Cultural Imperatives and the Fates of the People of Northern Nigeria – Tukur Dan-Muazu

“People are no longer willing to submerge their identities or  forego their social and cultural uniqueness for the sake of achieving unity or National Integration”.    (Steven Nkom, 1994)


All colonially created nation-states are artificial in their essence and form.  They were conceived with little if any thought of the best interest of the peoples cordoned within.  The colonial creators of nation – states-in Africa at least – paid no regard to certain cultural imperatives in their acquisitive drive.

Scholars (A.A. Mazrui, 1990; Basil Davidson, 1992; Walter Rodney, 1972) have found out that the pre-colonial Africa was not an unorganised collection of tribes as the colonialists, in their arrogance supposed.  Rather it was an array of highly organised And governed societies at various stages of socio-political development, from communal societies to feudal states.

There were large social-political formations for eons in pre-colonial African.  Walter Rodney identifies, at the highest level seven political formations in the then African.  These comprises of the Maghreb, Western Sudan, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the Inter-lacustrine zones.  Within these were strings of political sub-formations as in the case of Western Sudan where such sub-formation as the Kanem Borno, the Hausa land, the Ashante and others are found.

These forms of socio-political organisation, it should be noted, were not a matter of chance occurrence.  It is governed by not only the benign matter of geographical propinquity, but also in the main by the logic of cultural affinity.  As it is said, birds of the same feather flock together.

It must be confessed that these formations and the sub-formations were not demarcated by razor sharp boarders, as obtainable in today’s scrambled nations-states.  Nevertheless, the cultural defining lines were known, intuitively felt and respected by the Africans and those who accorded them respect.

That Africa had its peoples living in cultural formations does not in any way means they were insulated from one another.  Infact there were contacts and interactions right across the formations.  Africans pattern of trade is well documented.

The organised culture-based-formations had served Africans so well.  They eschewed the possibility of total anarchy.  They served as a basis for healthy economic competition.  They served as the basis for conscientious and moral action of both the community and the individual.

It should be remembered that culture as the basis for socio-political organisation is a universal fact.  In Europe it was because of apparent cultural difference that the French nation, the English nations, the German nation existed differently as unique entities.  Equally it was because of cultural proximity that Europe is economically banding against other people of the world.  This self-same cultural reason explains why the doors to European Union (E.U.) are closed to countries like Turkey, however long it might knock. Yes, culture binds and sunders as well.  Yet in spite of this blatant fact, the colonial butchers, blindly curved out nations-states in Africa to suit their convenience in total disregard for the imperatives and logic of culture.  Hence the tragic die is cast!

In this paper we shall have a glance at the imperative of culture and how they might serve to shed light on the current upheavals wracking the Nation-Sate, Nigeria.  The paper would also suggest options for the cultural entity called Northern-Nigeria as to how to face the monumental upheavals.

The Cultural Imperatives and their Inescapable Logic

Before dwelling into the imperative of culture let us see what culture itself stands for.  Culture is defined as the arts of living as human.  This implies that it is a purely conscious human affair, and however it affect instinct it is never instinctive.  By further implication, since it is a conscious and non-instinctive affair, it is subject to variation and change.  This explains its relativity and dynamism.  Functionally, however, culture is seen as those communal stragem for reconciling man with the complexity of a relatively hostile universe.  It affords man as a member of a certain community with the basic tools for the categorisation of phenomena around him in terms of their values and worth.

Now following this sketch we shall itemise the imperatives of culture.  These imperatives, and by their very nature, are irreducible and universal.  Their General political implications are self-evident.

  1. Culture provides the deepest motive for collective actions.  Our collective behaviour whether economic, social, political is heavily dictated by the culture we adhere to.  Infact culture is at the base of all individual and collective modes of life (A.A. Muzrui, 1990). 
  2. All cultures are hegemonic, that is to say all cultures seek dominance (N. Parkinson).  Italy had only to liberate itself from the Bourbon in 1860 to attack Africa countries.
  3. Rivalry among cultures (a corollary of the second imperative).  The rivalry among culture has some inherent logic:  the further the affinity between two culture the greater the rivalry leading to conflict.  The intensity of the conflict in turn is governed by the same logic.  To illustrate this let us consider the fact that when two closely linked cultures are locked in conflict the damage would be limited by some tacit rules of engagement which erupt from common values.  Whereas the reverse is the case with remotely connected cultures.
  4. The more the shared values and ethos between cultures the closer their link (and the less intense and damaging their rivalry)
  5. All cultures are inimical to change.  Cultures as organic entities, by some inherent mechanism, resist changes to their core set of values.  Despite the dynamism and adaptability of cultures they do have irreducible core of value the change of which can only be brought about by force.  For instance the Church centred Europe switched to secularism via violent instrument-Revolutions.

The Implications of the Cultural Imperatives on The Nation-State, Nigeria

This state of many nations dubbed Nigeria was,  as we all know, conceived just over 90 years ago.  Like so many nation-states in Africa and other parts of the world, it came into being by the amalgamation of widely different culture based nations.  In the process two mistakes were simultaneously committed:  1- The severance of individual culture-based-nations from their other parts and from their cultural siblings;  2-  The coupling of culturally strange nations, all of some significant virility.

 These processes set the tone and character of the nation-state, Nigeria, with all the implications of the inescapable cultural imperatives.

Going by the cultural imperatives it is clear that no nation can prosper  without the dominance of one guiding cultural spirit.  Unfortunately for this colonial patch-work, there were three nucleus of cultural formations cordoned in it.  These three nucleus, as it were, had been hitherto providing the necessary guiding spirit for extensive politico-cultural formations.

To be more clear, in Nigeria there is the North, with the Hausa culture (in generic term) providing the guiding cultural spirit.  Secondly there is the west, with the Yoruba culture supplying the guiding cultural spirit.  And thirdly; the East, with the Ibo culture imposing it guiding cultural spirit on others of lesser virility.

We should be aware that these facts are applicable throughout organised human existence, at global level too.  We know of the dominance of such culture cum civilisations such as Babylonian, Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Islamic (Arab)——.  Indeed the history of progress is a history of the dominance of these cultures in the world.  Currently we speak of Western culture.  We got influenced by it willy-nilly.  Infact the world progresses in its charted course, however unwholesome it may be.

Coming back to Nigeria.  As the impossible condition is set, three monarchs are set to occupy a throne.  As with the nature of cultures, they will compete bitterly for ascendancy.  Such bitter rivalry will go unabated so long as those cultures maintain their distinctive characters and which surely they will.

We shall at the point recall some critical incidents in Nigeria.  The first coup attempt of 1962, the coup attempt that the world at large recognised as unjustifiable given the fact the ‘independent’ nation-state was only two years, but it can be nevertheless justified by the cultural imperative of cultural rivalry. Awolowo, the coup plotter, being a Yoruba man, could not stomach having an Hausa man, or any other person for that matter, at the helms of affairs.

Shall we also recall the 1966 coup?  Was it compelled by economic motives or cultural?  We shall ask same question about the 70’s civil war.

The further the Nigerian strange-bed-fellowship drags on, the more bitter the rivalry.  A more blatant cultural acrimony is seen in the Okar coup.

The Lot of the North

To be candid, the north with its Hausa cultural guiding spirit fares the worse through the years of the inevitable cultural conflict.  It has experienced corrosion in its aspects of life.  Firstly, there is the corruption of its leadership;  secondly the near destruction of its economic base; thirdly the pollution of its moral and ethical values; fourthly, the weakening of bonds among its people; sixthly, the progressive emaciation of collective psychology of self confidence.

Upon all these, as the other cultures notice the slow atrophy, the conflict escalated.

Where Lieth Deliverance?

Based on the logic of cultural imperatives, the north, in the opinion of this writer, has but three options:-

  1. To allow for the ultimate ascendancy of one culture for the progress of the artificial nation-state;
  2. To convince the other gladiatory cultures to sheath sword in favour of an all together alien culture;
  3. To de-amalgamate the colonial structure and risk committing heresy against the incipient ‘divinity of Nigeria’.

For the North to make a choice the following should be considered:

  1. If culture and inherited legacies no longer matter, the first of the above options is worth considering.
    1. If culture and inherited legacies are a pride, but economic conditions are unfavourable, the second option suits the North.
    1. If culture and inherited legacies are worth clinging to, and material viability is assure; the last option is most befitting.

In conclusion, I shall state another imperative of a twin nature.  It is a product of modern global trend – globalisation. It states that no one nation can subsist all alone and equally no one nation is necessary to another.

“…Mutum hudu da zani daya.  

In zaayi kwanciya

sai dai a raba hubu

ko kuma ayi yamutsi…”

(Dan-Kwairo, a Hausa Minstrel) Thank you



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