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Hausa Names as Ethnographic Identifiers



Abdallah Uba Adamu

It happened 40 years ago. A friend’s wife in Kano had delivered a bouncing baby boy. My friend chose Maikuɗi as the name for the baby. The families on both sides were having none of this. Maikuɗi was not a name, they argued. But he saw nothing wrong with it – a nice traditional Hausa name. He was adamant. They were adamant. Cue in A Mexican Standoff. 

Three days to the naming ceremony, he blinked first, and apparently gave up. With a glint in his eyes, he decided to name the child Ibrahim. A beautiful Hebrew name but cognately shared by both Muslims and Christians (from Abraham, the father of all). Everyone was happy – until it dawned on everyone that Ibrahim was the name of my friend’s father-in-law. Tricky. In Hausa societies, names of parents are never uttered. In the end, everyone ended up calling the boy Maikuɗi! Right now, the boy is a successful international businessman living in the Middle East. Earning serious cash, and living up to his name – which means one born on a lucky day. Or Tuesday.

A few years later, the same friend’s wife gave birth a beautiful baby girl. He decided to name her Tabawa. Objections reloaded. Cue in Dog Day Afternoon. As previously, my friend blinked first. He decided to name her Hajara, another cognate of Hagar, the wife of Abraham. It also happened to be the name of his eldest sister. His mother could not utter it – both the Hausa and Fulani system of cultural relations prohibit mothers from calling the names of their first series of children. In the end, everyone ended up calling the child Tabawa. She is currently a university lecturer and a doctoral student in Nigeria. Living up to her name – which means Mother luck, or the name given to one born on Wednesday (in Kano; in Katsina, it is Tuesday) considered a lucky day. Two children, both lucky in their lives. Their traditional Hausa names became their mascots as they glided successfully through life.

So, why the aversion to Hausa ‘traditional’ names? You can’t name your child Maikuɗi, but everyone will applaud Yasar (wealthy – mai kuɗi?). Or Kamal (perfection). Or Fahad (panther). Or Anwar (bright). Or Fawaz (winner). You can’t name your daughter Tabawa, but it is more acceptable to call her Mahjuba (covered). Or Samira (night conversationist –TikToker?). Name your daughter ‘Dare’, and you are in trouble. Change it to Leila, and you out of it, even though this is an Arabic for ‘dare’ (night).

A lot of the names the Muslim Hausa currently use have nothing to do with Islam. Bearers of such names rarely know their actual meaning or context. They were Arabic, and forced on us by the Cancel Culture that attaches a derogatory ‘Haɓe’ coefficient to anything traditional to the Hausa.

Therefore, I, my friend whose family story I just related and another, decided to get together and be Wokish about traditional Hausa names. Paradoxically, none of us is genetically Hausa (whatever that might mean) – one had roots in north Africa, another had Kanuri heritage, and one had Agadesian and Torodbe roots – but all of us self-identified, with absolute honor and tenacity, as Hausa. None of this ‘Hausa-Fulani’ aberrational nonsense. ‘Hausa-Fulani’ appellation, in my view, is a Nigerian Cancel Culture device to suppress the Fulani culture. The Fulani may have conquered the ruling of the Hausa (except one or two places) and imposed their rule. The Hausa, on the other hand, have linguistically conquered the Fulani. In Kano it is considered anthropological purity to claim Fulani heritage – without knowing a single word of Fulfulde (the Fulani language). Substituting rulers, does not get rid of the general populace who remained what they are.

The third friend then took the task with gusto. He spent over ten years compiling authentic traditional Hausa names that have absolutely nothing to do with ‘Maguzanci’ (the label gleefully and contemptuously attached to any Hausa who is not a Muslim by the Hausa themselves) before Islam in about 1349, at least in Kano). He also collected names that had only a tinge connection to Islam. The end product was a hitherto unpublished list of 1001 authentic, genuine, traditional Hausa names that reflect the cosmology of the Hausa.

Hausa anthropological cosmology reflects the world view and belief system of the Hausa community. based upon their understanding of order in the universe. It is reflected in their naming system – just like any other culture. The Yoruba Muslims, for the most part have retained this attachment to their traditional cosmology. Farooq Kperogi has done a wonderful work on Yoruba naming, although with focus on their adaptation of Muslim names. The failure of the Hausa to do so was, of course, due to the suffocating blanket of Cancel Culture that the Hausa have been suffering for almost 229 years.

Now, let’s look at the names and their categories. The first category I created from the 1001 Names which I edited revolved around Being, Sickness and Death. As noted earlier, the traditional Hausa center their naming conventions on ecological and cosmological observations—using time, space and seasons to mark their births. Based on this, the first naming convention uses circumstances of birth. This category of names is used to refer to the arrival of a child either after another child’s death, death of a parent, sickness of the child immediately after being born or simple structure of the child that seems out of the ordinary. Examples include:

Abarshi. This is derived from the expression, ‘Allah Ya barshi’[May Allah make him survive]. A male child born after series of miscarriages. A female child is named Abarta. A protectionist naming strategy where the child is not given full loving attention after birth until even evil spirits note this and ignore, and thus let him be. Variants include Mantau, Ajefas, Barmani, Ajuji, Barau. Now you know the meaning of Hajiya Sa’adatu ‘Barmani’ Choge’s name – the late famous Hausa griotte from Katsina (1948-2013).

Then there is Shekarau, derived from ‘shekara’, a year. A male child born after an unusually longer period of gestation in mother’s womb. A variant of this name is Ɓoyi [hide/hidden]. A female child is named Shekara. Now you know the meaning of the surname of Distinguished Senator, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau from Kano.

A third example is Tanko. This is a child born after three female children. Variants include Gudaji, Tankari, Yuguda/Iguda/Guda. I am sure you know the famous Muhammed Gudaji Kazaure, Member of the House of Representatives of Nigeria and his media presence in late 2022.

Each of these sampled names reflect a philosophical worldview, reflecting spiritual resignation or slight humor. They therefore encode the traditional Hausa perspective of living and dying as inscribed on the way they name their children.

Names that even the contemporary Hausa avoid because of bad collective memory are those linked to wealth and being owned, or slavery.

Slaves have prominently featured in political and social structure of the traditional Hausa societies, especially in the old commercial emirates of Kano, Zaria, Daura and Katsina. Their roles are clearly defined along socially accepted norms and they are expected to perform given assignments demanded by their masters.

Slaves in Kano are divided into two: domestic and farm-collective. Trusted, and therefore domesticated slaves are mainly found in ruling houses, and are prized because of their loyalty to the title-holder. Farmyard slaves were often captured during raids or wars and are not trusted because of the possibility of escape. They were usually owned by wealthy merchants or farmers and are put to work in mainly farms

Although the institution of slavery as then practiced has been eliminated in traditional Hausa societies, the main emirate ruling houses still retain vestiges of inherited slave ownership, reflected even in the categorization of the slaves. For instance, in Kano royal slaves were distinguished between first-generation slaves (bayi) and those born into slavery (cucanawa).

At the height of slave raids and ownership particularly when owning a slave was an indication of wealth, the names of the slaves often reflect the status of the owner. Examples of these names include: Nasamu (given to first slave owned by a young man determined to become a wealthy man), Arziki (first female slave owned by a man), Nagode (female slave given away to a person as a gift), Baba da Rai (first gift of a male slave to a son by his father), Dangana (male slave of a latter-day successful farmer or trader, although later given also to a child whose elder siblings all died in infancy. The female slave variant is Nadogara), and Baubawa (slaves with different faith from the owner), amongst others.

The changing political economy of Hausa societies since the coming of colonialism has created new social dynamics which included outward banning of slavery. Thus, many of the names associated with slaves and ‘being-owned’ in traditional Hausa societies became disused, unfashionable, or which is more probable, to be used without any idea of their original meaning, it is thought that some record of them may be of value. An example is ‘Anini’, usually a slave name, but later used to refer to a child born with tiny limbs. The ‘smallness’ is also reflected in the fact that ‘anini’ was a coin in Nigerian economy, usually 1/10th of a penny—a bit like the small Indian copper coin, ‘dam’ (from which the English language got ‘damn’, as in ‘I don’t give a damn’).

Further, with the coming of Islam, slave names were eased out and replaced by conventional Muslim names as dictated by Islam, Retained, however, are slave names that also served as descriptors of the functions of the slave, even in contemporary ruling houses. Examples of these slave titles which are rarely used outside of the places include:

Shamaki (looks after the king’s horses and serves as an overseer of the slaves), Ɗan Rimi (King’s top slave official and looks after all weapons), Sallama (King’s bosom friend [usually a eunuch], same role as Abin Faɗa), Kasheka shares the household supplies to king’s wives [usually a eunuch], Babban Zagi (a runner in front of the king), Jarmai (the head of an army), Kilishi (prepares sitting place for the king), amongst others. These names are almost exclusively restricted to the palace and rarely used outside its confines. Cases of nicknames of individuals bearing these names remain just that, but had no official connotation outside of the palace.

The coming of Islam to Hausaland in about 13th century altered the way traditional Hausa name their children and created the second category of Hausa beside the first ‘traditional’ ones. This second category became the Muslim Hausa who abandoned all cultural activities associated with the traditional Hausa beliefs. This was not an overnight process, however, taking it as it does, centuries. Even then, a significant portion of Muslim Hausa material culture remains the same as for traditional Hausa. The point of departure is in religious or community practices which for the Muslim Hausa, are guided by tenets of Islam. Affected in this point of departure is naming conventions. This is more so because Islam encourages adherents to give their children good meaningful names. These names must therefore not reflect anything that counters the fundamental faith of the bearer or reflect a revert to a pre-Islamic period in the lives of the individuals.

However, while predominantly accepting Muslim names, traditional Hausa parents have domesticated some of the names to the contours of their language. For instance, Guruza (Ahmad), Da’u (Dawud), Gagare (Abubakar) Auwa (Hauwa), Daso (Maryam), Babuga (Umar), Ilu (Isma’il), amongst others.

So, here you are. If you are looking for an authentic, ‘clean’ traditional Hausa name, or trying to understand your friend’s traditional Hausa name (or even yours) you are welcome to 1001 Traditional Hausa names.

The list divided into two. The first contains 869 authentic traditional Hausa names. The second contains 132 Arabic/Islamic that the Hausa have somehow domesticated to their linguistic anthropology.

The file is available at

Adamu, is a Professor of media and cultural studies, Bayero University, Kano. This was first published on his Facebook account.

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Hajiya Rakiya: The Predicament of ICT Guru at CBN



By Yushau A. Shuaib

Upon completing the routine security check, we ascended to the impressive Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) complex in Abuja. Led to a spacious yet modest hall where an event was unfolding, we found seats beside a woman modestly dressed in a Muslim Hijab. She greeted us warmly and invited us to sit beside her. Her humility and warmth immediately put us at ease.

We initially assumed she was a guest or another participant at the briefing. However, as we discussed the media industry, she listened intently, nodding in agreement. When she finally spoke, her insightful comments on disruptive technologies and their impact on the communication industry left us in awe. Her deep knowledge spanned online streaming services, virtual events, and redefining audience engagement through innovation, leaving us with a profound respect for her expertise.

She elaborated on how blockchain, 5G networks, and artificial intelligence facilitate secure, faster connectivity and interactive experiences with enhanced royalty management. Beyond aiding in content generation and personalisation, she noted media production is becoming increasingly democratised. Moreover, she ‘schooled’ us on the latest technological tools for fact-checking, cybersecurity, and digital journalism—all without a trace of arrogance or pomposity.

As the event concluded, we offered our printed business cards. In response, she shared her digital business card. Scanning the QR code revealed her identity: Hajia Rakiya Shuaibu Mohammed, the Director of Information Technology at the Central Bank of Nigeria. This position speaks volumes about her expertise and influence in the field.

Curiosity drove me to search for her profile upon leaving. What I uncovered was astounding. Despite not being a celebrity tech expert paraded on social media or television, she is an extraordinary IT specialist. Former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele described her as such, having promoted her from Head of Information Security Management after a rigorous selection process.

In his remarks at the eNaira Hackathon Grand Finale in Abuja in 2022, Emefiele, the then CBN Governor, credited the success of Africa’s first central bank digital currency partly to Hajiya Rakiya. He admitted to underestimating her suitability for the Director of Information Technology position, initially preferring a male candidate. He said, “I must single her out. When she was considered for the director role, I initially doubted. I was thinking.. I’m Sorry, ladies, please forgive me. I said a lady IT Director. I went back and began to read her CV. She is a First-Class computer science graduate, a brilliant erudite lady from Northern Nigeria, and a chartered accountant. I said you could not have a better person as head of IT for Central Bank of Nigeria.”

Her academic and professional accolades are extensive. Rakiya was the Head Girl of the Federal Government Girl College, Bakori, and the Best Graduating Student in 1982. She obtained a First-Class degree in Computer Science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in 1987, followed by a Master’s degree in Information Systems Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in 1994. She has also attended executive education programs at Harvard University and Oxford University.

Rakiya’s professional journey spans over 25 years across the financial, telecommunications, and technology sectors. Before her promotion to IT Director at the CBN, where she spearheaded and implemented the Industry Security Operation Centre (NFICERT) and Africa’s first Digital Currency, Rakiya had headed the System Services and Information Security Management (CISO) Division of the bank, where she modernised the IT infrastructure and introduced innovative solutions like video conferencing. She had developed and implemented robust information security strategies, maintaining ISO 27001 certification and ensuring zero major security incidents.
Previously, she was Head of Strategy and IT at Galaxy Backbone Plc (2009-2011), CIO at Premium Pension Limited (2005-2008), Deputy General Manager (IT) and CIO of NITEL (2003-2005), and Head of Branch Banking Systems in the Northern Region of Continental Merchant Bank (1988-1995).

She holds numerous certifications, including Lean Process Practitioner, Certified IT Business Manager, Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO), Certified Enterprise and Solution Architect, Certified IT Governance Professional (COBIT, CGEIT), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Chartered Accountant (ICAN) and Honorary member of the Certified Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

On May 16, 2024, she made an outstanding presentation to the CBN board on maximising the utility of current IT facilities. However, a week later, despite her impressive background, certifications, and contributions to the bank, Rakiya has become one of the victims of an inexplicable spate of officers retrenched by the current CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso.

Here is a woman who has contributed immensely by ensuring increased revenue, reduced costs, and improved security in various organisations she had worked for and could just be retired due to political exigency.

It is perplexing to understand the rationale behind retrenching such highly qualified and integral personnel among several others in that bank, especially considering the ongoing appointments of external consultants. If retaining and promoting the best within the service is not prioritised, what justifies these replacements with outsiders?

Yushau A. Shuaib is the author of “Award Winning Crisis Communication Strategies.”

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Prioritizing skills acquisition and entrepreneurship: Why Nigerians must shift from white collar jobs



Yusha’u Hamza Kafinchiri


As Nigeria continues to grapple with the challenges of unemployment, poverty and economic stagnation, it is imperative that citizens shift their focus towards a proven model of success – skills acquisition and entrepreneurship.
China’s remarkable economic transformation serves as a shining example of what can be achieved through a concerted effort to develop vocational skills and encourage entrepreneurial spirit. With a population of over 200 million Nigeria is a thriving market to accommodate it’s talent’s productivity.

For too long, Nigeria has been plagued by a culture of white-collar job seekers, relying on government employment and certificates rather than skills and innovation. This mindset has perpetuated laziness, mediocrity and a lack of innovation. It is time for an active paradigm shift. Governments at all levels must work truthfully on this model leveraging on the power of education and training in producing producers of good and services.

By prioritizing skills acquisition and entrepreneurship, Nigerians can:

-Develop practical skills in various trades, such as technology, manufacturing, and services to remain independent
-Create jobs and stimulate economic growth through innovation and entrepreneurship
-Reduce reliance on government employment and break free from the shackles of white-collar mentality currently wrecking havoc on government efforts to hold to it’s services.
-Increase productivity and competitiveness, driving economic progress at all levels of learning.

Let Nigerians learn from China’s example and strive to build on skills acquisition and entrepreneurship, as the drivers of their own destiny and the architects of a prosperous Nigeria.
Let the mindset of Nigerians change for good.


Kafinchiri,  is a Director monitoring and evaluation, Ministry of Education, Kano State. 

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Emirs are not Kings!



Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II

Sunusi Umar Sadiq


The drama surrounding the restoration of a single Kano Emirate, which has hitherto been balkanised, and the reinstatement of Muhammadu Sanusi II as its emir is still unfolding. Yet, as always, there are many issues of interest that may need to be discussed even before the events fold up completely. One such issue is the question of chronology, that is whether the reinstated emir will now be referred to as the 14th, 16th or even 59th emir of Kano, the last mentioned counting from Bagauda, the first of the kings of the Kano Kingdom.

I have little or no problem with MSII being referred to as the 14th or even the 16th emir. It will just be an additional confusion upon the existing one. It is, nonetheless, a matter for historians to decide though the semantics is clear that reinstatement is a carry-over from the past, not a fresh beginning. In other words, when a person is reinstated to the position he once occupied but for whatever reason got removed therefrom, the interregnum is considered as an aberration. Moreover, it is the individual ruler that counted, not the period he occupied as it is the ruler that defines the era not vice-versa. This is perhaps encapsulated in the well-known Hausa saying of Sarki goma, zamani goma. And the extant sources we have, as far as I know, never assign a new chronology to a reinstated ruler obviously due to the contradiction that will cause when a headcount is taken.

There is a problem, however, to reckon the reinstated emir as the 59th King of Kano for the simple reason that the Kano Kingdom ceased to exist in 1807 when the last King of Kano, Muhammadu Alwali, was overthrown by the Fulani. A kingdom is independent and the king is sovereign. An emir, however, is subordinate to a higher authority to which he owes allegiance and must remain loyal for him to retain his post. He is no more than a Military Administrator under a military junta.

The Fulani turned Kano into an emirate, as they did to other Hausa States, thereby making it an appendage of Sokoto with the emir being in his post at the pleasure of the Supreme Ruler in Sokoto. Late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman did well in bringing out these distinctions between emirates and kingdoms in his seminal doctoral research published as The Transformation of Katsina (1400 – 1883): The Emergence and Overthrow of the Sarauta System and the Establishment of Emirate.

Late Bala identified at least five distinct epochs in the case of Katsina, which is very much the same as the rest of the Hausa States. The epochs as identified are the period of the autonomous garuruwa and birane, with no overall head, only the occupational heads or guild chiefs with the Sarkin Noma as the primus inter pares. The second period saw the emergence of the Sarauta System. Then the third period, which he called the Jama’a Period, by which he meant the period immediately after the Fulani Uprising. The fourth period is the emirate period in which the authority is centred around the emir as a lieutenant of the Caliph in Sokoto. The fifth is the Native Authority System ushered in by the British Colonialists.

The impropriety of adding a Fulani emir to the list of the Hausa Kings becomes more manifest when we call to mind that the successor Hausa States of Gobir in Tsibiri, of Katsina in Maradi and of Zazzau in Zuba/Abuja (now Suleja) continue with their king-lists as it is not seat of a kingdom that defines that kingdom but the historicity and historical consciousness of the people involved. Duk inda Shehu ya ke nan ne Borno.

If we take Zazzau Suleja as an example, the current king is the 68th on the list, a list in which all the Fulani Emirs of Zazzau from Mallam Musa to Amb. Ahmad Bamalli cannot justifiably be placed. The Fulani are therefore free to make up their own “emirlist” so as to ensure historical coherence.

The problem with Kano is that unlike its sister states or kingdoms, the overthrown Hausa ma su sarauta did not establish a successor state anywhere. Why that happened is borne out by a number of factors which will be a topic for another day. Nonetheless, the sanctity of history has to safeguarded and respected. The Sarakunan Hausa were absolute monarchs. They did not have to curry the favour of some other ruler for them to remain on the throne or to secure the position for their offspring in the event of their passing. Moreover, the Hausa Kings were the fountain of the law and justice. They did not need a court order to maintain them on the throne or ward off their contenders.

Sadiq writes from Kano. He is the President of the Hausa Historical Society. He can be reached via

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