by crossriverwatch admin
The ready help of a famous elephant hunter led to the rise of the Hausa quarters in Ikom, Cross River State.
The great hunt.
It began as a hunt for Elephants. Today, 160 years on, one cannot see elephants in the area, but the story itself is elephantine in many ways. In the 19th century many hunters had converged on the huge swath of land between Cameroon and Calabar, to hunt.
They had earlier honed their skills in the huge hunting expeditions which often took place in Hausaland. The vast plains and the deep forests of the north became the fertile setting for this activity. A ring of titled men who coordinated the hunt therefore arose in this part of the country.
The leaders of this group were usually Hausa. No forest was too thick for them, no river so deep, no night so dark, and no animal so brave that it won’t succumb to their arrows and knives. These men knew how to merge with the shadows of the night, to lie absolutely still at a spot, and they were experts at camouflage.
One of them who flourished in Ogoja, had a magic jacket, and it is said he could disappear and reappear during the hunt, dealing the animal a decisive blow. These hunters could follow the track of the animal, decode the meaning of its fallen hairs, and calculate how many minutes ago, the much sought animal had left that spot.
Also, they fired their arrows with a precision and an accuracy that would stun the moderns. They had technology, before technology showed its face. Then they had another quality too: they were bold, very bold. Thus they became famous as hunters of the elephant, lion and buffalo.
Their hosts in Ikom and neighboring communities then looked upon the Hausa hunters, who always returned victorious from their hunting missions, with joy, awe and love in their fascinated eyes. Now,they gave the hunters land and asked them to live among the local population. This is the simple story of the evolution of the Hausa community in Ikom, Cross River state.
It is 4:00pm. The Hausa quarters, as it is popularly called, sits in an impressive valley, at the bottom of which is a stream.
From a height the quarters slopes downwards, and on each slope can be seen dwellings which sit rather close together. A girl comes along wearing a Hijab ,a bucket on her head, and her little brother follows just behind. You will almost think you are in Kano city.
But you aren’t. Spoken Hausa emerges from some houses, but you don’t see the speakers, as you are walking towards the very bottom of the valley. This is a magical, exciting place which has a certain duality -it is both north and south. Then you come across a group of boys, who easily switch from Hausa to the local dialect.
They were born in Ikom, and are the present face of what began as a hunt for elephants in the area a long time ago. Both the Hausa and the local population live together in the settlement, which enjoys a high level of harmony. The Hausa quarters sits in the very heart of Ikom itself, and its geographical location shows the level of bonding that exists between visitor and host.
Boyi from Bauchi
It was one man and a group around him who began all of this about 160 years ago.His name was Mohammed Boyi,a famous elephant hunter from the present day Bauchi state.On this Mahdi Adamu writes in The Hausa Factor in West African History “It seems that the era of Hausa elephant hunting entered the present century almost in full swing, for there were certain leading hunters who were shown by informants to have come into the Idoma-Igbo-Ogoja area about the time the British administrative officers were surveying the provincial and district boundaries.
These hunters included… Malam Boyi from Bauchi (who later became the first Sarkin Hausawa at Ikom in Calabar province).” (p.106) Tanimu Boyi, his great grandson who was born in Ikom, and who is also Sarkin Hausawa today, opens up on the life and career of his eminent forebear.
His words “He came from Bauchi state 160 years ago, and first settled at Katsina-Ala, passing through Jatoka to Cameroon. Finally, he and his group settled at Obubura.” He says that at about the time he came into the vicinity, the people of Ikom were experiencing hardship on account of attacks from herds of elephants in the neighborhood.
According to him “Then, knowing of his hunting skills, and the fact that he was in the vicinity, the people of Ikom went to my grandfather seeking his help.” Mallam Isiaka Mohammed, Chief Imam of the Central Mosque, Ikom, also tells Daily Trust “The elephants and buffaloes were destroying the crops of the people of Ikom.
So, the people of the town then decided to go and bring Mohammed Boyi, the famous hunter. At the end of it all they decided to give the Hausa hunters a plot to settle. Then our grandfather settled at the plot given to them, which is called the Hausa quarters.”
‘We love Cross River’
The chief Imam says that he was born in Ikom, and that he can speak Etung, the local language very well. He adds that the people of the town are very peaceful, that his children married from within the Ikom community, and that he gave them every encouragement when they made their decision in this respect.
Abubakar Tara, the Waziri of the Hausa community, hails from Adamawa state,and came to Ikom on the 13th of February 1973. He regards the state as home, having resided there so long and is fully engaged in the sale of provisions. Ahmadu Ibrahim, a butcher arrived Ikom from Bauchi in 1971.
He too salutes the friendly, and loving nature of the people, an attitude which has also made him look upon Ikom as his home. Malam Yusuf Maiyaki arrived Ikom in 1968 when the town fell during the civil war. He has remained there ever since, rising to become the chairman of the onion sellers association at one time.
The Hausa community is fully involved in the onion and the cattle trade at Ikom. There is a large cattle market in another section of the town. Tanimu Boyi says “the people of Cross River are the best human beings on earth. No tribe here complains of being harassed, and this is because of the people’s natural love for visitors. Whenever I see a man from Cross River, I will regard him as my blood brother.” The love between both groups is stunning.
‘Our cultures have fused’
Okim Odi Ojang is the traditional leader of Bokomo community in Ikom. He comments on Hausa-Ikom relations in this way “There is no way I can speak about the Hausa community without referring to the time the Ikom community itself started. The Hausa community itself is a settlement, specifically occupied by the Hausas, who lived among the Ikom people and have become indigenized. We are now living as brothers here in Ikom.”
He sheds light on the origins of the Hausa community “Our forebears had to send to the Hausas to come and render help and stop the attacks by the elephants in the Ikom area. Soon after this the Hausas were settled at the Hausa quarters, and the Hausas had a total system of government in place there at that time.” He adds that a high level of intermarriage has taken place between both groups, and says that he has a sister who married a Hausa man.
He confesses “Today, one cannot differentiate the Ikom man from a Hausa man.” He exhibits a high level of insight which could only have emerged from many years of calm and loving observation, when he goes ahead to state “If there is no mosque, cemetery, and a market, such place would not be conducive for the Hausa community.” On what explains the special bond between the Hausa and their hosts, he points to the beginnings of the Hausa settlement.
“The early Hausa settlers were a peaceful and loving set of people. We interacted in a cordial way, and if there was any problem, they would call the landlord, even if this was a conflict between the Hausas themselves.” He also salutes the memory of late Alhaji Boi, saying “No visiting Hausa man will come here without Alhaji Boyi visiting him. He will investigate such a person before allowing him to settle in the community.”
He says that Hausa and Ikom cultures have now merged. His words “We are now almost having the same culture. There is nothing that we do, that they don’t know. There is nothing they do, that we don’t know. So, they are no longer strangers among us.In fact many houses in the Hausa quarters are owned by the Hausas. But some Hausas sold theirs during the civil war and went to the north.” He too adds that many people from Ikom have married from within the Hausa community.
‘I cook nice Tuwo’
One of such is Wosilat Abdullahi, formerly Florence Ejeo, who is married to Sarkin Hausawa. She hails from Ikom, and upon getting married fifteen years ago, converted to Islam, the faith of her husband. She has since learned how to cook Tuwo shinkafa, and many other Hausa meals.
She is quite fluent in Hausa too. Then there is Umaru Alhaji Mukaila. He was born in Ikom, by a father who hails from Kano, and a mother who hails from Ogoja. Umaru is now happily married to a lady who comes from Kano, but whose mother has roots in Ogoja.
These are common themes in the Hausa quarters, as well as in Ikom generally. What began as a hunt for elephants 160 years ago, has now grown into a little happy town, deep in the south-south, very far from Bauchi.
Culled from Daily Trust
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