Due to the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria, citizens find themselves settling in difficult communities and localities other than their own. However, the case is different with the Hausa and Fulani residing in Calabar as they gradually settled to be part of the communities in all their ramifications. Daily Trust Saturday spoke to Hausa/Fulani people in Calabar.
In increasing numbers of northern Nigerians living in Calabar are adopting the local culture and language of their host communities. They speak Efik and other dialects, own property and marry local women while their children and grandchildren master the art of speaking local languages like typical natives.
These sets of Nigerians, earning a living, reside in Calabar, Ikom, Ogoja and other hamlets in Cross River State.
In the southern part of the state, they have two bustling settlements with local chiefs and councils. One in Bogobiri, another in the Nasarawa communities of Calabar South LGA and Calabar Municipality respectively.
In Bogobiri, for example, Fulani and Hausa people, including large numbers of Nigeriens, have settled here for almost a hundred years. They control nearly 50% of the palm oil trade with a depot in Bogobiri.
With the exception of the traditional clothing commonly associated with Nigerians of northern descent, the younger generation of Hausa and Fulani in Calabar look more like the natives, especially if they choose to appear in western or efik attire.
Due to the peaceful and friendly dispositions of the Hausa in Calabar, the Efik and other traditional rulers also adopted them. This perhaps explains why there was hardly any religious or ethnic unrest in the city.
Successive governments have worked with them. Governor Ben Ayade, for example, has appointed many as special advisers and personal assistants.
The government has also recognized the Sarki Hausa/Fulani as the spiritual leader of the state’s Muslim community.
Contribute to building peace
The Secretary for Communities in Northern Cross River State, Alhaji Shaaban Abdullahi, credits the various nominations to their peacebuilding and integration efforts with indigenous communities.
Shaaban has been in the state for over 40 years. He first spent time in Ikom, before moving to Calabar where he is married and has children who have all adapted to the local culture and language.
“I speak the Efik language fluently. This exploit allows me to serve as a mediator, to mingle and integrate well. I am proud to be able to speak it with dexterity. I visited local communities that would have been wayward but with the ability to speak the local language, God helped me ease the tension,” he said.
“I don’t see myself going back to Kano”
Alhaji Ibrahim Bogobiri, 65, whose father is from Karaye local government area in Kano state, said he no longer thought he wanted to return to Kano, having adapted and become a native.
The centuries-old settlement of Bogobiri is named after his father, who is reputed to have settled there many years ago. “I can only visit Kano occasionally and come back to Calabar quite early,” he said.
He said the family originally settled in the Itaka community before the civil war. It was the war that brought them to Calabar where they have resided for years.
“We first came to a small community called Itaka. It was before the civil war. Itaka is near Ikom in the center of Cross River.
“It was during the war that the then commander of the 3rd Marine Commando, the late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, led the forces to open a road to Calabar. This is how we entered the city. Most of those I came with are dead.
“I have spent 90% of my life in Cross River State, especially in Calabar. I may not speak Efik fluently but I understand it very well. My four children and five grandchildren speak the language with total ease. So I look more like a native now.
“I am very old in Calabar, older than many other settlers. I came when there was only a small road in Calabar. There was only one hospital when I arrived. The few houses were then all bamboo and thatched houses. Everywhere there was agricultural land and plantations. But today Calabar is a large modern city. I have been a trader and seller of suya from where Allah has blessed me,” he said.
Alhaji Bogobiri said he would stay in Calabar because he was entrenched there.
He said the town is very peaceful and the natives are very happy with it, adding that a real Efik man is welcoming and peaceful.
According to him, their weekly prayers at the mosque for peace, unity and progress have greatly contributed to the well-being and good relations between them and the hosts.
A journalist, Musa Kutama, who studied at the University of Calabar has lived in the city for over 30 years.
“I come from Kutama village in Kano State. I understand the Efik language very well. My wife, whom I married in Calabar, and my children, who were all born here, speak the language better than me. I spend fewer days in Kano,” he said.
Calabar Nigerians president Alhaji Nasiru Isiaka said he came to Nigeria in 1973 but arrived in Calabar in 1983.
The 75-year-old said he has no plans to return to Niger Republic as Calabar is peaceful and also good for business.
“I came to Calabar because of a man who owed me money but ran into town to hide. I married a woman from Benue State with whom I have five children and grandchildren. Even though I’m a Muslim, I wouldn’t like to marry four wives or have more children. I didn’t go to school. I want to educate my five children at university level. Already, two have graduated.
“My children and my wife speak the Efik language better than I do. I don’t know if I will ever return to the Republic of Niger, unless Allah decides otherwise. It’s because I love Calabar for its peaceful vibe,” he added.
Like other tribes and ethnic groups in the state, they are eagerly awaiting the time when they would be allowed to run for elected political office, saying it would allow for better integration.
Ayade congratulates the Hausa/Peul community
State Governor Ben Ayade praised the Hausa/Fulani community for maintaining peace and harmony with their hosts.
He reiterated this in a congratulatory message which he personally signed on Thursday, on the occasion of the emergence of Alhaji Garuba Lawan as the new Sarkin Hausa/Fulani and leader of the Muslim community in the state of Cross River.
The governor has instructed the new monarch and spiritual leader of the state’s Muslims to ensure that peace and harmony prevail at all times “between your subjects and your host communities”.
The governor expressed optimism that the new Sarki will consolidate the confidence-building process initiated by his predecessor.
“I have no doubt that you will bring your courage, experience, discipline, knowledge and exposure to the throne, thus deepening unity, love and harmony among the people, as supported by your late father and your older brother who reigned before you. I must say that your father was a unifying factor.
“Your enthronement as Supreme Leader of Muslims in Cross River rests on the tripod of morality, religion and leadership of the Ummah, which I consider a good development for the people of the state and the Islamic faith specifically.”