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Borno Cultures, Languages Face Extinction



Borno State, considered one of the oldest empires in the world, possesses languages, cultures that face extinction if proper care is not taken to guard against it. Francis Okoye writes from Maiduguri.

Nigeria with more than 250 ethnic groups is gradually being faced with  the challenge of language extinction. Prior to the colonial era, her different cultures were so unique and interesting that they did not only encourage development but unity and love for individuals.

Indigenous language extinction is more paramount in northern Nigeria, and this explains the reason why most people from the southern  or western parts of Nigeria would classify all northerners as Hausa speaking.

For example,Borno is one of the oldest empires in the world , but its language and culture had been infiltrated as with the passage of time, people from other places  began to mingle with the indigenes and brought with them their own culture.This resulted in the extinction of cultural values and norms the Borno people were known for.

According  to the Zanna Boguma of Borno, Zanna Hassan Boguma,  in Borno, the major tribe is Kanuri, but within the Kanuri tribe , there are different types of dialects .

He said,”  If you are Boderi,  your dialect will be different from the one spoken in the metropolis, if you are Kwayan , your Kanuri would be different from that of Boderi and if you are Manga, your Kanuri will be different.

“There is also Chibok and Marghi, who also descended from the same root with the Kanuri . They speak Kanuri, but have their own dialect which is different from the Kanuri dialect. Marghi is also divided into several dialects because there is Marghi pure and the Marghi of Adamawa.

“But the coming together and meeting of the various communities resulted in the  extinction of cultural values and norms the people are known for.

“Westernisation and religion has immensely also contributed to the extinction of known cultures of the people,” he explained, adding that the danger here is that the society is growing crops of Nigerians without indigenous roots.

“For example , I am a Kanuri man, before independence, after independence up to the first and second republic, constitutionally, we have three major tribes. The Hausa/Fulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo.

“But while recording this in the anal of history you will say we have three major tribes. But Kanuri was never recorded as a minor tribe even in the colonial era. But because of language barriers and because of acceptability of changes in value system , the Hausa /Fulani whose tribe is the simplest to understand have taken the advantage of its simplicity and have consumed all the other tribes.

“Even if you want to talk of majority, if you carve only Hausa speaking people out, separate them from the Fulani speaking people and then take out other tribes that have taken Hausa as their lingua-franca, you will find that the Hausa/ Fulani tribe are not much in their number, “ he said.

According to Zanna Boguma, who is the director of emirate affairs, Borno State Ministry of Local Government and Emirate Affairs, it was this trend that gave the Hausa/Fulani , the advantage of becoming a major tribe.

“In the south for instance, me as a Kanuri man would be addressed as a Hausa man. So that is the mistake we have been making. Our culture,  tradition and language started giving way to new cultures, new traditions and new languages.

“In the university for example, people go to read English, Hausa, Kanuri, Hausa or Yoruba, but one major challenge they will have is to sustain the language in its beautiful feature.

“The greatest challenge we have is to forget our language, our origin and beautiful culture and traditions and embrace new ones. When westernisation came, our people started to be more western than westerners and more Fulani than Hausa/Fulani or more Kanuri than the Chibok, Marghi or Babur. But the beauty of a community or society is to maintain its originality.

“Religion generally has in the recent years, played some major role in the eroded cultural values and norms,” he said.

Also , according to the Borno State commissioner for home affairs, information and culture, Hon Babakura Abba-Jato, people look at the culture and traditions they inherited from their ancestors as archaic.

Anba-Jato, said because the world is moving as a result of globalisation, social media and information superhighway, people have access to almost every part of the world, noting that they tend to look and admire others. “The onus on us as leaders is to sensitise people to own up and respect their culture. If you look at the Kanuri tribe now, there are traditional hairdos that are not seen now.

“A lady between the age of five plaits her hair in three steps and when they get married , they change their hair style from what it used to be when they were not married. This practice doesn’t exist anymore. That three steps hair style the Kanuri women are known for don’t exist now due to globalisation and westernisation.

“Also, there are certain tribal groups that do not appreciate their tribes. So they tend to dissolve into the society and then subsume the posture of the larger tribes. There is a need for us to do something about that. There is even an agency within the United Nations that is working to preserve cultures in the world,” the commissioner further said.

Similarly speaking, a resident of Maiduguri, Ali Ciroma Ibrahim, said there were some tribes normally, like Wula Wula, Gamargu and Mulwe from Konduga, Bama and some parts  of Gwoza local government areas , which used to exist before but don’t exist anymore.

Ibrahim said now the younger generation of these tribes no longer speak their dialect rather, they adopted Kanuri, major Borno language or Hausa or Fulani as their mother tongue.

“That shows that these tribes are going into extinction. One thing is that they don’t even want people to identify them with these tribes. They see their identification with these tribes as derogatory. They prefer to be identified as Kanuri, Shuwa Arab, Hausa or Fulani.

“On the culture, even the Kanuri that is the dominant tribe in Borno is losing some of its cultural identity to westernisation. The younger ones that are coming up are not going with the Kanuri culture. Their mode of dressing is westernised. Nowadays, you hardly see young ladies or boys appearing in the traditional Kanuri hairstyle or barbing style as was obtained in those days,” he said.

According  to Ciroma ,in order to preserve  some of the cultures from  extinction, government should embark on documenting the cultures and studying of languages; preserving and restoring historic relics significant to a culture or heritage; and encouraging the preservation and use of indigenous or tribal languages and rituals.

“ The traditional rulers as custodians of  culture and tradition should be allowed to play their roles in upholding the people’s heritage.  Such roles should not be taken away from them by any other institution such as local government councils.  Local languages should be the language of instruction at primary level in schools across the country,” he said.

He urged families to imbibe the culture of speaking their local dialects to their children as they grow, saying that many families now adopt foreign language such as English even at home.