
dozed off until they reached the outskirts of the town when Adamu
Balarabe gave him a sharp tickle in his nape and he suddenly woke up
to enquire where they were. He looked out from inside the car and
noticed a few houses typical of the environment in which the people
eked out a living in most cases from subsistence farming and

4
traditional handcrafts like blacksmithing, carpentry, tinkering, and so
on.
All of a sudden, Adamu Balarabe shouted on top of his voice
“Iro, we are home”, and the others answered in chorus. They
began to sing the traditional home coming song
“Home, sweat home, there is no place like home” until they
reached the gate.

5
CHAPTER TWO
QUOTE: How much better is it to weep at joy than joy at weeping
As soon as they entered the historical southern gate of the town,
Adamu Balarabe quickly said to Iro Sada,
“This is your Kwoya, the city of three kings!” He was obviously
referring to the traditional folklore which described the town as a city
of three kings; the district head, the small stream of kwarare which
flowed sinuously through the western part of the town, and was its
main source of water for all domestic needs including of course,
drinking for the populace, and then the rock of Kwoya which was
sticking out skyward and shaped like an Anglia car of old. It could be
seen from any direction of the town although it was situated on the
eastern outskirt of Kwoya. It was a very high rock which cast a
beautiful scenery which added personality to the town. Iro Sada
recalled the time he was a small boy at home when he used to join
other youngsters for rock climbing competition which was held
annually. He was not good at the venture as it was only once he came
close to winning a third place in the competition. These were the three
distinctive features of Kwoya and the people were very proud of them
and always eager to tell the wonderful history of the river and the rock
as learnt from the folklores.
Kwoya town was a fairly large town of sub-urban standard. It
covered a very large area with a population, by last count, of about
twenty thousand inhabitants including about ten other outlying small
hamlets. It was situated on a flat sandy ground typical of settlements

6
in that part of the country of Sandaria which got its name from the
sandy soil in the area. The town was an old settlement with about five
hundred years of history behind it. In fact it had been in existence
since the days of inter-tribal wars when surprise raids were being
carried out by powerful rulers who came from far and near lands. In
consequence therefore Kwoya was a walled town with four gates
located in the four cardinal directions of east and west, north and
south. Each of the gates used to have a very heavy iron shutter which
had to be under lock and key at night, under the supervision of the
Chief Security officer (Sarkin Kofa) of the district head. It was said that
in those days, it required about fifteen hefty men to move each of the
shutters during the exercise of closing or opening the gates. However,
that was all history as the modern times had done away with these
security devices as they were no longer considered necessary since
the period of wars was over with the arrival of the colonialist in the
20th century.
Kwoya was a built-up and sprawling town with few streets
connecting its various parts. The main thoroughfare was Korau street
which went through the centre of the town, from the southern gate of
“Kofar Kura” to the northern gate of “Kofar Dankunama” The sinews
of the town were of course its neatness and the green trees
decorating the front of almost every house. No body coming into
Kwoya town would fail to notice that attractive environment which had
given the town a cool shade of green that often provided a natural

7
cover against the hot sun searing from the sahelian sky. The trees
stood in silhouette of the evening sun for the aesthetic.
The mode of housing in Kwoya was that of typically mud
structure with ceilings of wooden slates, sticking out spouts from the
flat roofs and a pair of pigeon holed-windows high up at the frontage
of the rooms to allow air in and let smoke and carbon out. Most of the
houses were plastered with ochre or kaolin as modern paints were not
common properties in those days. The rooms had floors both outside
and inside. The outside floor was normally built from the frontage level
of the room in a sloping fashion to the ground level so as to allow
rain-water to drain off. The inside floor was always flat below the level
of the door. The floor was made of sandstone beaten to smooth
surface by the use of floor beaters (a small flat wooden hand tool
shaped like a garden trowel with a raised handle but much longer and
of smaller width) by a group of women who were normally invited for
such voluntary communal service. Their only reward was a lunch of
cooked beans given to them at the end of the exercise. The skins of
locust-bean pods and some roots of a particular tree soaked together
in water overnight, produced a chemical solution of dark brown colour,
which would be sprinkled evenly on the new floor and when dry it
would hold it together to avoid cracks. It would further give the floor a
shiny and polished surface which was not only permanently water
proof but the colour would not fade with the rains or water poured on
it. One marveled at such scientific devices which had put these
resourceful people at par with the advanced countries at that level of

8
civilization. The structure of the houses depicted the dynamics of
economic environment, climate, religious culture, customs and
traditions.
In the first place, the thick mud walls of the houses had a
cooling effect especially during the hot season. Secondly, they were
designed in a compound structure which obviously reflected the
Islamic culture and its traditions woven into the customs of the people
in that from the front there would be the main entrance into the hall
which was called “Zaure”. There would be an open space before
reaching the inner part of the house where rooms were located with
spaces between one another or put in a row touching each other. The
compound was surrounded by a wall for security and for the women
who were kept in purdar. The building materials were simple and
cheap and therefore affordable to the generality of the inhabitants.
There must be small water course of about half a meter high from the
back wall for drainage purposes in order to prevent the house from
becoming water-logged during the rainy season.
Kwoya was a traditional town and as such it had a pattern of
quarters or sections if you like, enabling people of the same
occupations or trade to live together in particular areas, almost to the
exclusion of other people of different professions. One would find that
for instance, the merchants and businessmen who were generally
well-to-do, were living in one area of the town. These would include
the Kola-nuts merchants who used to go to the western part of the

9
country to buy the commodity. There were also the drapers and a few
transporters who normally lived near the market and the motor park.
In another section of the town one would find the dye-pits
quarters. There were two dye-pits in Kwoya located in the north and
west of the town respectively; One was called Marina Babba (the main
dye-pit) while the other was Kaku dye-pit, named after its founder
Kaku dan Giye. The blacksmiths, goldsmith, brass makers, iron
mongers were living in their sections of the town. The tanners and the
butchers surprisingly were not living in the same quarters although
their trades were related. The tailors, the haberdashers, the tinkers
and the water sellers were not living in exclusive quarters in the town
but spread all over it. This was due to the nature of their services
which were in demand in every day life by every citizen in the town.
The shepherds normally lived in the bush with their animals but there
was a practice of animal-rearing in the houses mainly by women for
economic reasons. However, the central area of the town was
occupied by the rulers, their retinues and courtiers. It was the best
part of the town in terms of developments and infrastructures like
provision of water and road network. The “Mallams” with their Koranic
schools were normally located in different parts of the town because,
their services were required in every part of the town, but the Imam
of the central mosque lived not far away from the palace for religious
strategy.
Kwoya was a market town and the market day came once a
week on Saturday. There were many factors which made the market

10
the biggest and the busiest in that locality. The market place covered
a very large and wide area which was located on a very strategic
ground high and flat. It had the largest collection of cattle herds on
sale and there were hundreds of stalls. The market was home of
grains which came in great quantities as well as varieties. Fish
mongers also trooped into the market from different places as their
commodity although “foreign”, was always in great demand despite its
high price compared to animal meat.
It was by coincidence that Iro Sada arrived home on Saturday
and so on the market day. Adamu Balarabe drove straight to the
palace where the District Head and every member thereof were
waiting. Adamu Balarabe noticed as he drove through the town many
people young and old, men and women hurrying towards the palace
as information was already abroad that the prince was arriving that
day. As soon as Iro Sada stepped out of the car he sighed and said
“Alhamdulillah, I am glad I am back home. I hope I would find
every body here very well especially my parents”.
Before he finished saying “Assalamu Alaikum”, he and his
accompanying friends, were already inside the great hall of the palace,
an imposing structure and a magnificent edifice which was looking
high and majestic with its beautiful artistic designs of traditional
architecture covering the frontage in multi colours and attractive
curves. No foreign visitor had ever come to the palace without taking
the picture of the frontage. It was a recognized mark of the level of
civilization of the people in the area at that period of time.

11
Iro Sada and his entourage knelt down before his father for
paying the traditional homage. The district head looked obviously very
happy to see his son, the eldest child back home. Although he was
trying to be modest as he attempted to hide his joy yet it was beyond
any control as he kept on grinning from ear to ear. The palace was full
of ecstasy and the court jester immediately commenced to sing the
praise songs of both the District Head and the Prince while the palace
Chief of Staff (Sallama) on behalf of the District Head as was the
practice, answered the greetings from the son and his friends. While
the exchanges of greetings were going on inside the palace, there was
a scene outside as people, formed a large crowd which had split into
small groups laughing, shouting and shaking hands in excited manner,
revealing their happiness at the news of the return of Iro Sada, the
prince and the darling of the people of Kwoya.
The District Head by some acknowledged mannerism indicated it
was time for him to speak and so “Sallama”, shouted,
“Quiet, the palace would speak”.
As soon as every body heard of the announcement, the hall
became so quiet that one could hear the drop of a pin. The District
Head looking so overwhelmed and highly delighted cleared his throat
and lowered the turban covering his mouth. He said
“Assalamu Alaikum, Imam let‟s pray in order to show our
gratitude to Almighty Allah for sparing our lives to witness today‟s
great event which marked an epoch in the history of this great town of
Kwoya.”

12
The Imam of Kwoya Alhaji Barau, was a distinguished Arabic
scholar who was well known to have learnt by heart all the one
hundred and fourteen chapters of the Holy Koran and that he had
excelled in “Fiqh” or Islamic jurisprudence and the tradition of the Holy
Prophet, Muhammad (SAW). Looking as solemn and pious as he
always was and holding his rosary, Imam Alhaji Barau moved close to
the district heads traditional hassock of round mat and began by
saying
“A uzu billahi mina Shedanin Rajim, Bissimillahi Rahmanir Rahim,
Alhamdulillahi, wa salatu wa salamun ala Rasulillahi wa ba‟ada”
That was the opening prayer and then he continued invoking the
blessing of the Almighty Allah, His mercy and compassion on the
people of Kwoya. It was usually lengthy as a special prayer and so
when he finally finished, every body put his hands together and wiped
his face with the chorus word of “Ameen”.
The District Head sat resplendent in his traditional regalia of the
flowing gown of white brocade with the most attractive pattern of rich
embroidery in golden colour at its front, around the neck and the
back, and a black loose fitting bunous to match on top. He wore a
glittering checked turban. He praised Allah (SWA) profusely and
thanked Him for sparing his life to witness this memorable occasion.
He then thanked every body therein who left his personal business of
daily life to come and grace the occasion. He compared his happiness
that day with that of the day he was turbaned as the fourteenth

13
district head of Kwoya following the death of his beloved father of
blessed memory.
He briefly traced the proud history of Kwoya district with its
enviable record of bravery even during the difficult period of local
wars, it had never been defeated by any invading town. He recalled
the day his son Iro Sada bade him farewell to travel to the whiteman‟s
country to pursue further education. He never believed that he would
ever set his eyes on Iro-ro (as he used to call him fondly) again. But
by the grace of Allah here he was in flesh sitting before him. He
thanked the Almighty Allah again and closed the short speech.
Immediately there after, Iro Sada was asked to respond before the
reception was over.
He stood up looked at the range of the gathering of all the
dignitaries of Kwoya district and the neighbouring towns and villages.
He became overwhelmed and subdued, slowly bowed his head
in deference and sobbed in happiness. He was a very shy person
almost self-effacing and calm. He too after the “Ista‟aza” and the
“basmala,” praised the Almighty Allah for sparing his life to witness the
historic day. He expressed his gratitude to all the people who
contributed in one way or the other to make the occasion a success.
He then turned to his father, the district head and said,
“I have no words to express my thanks to you father, for all
what you had been doing for me, since I was born and for grooming
me to become what I am today”.

14
“I am very grateful to you and In sha Allah, I will continue to
tread the path you had shown me”, he concluded.
After giving him round of applause, the reception came to an
end and the district head immediately retired inside the harem to allow
other people to disperse, while outside the crowd seeing that it was all
over had started to melt away.
“Did you catch a glimpse at the Prince?” one old man kept on
asking.
In fact that was the murmuring all over the place as the people
thought the prince would have come outside the palace to greet the
crowd but he was too tired and was also anxious to see his mother
and her co-wives inside the palace. As he and his very close friends
especially Adamu Balarabe, were left in the great hall of the palace,
they quickly rounded it up by confirming the time for the grand
reception the following day. They drew up a timetable in that there
would be a mini durbar for the prince at the palace and later the
venue would be moved to Kazo-nazo district square near the market
place, where cultural entertainments like dancing and singing would
take place along with other traditional plays like wrestling, boxing and
acrobat displays. On the second day there would be the Koranic
graduation ceremony about which the district head had already told
Iro Sada. It was the tradition in those days in the muslim community
for a boy or girl who was able to read the chapters and verses of the
Holy Koran from the first chapter of “Fatiha”, “The opening” to the last

15
chapter, the one hundredth and fourteenth, “Bakra” “The Heifer” to
graduate in a big ceremony.
As soon as the programme was agreed upon but subject to
adjustments and changes, if need be, Iro Sada thanked his friends and
went inside the harem where another short reception awaited him as
arranged by the second co-wife of his mother (his mother was the
Senior Wife) who invited all female relatives and friends old and
young, to come and welcome the prince. A lot of energy was put into
the elaborate arrangements. Many of these women were already
packedful inside the wives‟ rooms while others were hanging around
outside anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of their hero. At last he
appeared and the whole harem was thrown into pandemonium as he
was greeted by the spontaneous traditional ululations of the women.
These shrills were of special art in which the women held their noses
and moved their tongues within their mouths in order to produce the
high-pitched sound which was thrilling and entertaining. This was
followed by a lot of shouting, shrieks and instant but informal dance of
many twists and turns without any particular rhythm. They all trooped
behind him, one and all, talking in an excited manner until following
the Kwoya protocol, he went straight into the room of the second co-
wife of his mother, Gwaggo Lami. She was the one according to the
Kwoya tradition of modesty, who brought up Iro Sada and as such she
was his proxy mother.
As he entered the room all the other women except her stood up
to make way for him to reach Gwaggo Lami who was looking elated

16
and anxiously waiting to see her “Son”. He sat down closely before her
and greeted her in a most revered manner, keeping his head down as
he spoke. He told her a bit about his experience during his four years
stay overseas. She in turn fondly asked him about his plans for
marriage but he cleverly declined to be categorical but said that It
would be when it would, characteristic of him. She ended the
conversation by asking him whether he was still with his favourite dish
of paste and okra soup for lunch to which he replied positively. She
then promised to send the food to him later and thereafter he left.
That was how Iro Sada went to greet the other two co-wives of
his mother. He then left to see his mother last as Shakespeare would
have said “The daintiest last to make the end most sweet”, in
conformity with Kwoya cultural tradition of showing more respect to
other people “away” from you than to those “near” to you. This bit of
culture had a very significant relevance in teaching people not to be
selfish. That was the important principle behind the practice.
He came to his mother‟s door, took off his shoes as was the
custom and entered the room which like other wives‟ rooms, was
spacious and had just been given a face lift in anticipation of her son‟s
arrival home; in fact it was almost the whole harem that was
redecorated. The room had a fresh application of ochre on the outside
walls while the inside had a white wash with an ochre wall-skirting,
about one meter high. The ceiling was made of deleb palm slates over
grass mats. On the eastern wall of the room, which was over looking
the entrance door, was her decorative display. On the fine sand

17
spread on the floor close to the wall was the first range of decoration
articles artistically arranged (some women prefer to use small tables)
and attractively maintained. Against the wall was a long shelf covered
with a beautifully embroided table cloth, blue in colour. On the shelf
were many metal bowls of equal size and in glittering gold colour,
neatly arranged in pairs in a suprim position, rising to reach the
ceiling. There were about seven rows of these metal bowls, placed
close to each other covering the whole breadth of the shelf. This
decorative display was for the woman to showcase her most valuable
assets, to the extent that one could easily assess the wealth of her
family or of her husband. The display could either be of metal or
enamel wares and also either of the same sizes to be symmetrical or
in different sizes arranged to form pyramids. Every woman was very
proud of the display and therefore guarded it jealously. It was her life
saving which was used to acquire the collection which was started
since she was young to the time she got married. The other forms of
possessions are of course the bed and the beddings. A four-poster bed
was the one in vogue and used to be richly decorated with beddings,
pillows, top cover and skirting-cloth. It was displayed in one of the
corners of the room. There was another small bed in another corner,
for routine use.
As soon as the waiting women saw Iro Sada standing in the
room of his mother, they all greeted him at once and then quickly
went outside to give privacy to the mother and her son. Although in
her late forties, Mama Safiya (as she was fondly addressed in the

18
household except her husband, the district head who called her by
her proper name of Sufiya) still retained her delicate features of a
Fulani woman, which made her very charming. She was of slender
build, light in complexion and fairly tall to add to her beauty. She had
a set of white teeth in a mouth you could describe as smallish, an
aquiline nose and large bright eyes fixed in a head covered with plenty
hair. Seeing her from a far one might mistake her for an Arab but she
was Fulani. She had given birth to four children. Iro Sada being the
first hence the reason for her reluctance to feel free with him,
displaying that element of traditional coyness women showed towards
their first born. Iro Sada too could not escape the infection of the
practice but with his acquired exposure he wanted to disregard it
albeit at the peril of his being seen as putting himself forward and
therefore being disrespectful. He however managed to strike a
medium and so he opened the conversation with the traditional
greetings. They could not look at each other directly but it was
obvious that they were extremely happy to see each other after the
trying period of over four years which separated them. Now that Iro
Sada was back, Mama Safiya knew that God, the Almighty had
answered her prayers. They both said a thanksgiving prayer at the
end of which the mother said, “Alhamdulillah” to which Iro answered,
“Ameen” and he steered the conversation on a short note for he knew
that his mother was a very busy housewife on whose head the
responsibilities of running the harem lay that day, as her husband,
the district head was too much engaged in the affairs of the district.

19
She was a very skilful administrator so to speak. People used to
comment that Mama Safiya must have imbibed the administrative skill
right from home because she was the daughter of Hardo Negge who
was the famous Fulani chief in the district. She inherited such pearls of
wisdom from home where she was well groomed in the art of house
management. Every morning, in fact throughout the day, she would
receive complaints and other matters arising from the activities in the
harem and would dispose of them one after the other with eclat.
Those which she considered above her decision making level, she
referred to her husband for final ruling. Her basic responsibilities in the
harem during her turn included the maintenance of peace and order,
enforcing discipline, organizing food distribution, which was centrally
cooked, the daily chores of the domestic servants both males and
females and all matters arising thereof, the husband‟s relatives and
their daily requests for assistance of one type or another, for instance
clothing, food, their sons‟ and daughter‟s marriages. It was a whole
range of activities in the harem in which the other three co-wives gave
their helping hands during their turns but Mama safiya being the
senior wife was at the helm of affairs of the harem. Her ability and the
desire to be fair and impartial to everybody in the household had
earned her the greatest respect by all and sundry. This had greatly
relieved her husband the district head to concentrate on the affairs of
the district.
There were of course elements of jeolousy generated amongst
the housewives but this was enormously subdued by the basic policy

20
of fairness and impartiality, adopted in running the polygamous
establishment, that kept the atmosphere peaceful in the harem. One
could see that every member of this large household was being
catered for adequately while at the same time things which caused
differences like envy, greed, selfishness, favouritism, were
discouraged. Petty quarrels and other forms of disagreement between
the members were quickly investigated and settled and the parties
concerned would abide by the decisions of Mama Safiya or that of any
other person she might have asked to settle such matter.
Mama Safiya was also responsible for the preparation and
distribution of the purgative called “filasko”. It was a preparation from
lemon cut into pieces, tamarind, potash and some herbs which were
boiled together in a big pot over night and the following morning when
all the impurities of these ingredients settled at the bottom of the pot,
the liquid mixture would be ready for drinking early in the morning as
a purgative to clear or cleanse the bowels.
It was a local medicine meant to restore one‟s lost appetite and
to free the stomach from intestinal worms so as to make one eat more
food especially children who appeared to lose weight. The preparation
had the same potency and efficacy with cascara saparude or castor-
oil. The drinking of “filasko” is a weekly routine in the harem where
everybody young and old, men and women with stomach complaints
drunk the concoction in prescribed measures according to their ages
and health condition. Almost immediately after drinking the portion,
one will start to purge until in the forenoon when the purgation or

21
running of the bowels would be stopped by eating a deliciously
prepared hot lunch usually “tuwo” and “miya” (paste and soup) with
plenty meat and fried butter in the soup.
Mama Safiya was an expert in the preparation of this medicine
such that people from the town used to book for portions for a token
fee as it was not meant for out right sale, all the same the people
came in scores.
Mama Safiya with the assistance of the other three co-wives,
also supervised the weekly clean up of the compound. Every Friday
morning, the domestic servants charged with the responsibility of the
clean-up would sweep and clear every nook and cranny of the house,
removing all dirts, heaps of ashes, piled up garbage, pieces of broken
pots and other utencils, animals‟ dung until the whole compound
looked spic and span. Mama Safiya would then conduct her inspection.
As she walked along the premises, with the servants following her
behind, she would be pointing out here and there areas where the
exercise was badly done or not to her standard which was very high.
The servants would be looking at each other and smiled in admiration
because they knew that they could not hide their bad performances
from the stern eyes of Mama Safiya, the majestic senior wife of the
district head. There were other chores which were too numerous to
mention here. However, it must be stated that Mama Safiya was a
highly responsible housewife devoted to her religion of Islam and
unquestionably loyal to her husband. She was a stickler for efficiency

22
and accuracy in the discharge of her duties which greatly contributed
to making the harem a happy abode for all its members.
Mama Safiya was also giving alms to the needy who came into
the harem particularly women as men were strictly forbidden to enter.
The giving of alms was an every day affair but the Friday morning was
always special in the number of women who came to receive the alms
and the variety of things which were given out as well as the
quantities. The district head‟s harem was well known for its generosity
towards the needy citizens who were unfortunate. Mama Safiya,
whenever she came to meet these women beggars, would condescend
to speak to them with very pleasant words to the extent that some of
them would shed tears as they received their hand outs. Giving out to
the needy is part of the Islamic culture.
While Mama Safiya would be attending to the women and
female child beggars in the harem, the district head would be meeting
the same obligation outside where bowls and bowls of bean cakes,
would be brought by its sellers to the district head who would buy and
distribute them in small quantities to the small boys who came in
droves. It was their routine. However, it should be appreciated that by
the polygamous arrangement in accordance with Islamic injunctions
and the Hadith, the duties and responsibilities of running the
household are shared equitably by turns of two days each among the
four housewives. Mama Safiya was therefore just first among equals
and as such there were certain responsibilities specifically assigned to
her like the preparation and distribution of the weekly purgative, the

23
giving of arms to the needy and other general functions as the district
head pleased. Howbeit, Mama Safiya was the overall manageress of
the harem.
Iro was about to take leave of his mother when she reminded
him of the basic of good manners which she and his father had been
teaching him since he was a toddler and she said
“You should remember the three little words of “thanks, sorry
and please” which form the basis of a civilized culture. Firstly, you
must remember to say thank you to whoever does you a favour no
matter how small, even if it is the picking of a small stone for you.
Secondly, you must ask for pardon or simply say sorry to those you
offend. Thirdly, you must say please whenever you want to ask for
something no matter how small is the favour. Fourthly, you must
forgive those who offend you, not out of fear or coercion but because
the old adage says that to err is human and to forgive is devine.
Fifthly, it is difficult to be kind to your enemies but it is right to do so.
Do not look back in anger. Sixthly, you must respect every person you
come across, particularly your elders and those put above you.
Seventhly, you must not be arrogant but humble, feel great to feel
small always, in order to avoid riding for a fall. Eighthly, you must
make honesty the best of your policy at all times and under any
circumstances. Ninethly, above all, you must obey the laws of God and
hold on to the tenets of your religion and read the Holy Koran
regularly as a source of strength. Finally, you must develop a thick

24
skin against criticism and let your patience be infinite while the
Prophet Mohammad (SAW) be your role model”, Safiya concluded.
Iro listened with rapt attention to every word uttered by his
mother and reflected on it in his mind for he knew these were words
of motherly love, which would always serve him as a frame of
reference. He continued to reflect on them as he left her room for his
father‟s chambers.
Iro came to the door of his father‟s chambers and took off his
shoes as was the custom, and said “Assalamu Alaikum”, for permission
to enter and his father answered him back, “wa alaikumu salam, wa
rahamatul lahi wa barakatuhu, enter”.
As he entered the chambers, Iro found his father reclining on a
cushion. The chambers comprised four rooms. The frontage or ante-
room served as the living room and behind it was the main bedroom.
On the left hand side of the ante-room was the toilet and bath
and attached to it on the right was a small store for keeping important
historical items of record including his religious books and weaponry
for self-protection. But the famous sword he inherited from his
ancestors, nicknamed, “waya kawo ka?” or “who brought you”, was in
its scabbard and together with its companion the sheath knife, were
hanging on the wall immediately above the bedstead of the district
head. These weapons were regarded as the symbols of power and
strength of the dynasty established over 200years ago by Maikalgo
dan Muhamman, the first district head of Kwoya.

25
Iro now sat before his father and immediately thereafter a lively
conversation ensued in the form of questions and answers.
Hamman dan Sada, was the fourteenth district head of Kwoya
and had been occupying the district head stool for over twenty years
since the death of his father when he was exactly thirty years of age.
There was no doubt that Hamman had carved a niche for himself for
since his appointment as the district head, he had through his initiative
brought many developments and changes in the district such that
Kwoya district had become the envy of its neighbours like Geza where
there was nothing to show by way of development or Fadumawa,
Kwoya‟s arch rival which was just about ten kilometers north of
Kwoya. Even the so called progressive district like Tamawa could not
be rated at par with Kwoya which had a primary school. Kwoya could
also boast of a dispensary clinic. The main thorough fare, that was
Korau street was wide enough for cars to pass and there were other
improvements.
Dan Sada whose title was Sarkin Kudu was no doubt a majestic
personality full of energy; charismatic and astute. He encouraged his
subject to be very hard working and law abiding for instance any
stranger who came into Kwoya district must for security reasons, be
reported by his or her host to the ward head. His movements and his
activities would be monitored until the last day of his or her stay.
These measures which were practical were being taken through the
administrative chain of command of the district for example orders
came from the district head to the village heads and then to the ward

26
heads and conversely reports went up. Sarkin Kudu, Hamman dan
Sada was firm but just to earn the sobriquet of Maisaje Baban Kowa
(Gentleman of the whiskers, the father of all). The district head was
popular to the extent that people used to describe him as an “iron-
hand-in velvet gloves” while others called him a “hammer in a hand
made of jelly”. By whatever name he was called by different people
for different reasons, Sarkin Kudu Hamman dan Sada was a talented
ruler for which the majority of his subjects respected him and admired
him: for instance he was the motivator of making it compulsory for
every frontage as well as the inside of every house in Kwoya to be
decorated with trees such that tree planting had become a habit in
Kwoya and it generated a lively competition among his subjects.
Consequently, Kwoya town became a tourists‟ attraction for its green
foliage.
Iro was answering the questions from his father as honestly as
he could because he knew very well his father who was straight-laced,
would not tolerate deviation from the truth. Iro was asked whether he
was drinking alcohol when he was overseas to which he answered
“no”, as he knew that alcohol was a forbidden fruit to all true muslims.
Another question was about the daily prayer including the Friday
prayers and fasting which were compulsory for all prescribed muslims.
The father having found his son‟s answers satisfactory, switched the
subject of discussion to giving pieces of advice to his son who would
soon be going back to start work in the capital city. The father then
advised him that in marriage one should not make beauty the overall

27
important property, but the family background of the girl, her
education, and her manners are necessary ingredients for
consideration, but never the wealth of the family.
The father then discussed briefly about the preparations being
made for Iro‟s Koranic graduation ceremony which was scheduled to
take place the following day in the palace starting as early as possible
in the morning. Iro then took leave of his father.
Iro‟s next port of call was the stable where the district head‟s
horses were being kept. He was very anxious see the horses which he
had badly missed during his absence, especially the one he used to
ride regularly before he left for studies overseas.
The traditional stable was a fairly large compound with a gate
for the security of the horses and was located within the palace
complex. There were five different horses therein each of which had a
circular mound made of sandy soil for its comfort. It enabled the horse
to walk round on the mound while it was tethered to the peg at the
centre. It could sometimes roll on when it wanted. At the side of each
mound, there were feeding troughs which were being refilled from
time to time by the stable boys who had a horse each to look after.
The horses were tied close to each other in a row.
As Iro entered the stable, the stable boys who were there
already waiting for him, sprung to their feet all at once in an ecstatic
response to greet him. It was an all smiles and laughter affair to which
the prince responded favourably. There were five of them and Iro
Danlami, the prince‟s name sake was his favourite and one who was

28
looking after the prince‟s favouraite horse also. They all shouted in
chorus the words, “Ranka ya dade”, meaning “May you live long”.
They were all excited to meet the prince and to talk to him in flesh as
they never believed he would one day come back home. They were all
surprised to see that the prince had not changed much at all. He was
the same simple and self-effacing youngman they knew before he left
for overseas, “Kasar Turawa”, “European Country”. They talked and
talked, cracking jokes intermittently. They brought him up to date with
the usual innocent palace gossips like that of Sarkin Gida, the palace
major domo, who was sixty years of age and had taken the third wife
who was a teen ager, and a lot more. They all laughed as they talked
until the prince indicated that he wanted to go to the horses. Ibrahim
Danlami led the way while the prince followed him with others behind.
A youngman in his early twenties, Danlami (for short) was obviously
loyal to the prince with whom he was very familiar. He was smart,
energetic and active, a jack of all trades type, that could be called
upon for any odd job.
Danlami then walked straight to the white horse first which was
tied to the first tethering peg. It was the prince who gave it the name
„Salama‟ because of its peaceful behaviour. It neither bit nor did it
kick. It was a majestic horse which always complimented the
personality of its rider. It was the prince‟s favourite and so he did not
hesitate to touch it gently as to feel its smooth shining body, caressing
it from head to tail and playing fondly with its mane which had been
woven into lovely decorative strands of different but attractive colours.

29
It was his choice horse which had then started to respond to the
prince‟s overtures by neighing in an excited manner as a recognition
of its former boss who used to ride it for pleasure almost everyday.
The horse was a piece of beauty to watch at its tethering post, and
was obviously happy.
The prince then moved to the next, a bay horse which was
some what of stocky breed and less friendly than “salama” before it. It
was dark-brown in colour and “bikili” was its name. He quickly viewed
it and passed on to the third which was a piebald pony or “danda” as
it was called. It was of slightly above average height and much
younger than the other two before it. The prince was marveled by its
black and white spotted body. He moved closely towards it admiring
the nature of the spotted body which looked as if it was designed
artificially but it was no doubt the work of God, the Almighty. The
fourth horse was of cream colour and was called “mago”. Danlami
who was at hand quickly cautioned the prince as he made to the
horse, to be careful because the horse could easily go wild to start
biting or kicking its handler or any body near it. As Danlami wanted to
demonstrate to the prince, he set the horse on and it moved with
lightening speed and started neighing. It was moving its head in an
aggressive manner and perhaps wanting to do mischief. The prince
watched the horse in owe for some minutes and then moved to the
last one. It was the jet black horse called “akawal”. It had only one
white spot on its forehead. That was the horse usually ridden by the
district head and was therefore being looked after by the most senior

30
stable boy called Abdul Wahid. He was the most experienced of all the
stable boys and had been in the palace longer than any one of the
them except the Sarkin Zagi. The horse was strong, healthy and
sturdy, looking calm and collected full of self confidence. Its shiny
black body was reflective and very attractive. Prince Iro did not have
to think hard before finding the reason why his father the district head
was in love with that horse. It was a piece of beauty and the master
of them all.
With the completion of the viewing of the horses, Iro decided to
leave the stable and retire to his room to which the stable boys
escorted him. They entered the room which was spacious but
modestly furnished; typical of the prince. A fairly comfortable iron bed,
a mattress and two pillows with bed sheets and a bedspread made up
the bed while some locally made chairs, were evenly placed to cover
the remaining space in the room. An enlarged picture of his father
when he was turbaned the district head, was the only picture hanging
on the wall directly above the lamp hanging on a nail fixed in the wall;
that was all about the furniture in the prince‟s room.
As he sat in the chair, the prince was followed by the stable boys
who all sat on the floor as was the custom of the area as a mark of
respect. They then greeted him, “Ranka ya dade”, in chorus and he
responded with the word “yawwa”, meaning “thanks”.
A lively conversation about the horses, ensued and the prince
said, “Danlami, I think the horses are well looked after and Hakimi

31
(the district head) would have no complaint. They looked well fed and
healthy too”.
“It was the effort of “Sarkin Zagi” the head of the stable, whose
leadership does not tolerate laziness and indifference to duty”,
Danlami concluded.
“Ranka ya dade”, Danbarga, Sarkin Zagi, the chief of stable said
and he continued with candour, “We would be grateful if you would
give us a hearing as we have individual requests which we would want
to present to you”.
“What are the requests?”, the startled prince answered.
“Ranka ya dade, you may wish to find out from each individual”,
Sarkin Zagi suggested and he added “As far as I am concerned my
wish is simple. I would like you to prepare a trousseau for the bride to
be for my first born, Akilu. The marriage ceremony would take place in
three months time from now”. The other stable boys followed suit and
bombarded the prince with a barrage of requests ranging from
clothing to money for marriage or to start building a personal house.
The prince smilingly took mental notes of these requests and as was
usual promised to do something about them but on the basis of their
merits. Consequently, he gave each of them the traditional gifts or
“dash” as was the won‟t of the palace and the practice within the
community. It was expected of the prince to be kind and generous to
the courtiers of his father.
They then took a bow as was usual and left. As they were
leaving, the prince told Danlami and one other to be ready to prepare

32
the horses for evening pleasure ride. He then performed the ablution
and went out to join the congregation for the afternoon prayers which
were just due then. Subsequently, he returned to his room only to find
his favourite dish for lunch sent to him by his proxy mother, Goggo
Lami. After eating the lunch which he enjoyed, he retired to his bed.
While lying on the bed he started to reflect on the events of the day
since his arrival from the capital city. It was a very busy day for him
but he expected more especially the days ahead considering the
activities lined up for the great celebration for his return. He remained
indoors for the rest of the day and the night except for the duration of
congregational prayers.

33
CHAPTER THREE
Quote: It is the nature of the cream to rise.
The day‟s activities started with the wake up call to the early
morning prayers to which Iro responded by getting out of his bed to
perform the ablution in order to join the congregation in the district
head‟s mosque attached to the palace.
Immediately after the prayers he made himself available for the
usual “Subhi” (morning greetings) and thereafter he retired to his
room to enable him prepare for the „D‟ day, the Koranic Graduation
Ceremony which was scheduled to take place that morning before
noon.
The Koranic Graduation Ceremony was a traditional event of
great significance in the life of every youth who had completed the
course of learning how to read fluently and accurately the sixty
sections of the Holy Koran, which comprised the one hundred and
fourteen chapters, many, if not all, of which he had learnt by heart.
The concept of the graduation was to create a space for the graduand
to showcase his reading ability and the knowledge of the Koran to the
audience amongst whom were prominent Islamic Scholars, expert
Koranic reciters, important personifies, parents, relatives and friends.
The ceremony which was a strictly formal occasion, could be
organized for a group of graduands or for single individual, male or
female. The ceremony for male graduands was usually conducted
outside and was attended mainly by males while that of female
graduands was strictly conducted inside the house and was witnessed

34
by female audience only. The ceremony usually took place when the
graduand reached the age of eighteen and above or on his wedding
day or at any other time convenient and suitable to all the
stakeholders but the fact remained that once a graduand had
completed the course of studies, the ceremony would then take place
perforce. There was no strictly prescribed period within which one
was compelled to complete the course which usually commenced at
the age of four and to graduate, but it was preferable for one to do so
before reaching the age of eighteen. In those days a young man who
failed to graduate would not be permitted to marry a young girl but
can marry a divorced woman. This may be the compelling reason for
the limitation of the period of graduation to eighteen years of age.
However, this rule has since been relaxed as the society as a whole
was changing and parents were becoming increasingly permissive and
thus moving away from fundamentalism to liberalism.
The aims and objectives of the graduation ceremony were as
follows: -
a) to enable the teacher to test the reading ability of his pupil;
the graduand before the audience as to ascertain that he or
she had completed the established course of studies and had
sufficiently achieved the required standard.
b) to see that the graduand had learnt the art of reading the
Koran word perfect by the application of “Tajweed” method,
the Koranic phonetics especially phonemes and phonology,
and was competent in the established styles of reading like

35
“Warsh” and “Habth” which gave the correct pronunciation
and intonation. Poetry derived its style of reading from the
Holy Koran.
c) to see that the graduand was now a certified Koranic reader
of competence and that he or she would be accorded the
traditional recognition as “Mallam” or “Malama” symbolically
initiated into adulthood that the graduand was and therefore
such recognition was bestowed upon him by the leadership
of the community.
d) to test the graduand‟s ability of recitation as to how many
chapters of the Holy Koran one has been able to learn by
heart. It was not compulsory for such graduands to be able
to recite all the one hundred and fourteen chapters and their
verses but it was desirable to do so at least for the first ten
chapters.
e) to see that the graduand is tested on exegesis of the Holy
Koran. But this was a separate department of the studies
and graduating in it would take much longer time because
learning the interpretation of the language of the Holy Koran
was not an easy proposition. It was a specialization which
was akin to a post graduate course for higher degree in a
normal secular university. For the purpose of the prince it
was only the purport of a small part of the Holy book that he
would be required to give.

36
As he entered his room, prince Iro started to rehearse for the
event. He therefore picked a copy of the Holy Koran and started to
read the verses in accordance with the demand of the established
style. It had been long since he completed the Koranic reading course,
that was before he went overseas for his university studies. When he
saw that he was not making much head-way despite the fact that he
was a brilliant student of the Koranic school, he quickly summoned his
old school mate, Mallam Amadu, a neighbour much younger than the
prince but well versed in the affair. They both went through the
verses.
“When you come to this letter you are required to join your lips in
order to get the correct pronunciation,” Amadu instructed. On another
occasion, Amadu said, “In order to give the correct intonation, your
tongue should end up on the upper part of your mouth”.
That was how the rehearsal went until the prince was sure that he
got it right; that was word and letter perfect and then released Mallam
Amadu who said some prayers to close the session. Immediately after,
the prince thanked him and he took his leave telling the former that
“In sha Allah”, he would come to witness the graduation ceremony.
Prince Iro having been satisfied with his rehearsal, felt elated.
He quickly took his breakfast and went in to take his bath to prepare
to be called later for the big event. He was getting excited, worked up
and anxious that it would soon come to pass and he was determined
to put in his best to pass with flying colours. He could not afford to fail
as failure would be a disaster of considerable proportion and a big

37
disappointment to his father in particular and the relatives and friends
in general. A success would mean an enormous personal achievement
which would bring life honour to himself and great respect to his
family.
Meanwhile, in the harem, it was like a bee-hive as everybody
therein was engaged in one type of work or the other as all hands
were called on deck to prepare the foods for the ceremony. Mama
Safiya being the most senior wife and all her three co-wives were up
early that morning to supervise the preparations.
As the four wives of the district head were discussing about the
occasion, the harem‟s house servants started to arrive. First, it was the
“uwartuwo” the chief chef of the house who seemed to be always at
the ready for such special occasions. A slim woman of moderate
height, Mamar Abba as she was popularly known, was a cook of
considerable experience of about twenty years in the service of the
household. She had risen to the coveted position of chief chef by dint
of hard work and enviable honesty and sincerity of purpose. Over the
years she had developed a knack for producing the best and the most
tasty “tuwo da miya” (paste and soup) and therefore had earned the
nick-name of “Maituwon Sarki” (the district head‟s cook). And it was
true because it was only her cooking the district head would eat.
Immediately on Mama Abba‟s heels, came Zabaya, the assistant
chief chef. A one time singer from where she earned her nickname,
Zabaya was a deceptively tall woman, stoutly built with her face and
both sides of her neck attractively covered in tattoos. She was light in

38
complexion which made the tattoos appear bold on her skin. Looking
much younger than her age, Zabaya had given birth to about eight
children; three with her first husband who died of meningitis and five
with the second husband, but of these only four were alive, the others
died of various children diseases which were common in those days,
especially small-pox. For this a native system of vaccination against
the disease was being practiced. It was simple but very efficacious and
the basic principle was the same as that of the Whiteman. If one child
in a family became infected as soon as the rashes appeared filled with
liquid, one of them would then be cut open and its liquid would be
extracted and transferred on a fresh cut made by the local surgeon or
the vaccinator, on the arm of an uninfected child. The child then
became infected with the germs which later developed to give him
immunity and thence protect him from catching the disease. A token
fee would then be paid to the diseased child. This was how Zabaya‟s
remaining children were saved and many others. When the white man
came, he brought his own system of vaccination which made the local
surgeons and the vaccinators lose their jobs and they were very
unhappy with the development. That was the level of advancement of
these people before the arrival of the white man who halted the
forward march in this field.
Many other women streamed into the harem both the regular
servants as well as those invited to come and assist in the task ahead.
They made a fairly large group and they were all engaged in greeting
each other, cracking jokes and trading loud banters reaching a

39
crescendo before Mama Safiya made her voice heard which instantly
made them keep quiet. They all sat down in the large reception room.
With personable mien, Mama Safiya started to address the women,
exuding authority in a commanding voice,
“You all know that we are here to prepare the usual meal for the
Koranic graduating “Walimat”. I therefore urge every body here to do
her very best in order to produce the most delicious dishes,” she said.
She went on,
“The menu for the luncheon will therefore consist of traditional
fare made of “tuwon shinkafa” (rice paste) with vegetable soup as the
main dish with fried butter and carved cooked meat, “jallop” macaroni
with equally cooked meat, “waina” (pancake) with egusi (melon) soup,
fried chickens, barbecue of rams and skewered or shish kebab meat,”
She added, “As for drinks, groundnut gruel, porridge with skimmed
milk and sugar will be served to the guests”, she concluded her
straight to the point address, “kolanuts of “marsa” grade (hand
picked) in white and red will be provided”, She then looked at them
and asked, “Any suggestions or question?”.
Immediately, the chief de cuisine, Mamar Abba said, “Mama, the
most important aspect of the luncheon, has not been mentioned, the
specially prepared meat which is to be half cooked in broth and also
cooked beans for the participants only. Furthermore, she continued,
“There is need to assign one group of women to prepare a particular
dish and also each of the groups should be allocated its own place of

40
cooking in the main kitchen of the harem where there are four
separate cooking places each with its own trivet”, she concluded.
The other three wives made their suggestions too as well as
some of the other women. Every woman was trying to see that her
suggestions were accepted. One of such woman asked about the
number of guests coming so that sufficient food would be provided.
She got the answer that there would be about thirty male guests and
might be half that number of female guests who would be in the
harem.
As soon as the discussion was over, the women were then
divided by Mama Safiya into various groups and were given
appropriate assignments. The head of each group was called upon and
was given the necessary tools, utensils and materials for the cooking
to commence. Mama Safiya, her three co-wives, Maman Abba, the
chief of cuisine and her assistance Zabaya divided themselves into
supervisors. All the women then came out of the meeting room and
scattered in various directions, each trying to reach her place of
assignment in order to be the first to commence the task.
Typical of women, the atmosphere was filled with an air of
competition, jealousy and the desire to distinguish oneself as the
opportunity availed itself. Consequently they became busily engaged
with a determination to produce the most delicious food ever within
the given time. The cooking started in earnest. It was a scene of
frenetic activities.

41
The venue of the ceremony was outside the palace, immediately
to its left where a large rotunda was constructed. It was neatly done
with bamboo grass from the base to a height of two to three meters
or more and a thatched roof on top, with a pointer. The inside of the
roof was done with cornstalk rows lashed to it both vertically and
horizontally all round as reinforcement. It gave an attractive artistic
scenery of rectangles of different sizes; from the biggest at the bottom
to the smallest at the top. The floor was made of fine gravel beaten to
a smooth finish and a coating sticky element obtained from locust
bean pods which gave it a perfect shining surface dark brown in
colour. The rotunda had three entrances and was large enough to
accommodate all the invited guests. Brand new mats were spread to
cover the floor while in the centre was a raised platform covered with
a Turkish rag. Directly opposite the centre looking towards the
western side of the rotunda was a set of chairs placed and on both
sides of the chairs were equally reserved places for important
personalities.
There was no drumming, no music, no minstrel-beggar or praise
singer at the venue. The atmosphere was serene for the solemn
occasion of religious activity. The seating arrangement was that the
district head who was the host, as well as his peers would be seated in
the chairs provided while all his village heads and ward heads would
sit down on both sides. Other invited guests both within the district
and outside, would occupy the eastern side of the rotunda. The Chief
Imam of the district, the other clerics, the learned “Malams” of the

42
school of prince Iro (himself included) and the rest of the reciters and
expert readers would sit in the centre of the rotunda so that all the
spectators would be able to see and hear the proceedings. The
arrangement was very elaborate and detailed to the letter such that
nothing was left to chance. Sarkin gida (major-domo) was obviously in
charge and he knew his job. He had several assistants to put up a
good show to impress every body who came.
As soon as the sun rose, the invited guests started to arrive at
the venue of the ceremony and so within a short time the place was
getting full. People were seen busy exchanging greetings with one
another and engaging in conversation, cracking of jokes and laughing
all over the place. It was a unique opportunity for people to meet their
friends, colleagues and relatives who equally came to witness such a
high profile but solemn religious occasion. The place was becoming
lively as more people arrive and one could hear the continuous
murmuring of people‟s voices albeit some what subdued as they were
expected to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and to show
their traditional respect for the palace.
“I am anxious to see the prince,” one young man said to his
friend.
“I heard that the prince had changed since his travel overseas,”
replied the friend.
“This is a very big day, however, in what way did he change?”,
asked the young man

43
“There were so many rumours flying about,” said his friend
“Some said that the prince has forgotten our native tongue of Hiyo,”
he continued.
“You mean he cannot speak Hiyo?”, the young man inquired.
“what language does he speak then?”, he further asked.
“They said he speaks only the white man‟s language,” he
replied.
“Please, do not mind those rumour-mongers. It can not be true,”
the young man argued forcefully.
Suddenly, there was an influx of people coming into the venue
and among them was the group of clerics, reciters and expert readers.
They all sat down in the centre of the rotunda as provided for them.
Coming immediately behind them were the learned “Malams” (the
scholars) from the prince‟s school where he learnt the Holy Koran.
These too took their seats, joining the clerics and others at the centre.
As soon as they took their positions, they briefly discussed among
themselves and then started the supporting reading of the Koran in
steadily rising voices to set the scene.
Later, the Chief Imam Alhaji Barau and members of his
entourage arrived and sat in their reserved chairs near the district
head. While they were greeting each other, the royalists in the Kwoya
district came in small groups of two or three. These included the
village heads except that of Fadama who was excused on grounds of
ill-health, a few ward heads, and some neighbouring district and
village heads. They were all dressed in the traditional royal costumes

44
with the turbans to match. They sat in the appropriate places reserved
for them.
Among the other traditional title holders the Sarkin Kasuwa (the
market chief) was the only one who was available for the occasion. It
was not a surprise as Sarkin Kasuwa, Alhaji Maitumbi was not the type
of person to miss such occasion if not for anything, to showcase his
flamboyant dress for which he was well known. In fact it was not only
his attractive attire that made members of the public admire him but
he was reputed to have been the smartest and the most agile young
man in Kwoya town when he was young. He was said to have chased
a hare and caught it with his own hands during a hunting expedition.
Of course the incident happened many years ago but the reputation
still lingered on. He came in wearing the most fashionable and showy
regalia which matched his tall and hefty personality. He was an
embodiment of authority and there was no doubt he had the district
head‟s ear especially as he had proved to be a strong and a
courageous leader, a skilful administrator who had kept the large
sprawling Kwoya market well organized thereby reducing incidents of
thefts and other crimes. Alhaji Maitumbi had just been given the title
formerly belonging to his arch rival Alhaji Dan‟Amale who was deposed
by the district head as a result of the mysterious, nay suspicious,
disappearance of twenty bags of soghum in the market during his
tenure. They were sent to the market for sale by the father-in-law of
the district head, from a neighbouring village. It was a big scandal
which rocked the market as it circulated for a long time in Kwoya town

45
and beyond. The truth had never been known as none of the twenty
bags was found.
The market chief was the last of the dignitaries to arrive before
it was announced that the district head would arrive and the awaited
ceremony would henceforth commence. In consequence therefore the
traditional body guards left to reach the district head in the palace.
The district head was quickly on his feet, ready for the short
walk to the venue of the ceremony. He was already dressed and took
his specially designed walking stick (which served also as a weapon for
self-protection because it had a sword inside) in the left hand while
the rosary was in the right hand.
The district head was wearing attractive robes of silken green
(Islamic colour) with hand made embroidery. It was a three piece
attire made up of the outer flowing gown, the inside jumper and the
trousers. The rich embroidery had magnificently and appropriately
covered the back, front, round the neck of the gown, the cuffs of the
jumper and the narrow legs of the trousers. He had a glittering turban
of golden flannel tightly worn in the most exquisite fashion with the
two flaps each sticking out on the sides above the head. He wore a
glistening burnous of silken white with a matching pair of shining black
court-shoes. With his comely figure, the district head had cut out a
fascinating personality as he set out to walk. It was a majestic walk
taken with deliberate measured steps full of pump and pageantry of
the aristocratic mien. The body guards were at the ready. The
trumpeter was in front blowing his trumpet as he led the way. He

46
was followed closely behind by the Sarkin Gida (major-domo) and
immediately behind him were the two most fierce-looking body guards
in their flowing but intimidating liveries of bright red and green colour,
swinging along their weapons, the whips as symbol of their authority.
The district head was just paces behind them, awe-inspiring and
invulnerable as he exuded an aura of dignity and respect. There were
two other body guards; one on his right and the other on his left while
two others were behind him. The Sankira (Minstrel beggar or praise
singer) came next while Wawan hakimi (Court jester) brought the
near. However, that time around both these two attendants were
reined in by protocol not to do their things but to follow the entourage
quietly as a formality and symbolically to be part of the show in order
not to be left out in the cold.
As soon as the entourage reached the entrance of the venue,
the Sarkin gida and the two body guards in front led the district head
to enter while the trumpeter, the four other body guards, the Sankira
(minstrel beggar or praise singer) and the Wawan hakimi (court
jester) stayed outside. The four body guards quickly separated and
posted themselves around the perimeter of the venue, pacing up and
down the area as they kept watch over it in order to ensure no
intruder. It was a security routine.

47
CHAPTER FOUR
QUOTE: “A brightness equivalent to a million suns”
As they entered the rotunda the Sarkin gida announced,
“Assalamu Alaikum (peace be upon you) gentlemen, the district
head is here”. All eyes instantly turned towards the door and every
body stood up until the district head took his seat before they sat
down. The Sarkin gida found appropriate place for himself while the
two body guards remain standing one each on either side of the
district head. Each was waving the thin edged handle of the traditional
fan made of ostrich feather beautifully laced and lashed with red-
coloured leather for the purpose of cooling the district head.
A lot of murmur and hum of conversation from the spectators
went on for a few minutes while the district head completed
acknowledging greetings from distinguished guests, the dignitaries,
the clerics, the eminent scholars and the rest of his subjects who were
lucky to be accorded the honour of invitation. He then shook hands
with the Chief Imam and the master teacher of prince Iro‟s Islamic
school.
The Master of Ceremony for the grand occasion was Alhaji Isa
Nadada, a shrewd businessman, flamboyant, charismatic and eloquent
with enormous gift of the gab and an enviable reputation for ability to
deliver. He was specifically chosen by the committee not only because
of these sterling qualities but because he was also a stickler for
correctness in all he did. He was an in-law and a distant relation of the
district head and he rose through the ranks to his present social status

48
by dint of hard work and his generosity was a by-word in Kwoya. He
was a man of substance and ranked high among the well-to-do people
of Kwoya. He was to conduct the proceedings of the ceremony for the
grand occasion. History was in the making because this was the first
time a religious activity of this great importance would take place in
the palace of the district head.
Alhaji Isa Nadada presented himself before the district head and
offered the traditional homage by kneeling down to obtain permission
to commence the ceremony.
“Ranka ya dade”, (may you live long), Isa said to the district
head.
“You are welcome, Isa,” said the district head. “I know you are
equal to the task,” he added. “Let the celebrant (referring to prince
Iro) be summoned now to face the music” the district head jokingly
instructed.
“Ranka ya dade, your will would be done” Isa smartly replied. He
then stood up and turned to sarkin gida who was at hand and told him
to go and invite prince Iro to appear at once. “He must be there in his
room waiting for the call”, Isa added.
“In-sha-Allah, he would soon be here,” Sarkin gida replied and
left for prince Iro‟s room which was not far away from the venue.
The arrival of prince Iro at the venue in company of his close
friends, associates and well wishers marked the beginning of this
historic event. As soon as he walked through the entrance with his
retinue behind including Adamu and other childhood and therefore

49
closest friends, the atmosphere automatically became emotionally
charged and people started to clap in unison and then burst into an
ecstatic chorus of welcome to the prince.
“Here comes the prince we are anxiously waiting to see”, they
chanted thunderously. “We are happy to see you Iro, may Almighty
Allah help you pass the test”. They echoed “Ameen, Ameen,” the
deafening sound continued. The prince was overwhelmed and was
speechless. He only waved both his hands to the cheering crowd. He
had never witnessed such pouring of emotions in his life, not even
when he bade goodbye to them many years ago when he was going
overseas for his studies. It was a captivating display of sincere and
genuine love from his people. It could not be otherwise!
Dressed in an immaculate white flowing gown with minimum
embroidery work and a cap to match, Iro Sada was ushered to his
father to pay the traditional homage. He then knelt down and greeted
while the district head feeling equally emotional, showered his
blessings on his first born and wished him well in the task ahead.
He then moved to greet other important dignitaries like the Alkali
(the judge) who came in late due to an emergency court session.
Finally, he retired to the centre-platform where the Chief Imam and
the master teacher were waiting for him for the commencement of the
ceremony. Iro Sada knelt down to greet both of them, especially the
master teacher of his Islamic school where he spent many years
learning the Holy Koran before he graduated. He also expressed his
profound gratitude to his very teacher who carried him through the

50
difficult task. Today was the day of passing out and Iro Sada, must do
his best to see that he did not disappoint his teacher before the public.
It was a grand occasion of great expectation, on which to showcase
his expertise in the art of reading the Holy Koran. He then took his
place among them on the platform and bided his time.
Reading of the Holy Koran is an art which must be in accordance
with the established rules of correct pronunciation and intonation. It is
a skill acquired only by constantly repeated practice in order to
achieve word and letter perfect reading. This is why the Holy Koran is
not allowed to be read like any other book but one has to learn and
adopt its styles of reading called “TAJWEED” or Arabic phonology by
the application of phonetics with the use of diacritics which include
dieresis and apocopate to give the perfect sound like vowels,
consonants and diphthongs in English Language.
In the metaphysical dynamics of the Holy Koran, there are two
prescribed distinct methods of reading the book. The “ascending
order” method for learners, starts the upward journey from left to
right of the Holy book. It begins with the shortest and simplest
chapters and verses, rising gradually but steadily through increasingly
lengthy ones until the longest is reached at the peak. Conversely, the
“descending order” method for the learned, starts the downward
journey from right to left of the book. It starts with the longest and
more difficult chapters and verses thereby declining gradually but
steadily through decreasingly shorter chapters and verses until the last
and one of the shortest is reached at the end.

51
The compilation of the Holy Koran in a single book was a
divinely guided phenomenon and as such the chapters and verses
were not classified in chronological order. This fact supports the
theory that the philosophy behind such arrangement is to depict the
gradual development of human being and to show that the learning
process is from cradle to grave. It also denotes that human being
starts life with little effort to accomplish small and simple tasks like
sucking of milk to a more difficult and complex undertaking like
building a house as he grows and develops to reach maturity full
strength and power at the age of forty. On reaching this age, human
being begins to decline as he commences his downward journey
becoming weaker and weaker along the way to the end. The theory
further illustrates that human life is a one way traffic system like the
way he goes up, so is the way he climbs down, from weakness to
strength in his youth and from strength to weakness in his old age.
This phenomenon no doubt is a devine plan which increases one‟s
faith in God, the Creator.
Immediately Iro Sada sat down, the master of ceremony Alhaji
Isa Nadada sprang to his feet to announce the commencement of the
activities as per the programme. He therefore did the “Isti‟aza”
(driving away the devil) and the “basmala” (In the name of Allah, the
compassionate, the merciful) and the “Salat” for prophet Muhammad
(S.A.W). he then cleared his throat and said “The honourable District
Head, the Judge, the Chief Imam, the celebrant prince Iro,
distinguished gentlemen. Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you), the

52
purpose of our gathering here is to witness the graduation ceremony
of prince Iro in respect of the traditional Koranic reading”. To-day is a
memorable occasion in Kwoya and beyond and every body must feel
great to be here, he went on. “Without much Ado”, he continued, “I
would now call upon the judge, Alhaji Mainasara to open the
ceremony with a prayer, the judge”, he concluded.
The judge who looked a bit unsettled in the crowd because he
arrived late, was some what hesitant but all the same he began the
prayer thus, “Assalamu Alaikum the people of Kwoya and beyond, may
Allah drive away the devil and in the name of Allah the compassionate,
the merciful, may He shower His blessings upon the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W)”. he went on to invoke the blessing of Allah upon
the people of Kwoya and prayed that the ceremony be carried out in
the most successful manner. He said, “Ameen”, and every body there
responded in chorus.
The master of ceremony, Alhaji Isa was up again and said,
“I now call upon the guest of honour, a well known personality
in the person of the Chief Imam of Kwoya, Alhaji Barau to deliver his
key note address, the Chief Imam”.
The Chief Imam who remained seated, was a highly respected
cleric of the sunna sect (the followers of the tradition of prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W). An erudite scholar, the chief Imam was well
versed in all the branches of Islamic knowledge. He had to his credit,
trained many people in his famous Islamic school called “Nurul Huda”.
He then said the Islamic routine prayer of opening a speech; the

53
“Isti‟aza” (driving away the devil) the “Basmala” (calling in the blessing
of God) and the Salat (blessing of God for the Holy Prophet,
Muhammad (S.A.W). he then said, “Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon
you), my brothers in islam”.
Alhaji Barau chose divorce as the theme of his lecture for the
reason of its being rampant in Kwoya. He knew it had always been a
controversial issue in which both men and women became emotionally
charged and often sentimental and selfish. The Chief Imam was a
classic brain and an eloquent speaker whose favourite weapons of
delivery were precision and concision. He pulled no punches, so to
speak. He delved into the subject, quoting extensively from the Holy
Koran and the Hadith (the saying of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W),
particularly provisions in chapters 2, 4, 65 and so on. “The present
practice of divorce is contrary to all the provisions of both the Holy
Koran and the Hadith”, he said, “as men are turning out women on to
the streets by simply taking advantage of the trite syndrome of, “I
divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you,” the three times mandatory
uttrances to break the marriage permanently”. He went on, “The
effect of such careless and selfish utterances was destructive,” Alhaji
Barau argued and therefore called on all the stakeholders; the men,
women and the authority to organize a meeting of minds in order to
stem the tide of divorce. What was required urgently was a social
reform with a view to obtaining social justice for the women folk and
also to force the husbands to comply with devine ordination that
divorce as a practice is abominable and if it becomes inevitable in

54
certain circumstances, the divorced woman must be kept in her
matrimonial home to be fed until she completes her period of divorce.
Both parties must comply with this provision. Furthermore a woman
must not be divorced during her period of menstruation; and
expectant mothers must not be permitted to leave the matrimonial
home until after delivery. When she delivers the former husband must
reach agreement with her in order to pay her for the breast feeding of
the baby. If no agreement is reached the father of the child must
make an alternative arrangement by hiring another woman to feed the
child on payment. The crux of the divorce is that the former husband
must show “kindness” to the departing woman.
The Chief Imam being an accomplished orator dwelt on the
Arabic words “Bil ma‟arufi” whose interpretation meant with kindness.
“This is where the reform is most needed”, he said “Because the
divorced women now are just thrown out with not a single matt “for
compensation”, he added. “A woman may live with her husband for
twenty years and had delivered ten children for him but when she is
divorced the husband takes away the children and leaves the woman
with no compensation whatever”, he further argued “Husbands must
be made to pay compensation to divorced wives either in lump sums
or piece meal in accordance with his state of wealth”. “This provision
will act as a deterrent against careless divorce and will also curb
prostitution and many anti-social acts and social vices amongst the
divorced women who in many cases had to fend for themselves”, he
concluded.

55
The audience listened with rapt attention and one could hear the
drop of a pin in the place. There was no murmuring as Alhaji Barau‟s
sermon had captivated the hearts and minds of the audience and had
also captured their thoughts. He then advocated for the reform of the
administration of divorce laws of the district in order to reflect his
powerful argument and to deal with the menace of callous divorce. He
further advocated the setting up of a special divorce court to deal with
all cases related to marriage and divorce. He advised the district head
to take the matter urgently with the Emir of Zinari the ultimate
authority. Although the colonialists had left and had handed over
power to the indigenes no spectacular change had occurred in the
system they left behind. He then said “Assalamu Alaikum”, as he
ended the lecture.
The response from the audience was stupendous as the
deafening sound of hands clapping continued until a standing ovation
was given to the Chief Imam who, no doubt, commanded tremendous
respect among the people of Kwoya.
The Master of Ceremony who remained standing while the
crowd sat down, announced the next item on the agenda; for the big
show for which everybody was anxiously waiting he called upon the
senior teacher of the prince‟s Islamic School to start.
All eyes were then set on the participants who were sitting in the
inner circle of the venue while they were encampassed by an outer
semi-circle of expert readers and reciters. It was the tradition of the
exercise to start with what is called the appetizer to stimulate the

56
interest of the audience. It was the preliminary recitation of the
different portions of the Holy Koran by the expert reciters who had
learnt by heart all the sixty portions of the Holy Koran comprising the
one hundred and fourteen chapters. It was primarily intended for
demonstration and entertainment and also to entise and encourage
the listeners to learn the Holy Koran by heart.
The six selected experts in this field were then asked to
commence the recitation simultaneously and loudly with speed and
accuracy. Each of them was to do his allotted portion of the Holy
Koran. As they began the recitation, the mouths opened, the lips
parted, the tongues moved up and down and the words flowed with
rapidity like water from the fountain, with near perfect pronunciation.
The voices were heard loud and clear, rising and falling in controlled
but measured rhythms and intonation with constant changing of the
tones. It was a dazzling performance which no doubt had kept the
audience mesmorised as they listened with rapt attention. The
recitation lasted for about the time one would go to the market and
return. An excellent entertainment which obviously had captured the
hearts and minds of the audience. They were spell bound and excited,
reaching a crescendo to burst into spontaneous hand-clappings with
great admiration as the event came to a close. The expert readers
who each had a copy of the holy Koran in his hand, were beckoned to
start the reading. There were ten of them, each was to read from
beginning to the end six portions of the Holy Koran, following strictly
the rules and regulations of the exercise. The intention of the exercise,

57
was to showcase their reading skill and to display their expertise to
the delight of the audience and to send a warning signal to the
graduating prince as to what was expected of him when he took his
turn. Their task was not of speed and accuracy but of care and
precision and it did not come from the heart but from the head and
the eyes. They had to observe every diacritic in order to produce the
correct pronunciation for a word-perfect sound. Reading the Holy
Koran is an art which calls for technical knowledge to combine the
different techniques involved in it.
The readers were unquestionably the cream of the Islamic
scholars in Kwoya district and beyond, and they came from the most
prestigious Islamic school with an impeccable record in the field of
reading the Holy Koran – the Nurul Huda.
As the show began, each reader mindful of the other not to
outshine him, was determined to give a classic performance employing
all techniques it required. It was a fascinating exercise though
daunting, full of eloquence and elocution. Their different voices
became synchronized in their melodious sweetness such that
sometimes the audience became confused and unsure as to which of
the voices they would prefer to listen to, because each sounded as
serene as the other. It was because “Tajweed” being the prescribed
method of reading the Holy Koran it must be concise and precise. Any
reader who did not learn Tajweed would not be able to read the Holy
Koran correctly and any incorrect reading might lead to the
commission of serious mistakes which might change the original

58
meaning of the text. Any such change of the meaning would be a
sinful act which would attract blame rather than reward from Allah
(S.W.A).
The reading continued as the actors engaged all their vocal
organs; the lips, the nose, the tongues and the throat. The lips moved
and shaped in different ways to produce different sounds. The noses
acted in concert with the lips to produce the nasal sound which came
through the passage of the nose. The tongues, the most vital of all the
speech organs, curled and wagged and curled again to produce the
coherent sounds especially apocope and dorsal. The throat provided
the guttural, and the glottal sounds and the grooves. It was the
synergy of these vocal organs which enraptured the audience to a
standing ovation to close the session.
The magnificent spectacles of both the reciters and the readers
over, the audience were then anxiously waiting for the grand finale;
Iro Sada‟s performance. Iro Sada knew that it was going to be an up-
hill task to match the performance of his precursors albeit everybody
knew that he was neither in competition nor in contention with them.
All the same, he could not remain unaware of the fact that he was on
show and so he had to warm up to it.
The test the prince was to undergo was in two parts; reading
and recitation and each would be accorded equal attention in respect
of assessment. To him it was like the “day of judgment” as he recalled
the processes he went through during the years he attended the
Islamic school. “This was the almajiri system of education which was a

59
semi-formal educational system” he recalled, “Designed to educate
and edify the students in the concept of Islamic religion” he added.
“There were no formal classrooms for the pupils. Consequently they
just sat outside in an open space usually in front of the Mallam‟s house
or inside some other place. The times of going to school were
morning, afternoon and evening, throughout the week except on
Thursday and Friday which were non-schooling days. The school
operated on a very progressive system, based on individual teaching
rather than on a group. The practice gave the teacher an opportunity
to pay attention to every individual pupil especially the slow coaches
while the quick understanding ones would be encouraged to go ahead
as they proved to be more intelligent, more hardworking and cleverer.
With that method, two pupils could start schooling the same day but
the deligent one could be ahead of the other by far and might
graduate much earlier than the other. Although all these schools were
private yet the school fees were kept minimal as the principle behind
the system was to teach in the name of Allah. It amounted to a few
zairo only (one hundredth of a matt) paid to the teachers on
Wednesday of every week. Besides, the teachers were given “Zakkat”
(the annual alms given to the needy according to the prescription of
the Holy Koran) usually after the harvest or during the month of great
fast of Ramadan. Holidays were arranged to coincide with the fall of
Ramadan and the succeeding festivals like the lesser and the greater
Bairems. The teachers were free to use the pupils labour especially the
bigger ones to assist them in their farming activities”.

60
“Discipline was very high and enforced without fear or favour. All
late comers were punished by asking them to draw water and fill a
number of containers or sweep the teachers‟ houses or some other
jobs. During the sessions every pupil was busy reading from his slate
while the supervisory teachers would be going round wielding their
whips to lash anybody found doing any thing besides reading
especially quarrelling, fighting, talking and so on. The teachers
continued to mingle among the pupils.
The Almajiri school system had four distinct stages for the pupils
to go through. From the ages of three to five would be in nursery
group. They were taught the alphabets only without using the slate
until they reached the age of six to seven years when they would be
issued with small slates.
The slate was a piece of rectangular shaped flat wood polished
to a very smooth finish on both of its surfaces. It had a short narrow
neck jutting out from the middle of the upper side with a curved
bottom and two pointed legs. The narrow neck had a top shaped like
the metal bar of a pick axe or the anchor with the bottom-up. It was
of different sizes from the smallest for the nursery group to the
biggest for the adult. White wash was applied on it to enable the
black-ink writing appear clearly on it.
The process of making the ink was very simple and cheap. All
one had to do was to go about with a small quantity of water in a
container. One would then start to rub the black from the back of the
cooking pots with one‟s wet hands, washing them in the water as one

61
rubbed the pots. When the water in the calabash changed into a black
colour completely, gum Arabic would then be added to the water and
boiled for some time in order to produce the sticky solution that was
ink. It would then be removed from the fire and be left to cool.
Consequently it would be stirred with a stick to ensure good mixture
which would be jet black ink ready for use. It was then poured into
the inkwell which was a small round gourd as container, a product of
applied chemistry one would say.
As for the pen to write with, one required either one made of a
cornstalk or the feather of a bird. The favourite practice was the use
of the cornstalk type in which one of its ends would be sharpened to
give a point of a nib
The synergy of the slate, the ink and the pen had undoubtedly
provided writing materials for the use of the Islamic schools in the
learning process at that level. It was an ingenious invention and a high
watermark of civilization of the people before the advent of the white
man who might be accused of halting the forward march. He brought
his educational system which was at variance with the Islamic system,
and super-imposed it on the latter. The white man‟s system of
education was introduced to the people through the indirect rule of
the colonialists by using the traditional rulers whose children were the
first victims as at first only such children were sent to white man‟s
schools. The rulers were to show example so that the common man
would be enticed as to accept the new system. This was the reason

62
why the first set of educated class were the children of the traditional
rulers who were generally well groomed right from their homes”.
The dual system continued to operate side by side but at the
expense of both. That was the beginning of the travails of Kwoya
people as the differences between the two educational systems were
varied and motley. Firstly, the writing methods were different: while
the Islamic system was writing from right to left, the white man‟s
writing was from left to right. Secondly, the whiteman‟s educational
system was not only largely secular in concept and practice but had
dwarfed the Islamic system which was theological, and relegated it to
the background. Consequently it suffered neglect and retardation.
Thirdly, while the Islamic system was entirely private with no definite
sources of funds, the whiteman‟s system was public hence it enjoyed
the patronage and support of both the government as well as the
native authority. The whiteman‟s system was formal while the Islamic
system was informal. There was enormous mistrust and immense
suspicion between the two systems to the extent that each was
conducting destructive propaganda to undermine the other.
Consequently, the people were divided into three distinct camps. On
one hand there were the religious die-hards who mistrusted the
whiteman‟s intention and therefore had prevented their children from
enrolling in such schools. On the other extreme there were those
people who accepted the new system whole heartedly and had
therefore allowed their children to be registered in those schools but
paying less attention to Koranic schooling. In between the two

63
extremes was the third group which chose to accept both systems and
had therefore allowed their children to attend both type of schools,
one in the morning and the other in the evening. This group was the
largest of the three and in competition with the two groups, the
children were over burdened to grapple with their studies in both
types of schools. That was the crux of the matter because the
arrangement to combine the two opposing systems at the same time
had adverse effect on their performances. Only extra hard working
and brilliant children would be able to cope with the studies of the two
systems and came out at the end in flying colours: Iro Sada was a
product of the dual system and one of the few who had made it a
success in both.
A combination of expert readers and reciters was headed by
Ustaz Musa. The members were post graduand scholars from
prestigious Islamic schools, with impeccable credentials in their
respective subjects. They constituted the panel of judges to assess the
graduand prince.
Ustaz Musa was a well known cleric with an enviable record of
ability to complete the reading of the Holy Koran in not more than
three days when he put himself to it. He had written many copies of
the holy book with his own hands. He was also unsurpassed in
coherence and elocution in “takara” (group reading). He had won
many prizes at local competitions in that regard. He was therefore
considered most competent and qualified to head that panel which

64
would test the prince. Ustaz Musa would not accept anything but the
best especially as he was a disciplinarian and a stickler for correctness.
Ustaz Musa brought out the slate from which the prince would
read. He then led a short prayer with the prince and other members of
the panel for a start.
The slate was one of the biggest of its type ever seen for such
purpose. It had a background of polished white surface on both sides.
The writing on it was of artistic, beautiful and decorative design in
calligraphy. The black colour of the ink matched the white background
and made the writing shiny, attractive and bolder than it would seem.
All the words had fallen in line and were evenly spaced in between.
The full stop marks were an eye-catcher, well positioned and shaped
like three equal small rings, one sitting on top of the other two. The
margin left at the beginning of the writing from the right and at the
end on the left were equally spaced as if measured with a ruler. It was
a beautiful piece of civilized work of art by any standard. A beautiful
leather strap of red colour was tied to the neck of the slate for the
purpose of holding it.
And immediately after the ceremony it was usuary the custom
for the graduand accompanied by a small group of friends, to embark
on a visit to the houses of close relatives and friends in order to
showcase his success by presenting the highly decorated slate. He
would read it before them and they would be delighted to listen. They
would congratulate him and in accordance with the tradition, would

65
give him some inexpensive gifts as token to mark the memorable
occasion. He would treasure those gifts for life.
It was the tradition of the exercise to choose chapter two, “The
Heifer” and write its verses to fill both sides of the slate because the
chapter was the final one to be learnt to complete the reading of the
sixty sections of the Holy Koran.
Prince Iro who was looking cool, calm, collected and equally
unemotional, seemed to hold the view that the exercise was a simple
formality to fulfill the traditional requirement for recognition. An
opportunity also to showcase his learning prowess before the eyes of
the public. He would not fail in that regard. As he was about to start
the reading test, Ustaz Musa reminded him about the important rules
of reading the Holy Koran and gave him some hints. He said that the
prince should remember that “Tajweed” had formulae and that he
must apply these formulae as they would occur in the reading process.
The prince then said the “Isti‟aza” (driving away the Satan), the
“Basmala” (in the name of Allah) and the “Salat” (prayer for the
prophet Muhammad S.A.W) and cleared his throat to begin. “Alif-
Laam-Mim” he started with the opening secret letters of the chapter
and continued as the whole crowd listened with rapt attention and
expectation.
The atmosphere was serene and the prince knew that the Holy
Koran was an “Arab” and therefore for one to be able to read it
correctly one must be an Arab if not in flesh then in voice. The thrilling
voice was rising and falling in a deliberate measured manner to give

66
effect. The mouth continued to open and close while the lips twisted
and turned and the tongue moved and curled in a masterly fashion in
accordance with the type of words to flow. The sound was melodious
and mellifluent. It was a flawless performance and the audience
became enchanted and enthralled. There were instant shouts
“Allah is the Greatest”, “Allah is the Greatest” In admiration of
the eloquent delivery by the prince who must have rehearsed time and
again before, to be able to meet the challenge. The reading was word-
perfect and had captured the hearts and minds of his listeners.
“Masha Allah (by the grace of God), this is excellent!” shouted
Ustaz Musa, the head of the panel of judges as the prince turned the
other side of the slate to complete the reading. The second segment
was much more impressive as the prince seemed to have overcome
his initial shyness. He became more articulate exuding self-confidence.
It was a brilliant delivery which kept the audience spellbound and
enthralled.
Having successfully completed the reading, the prince was then
asked by his assessors to recite a number of chapters from the Holy
Koran.
“In the name of Allah, we have chosen three chapters only
which are considered most relevant for this purpose for you to recite,”
Ustaz Musa directed and he continued, “The three chapters are
chapters 31, Lukman, chapter 47 Muhammad and chapter 65, Dalak
(divorce). Chapter 31, Lukman spells out clearly and in detail the basic
principles of child education in fundamental Islamic values and

67
character moulding. As Allah (S.W.T) says in the second verse of the
chapter, “A guidance and a mercy to those who do Good”. The
importance and the relevance of the chapter in this context cannot
therefore be over-stressed because these are devine rules which
contain words of wisdom. They are a guidance for every child‟s up-
bringing and a constant reminder to every adult, as they explain
clearly what constitutes good behaviour in our way of life. These
guiding principles do serve to protect our children from the white
man‟s ways because since the day he brought his system of education
which changed our way of writing from right to left, we begin to
experience difficulties in the behaviour of our children whose minds
have been conterminated with alien ideas and are lacking in spiritual
guidance. They have as a result learnt many bad ways like cheating
and lying.
These acts of misbehaviour, until now were to a large extent
unknown in our pristine society whose foundation is the religious
culture. The new system of education brought by the white man has
profound effect on the psyche of our people as it tends to invert our
value system. It has also deviated our youngsters from learning the
tenets of their religion for spiritual and moral guidance. But “copying
without understanding” is perhaps the worst effect of the coming of
the white man to our land. A man wearing a black suit on a sweltering
day when the sun is over-head, walks along a tarred road, in black
shoes with black stockings!. Can you imagine it? Or the parting of his
kinky hair to facilitate brushing and combing in order to set the hair on

68
the sides. It ridiculously imitates the practice of the white man who
has long and straight or wavy hair which easily falls naturally on the
sides after the parting. What about a man wearing a black suit in a
black night, entered a black room for a black purpose! “The second
chapter to recite is chapter 47. This is a very important chapter whose
main thrust is about military stratagem both against internal and
external aggression. It encourages the acquisition of the qualities of
perseverance and fortitude, and condemned faint-heartedness. It also
re-affirms the supremacy of Allah (S.W.T) and that Muhammad, the
prophet of Islam is an apostle of Allah (S.W.T).
“The last is chapter 65, “DIVORCE”. Its relevance in this context
is perforce as a result of Chief Imam‟s Sermon which he delivered as a
key note address for this grand occasion. The speech which was well
articulated and inter-laced with eloquence and frankness, had
highlighted the problems posed by our divorce practice. Divorce is an
abomination and a blighter in our social life especially as it is not being
carried out with compassion and consideration for the welfare of the
divorced women. The misapplication of the rules and regulations of
divorce has led to the commission of various anti-social acts and divers
social vices are now appearing on our scene. The importance of
choosing this chapter for your recitation is therefore to remind all and
sundry among the audience that the bad practice of throwing out the
womenfolk on to the street on the slightest flimsy excuse of
provocation without any adequate provision for their welfare, had
affected our social dynamics. Every time a woman is divorced it is one

69
woman too many in the streets and unless something is done quickly
to stem the tide the consequences can be very serious”, “he
concluded. He then turned to the prince and said “Bismillah” meaning
over to you.
The prince knew that reading and recitation were not one and
the some thing. In reading one referred to a text while in recitation
one said aloud what one learnt by heart. However, despite their basic
difference the objectives of the two exercises in that context were the
same. It was to be able to say aloud or silently words correctly and
clearly without any difficulty while observing the laid down rules.
The importance and relevance of recitation in Islamic religion
could not be over-emphasized in that it is an obligatory requirement to
recite loudly or silently as the case may be, a chapter or chapters or
just some verses at any prayer. It is therefore compulsory for one to
learn by heart as many as possible chapters and verses of the Holy
book. In fact the more one is able to memorize, the better for one‟s
prayers because one is not permitted to hold the Holy Koran and read
from it while in prayers except in special circumstances. One also
needs recitation for supplication at various occasions in everyday life.
People are therefore encouraged to memorise all the one hundred and
fourteen chapters because every undertaking in islam must be
accompanied by a particular prayer by reciting some chapters or
verses at its commencement and at its completion.
Having said the formal prayer for the commencement of a task,
prince Iro proceeded to recite the first chapter given, slowly but

70
surely. His voice with little or no visible signs of tremble was rising and
falling sweetly in an atmosphere of pin-drop silence and gradually the
audience were becoming stimulated. He was placing the emphasis and
making the light pronunciation where-ever they occurred. The words
continued to flow softly and smoothly and the accent was superbly
flawless. He conjured the atmosphere very beautifully as he recited
the three chapters one after the other with eclat to the manner born.
He completed the exercise with the words “Alhamdu lillah and
Assalamu Alaikum”. It was a classic performance far beyond the
expectation of everybody at the venue. The atmosphere became
rowdy despite the pleading by the master of ceremony, as people
began to shout in excitement and bewildment. One old man sitting in
the far corner, shouted,
“This is Angelic!”
“This is unbelievable”, said another
“The prince is a Mallam now!”, said a person with husky voice.
Meanwhile, many others were shouting “encore, encore”, as the
prince concluded the recitation. He was subsequently given a standing
ovation because every body was highly impressed. His father, the
district head looking elated, joined the enthuasts while enjoying the
reflected glory and honour of his son‟s triumph. Ustaz Musa, the head
of the panel of judges, who was visibly overjoyed commented
“A brightness equivalent to a million suns”.
This was followed instantly by a deluge of congratulations from
almost every person there. The celebrant was overwhelmed by the

71
offers of gifts in money and kind as was the tradition of the ceremony.
Gifts and gifts were just pouring in on the prince from all sides of the
rotunda. Some people especially youths who were of his age were
spreading currency notes on the forehead of the prince. On the other
hand as soon as the information reached the inside of the harem that
the prince had passed the test with flying colours, the women rushed
pell-mell to the venue and filled the atmosphere with their ululations
and hand clappings. The whole place was put in a state of clamour
and pandemonium both from the inside and outside. It took a real
battle by many volunteers to control the wild crowd in order to restore
calm and order in the place.
The members of the panel led by Ustaz Musa, were ready with
their unanimous verdict. Ustaz Musa stood up before the audience to
make the announcement which the people were anxiously waiting to
hear. After the formalities of doing the ista‟aza, the Basmallah and the
salat, he proceeded thus:
“In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful,
Assalamu Alaikum, oh people of Kwoya. On this historic occasion
today is the finest hour for the prince of Kwoya, we are all witnesses
to the proceedings of the Koranic graduating ceremony of the prince
which has just been conducted successfully. I am glad to report that
the performance of the prince is excellent as he demonstrated before
our eyes that he has not only learnt the Koran thoroughly but in the
process has acquired the necessary skill and the technique of reading
and reciting it in accordance with the established rules. His modulating

72
voice was steady and calm with no traces of stammer, tremble or
nervousness. His pronunciation was word-perfect. That is what it takes
to make a good reader. We, as the panel, have therefore found him a
competent and a qualified reader and reciter. He is therefore hereby
formerly pronounced as a fit and proper person to be accorded the
title of „Mallam‟. May Almighty Allah (S.W.T) guide him and permit him
to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He has now another string to his bow:
Alhamdu lillahi wa salatu wa salaam ala Rasulil lahi (to God be the
glory and His blessings upon His prophet)”, Ustaz Musa concluded and
as he sat down.
There was a burst of applause and shouts of “God is the
greatest, God is the greatest”, rent the air in a deafening atmosphere.
The people were definitely happy and excited with the verdict of the
panel. One man called it a “divine judgment”.
His voice could hardly be heard as people continued to talk,
crack jokes and make favourable comments. At last a semblance of
order was restored and the majority of the people sat down once
again to wait for the “walimat” luncheon.
A string of women, well turned out, came from inside of the
harem. They were all carrying large quantities of food in big traditional
containers of various sizes and make; enamel bowls and vessels,
calabashes and plates. The fare consisted of a variety of dishes. There
was the traditional dish specially prepared for the participants. This
was a slaughtered ram whose mutton was half cooked in stew and
eaten with cooked beans prepared with groundnut oil, pepper and

73
salt. It was considered a delicacy because of its nutritional value and it
was also believed to be good for the brain as a stimulant. There was
also “gumba” (pounded millet with sugar) as sweet after meal. There
were other different dishes prepared for the spectators in accordance
with the menu drawn under the direction of the senior wife, Mama
Safiya. These included, nice paste, „jollof rice‟ macaroni, pancake, fried
chickens, barbecue rams and skewered meat. Groundnut gruel and
porridge would be served as drinks.
The prepared eating place was just outside the rotunda but
within the enclosed area where mats were spread for the people to sit
and eat to their satisfaction. There was more than enough for
everybody as the luncheon was lavish and the food was delicious and
attractive “Umh, the food smells nicely”, said one of the visitors as he
waited for his turn to be served.
“That‟s the district head, Baban Kowa who does not do anything
by halves. His generosity is a byword in Kwoya and beyond”, the third
man confirmed.
These complimentary remarks which were many and varied
went on as the guests were being served by the ladies headed by the
chief-de-cuisine, Mamar Abba. They were busy going round and
serving the people their chosen dishes. As the people were very eager
to taste the sumptuous meal, and the service ladies were
outstretched, the place was in a state of admired disorder despite the
efforts of the master of ceremony and his assistants. However the
feast continued amid during-meal-conservations.

74
Meanwhile, the district head who normally is not accustomed to
eating in public remained inside the rotunda together with other
dignitaries like the judge, the Chief Imam and others. Their specially
prepared dishes were brought to them in separate containers. The
chef-de-cuisine, Mamar Abba and an assistant did the service. Every-
one of them said his own eating prayer and began to enjoy what was
brought before them.
“I must thank all of you for finding time to honour our
invitations”, the district head opened the during-meal-conversation.
“Ranka ya dade (may you live long), we are only discharging our
obligation towards you. We are at your service, Ranka ya dade”, they
all responded with the usual deference.
It was the Chief Imam who spoke next and said
“You know the genesis of this “walimat” was when Sayyidina
Abubakar Sadique (Alaihis salam) the first disciple of prophet
Mohammed (S.A.W) completed the learning by heart of chapter two of
the Holy Koran – Bakra (the Heifer). He slaughtered a number of
camels as sacrifice and offered the meat to the needy as was his
won‟t, in order to show his gratitude to Allah (S.W.T) for guiding him
to the successful task of learning by heart the longest chapter of the
Holy Koran. It has two-hundred and eighty six verses”, he concluded.
“I would like to tell you about a joke by the prophet Mohammed
(S.A.W) which was misunderstood at first by the person to whom it
was made”, the judge stated.

75
“One day an old woman who was a true believer in the religion
of Islam and had enormous faith in the prophet (S.A.W) came to see
him for some religious purpose. As she was leaving, the prophet of
Islam was quoted to have said to her “Do you know that old people
would not enter the paradise”? The woman was shocked to hear such
a statement from no other person than the prophet himself. She went
home in a state of complete despair. However, the information
reached the prophet of Islam that the woman since her visit to him
had not been herself again. He therefore sent for her and when she
came he told her that it was a joke but true in that Allah (S.W.T)
promised to change the old to young before they enter the paradise.
The woman was then relieved of her worries and went home the
happy”.
As they finished the luncheon and the plates were taken away
by the chef-de-cuisine, Mamar Abba, the master of ceremony
appeared to announce that everything was then set to close the
ceremony. Everybody then returned to the rotunda, many chewing the
kolanuts which were traditionally eaten after meal. They all set down
to wait for the conclusion of the event before they dispersed to their
respective places.
The judge an eminent jurist, in his early sixties, was called upon
to give the vote of thanks. He began his short speech by the formal
prayer and said, “Assalamu Alaikum brothers, I have the privilege and
the singular honour to move the vote of thanks. However it is not out
of place to point out that we are all witnesses to the quality

76
performance of prince Iro who courageously faced the challenging
task to come out in flying colours. I therefore call upon our youths to
strive hard and emulate him. He is certainly a talent and a promising
star in the making. I hereby call him “The hero of the day”. The
audience responded by a deafening round of applause and shouting of
acknowledgment.
He then continued, “I therefore wish him success in his future
endeavours, Amen. Gentlemen, we are all aware of the fact that with
the imposition of the whiteman‟s educational system on us, we are
now operating a dual system of education, one on the right and the
other on the left. Both are designed to benefit us. While the one on
the right is about our lives in the hereafter, the other on the left is
about the mundane world. In order to obtain the good of both worlds,
„Dunya-Hassanatun-wal-Akhiratu-Hassanatu‟, Hadith (the saying of the
prophet) has it that man should strive to obtain the best of this world,
as if he is going to live for ever. At the same time he should work hard
to prepare for the life in the hereafter as if he is going to die
tomorrow. However, we must not neglect or sacrifice our cultural
heritage and our religious tenets in favour of modernization of the
white man”.
“I wish to seize this opportunity to express our gratitude to our
host the district head who is exceptionally generous in providing what
we ate and drank. Many thanks also go to the organizers of the
occasion particularly the master of ceremony. I also thank everybody
who honoured the invitation to come to rejoice with the graduand. I

77
wish everybody safe return to their respective homes”, he concluded
with “Alhamdulillah, Assalamu Alaikum”.
The district head then rose to bid goodbye to every body and
was escorted to the main hall of the palace by all the prominent
guests from where they took leave of him and left. He went into the
palace accompanied by his son Iro and a few of the household staff.
Meanwhile the crowd outside melted away, satisfied that they
attended the grand occasion.
Prince Iro followed his father into his chambers where he
expressed his profound gratitude to him and left to do likewise to his
mother and all her three co-wives and the women who toiled to make
the occasion a real success. The prince finally returned to his room
where all his closest friends and associates were waiting to
congratulate him.

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CHAPTER FIVE
QUOTE; “The taste of the pudding is in the eating”
The mini-durbar was the next event on the agenda. The district
head knew that he had to obtain an approval from the emir in order to
enable him stage such an event. He feared lest it be construed in the
emir‟s palace that he was putting himself too forward or that he might
be seen to rival the emir. It was a very delicate situation as these
traditional rulers guard their pre-eminent positions very jealously and
the system would not tolerate a sub-ordinate who would equate
himself with his superiors. The district head who had established good
rapport with the emir due to his absolute loyalty did not want to fall
victim of the emirate gossip like one of his colleages, an ego-centric
personality who wanted to give traditional titles to some selected
persons both from within and from outside his district. He chose a
number of traditional titles but without obtaining permission from the
emir‟s palace to use them to turban the awardees at a grand
ceremony. Some of those titles by coincidence happened to be the
same with those being used by the emir hence the objection. The
emir‟s palace therefore disapproved of his plan as he was seen to have
copied the titles of the emirate without clearance. He was forced to
change the titles by dropping all those objected to and invented his
own instead. It was an embarrassing incident. It was such
embarrassment the district head sought to avoid hence his trip to
obtain permission first before staging the mini-durbar.

79
The traditional rulership was a well structured system of local
administration. On top of the pyramid was the emir and immediately
below were the district-heads who in turn had a number of village-
heads under them. The village-heads controlled a number of ward-
heads who formed the base of the hierarchy and therefore closest to
the members of the civil society or subjects. Any report from the base
had to go its way up to reach the emir and conversely any order from
the emir would come down through the same channel to the base for
compliance. This system of administration was efficient as any of its
time and kind hence when the whiteman came he found it convenient
and cheaper to run and so he decided to leave it intact. Consequently
he introduced the “Indirect Rule”. A system of exercising control of the
top while using the emirs and chiefs to do his bidding. It was a refined
system with well established chain of command and was a high
watermark of civilization. Elsewhere the whiteman found the people
disorganized and scattered in the bush where they were slugging it
out with the beasts for places of abode.
When the district head returned from the visit to the emir with
permission to hold the mini-durbar, he immediately summoned
Sallama (his chief of staff) to discuss the plan for the ceremony. The
two would draw up a skeletal plan and then hand it over to the
standing committee to work out the details for implementation.
“Although we have obtained full approval from his Highness the
emir, yet we should keep the ceremony in low profile” the district head
informed Sallama.

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“In that respect, Ranka ya dade, we would invite only ten village
heads to come each with his ten horses and their riders ony,” Sallama
suggested.
“That‟s ideal”, the district head accepted and went ahead to add,
“The date and the venue would be two days before the market day
and on the palace ground. We should inform the rest of the members
of the committee standing for this purpose”, he concluded.
Staging a durbar with Jafi the traditional salute, mini or maxi,
was not a new thing in Kwoya but had always been a spectacular
event which attracted thousand of spectators both within and outside
the district. This one would not be different. It would be a repeat
performance.
The venue was well prepared before the event. The ground had
been swept clean and clear and everything was looking spic and span.
The morning was bright and the weather was good with the sun
shining brilliantly but surprisingly without the corresponding heat.
As early as dawn, the people, young and old, men and women
were coming from all directions of the town, heading towards the
venue. Within the shortest possible time, the place was filled to
capacity and the air was filled with deafening noises of drumming and
movements of people and horses with their riders. It was a scene of
frenetic activities which some critics would want to describe as
“organized chaos”, whereas the benevolent would call it “an admired
disorder”, for wanting to be civil. Everybody was busy, doing his or her
own thing. There was a great deal of bustle and jostle among the

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spectators who were doing their best to secure vantage positions to
get a better view of the event to come. Some women with babies on
their backs and also old people both men and women some with their
walking sticks were pushing and shoving in the crowd, determined not
to be left out as witnesses to the historic event. Many were milling
around to satisfy their curiousity while some took the opportunity to
hawk their wares of snacks of bean cake, fried groundnuts, shelled
and unshelled, cigarettes, kola nuts, sweets and so on. There were
also shady characters; the devious tricksters, the pick-pockets and the
out rightly crooked ones who came to play tricks on gullible and
unsuspecting spectators and bilk them out of their money. Everybody
was having a field day while the security agents in form of the district
head‟s body guards (dogarai) with their whips in hand were having an
uphill task to control the uncontrollable surging crowd.
The drums roared out, the trumpets blew, the bugles shrieked
the songs were sang. The women ululated and the horses neighed.
The commingled sound of different music and noises became
pervasive. The drummers and the blowers were active while the
singers and the dancers were happily engaged in their art.
Meanwhile the respective contingents of horses, riders and those
on foot of the ten village heads were moving through the crowd to
take their respective positions at the far western end of the field. The
riders resplendent in their different glittering regalia and the horses in
their rich and decorated harnesses provided a splendid panoply of
colour and elegance. During these movements the horses became the

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centre of attraction as the riders with the reins and the bridles in their
hands, embarked upon a dazzling display of horsemanship. They
controlled the horses in their charge with amazing ability and could
easily change the walking style of the horses. Some of them were
trotting with a swagger as they moved their heads from side to side or
up and down, and neighing as they pleased to complete the show.
Others were made to strut in measured steps by the riders while
others pranced with majestic gait raising their forelegs high in the air,
one too often as they neighed before the riders would bring them
down under control. It was a marvelous entertainment which the
spectators admirably enjoyed as they thrilled in excitement and
astonishment.
The district head who loved horses very much was quoted to
have said “The horse is a very beautiful animal for its size, shape,
height and colour. It stands out clearly from the rest of the animals;
domestics or wild. Every part of its body is made proportionate to its
size. No one part of it is bigger or smaller to its size. Every aspect of it
adds to its beauty and attraction. And obviously, there are apparent
strength and power in its build. We must thank Allah (S.W.T) for such
a gift which we ride for pleasure as well as for going into battle”.
The eastern part of the venue was reserved for the invited
guests of Kwoya and beyond. There were three rows of seats, one
behind the other. The front row was for the very important dignitaries
like the judge, the Sarkin Kasuwa (trade officer), Wakilin Daji (Forestry
officer), the Chief Scribe (District Secretary), the Sarkin Noma

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(Agricultural officer) and many others like the wealthy merchants and
the big business tycoons. The second and third rows were occupied
by less important people but each was seated in accordance to his
social or official status. The place was filled to capacity and that all the
seats were occupied. Those who came late found themselves standing
behind or sitting on the arms of the chairs. It was a large gathering in
which people were seen greeting each other, laughing, cracking jokes
while shaking hands, conversing and so on. The atmosphere was full
of excitement, delight and great expectations.
The district head in his silky blue ceremonial royal robes of
glistening hooded burnous rode his favourite black horse to the
saluting dais a little distance away from the front row, where he would
receive the traditional „Jafi‟ salute from the contingents, each headed
by its village heads. He was flanked on his right by prince Iro, the
celebrant, who turned out in an all white dress beautifully embroidered
front, back and around the neck in an attractive gold-colour. He was
riding a shiny white horse. On the left flank of the district head was a
whiteman, one Mr. John Smith, a one time Colonial District Officer
(D.O) of the district and an old friend of the district head. He was
specially invited to witness the great event as he initiated the
scholarship arrangement for prince Iro to study overseas. He spoke
Hiyo, the language of the land, fluently as he had been in the country
for a long time during his colonial service. He had retired just before
the independence of the country. He was a good horse rider and so he
rode a piebald pony while wearing a native ceremonial outfit specially

84
sown for the great occasion. He looked more native than colonial in
the decorated attire. He engaged the district head in conversation and
occasionally bringing the prince into it, while they waited for the first
contingent to arrive.
The procession of the contingent comprised a number of groups
led by the village standard bearers. These were followed by the
actors in a variety of shows for the amusement and entertainment of
the spectators.
They included the “Yankama”, the farce drama actors. These
were itinerant comedians who performed as they walked in the
procession. As they beat their small drums, they engaged in witticism
to mock and ridicule eah other with sharp sarcasm.
There were also the “yantauri” or pantomime-actors who played
conjuring tricks on spectators, by using the edge of their long drawn
knives to slice their bodies which would never show any sign of any
cut. It was believed that they used native charms to blunt the edges
of the knives or that they applied medicinal ointment on their skins to
prevent the knives from cutting into their bodies.
Then there were the “yangambara” the satire-performers whose
stock characters continuously attacked and ridicule each other in a
verbal satire. The general drummers, musicians, singers and dancers
formed their separate entertainment group. The vanguard horsemen
followed while the escort who led the village head, fell in behind them.
The procession was then completed with the rearguard of another
batch of horsemen. The scene was a pageant and a charm.

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The “Jafi” started and each of the ten contingents was anxiously
making preparation to take its turn in the order of seniority. The first
to come was the contingent of the central village head of Kwoya town
who held the title of Magajin Gari. He was the most senior of all the
village heads in the district hence he was privileged to come with a
contingent of eleven horses instead of the ten originally directed.
An experienced and a skilful rider despite his age, the Magajin
Gari looked smart in his sparkling regalia and his horse was equally
adorned to the hoof. The contingent looking well decorated followed
closely behind and together they charged the horses to start the
movement towards the saluting dais.
The horses began to trot and gradually increasing the tempo to
a canter which was maintained by the riders who were restraining the
restless horses in measured fashion until they reached half way
towards the saluting dais. The riders then all at once released the
chargers which with a lightening speed surged forward at full gallop.
The Magajin Gari was conspicuously in the lead. On reaching the
saluting dais they drew up sharply to a halt and the Magajin Gari
raised up his right hand which was holding a big key to the historical
gates of Kwoya town as the symbol of his authority, being the keeper
of the town. He then delivered the Jafi; the traditional salute as a
gesture to re-affirm his absolute loyalty to the district head who in
turn responded by raising his sword, the symbol of his authority as a
district head and thus acknowledged the Magajin Gari‟s traditional
homage. The contingent then passedby slowly with a trot back to its

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former position to wait until the ceremony was over. The spectators
cheered and clapped enthuastically. It was a spectacle, pleasing to the
eyes.
The second contingent which followed in the procession, was
Bahirawa village which was led by Magaji Dan‟amali, its village head.
He was number two in the hierarchy. The pattern of movements and
various shows was almost the same as the first one before it.
However, there were noticeable differences in some aspects in line
with their differences in tradition and customs.
For example the history of the people showed that during the
inter-tribal wars of old, the village was the district‟s military base. The
people were warriors hence they constituted the district‟s fighting
force in those days. The title of the village head Dan‟amali was
equivalent to that of a general in the army. His entourage therefore
consisted of soldierly-looking men who were carrying traditional
weapons like dane guns, spears, bows and arrows, swords and knives.
Their drummers, musicians, singers and dancers were acting in a war-
like manner to depict that tradition.
As the village head with his escorts who were wearing attractive
uniforms of red colour with blue sashes across their shoulders,
approached the saluting dais and the rest of the horse men, they drew
up sharply to a halt. The village head then raised up his beautifully
decorated spear, shaking it high in the air until he came close to the
district head when he planted it with full force and made a war like
shout full of emotions. The spear was the symbol of the village, and

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his people behind automatically re-echoed the shout in chorus because
the spear was their ancestral symbol. They were very proud of the
historical possession. The village head then delivered the Jafi, thus
paying his homage to the district head who responsed by raising his
sword. The contingent then passed by to make way for others
following behind.
The next contingent which followed was Tsaunika village. They
were from a mountainous area with high hills and rocks hence the
name “Tsaunika”. Due to the nature of their terrain, the people took to
hunting as their main pre-occupation. They used to go on expedition
in the mountains, lasting several months, when they returned they
would bring many killed animals as well as those captured alive. They
would hold festivities to mark the successful hunting expedition.
During the festival meat was always distributed freely to women and
children, the old and the sick who could not go to hunt. There was a
lot of drumming, music and dancing. The festivities were being held
twice a year, one before the rains and the other there-after.
One of the important activities during the festivities was “Kalan
kuwa” a musical social event, well organized for the enjoyment of the
youths (both boys and girls) only. The event had two main functions.
Firstly, it served as a meeting point for the young men and young girls
who were brought together to feel free to talk to each other away
from the watchful eyes of their parents who were normally strict on
them. Secondly, it provided the venue at which marriageable girls, not
only enjoyed dancing and singing, but had an opportunity to choose

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their suitors for marriage among the many young men who were
seeking for their hands in marriage. While the girls danced, the boys
stood by watching them excitedly and enjoying the sights and sounds.
Later on the music changed to a low sound and at this juncture, all
the marriageable girls started a particular style of dance, coyly but
teasingly moving towards the young men. Each of them then make
her choice of a suitor for marriage among the many of the youths who
were before then vying for her hand in marriage. The choice was
usually final unless something unforeseen happened. The rule was
that no young man who did not participate in the hunting expedition
would be chosen by any girl because taking part in the expedition was
regarded as a test for bravery and endurance and therefore sinequo
non qualification for marriage. No sexual act was allowed. The girls
must keep their virginity to their wedding day.
In another great event, the village head arranged to honour
those with the best performances during the expedition. They were
turbaned by the village head as heros of the village and then people
showered gifts of all descriptions on them and some women offered
themselves for marriage. On the other hand, there were also a
moment for shaming of those who did not participate in the
hunting expedition. They were ostracized by the community for a
period until they made sin-offering before they were accepted back in
the society.
The village head of Tsaunika, who was third in rank, was a
larger than life personality with solid historical background as his

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hunting exploits during his young days were a byword in the town of
Kwoya and beyond. He was nicknamed “maza-waje” – meaning the
child who was born when most of the men in the village were out on
the farms. He raised his famous dane gun as the symbol of his village
and delivered his Jafi, the traditional salute to the district head who
acknowledged the paying of the homage by raising his sword in
response. The contingent whose members were wearing hunting gear
passed by.
Ardo Negge was the village head of Sumayo, a typical Fulani
settlement and he ranked fourth in the district rulership. Sumayo was
the home of cattle rearers and by comparison could be regarded as a
rich area because of the cattle and their by-products of milk and
butter. The village was the main supplier of cattle to the famous
Kwoya market and beyond. The contingent depicted Fulani tradition.
The members wore typical Fulani blue coloured outfit of the tight
fitting trousers with embroidery at the bottom of the legs, the short
sleeveless jumper and the matching cap with flaps reaching the ears
on both sides. The dress was then completed with the symbolic Fulani
walking stick and the famous slippers made of raw skin. Annually, the
Fulani held “sharo”; a seemingly cruel and dangerous sport of flogging
each other publicly in a show of bravery and endurance. It was the
Fulani version of Kalan kuwa of the hunters.
The contingent came for the Jafi. In front they put on show two
well fed bullocks of white and brown colour respectively. Behind these
were four beautiful Fulani girls dressed in the most exquisite dress of

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white material and had preened themselves very well looking very
attractive. Each was carrying on her head on a pad specially
decorated calabashes with carved designs in white colour. The young
men followed behind and then the horsemen. The village head was in
front when he reached the district head to salute. Hardo Negge raised
a specially dressed white ox-tail as the symbol of his village. The
district head responded with his sword and the contingent passed by.
Gamzaki village was the fifth in rank and was a forest area of
the district. There were many wild animals living there and as such the
place had been declared a game reserve where poaching was made a
very serious offence punishable with a heavy fine or a prison term.
The prohibition law was enacted since during the colonial days.
However, for the purpose of the durbar ceremony, the village head
had obtained special permission from the highest authority to catch
alive not to kill, a few wild animals as to showcase the forest resources
of his area.
Among the contingent were the animal tamers and the snake
charmers. The animal tamers had brought two hyenas and two
monkeys while the snake charmers were carrying the usual round
gourds which contained many species of snakes; harmless as well as
poisonous. There were also two ostriches ridden by their tamers, and
a fast talking parrot in its cage carried by its tamer. The atmosphere
was conjuring as each of the charmers was in action with his animal or
bird, entertaining the crowd in an amazing show of dexterity to
command his object. All of a sudden as the contingent was moving,

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there was a stampede and a scare as one of the big snakes escaped
from the hands of its captivator and made its way into the crowd.
Confusion arose as people were running helter-skelter in a state of
fear for dear life and to safety. One man fell over a lady as the scare
continued until the charmer was able to recapture it. The parrot was
talking all the time, greeting people and making comments until the
village head reached the saluting dais for „Jafi‟, when the parrot too
delivered its salute and said, “Ranka ya dade”. People were amused
and astounded to hear it. However the procession continued as the
contingent paid its homage while the village head raised an old
elephant tusk as the symbol of his authority for the Jafi.
Magaji Kona was the sixth village head to pass in the procession.
Kona village was certainly one of the poorest areas of the district. It
was an arid piece of land which seemed to be in the middle of no
where without much vegetation but where recently, phosphates were
discovered in commercial quantities. Before the official discovery of
the mineral, the local people were extracting it with their local
implements. They were exporting the product to the neighbouring
villages far beyond Kwoya.
Magaji Kona was the only one among the ten selected village
heads, who came on a camel instead of on horse back. People were
curious to watch pass a contingent of camels instead of horses but
that could be understood as in that area the camel was more suited to
the terrain than a horse as it could do without water for a long time. It
was also being used as a beast of burden and was much cheaper to

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keep than a horse, because it could be set free to browse out on its
own without being followed about or tethered. It‟s main food was
thorns while it provided good meat unlike the horse which was not
considered edible in the area. It has soft hair which could be used to
produce woven cloth for the cold season.
The contingent galloped to the saluting dais and the village head
delivered his Jafi by raising a lead-rope (akala) of the camel in hands
and was acknowledged by the district head who responded with his
sword.
The next contingent the seventh by count, was headed by the
village head of Kwarin-Kwarare. The village was named after river
Kwarare which cut across the village. These were waterside people
whose main occupation was fishing. The river was very rich in fish and
other water resources and as such the people were prosperous
fishermen. Their standard of living was higher than that of many other
villages. In addition to fishing activities, the people were engaged in
irrigation for dry season farming. They produced a number of fruits
and vegetables which were exported locally to the neighbouring
villages and even big towns far beyond Kwoya district.
The contingent passed while the village head delivered the Jafi
by shaking his raised right hand in which he held a small fishing net
and a hook as the symbol of his authority. The district head responded
as usual. The contingent then retired to its former place to wait for the
end of the procession.

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The village of Maidamisa led by its head with the title of Magaji
Maidamisa, came next as the eighth contingent in the procession. This
was the area with many mineral deposits which were yet to be
exploited. However, the local people were traditionally engaged in
scratching the surface to extract some of the minerals like silica and
kaolin by the use of local implements. But recently some foreigners
were seen arriving at the village, bringing with them modern
machinery for the mineral prospection while the local people were
selling what they extracted for a pittance to the foreigners thus not
earning enough to make them very rich except for a few among them
who had capital to engage many hands in mining.
Meanwhile the contingent arrived at the saluting dais for the Jafi
and the village head of Maidamisa raised his right hand, holding a big
digger as the symbol of his village and authority, paid his homage.
The salute was acknowledged by the district head and the contingent
passedby and went back to its former place of waiting.
Kashin Giwa village, as the ninth contingent, followed its
immediate predecessor. This was the most fertile area of the district
and so it was regarded as its food basket. The people were traditional
farmers with small holdings generally, where they cultivated food
crops like sorghum, millet, beans, and ground nuts which was the only
cash crop. During the harvest season, Kashin Giwa village used to
have a thriving corn market to the extent that it was called “Dawanau”
of the east. There were many corn merchants coming into the village
from all over the country.

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In order to demonstrate that the people in the village had plenty
of food and were well-fed, the village head with great sense of
humour, put out four hefty men in the front line of his contingent.
These men who were dressed in shorts only, each was engaged in
lifting a full sack of corn from the ground on to his head and then
bringing it down, all by himself. They were repeating the process
every now and then as they went. Their appearance caused a stir as it
attracted many among the crowd, who enjoyed the fun as a great
entertainment.
The contingent with the village head whose title was
“Dammuna”, in front, delivered the Jafi. Dammuna raised a big ear of
sorghum in his hand as the symbol of his village and his authority. The
district head responded by raising his sword to recognize the homage
paid by the village head who led the contingent to pass back to its
former place of waiting.
Fadume village was the tenth contingent in the procession and
the last but not the least. On occasion like this, it had always been the
tradition of Kwoya district to let Fadume contingent bring the rear; not
only because the village head was the most junior among other village
heads but because of his ability to make “The daintiest last to make
the end most sweet”. In consequence therefore, Danburgau the
village head, as was his title, had become a folk-hero, a centre of
attraction and a great crowd puller. He had the knack for creating
fantastic impression in the minds of his admirers, both men and
women, young and old. Historically, Fadume was one village where an

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old man had never been turbaned as its head and as such Danburgau,
at the age of thirty one was obviously the youngest of all the village
heads. An energetic and charismatic young man, Danburgau enjoyed a
flamboyant and elegant style of appearance which easily made him
the best dressed chief among his peers, a wont which had earned him
the title of “Sarkin Kwalliyar Hakimi”; the district head‟s best dressed
chief. A rough diamond and a trouble shooter of the district head,
Danburgau had become a celebrity in Kwoya and one of the most
trusted friends of prince Iro.
As for the contingent, it was the most attractive of all and its
outing was beyond compare. This had to do not only with its manner
of organization but with the number of its people, their constumes and
attires as well as the number of horses put out on show.
Danburgau and his horsemen were trained equestrians who
specialized in the art of dressage. It was a marvel to watch their
display, skill and bravery as they manipulated to make the horses
change their style of movements with charm and éclat. All the horses
would move in the same style at one time and while one was watching
and taking in its beauty, they would change to another style before
one knew it. There were cheers and shouts of admiration from the
spectators, some of who came purposely to watch the Fadume
exhibition.
There came Danburgau in glittering and gorgeous silky green
robes with a black glistering turban to match and a pair of black
shoes. He rode a chequered stallion whose rich harness and saddlery

96
would make a fortune. The saddle and its three layers of beautiful
under cloth of different colours, the girth strap, the bridle and the
reins, the blinkers and all other face decorations were in an attractive
and exquisite design in Eastern style of the Arabs. The rest of the
horsemen were equally in splendid attire as well as their horses in
their adornment.
As the contingent moved towards the saluting dais, Danburgau
found himself in the middle of his people while he was holding the
famous knife as a symbol of his authority. The knife was historically
the one with which his great grand father slayed his opponent in a
wrestling contest for the stool of Fadume as was the practice in these
days. The custom had since been discarded. In the front line were two
young men wearing vestments of bright red colour who were
marching like boy scouts. They were bearing the banner of the village
between them. It was made of green cloth and had a picture of the
famous knife with the inscription below it of “Wa ma min Ilahin
Illalahu”, in Arabic which means there is no deity of worship except
God (S.W.T). Immediately behind them, was the dancing troupe of a
bevy of beauties consisting of four girls of almost equal height and
stature and four smartly dressed young boys. They were in velvet
dresses which were beautifully embroided front and back. Following
these, were the village head‟s escorts of four youths, each in uniform
of green colour with sashes of red velveteen across their shoulders
and each was holding a dane gun, discharging them one after the
other or all at once from time to time as was their practice. The stilt

97
walkers were also skillfully walking on their stilts. Resplendent in their
riding attires, the outriders were positioned two each in front and
back, right and left sides of Danburgau. There were also the
drummers, the musicians, the singers and the dancers enjoying
themselves. The atmosphere was simply bewildering especially as the
Danburgau led the horsemen in a majestic canter. The spectators
became wild and overwhelmed and the women among them besieged
him as they became emotional and there were shrills, singing and
clapping of hands. The Danburgau had once again stole the show. He
delivered his “Jafi” and the district head acknowledged the paying of
homage as usual with the raising of his sword. The contingent then
passed back to its place of waiting.
That was the end of the magnificent show which was full of glitz
and glamour, pomp and pageantry and while everybody was in their
respective places, the town crier a duty conscious man, raised the
magphone to his month and said “Assalamu Alaikum may Allah
(S.W.T) bless you all. Please stay in your respective places and keep
quiet and listen to the district head‟s closing remarks”.
The district head looking obviously elated and overwhelmed
started with the Ista‟aza, the basmala and the salat and said, “My
kinsmen and women of Kwoya district, this is a cultural scene created
to show to other people what we are and what we do in our different
strokes depicting our way of life regarding our civilization, our religion,
our custom and tradition. The day has been eventful and we have no
words to thank everybody who contributed to the success of this

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superb show which nothing like it had been seen before in the history
of Kwoya district. Thank you and may God bless you”.
“However, those who think differently about us do so because of
their consuming jealousy while those who admire us and identify with
us do so because they find similitude between us. As for those who
wish to seek our friendship by asking us to forget our differences; a
superior proposition is lets understand our differences rather than
forget them, in order to find a meeting point where we will appreciate
why we are different”.
“The people of Kwoya, I am happy to see the sea of heads at
this occasion of our good people and our neighbours who
endeavoured to come in order to witness the ceremony and thereby
rejoice with us in a thanksgiving celebration whose purpose was to
welcome home the celebrant our son, Prince Iro who had returned
from his studies overseas. Iro as you know is among the first batch of
our young men who were selected by the colonial authority, for
further training overseas. We are very grateful to God (S.W.T) and we
thank everybody who is here and we wish them safe journey back to
their respective homes. Goodbye and God bless”.
Immediately, there was uproar of shouts, drumming, singing and
clapping from the crowd who were happy and contented. The remarks
of the district head signified the successful conclusion of the durbar
and immediately there after, the district head and his entourage
retired to the palace while the rest of the people dispersed. There

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were many favourable comments from people about the grand show
which had captured their hearts and minds.

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CHAPTER SIX
Quote: “You can not make an omelette without braking eggs”
The celebrations to welcome prince Iro continued with a civic
reception organized by his close friends under Adamu, in order to
entertain the grassroots. The civic reception consisted of a sports
festival and a musical entertainment with participants of traditional
boxers and wrestlers, “sharo” (Fulani) famous drummers, well known
musicians, minstrel beggars of renown, expert singers and
experienced dancers.
The selected venue was the famous sport centre called Kazo-
nazo just on the outskirts of the town, and the man incharge of the
organizing committee was the Sarkin Kasuwa, Alhaji Mai Tumbi. The
district head was not involved as the event was viewed as below his
level of attendance. Kazo-nazo was a well known place of level
ground, specifically reserved for such purpose and in consequence it
had been properly mowed and cleared of thorns and rubbish while soft
fine sand was brought and piled up to make the mounds for the
boxing and the wrestling each near the V.I.P (Very Important Persons)
pavilion. It was the idea of Sarkin Kasuwa to have the various events
in separate places so that the spectators could have a choice to watch
one event after another as the activities would be conducted
simultaneously. However there was the main pavilion where prize
giving and turbaning of winners would take place.
The festival had a knock-on effect as it stimulated brisk
economic activities. As early as possible people were seen streaming

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towards the place, bringing all kinds of materials to erect sheds of all
shapes and sizes for the petty traders who had besieged the place
anxiously hoping to capture the market which would spring-up, for
their various wares with the desire to make some money. Food sellers
like the famous Hauwa Maituwo, were also busily engaged in erecting
their trivets at strategic places for their cooking pots and clearing the
area to provide temporary eating places in the open. Meat sellers like
Gidiga, Mainama and Barno Tozo, were preparing the circular mounds
for roasting the “suya”, that‟s the kebab or skewered meat and also
roasted chickens. There were also those who were preparing the beef
steak or the barbecue. A‟isha Mai Kosai (bean cake) and “Yar Masau
Mai Waina (sorghum pancake) were not left out as they too joined the
others to prepare the cooking places for the sale of their types of food.
The drapers were putting up simple structures of thatch and fixing the
line to hang the cloth in loose folds on display while the tailors too
were displaying their ready made dresses while others were there as
amendment repair tailors.
On the dark side of the preparations were the miscreants,
criminally minded and the tricksters who were already out there to
dupe people. These included the gamblers especially the “walawala”
boys, gangs who had taken the far end of the venue away from and
therefore screened as well from the eyes of the authority but near
enough to lure the gullible, the unaware and the innocent
unsuspecting villager, with their tricks in the usual three-card game.
The pick-pockets and the petty thieves were all there to case the joint.

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Later the Sarkin Kasuwa in company of Adamu and a few others
arrived to inspect the venue in order to see the progress being made
especially with regards to the erection of the pavilions for the
dignitaries and the sand mounds for the main events of boxing and
wrestling. They were satisfied with the way things were going.
However, as they were leaving the venue, a mild drama occurred as
suddenly they saw a group of the infamous “walawala” boys who
immediately took to their heels and vanished into thin air because they
knew what would happen to them if they were caught.
Meanwhile, as events at the venue were gathering momentum
the artistes invited for the show were all at their respective homes
preparing. As far as the traditional boxing was concerned it was as
everybody was saying, “a battle of the titans between Damo maye and
Audu Kwaf-daya”. They had never met before as each time a contest
was arranged, their respective promoters would intervene to prevent it
but this time around it was agreed that they must meet to slug it out
with each other. These were classic boxers who had travelled far and
wide in the territory in their annual campaigns and both had won
many contests and prizes but Damo Maye was obviously the odds-on
favourite. He was called „Maye‟ because he had a mannerism of licking
his lips once too often and had bloodshot eyes with a frightening
stare, both features which were intimidating and scaring especially to
his opponents. Damo had no sparring partner as nobody was prepared
to risk it for fear of a possible mistake which could send one to an
early death or facial disfigurement. Damo Maye was a believer in

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magic powers and charms and as such he was a regular visitor to
Gidan Mutum Guda (the lonely house) where Boka lived. Dumu-dumu
was the name of Boka (the magician) whose house was some distance
away from the town of Kwoya and was standing alone hence the
name. It had a famous shrine inside which had as many visitors (both
men and women) as the butcher‟s stand in the market.
The Gidan Mutum Guda was a bamboo grass structure with a
thatched roof and looked as weird as its owner. An eerie atmosphere
pervaded around and a frightening air enveloped over the area with
descending darkness. As soon as Damo came to the door, he met the
usher who questioned his mission and as soon as he was satisfied, the
journey into the shrine began.
After the entrance Damo had to double-over to be able to walk
the short but narrow passage and he became nervous and uneasy as
he began to notice monstrous images, weird fixtures and various
objects of charms including animals‟ skulls hanging on the walls. Both
he and his non-speaking usher who wore a gloomy and unfriendly
face, continued the walk in that stooping position until they reached a
hall some what spacious but poorly furnished. Suddenly, the usher
made a sign to Damo to stop and to remain standing while he quickly
vanished without Damo noticing how and when.
As if to add to Damo‟s nervousness and confusion, a flight of
black birds with long beaks came from no-where in the hall and
flapped their wings with frightening sound and with intimidating
shrieks fluttered their way out. Damo was shaking in fear when the

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wizard, Boka suddenly appeared before him. Dumu-dumu then made a
sign for Damo to squat on the only mat spread before him.
The wizard was in his full-ritual dress of a piece of leather cover
worn over a loin cloth and another piece strapped over the right
shoulder down to the waist and a conical cap made from some animal
hair, drooping to the ears. On his neck were hanging rows and rows of
beads of charms. He had small but fiery eyes. He started making
macabre gesticulations with both his hefty hands and then he began
to chant the incantation to call the oracle. His voice was rising to a
thunderous crescendo when he roared ritually and then he stopped
and momentarily kept quiet as if by command. He then listened to the
response of the oracle. The oracle spoke in a staccato voice with
shrieks and whistles, some kind of ritual greetings. Dumu-dumu then
turned to Damo who sat bewilded and almost trembling although he
was a force to reckon with in his own right and said,
“Man what is your mission?”
“I have a constest before me in which there would be many
opponents but I want to win and emerge the overall champion”, Damo
answered back.
Dumu-dumu then referred the request to the oracle who replied
in its characteristic whistling sound and Dumu-dumu conveyed thus:
“Man, the oracle said that you will bring a civet cat, a black cock,
with high tassle and long lappets, a white scorpion, a black gecko and
a shrew. These items must be brought here two days from now

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without fail to enable the concoction of the charms be prepared. You
will also bring with you five hundred matt”.
The whistling of the oracle stopped while the usher re-emerged
to lead Damo out. This time around, he felt shaken out of his skin
because the task given him was enormous and would take gigantic
effort to accomplish. He knew that he had to fulfil it otherwise he
would not achieve his ambition.
Abdu kwaf-daya on the other hand was a believer in “malams”
the sorcerers whose stock-in trade was the preparation of talismen
and amulet of super natural power for self-protection against any evil
or for bringing good luck or to put a hex on an enemy by casting a
spell on them. They contained Koranic texts sealed in small leather
cases or just wound over with thread which were worn on the bodies
of the owners, buried or hung in the houses or other appropriate
places. Audu‟s sorcerer was Malam Bude Littafi, the magic maestro in
Kwoya. He was therefore a regular visitor to the maestro‟s house since
he joined the ranks of classic boxers.
Audu arrived at Mallam‟s house, looking worried and perturbed
as he had received information about the secret preparations of his
arch rival in the forthcoming contest, Damo maye. The Mallam was
sitting in his entrance hall waiting for his guest. He was dressed in his
traditional regalia of the flowing gown and he wore a heavy white
turban over a long red fez. His long chin looked longer with the
white long beard, well trimmed whiskers and an over grown
moustache almost covering the mouth and beyond. He held his extra

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long rosary with extra big beads which were threaded into a particular
pattern with the usual decorated markings identified with the sect
whose members engaged in this type of work of beadsman. Mallam
Bude Littafi was relaxed as he was counting his rosary in a measured
gentle manner and one could hear the sound of the drop of one bead
on the other “kwas-kwas”.
“Assalamu Alaikum”, Audu said, beaming with smile.
“Wa alekumusalam and who is it?” the mallam responded in an
all authoritative tone as the usual security precaution.
“Mallam, it is me Audu Kwaf-daya”, Audu gave his full name for
identification.
“Enter please”, the mallam said as Audu entered, he was shown
a place to sit on a white ram‟s untanned skin used mainly as a prayer
mat and a conversation between the two ensued but not until after
the mallam had completed counting of his rosary. After a long
discussion the two agreed that the task was formidable and daunting
but not impossible and that the mallam was equal to it as he had
delivered to a much more momentous assignment before.
In consequence therefore, Audu was requested by the mallam to
bring certain items for prayers and preparation of a talisman and an
amulet which the latter would wear on his body on the day of the
contest. These included six white chickens as sacrificial alms, three
fresh eggs of a lizard on which supplication-writing would be made
and then cooked in the dregs of water obtained from the purification
bath of a dead old woman. Audu would then carry both the three

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cooked lizard eggs and the cooking water to the bush where he would
sleep in the tree over night to avoid sleeping on his bed in the house
lest his back would touch the bed or the mat, an act which would
nulify the magic power of the charm. While in the bush, Audu would
eat the three lizard eggs and drink up the water used in cooking them
and remain there not to return home until the following morning
before the cockcrow and he must avoid being seen by any person
while entering his house otherwise the magic would be nullified. Audu
later returned with a sullen face to tell the mallam that he could not
find the items except the six white chickens. The mallam told him not
to worry as he always, had them “in stock” but Audu would have to
pay for the supply (the usual trick of these mallams to extract more
money from their victims). He was therefore charged extra one
thousand matt in addition to the original fee of one thousand matt
agreed before.
Audu eventually collected the prepared charm of talisman, the
amulet, the three cooked lizard‟s eggs and the cooking water and
headed for the bush where he climbed a tree to sleep without allowing
his back to touch anything, until the following morning before
cockcrow as he was required to reach his house before anybody see
him. As soon as he made himself as comfortable as he could in the
tree, he started to eat his meal of the three lizard eggs. Suddenly he
heard some noise with increasing high pitch.
As a shadowy figure approached the tree he was able with the
help of moonshine, to discern that it was the hyena which had picked

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his scent and was following it as it was hawling, sniffing and growling.
Audu began to shiver and tremble because he believed that the hyena
was a mystique animal which was capable of casting spells on its
victim. In trying to adjust his body between two big branches of the
tree, he suddenly slipped off, and lost his balance and so down he
came in a split second. He was cursing, hurting, crying and shouting,
saying,
“O my God, I would rather be knocked out a hundred times by
my rival than to be eaten up by the hyena”.
As he was coming down, he was still trying to avoid falling on his
back with the hope that the charm would be kept in tact. So, while in
the air he kept on twisting and turning his body, the style of an
Olympic summersault swimmer. He eventually hit the ground with a
great bump. He found himself on all fours. He immediately fell on his
side but not on his back, and waited for the hyena‟s attack.
The big sound of his fall instantly frightened the hyena and put it
to flight without its looking back while Audu lay there panting and
breathing heavily until he could hear no more of the sound of the
hyena. He then came to and examined his body only to discover that
by some miracle and to his utter disbelief, he had only superficial
bruises here and there. He presently limped back to his house, luckily
enough without anybody seeing him while entering. He promptly
started the preparation for the great fight.
Bala Na-Allah was the third notable boxer. He was not a
professional boxer but an amateur who fancied boxing as a mere sport

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for entertainment during the annual off-season festival of sports and
other social activities. He was a prominent butcher who believed in
Sunna of the Islamic faith. Although Na-Allah had gained recognition
by sheer determination in that he had a few successful bouts, yet he
could not be rated as the famous Damo Maye. Consequently, nobody
gave him any chance whatever as no one had taken him seriously
although his promoters were making wild claims about his prowess
and technical skill in the art of boxing. Despite this undermining, Na-
Allah was bent on participating in the boxing contest and he therefore
went to Ustaz Junaidu for consultation and prayers.
Ustaz Junaidu was a prominent and revered cleric of the Sunna
sect. A man of God, palpable piety and transparent honesty, Ustaz
was an associate of Na-Allah.
After the usual greetings, Na-Allah disclosed his mission that he
wanted Ustaz to assist him with prayers so that he would emerge as
the champion in the forthcoming boxing contest. Ustaz was quick to
point out to Na-Allah that he should seek help and guidance from Allah
(S.W.T) who would not accept His name to be associated with any
other deity. He therefore warned him against all forms of magic or
sorcery and he asked Na-Allah to stick by the will of Allah in all he did.
He then gave him a mantra with which he would meditate at any time
of praying and then to make sure he recited the mantra three times at
the commencement of the contest.
“In sha Allah, you will win,” Ustaz added confidently. The mantra
is “(Bismillahil lazi la ya durru ma‟asmihi shai‟an fil ardi wa la fis sama‟i

110
wa huwal sami‟un alim), there is no failure in anything in Heaven or on
Earth in which God‟s name is mentioned who is all hearing and all
knowing”.
Na-Allah was visibly excited to have such an excellent prayer for
supplication and he asked Ustaz what he was to pay as fees. Ustaz
who was a famous and popular tailor by profession from which he
comfortably earned his living told his client that he was not in the
habit of charging any fees for rendering such small service to a fellow
believer and said, “knowledge is from God and as such it is the duty of
every believer to impart it to a fellow believer without charging him
anything as his reward is from God”.
Ustaz then selected the appropriate prayer to conclude the
occasion, after which each of them put his hands to his face and said,
“Ameen”. That sealed the issue for Na-Allah at no cost whatever. He
was extremely happy and wondered why other clerics had to charge
exorbitant fees a time for rendering such services. He took his leave of
Ustaz expressing profound gratitude, to return home in order to
prepare for the great battle ahead. He felt confident enough and ready
to challenge anybody including the most ferocious and most feared
Damo Maye.
Meanwhile, events were gathering momentum at the venue
where hundreds of people from all directions, were streaming into the
various arenas which were getting ready to commence the various
activities scheduled for the day as many participants were seen there

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actively engaged in drumming, music and chanting of the praises of
their respective heroes.
The wrestling arena particularly attracted the attention of
spectators as famous wrestlers of Kwoya were arriving in their
sparkling wrestling attire, each with his contingent of drummers,
musicians and singers who were cheering and chanting his praise
songs. Although there were many skilful wrestlers however, wrestling
was not as popular a sport which would arouse public interest like
traditional boxing. In this part of the country wrestling was regarded
as one of fleeting sporting bills which were organized just to celebrate
the annual off-season festivities and other social activities for
entertainment. Consequently, there were no professional wrestlers but
amateurs like Dan-Haki, Zakaran Dafi and Kowar-kwana lafiya who
would feature prominently during this occasion.
“Sharo” is a Fulani sport whose participants are youths who pair-
up to engage each other in a contest of public beating with a special
cane of medium length. “Sharo” is not a sport of wining or losing but
one of a display of physical courage and endurance before a
mammoth crowd among whom would be the contestants‟ respective
fiancées. He who accepts the challenge from his colleague and takes a
number of the beatings courageously with no apparent sign of
cowardice, is instantly declared a hero and wins the hearts and minds
of the spectators who shower many gifts on him including the love of
his fiancée. On the other hand the one who declines to take the
challenge is put to shame publicly and is rejected by his proposed wife

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and continues to suffer public disgrace until he is able to redeem his
name and honour at subsequent meet.
Sharo is considered a Sado-masochistic game and therefore a
cruel sport especially when one meets a wicked partner who lands his
cane round the body of his opponent and then forcefully pulls it back
and in the process, he peels off the skin thus causing injuries. People
accept the challenge because the stake‟s are high as one can see. One
is usually given the choice of either to return the beating that same
day or leave it until the next festival.
The arena was now crowded with both participants, their
promoters and their drumming, music, dancing, singing and chanting.
Those expected to feature included Danfullo Mai sarewa, Ja‟e na Abba,
Badeji dan kawu, Jauro, Gero and others too many to mention here.
Sharo is always popular with the Fulani youths.
The scene at the arena of morris dance was that of excitement
and action as the event by tradition had always been a crowd puller
due to the nature of its vibrant and vigorous style. The place was
already more than half-ful as both performers and spectators were
crossing each other‟s way to reach vantage positions. A circlar
formation of ten to twelve young men each carrying a short stick in his
hand, and the drummer‟s in the centre of the circle were engaged in
the action. The drummers beat the drums to set the rhythm while the
young men moved in step, one behind other, singing and dancing. At
an appropriate instance each of the dancers would turn back to his
colleague to hit their sticks together and thereafter turn forward to

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continue dancing and singing while the drumming was heating up.
Members of the troupe wore their ceremonial attire of leather kilts
with flapping strips which were decorated with cowrie shells in
attractive design. They also wore a head band equally decorated with
the same cowrie shells and many of them had their heads shaved in
rows of tassels or crests. Morris dance had always been a marvel to
watch especially with the young as it was striking and exciting.
Hundreds of spectators were at the arena some perched on any
available space while others were just standing to watch and enjoy the
rhythm of the music and the synchronous hitting of the sticks together
which produced a thrilling sound every now and then as the dance
continued. It was an exciting performance.
The folk dance arena was already occupied by the forbidden
fruits. A bevy of young girls each wearing a beautifully designed dress
of different bright colour, were actively engaged in dances of different
styles while the drummers supplied the music. In the other part of the
same arena were the older women enjoying the “banjo” music with its
different style of dancing. The two groups had become the centre of
attraction as every person would like to see the shaking of the hips
and the buttocks, and the waists full of jigida (a string of waist beads).
The atmosphere was that of mingled noises made up of the beating of
the drums of “dundufa”, “kalangu” and “kazagi” to which were added
the melodious voices of the singing and chanting of both the women
in banjo dance and the girls in the folk dance. The girls in steps and in
single line, moved gracefully towards the sitting drummers and then

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made a beautiful about-turn and danced away from the musicians.
The process was repeated continuously until the peformance was
over. As for the banjo music, it was dance for a single woman or a
pair of women. The scene was conjuring.
It was a set of ministrel beggars and praise singers who made
their appearance on the next arena. The most famous minstrel singer
Kallamu Sheketa and his chorus group were the first to arrive. His
songs were captivating and enthralling. A chorus lyricist Kallamu
Shekata had made many lays in the course of his distinguished career.
Recently, he had made one for the prince. The title of the lay or song
was “Allah kabar mana Yarima Iro” meaning May prince Iro live long
by the Grace of Allah. The Sheketa group comprised six members of
the chorus, two musicians who beat the Kalangu (an hour-glass
shaped musical instrument) and his own praise singer. The group had
a field day and the spectators were well entertained. There were
several other traditional minstrels who partook in the festival like
Chakare Mai Kotso (an open-ended hourglass shaped musical
instrument with varied tones when beaten with hands to produce the
sound). Chakare was a dithyramb drumming lyricist. He had a chorus
of four men and one of them doubled also as his drummer. His lyrical
songs were very entertaining especially the one he made for the
district head during his turbaning, titled,
“Sarki kada kaji tsoro” meaning “The chief, do not fear”.
The next arena was far away from the main venue because of
it‟s nature. This was the dangerous but exciting sport of bull-riding. It

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was the tradition of the butchers of Kwoya to engage in bull-riding
especially during the Sallah festival. It was the passionate sport of
young butchers and now in the arena, there were many of these un-
broken bulls on display tied to their stakes in readiness for the event
which was akin to the American rodeo or Spanish bull-fighting. The
difference here was that the bull was not to be killed but to be ridden
on its horns, it was an exhibition of skill, great courage and sheer
determination. It was a palpitating game of sheer recklessness and
fearlessness on the part of the young butchers (it was their preserve)
who would use the control-rope which was passed through the nose of
the bull and then tied to its head, to continue to bait the animal until it
was tired and then the rider would make a dashing move to ride it. He
would position himself between the two horns and would then go
round the field acknowledging cheers and clapping of hands from the
admiring and bewildered spectators. Sometimes the rider would fall off
and the animal which could be very vicious, attacked him angrily
thereby inflicting many injuries on him. Tukku Mainama who had just
brought out his bull for the ride, was the most dare-evil of all the
riders. Exceptionally agile and amazingly skilful, Tukku would be on
the horns of the bull before one could know it. He would sometime
stand up between the two horns and would raise both his hands with
such dexterity to the astonishment and bewilderment of the
spectators, while the bull would be jumping and kicking in the air,
trying to throw off its tormentor. It was a contest between skill of the

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rider and the brute force of the angry animal. In the end one of them
would have to win.
The venue was now filled to capacity; almost every available
space had been occupied by the performers as well as the spectators
who were rushing along for vantage positions. All the events
scheduled were now taking place simultaneously in their respective
arenas while hundreds of other people were milling around, visiting
one arena and then the other.
A hoarde of hawkers and beggars of all descriptions were there
too. The hawkers were mingling in the crowd trying to sell their wares
in trays on their heads or in their hands. They comprised small boys
and girls, mostly under aged, not minding the danger to which they
were exposed. They were just all over the place totally on their own,
wearing forced smile to attract customers, some of whom could easily
lure the innocent souls away for abuse. The beggars composed of old
and young, men and women, boys and girls in most depressing
condition and shabbily dressed, were mingling in the crowd to solicit
alms in a most pestering and importuning way displaying their
disabilities which in some cases were exaggerated. Some of them
suffered from infectious diseases, a permanent feature of a negligent
society and a cruel authority both of which had abandoned their
responsibility to cater for their unfortunate brothers and sisters.
The active small boys on the other hand, were briskly moving in
the crowd, selling cold water in small earthen coolers and gourds
saying

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“Ga ruwa, Mallam, Mai Sanyi” – meaning here is cold water for
you, mister. The peep-show operators were going round with their
apparatus in hand to attract the attention of children who were ready to
depart with their few coins to enjoy the pictures, instead of buying
fondant, groundnuts, kolanuts and other snacks which were there on
sale in the venue.
The boxers arena where the most important event would take
place, was the centre of attraction hence it was located near the
central pavilion for the very important personalities (V.I.P) and it was
the venue for prize-giving at the end of the activities. Already there
were about three or four pairs of boxers who were actively engaged in
the various categories of bouts but these were merely featuring in
supporting role before the main actors arrived. On the other hand, the
members of the cream of the society were arriving to be received by
Sarkin Kasuwa and Adamu but, these were few in number at the
moment.
However, among the top class boxers being expected was Damo
Maye, a well known boxer who had won many a contest in Kwoya and
beyond. He was hailed as the most dreaded of all the boxers. He had
never lost a contest even during the great contest during the
independence ceremony of the country. A huge man of enomous torso
with his muscles and nerves standing out from the arms and legs
Damo had a frightening look especially when he wore his boxing gear
and the objects charms he collected from his wizard, Dumu-dumu. He
wore a number of anklets which covered the legs from the ankles to

118
the knees and clinked together as he walked with a rolling gait, from
his house to the boxing stand. He was accompanied by his entourage
consisting of the musicians and the singers who were singing his
praises and shouting on top of their voices. Two beautifully dressed
girls, each with a handkerchief in her hand to wipe the hero‟s face and
two ferocious bloodhounds one black and the other brown, sniffing
around and howling aggressively as his security guards also were in
tow. Damo was wearing a decorated leather kilt on his waist with
many flapping strips all round while above thereto were rows and
rows of leather belts of charms, each of which was threaded through a
number of small and big talismans which had formed an infrequent
pattern round the waist. On his right arm were equally rows and rows
of armlets with a talisman jutting out prominently from there and he
had a chainmail covering his enormous torso. Damo was a southpaw
and so his left hand up to the arm was neatly wrapped with the boxing
cloak.
As he was arriving, the atmosphere became greatly charged as
the drums beat, the music was played and praise-singers chanted
encomiums on their hero and threw verbal challenges to his potential
opponents. In response, Damo started to shiver and tremble as he
was inspired. He yelled and yelled and punched in the air to
demonstrate his magic power and strength in order to intimidate,
cower and demoralize his opponent, a tactic not so unusual with the
boxers. The show attracted the attention of many a spectator who
followed the contingent with cheers and admiration.

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Hot on Damo‟s heels, was Audu kwaf-daya; a maverick with a
flamboyant style, always making sure to steal the show in order to up-
stage his opponents. He was in the habit of doing things stranger than
fiction, for this time around as if to prove what people said about him,
he decided to arrive at the venue carried on a corn-stalk hammock by
its bearers of four hefty men, each shouldering a corner thereto while
the hero was reclining and chanting his incantation. He was dressed in
a goat skin loin cloth decorated with cowrie shells. His hand was
wrapped in a white shawl in preparation for the contest and he was
raising it high in the air as he chanted the incantation. He had got all
the objects of charms on his body and head as well. He then started
to shake his body as the drum beat and the singers sang his refrain,
“Na gari na kowa mugu sai maishi”, meaning a good man is
everybody‟s favourite while a bad man is only for his people. His
greatest weapon of charm was not in his punching arm but in the big
talisman on a string which he wore round his neck. The talisman
which he kept just under his chin was said to have possessed magic
power to render him invisible as he touched it.
The instruction of Mallam Bude Littafi, was that he would only
touch the talisman to become invisible when his opponent was to land
a punch on him. He then engaged in an attack of verbalism and
antics against his opponents; throwing his wrapped hand in the air in
a shadow boxing gimmick. He attracted a huge crowd of enthusiasts
who followed the procession with cheers as they joined the chorus
chanting the slogan.

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“That was dramatic, I can not recognize who it was on the
hammock,” said one gentleman.
“It could not be anybody but that showman of Kwaf-daya,”
another person replied, laughing and of course enjoying the
entertainment. That was how Kwaf-daya arrived at the venue.
The last to arrive at the venue was Bala na Allah, a self-effacing
boxer who was rated as an underdog as the contest was actually
between the aforementioned giants of the game, but he appeared
very confident as he was seen walking to the stand. He had no
drummers and no singers behind him, only a handful of supporters
who were chanting, “God is Great”, “God is Great” continuously as he
held his hands in prayers. He arrived almost unnoticed and so he
simply slipped behind the main contenders. Nobody gave him any
chance whatsoever in the contest.
The pavilion was now full as all the dignitaries including the
guest of honour, prince Iro and his close friends like the ubiquitous
Adamu, were in their seats and the main contestants were called out.
All their promoters, their drummers and their praise singers were kept
at bay while Damo Maye and Audu Kwaf-daya stretched out in the
arena. They began to eye each other menacingly. While Damo Maye
was licking his lips, Audu Kwaf-daya was quietly chanting his
incantation and each was making moves to close on the other. It was
the battle of the titans. They continued to go round each other with a
view to sizing up each other and they began the tactical move with
their bodies in a leaning position and dragging along one foot behind

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the other with the parrying arm raised up towards the opponent in
defence while the punching arm was kept swinging in preparation to
land a punch. Now, Damo suddenly lunged-forward to deliver but
Kwaf-daya dodged to make a counter attack as Damo withdrew.
Audu was proving to be edgy and slippery while Damo was
planning to slip him up. Audu seized this opportunity and gave a
powerful right hook which landed on his opponent‟s face. He
staggered as if he was going to fall but he recovered, looking
somewhat dazed. He made a counter attack and delivered a left hook
on Audu‟s head. The crowd became mesmerized while cheering and
shouting. Then all of a sudden Audu touched his invisible talisman and
jumped in the air and dealt an extra ordinary blow on Damo who went
staggering again while one man shouted,
“Damo is on the ground. It is all over. The king is defeated”.
Damo rolled and rolled on the ground and finally he fell flat on
his back. Audu who indulged in self-praise song was carried shoulder
high while the crowd became greatly shocked. Amid the increased
drumming, the singing, the cheering and the thrilling, Audu kwaf-daya
was declared the winner and celebration by his people began in
earnest.
Then suddenly, a new challenger emerged from the middle of no
where. It was none other than Bala Na Allah who appeared calm,
collected and unpretentious. The panel of judges were taken to task
as to whether to allow a second contest. There was a lot of argument
back and forth especially Audu‟s promoters who had seen the move as

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an attempt to waste the time of their hero. However, at last Sarkin
Kasuwa intervened and said that for the sake of its nuisance value, it
should be given a try. Audu was boastful and arrogant as he thought it
was humiliating to him to fight Bala who was not known to have won
any big fight before, in fact he had no records of major contests.
However due to pressure from important people in the pavilion, Audu
agreed and so the contest began.
Na Allah moved and Audu moved so that they could size up each
other. Na Allah was very proud of his mantra prayer given him by his
mallam while Audu was too confident about his invisible talisman
strapped round his neck. Na Allah made a dashing move and gave
Audu two, three and four quick heavy punches and the latter
inevitably fell flat on his back not knowing what hit him. The judges
rushed in disbelief to see what happened. The battle was over. Na
Allah a dark horse, an unknown quantity and an underdog had
knocked out the most powerful boxer of the land thereby snatching
the victory against all expectations.
“This is the most powerful magic I have every witnessed in my
life” said one gentleman among the belweildered spectators, “An
unbelievable upset in the whole history of boxing in Kwoya” he added.
“No, it is not magic, for Na Allah believes in Allah. He does not
believe in any object of charms. Don‟t you see that he was not
wearing on his body any charm?”

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“Yes, the difference is clear and I agree with your reasoning that
Na Allah believes in Allah and that‟s the message” the third man
asserted.
That was the grand finale of the grand civic reception. Na Allah
had won and Damo and Kwaf-daya had lost. Na Allah was hailed and
was taken shoulder high with drumming, singing and dancing. People
surged forward to catch a glimpse of him while many showered gifts
on him. Some were spreading matt on his face including those anxious
to give their widow‟s mite. Sarkin Kasuwa closed the session having
turbaned Na Allah as the “Sarkin Damben Kwoya”, the boxing
champion of Kwoya. He was given a fattened bull as his coveted prize.
Prizes were also given to other winning performers in other contests
and people dispersed with excited noises to go home with the
shocking result of the boxing contest.

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CHAPTER SEVEN
Quote. Do the best to make the best.
Prince Iro woke up for the early morning prayers after which he
retired to his room to reflect on the last event of civic reception
especially the boxing tournament. One more important event that
awaited him was the District council meeting which was scheduled
that morning for which he was privileged to attend as an ex-officio
member with a view to addressing the council on some vital issues
which he considered required their attention.
The council was a traditional institution of consultation, which
had been in existence for a long time before the advent of the white
man. It provided a forum in which local matters were debated and
discussed in an atmosphere of maturity and selflessness in order to
find solutions which would have direct bearing on the local people in
the district.
The membership of the council was therefore based on the
history of the district which had accorded recognition on a few
traditional title holders. These were the district head-in-the-chair, the
Chief Imam of the district of Kwoya, the Sarkin Kasuwa, the Sarkin
Noma, a wealthy man, the central village head of Kwoya town and
environs, the school Headmaster, an outstanding Islamic cleric and
the District scribe as the secretary.
The official language of deliberation was “Hiyo”, an amalgam of
several languages (Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba and others) which continued to
provide a lingua-franca for the nation of Sandaria. It was the national

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language which had become the language of communication and
instructions at all levels of educational institutions in the country. It
consisted of the best from the three main languages and a few words
from others. The local people call the language “wazobia”.
After welcoming the members who were all present, prince Iro
inclusive, the Chairman invited the Chief Imam, Alhaji Barau to open
the meeting with the usual prayers and thereafter the meeting got
under way. The secretary invited the prince to speak and he started,
“There are many things which have been troubling my mind
especially the present system of distribution of the Zakkat (the
mandatory alms giving exercise); the district sponsored Hajji and
Islamiyya School (private). I make bold to opine that since all forms of
games of chance are forbidden fruits to true believers, we can create
millionaires from the grassroots by reforming the system of Zakkat
distribution where the prescribed receivers are now given handouts of
small amounts which may meet the requirement of the Koranic
distribution but do not meet the intention of the Zakkat. In the first
place, the tax collectors should be given the assignment to collect the
Zakkat from each qualified person from each village and ward. The
money collected should be divided proportionately among the eight
classified people qualified to enjoy the Zakkat. If for example the
money is enough to create two millionaires, lottery tickets should be
issued to the selected number from say, the ten villages, there should
be two winning numbers to be picked during the exercise in a given
year and holders of these numbers should be given the amount they

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win. In a subsequent year the exercise will be repeated in the same
manner but only those villages which did not win in the previous year
would be qualified to participate in the draw. In this way the money
should be spread to cover each and every village and ward over a
period of time in which at least one millionaire should spring from
each village. The balance of the money would still be utilized to meet
the requirement of other six qualified classes taking away the “fakir
and musakin”, the poor and the needy. The new system if
implemented would go a long way to eradicating poverty”.
“Another issue which I would like to be considered is the Hajji
ticket which is now enjoyed by the clerics only. The district authority
has no business paying for people to go to Hajji to discharge their
religious obligation. However, if for some other considerations the
district felt otherwise, then let the system be fair and equitable, since
the money is public money. Let the selection be by a raffle ticket
which any body wishing to participate can buy from his village or
ward. If for example, the district decides to pay for ten people to go to
Hajji in a given year let the ten winning tickets be spread to cover the
ten villages. The winners could be anybody qualified to go to hajji but
not a member of a particular group as obtained nowadays. The
system is unfair, inequitable and highly subject to all forms of
corruption and abuse”.
“The last issue is the Islamiyya schools which at the moment are
all in private hands. With the resurgence of Islamic learning there
sprang hundreds of these schools which are so informal to the extent

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that proprietors turned almost every house-garage into a classroom
and as such they are all devoid of standard infrastructure and
curriculum. Proprietors should be compelled to register with a
controlling authority which will have power to supervise them. There
should be conditions to be met before establishment of such schools.
This task requires going back to the drawing board to enact a piece of
legislation which will define what is an Islamiyya school and how it is
to be organized and run”. These are the three things I wish to
intimate you with and I hope you will have careful deliberations on
them. Assalamu Alaikum”, the prince concluded then bowed and left.
Immediately thereafter, the secretary called for comments and a
lively debate ensued. After several contributions the chairman
suggested and it was agreed that a small sub-committee be formed to
investigate fully the issues raised and submit a full report at the next
meeting. Other issues on the agenda were then discussed. The
problem of clashes between the farmers and the cattle rearers was a
galling issue. Sarkin Noma (the chief farmer) suggested that the
perennial problem could be solved if a three pronged attack could be
launched against it.
“Firstly, there must be a genuine effort to sufficiently educate
both the farmers as well as the cattle rearers. The town crier should
be given the task of making series of announcements on market
days”.

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“Secondly, a deadline should be given to all the farmers for
instance by three weeks after the harvest, to remove their crops from
the farms before the cattle are let loose”.
“Thirdly, there must be permanently and properly demarcated
cattle tracks and there must be laws which would not tolerate
encroachment upon these tracks by the free-wheeling village heads
and ward heads who abuse their authority by overplaying their hands
in parcelling out pieces of lands so indiscriminately”. In conclusion
Sarkin Noma, Nabango called for the setting up of a standing
committee comprising representatives of the farmers, the cattle
rearers, the village heads and the district head. The committee should
meet regularly to discuss the issue and take preventive measures well
ahead of the critical time of the clashes. The fire-brigade approach
now in operation only served the vested interest of certain people.
The last item on the agenda was the annual circumcision
exercise. The Sarkin Kasuwa (chief of market) Maitumbi opened the
discussion and said,
“Circumcision exercise has been part of our culture for centuries
unlike in other places where they still walk about with foreskins. We
can either conduct the exercise collectively in each village or each
individual father can make his own arrangement with the Sarkin Aska
(chief surgeon) to carry out the operation”.
Alhaji Sabon Kudi (nouveau-riche), Nadada argued, “It is better
to follow the tradition whereby a group of related children are
circumcised together in one of the parents houses where they are kept

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until they recover from the operation. We also know the right time it is
done, that is during the harmattan season when healing is much
quicker than at any other time”. His suggestion was unanimously
accepted and the meeting rose thereafter.
After the ceremonies were over, prince Iro had had the
opportunity to unburden himself of the issues which he felt strongly
about. He now took time off to enjoy an evening‟s horse riding,
accompanied by his close friend Adamu and his favourite stable boy
Danlami who prepared the three horses. They set off from the palace
and trotted through the western gate to the outskirts of the town.
“It had been years since I rode”, Iro started the conversation, “I
always enjoy horse riding because it is one type of sport which gives
one the full complement of body exercise including the hair on every
part of your body, especially when you go at a gallop”, he added.
“Horse riding is my best sport and I must say, I enjoy every
aspect of the exercise”, Adamu joined the conversation.
“But it has one big draw back”, Danlami alerted them.
“What kind of draw back are you referring too?, asked prince
Iro. Danlami said,
“No matter how good you are at it, you must be prepared to fall-
out of the saddle at anytime in the process”.
“That‟s the snag, I can remember when I was a small boy, I was
just starting to learn horse riding, I fell off and the horse stood there
staring and waiting for me to get up. It was wonderful how it
responded,” prince Iro concurred.

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They then let the horses have their heads and began to gallop
through the bushes and then came back just in time for the evening
prayers. They all agreed that they enjoyed the ride and the horses too
had a good exercise. Danlami was very excited because it had been
long since he had such a practice as the horses were becoming restive
due to lack of regular ride.
In the evening, a special farewell dinner was organized by
Adamu and others in Iro‟s room for very close friends only, to bid him
goodbye as the following morning he would start his journey to the
state capital to begin his career in the civil service.
A sumptuous dinner of good traditional fare was prepared by
the palace chef-de-cuisine, Mama Abba who was known for her ability
to produce culinary master pieces especially on an occasion like this
one. The dinner began immediately after the night prayer of “Isha‟i”
and everybody ate and drank to his fill and thereafter a lively after
dinner discussion ensued. It went on until very late in the night before
people started to leave for their respective homes after Iro had
thanked everybody and bade them goodbye.
The following morning was the day of his departure, so prince
Iro had an early start to enable him visit his relatives in their
respective homes as he had never had an opportunity to do so
because he was always fully engaged. He visited his aunt Balaraba
who was married to the central village head of Kwoya. His next port of
call was his uncle‟s house Baba Shehu and from there to his junior
sister (not of the same mother) Jamila who was married to Alhaji

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Sabon Kudi, Isa Nadada, the flamboyant businessman. Iro and Jamila
were very fond of each other since their childhood and they used to be
referred to as “the twosome of the palace”.
Having completed the round of visits, Iro returned to the palace
where he would take leave of his parents. He started as usual with his
proxy mother, the other two co-wives, his mother last and terminated
in his father‟s chambers where he was anxiously waiting for him. After
the preliminary exchanged of greetings, the father opened the
conversation by asking prince Iro about the most important things that
had made the greatest impression on him during his stay in the
whiteman‟s land.
Prince Iro who no doubt had great respect for his father, wanted
to respond to his fathers enquiry. He raised his head slowly in a
thoughtful mood, turning his eyes in the process. He looked at the
ceiling fixedly and then gradually brought his eyes down. He looked at
his father and said,
“In the department of physical development, the most
impressive feature there was the underground railway system which
has criss-crossed their capital city. You would not believe it until yo
see it. The underground railway is an efficient, accessible, serviceable
and affordable system of transport designed for the comfort primarily
of the common man and woman. It had taken off the streets much of
the traffic congestion.

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“The second structure which impressed me most was the tunnel
which was a passage built under the river. This must be one of the
modern wonders of the world.”
“Thirdly, their society is formal and organized and therefore very
stable and rich and proud because it is based on solid foundation
through the centuries of developments of institutions as beacons of
democracy. One can not alter the system radically”.
On the other side of the coin, one can say that it is a society
controlled by a tiny minority which calls the shots and the people have
to follow in chorus willy-nilly because the tiny minority controls the
economy and the media, the instruments of manipulation. “Everybody
seemes to worship at the temple of Mammon. They have good rules of
behaviour rather than moral principles. They care about one another
and respond to distress calls immediately”.
“The society is sick however, as one may not understand the
fact that it is a crime to marry two wives, that is bigamy but it is not a
crime to marry same sex”, the prince concluded. The father was
amazed by the candid opinion of his son who felt free to express it,
however he asked more questions to clarify some of the issues which
he could not understand at first. He then felt satisfied and now turned
to advise his son.
“Alhamdulillahi” the district head started, “with this opportunity
given you to study overseas and to come back better qualified to serve
your people, you are expected to play a prominent role in the
development of Kwoya district in particular and the country in general.

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You should be faithful to God, the Almighty and let the great Prophet
Muhammad (S.A.W) be your role model in all that you do and say and
his traditions be your guide. Let the policy be that of work and worship
and be honest and sincere in your dealings. Leadership is a talent but
not a skill that can be acquired or learnt. It is inborn. The way to
greatness is always strewn with obstacles and temptation is not the
least of them. You should be on your guard and regard the authority
given to you as public trust. You can use it, abuse it or squander it. If
you abuse it, you become intoxicated and if you misuse it you get
(haemorrhage) severe internal bleeding. You should therefore avoid
falling into the trap of the second and the third practices or be
prepared for the dire consequences. A good leader must be able to
run his team or else the team will run him and he must have courage
to take very difficult decisions which sometime may not go down well
with some members of his team, yet they are for the overall good of
the team. You must understand the nature of the human being as he
is created weak and that his soul is prone to commit evil but for the
grace of Allah. It is equally swayed by greed hence his inordinate love
for wealth which he struggles to acquire and accumulate. You are a
rising star and a jewel in the crown destined to play a prominent role
in the affairs of this nation. You should therefore work hard and aim
high such that the sky is your limit. Do not mix duty with pleasure. We
will continue to pray for your success in your future endevours but
remember that, “To make the best, you must do the best ”, the
district head concluded his advice to his son and they bade goodbye to

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each other as the son burst into tears and continued to sob until he
left his father who seeing his son cry felt emotionally touched!
THE END

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