"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 11/22/14

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Re: Wole Soyinka’s Ignorant Statement on Ebiras and Fulanis

Many readers weighed in on my last column with the above title. See a sample of their thoughts and insights below:

Good observation, Prof. My observation and contribution on this is the way non-native Hausa speakers use such words like Dan'Iyan. Like you rightly stated, the word is Hausa and not Fulani. But native Hausa speakers normally pronounce the word as "Dan'Iya" and not Dan'Iyan, if it is used as a stand-alone word. But it is only when the word is used as a compound word that you add the suffix 'n' to the word, as in Dan'Iyan Katsina (Dan'Iyan-Katsina). And it is used as a stand-alone word usually as a name in itself. But where it appears as a compound name, it is usually a traditional title, like Dan'Iyan-Katsina. The suffix shows possession, meaning, Dan'Iya of Katsina.
Ahmed Abdulkadir, Sokoto
I had always thought "Igbira" was an alternative spelling form for "Ebira". It is not surprising if the professor of fiction fails to get some facts right! Now, we can go ahead and make our share of mistakes which should be much bigger than Soyinka's. The Nobel laureate once wrote that Muslims fast for "forty" days during Ramadan. There are mistakes he should be excused for, excluding misuse of "tribe" and muddling up tenses.

The letter "n" after such traditional titles as "Turaki", "Dan Iya", "Jagaba" should not be added unless the name of the place where the title is held is mentioned, but many of our southern compatriots routinely add "n" to such titles. For examples, Atiku is wrongly called Turakin, Tinubu is Jagaban, etc. The "n" is a suffix" that is equivalent to the English "of". It shows possession, ownership, affiliation, etc. Sarkin Kano can be called "Sarki" alone but not Sarkin". If you must add "n", you must add the place name or subject name, e.g. Farooq Kperogi Sarkin Turanci!!!
Abdulrahman Muhammad, India

It’s simply amazing that you wrote an entire article based on just one sentence from Professor Soyinka’s book. I agree with you that the prof., whom I’m a great fan of, erred in accusing someone of self-hatred just because he added an apostrophe and a capital letter to the same name. You hinted at this but didn’t quite nail it: Daniyan is itself a borrowed name in Ebira. It is borrowed from Yoruba. So if bearing the name of another ethnic group is self-hatred, the self-hatred actually came before the person changed the spelling of his name to look like a “Fulani aristocratic” name. Maybe Professor Soyinka was angry that the man changed a Yoruba name to a “Fulani” name!
Abdullahi Mustapha, Lokoja

We learn every day, and no man, no matter how highly read, is an all-encompassing-fountain of knowledge.

(1) You have just taught me that it is "Ebira" and not "Igbira" which most people from the South West call others from that part of the country. I don't think Soyinka can be castigated on that account.
(2) In the world of political science, there is still an argument ongoing on whether it is ethnic group or tribe. That argument has not been laid to rest even though most people now use "ethnic group" on the basis of the argument that tribes has been derogatorily used to describe us in Africa in comparison to similar social formations in the western world that are referred to as ethnic groups.

(3) Soyinka obviously had an issue with a particular individual to have made that comment. And that comment as I read and interpreted it when I bought that book 5 years back, has to do with that specific individual, and not the ethnic group.

My dear friend, Soyinka may have erred by calling Ebira "Igbira" (just like many of us also called the Igbo "Ibo"). But for once, you may be guilty of hasty generalisation (as my then logic lecturer would say), by extrapolating Soyinka's assessment of one individual to mean reference to 1 million Ebira people.
Kunle Ojeleye, Canada

Iya was a very powerful princess of Kano during the reign of Muhammadu Kutumbi I. It was as a result of her influential political position that her son was appointed a traditional ruler with a title to immortalised her as "Dan iya" (son of iya). It is common in the history of Hausa land to have such immortalised titles like: Danmaje, (Maje was a head of smiths during the time of Barbushe) , Dan akasan, Dan Darman, among others. Kano Chronicle is the authoritative reference I can give you.
Fatuhu Mustapha, Abuja

Thank you for another pleasurable read. Firstly, a disclaimer: I am one of Professor Soyinka’s greatest fans.  He amuses as well as inspires me—so you may read my comment as that of a biased fan. But I'll be as honest as I can.

I'll be a lot kinder to Professor Soyinka and excuse his "ignorance," if that's really what it is, not because I'm not a Nigerian and may not understand the cultural nuances and significance of these different appellations. I wonder if it has the same minor subtleties as in the words "Ibo, Igbo and Ndigbo," -- which to a foreigner still means the same place or peoples. Sometimes, place-names are translated, to accommodate the natural proclivities of the practised tongue. I can therefore see a Yoruba native like Prof. Soyinka favouring the Yoruba orthography of that name “Igbira,” and a Fulani man like You-Know-who, taking the other route—“Ebira”. Other times, a difference in language simply means that some names like “The Bay of Biscay to the English” is translated as Golfo de Vizcaya to the Spaniard or la Golfe de Gascogne for a Frenchman. In other instances, war makes people change the name completely; like between Britain and Argentina, the Falkland Islands to the Brit is stubbornly called Isla Malvinas to the Spanish favouring Argentinians.
Samira Edi, London

Phew! Farooq picking holes in Soyinka's grammar!? This is novel but not Nobel. I can't afford to miss the likely hysteric reactions from Soyinka and his intellectual family to this below the belt hit by a young KPerogi. This will definitely bite more than the Mazrui's coinage of "strange case of Nobel schizophrenia". The Jekyll and Hyde prescription! The floor is now open. Let the debate start.
Ibrahim Musa, Texas, USA

Definitely Soyinka's foot soldiers will come for you. It's an interesting analysis. Hope it'll generate a healthy debate and more analysis.
Waziri Garba Dahiru, Abuja

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