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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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President Tinubu, 100 days and leadership as marathon



By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz



What is leadership? Or, more correctly; what makes leadership impactful? Is leadership impact measured by the bricks and mortar actions of today or by aggregation of the strategic steps that gives a delayed but rewarding tomorrow? Is a desired leadership one that puts bought cookies on the table today or the one that aims to build bakeries and produce enough bakers to sufficiently meet our bakery needs in the future?

Well, pardon the barrage of questions, dear reader. Those are no questions that may require immediate resolution, apparent as the answers may seem. But they are vital posers that we need to ponder on in determining the marking scheme for any political leadership.

But while you are pondering, let me draw your attention to an event that occurred at the beginning of the week in Lagos. You might have read about it, or saw the exciting pictures flying around in the media. The Lagos State Government on Monday flagged off commercial operation for its Blue Light Rail Line. The governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was all smile as he joined the inaugural ride from Marina to Mile 2 in the glistening coaches. While Governor Sanwo-Olu takes the pride and the credit of being the governor under whose watch the rail line opens to passengers, the event on Monday has a history as long as the train coaches.

When the Blue Line was due for commissioning last year, Governor Sanwo-Olu himself gave a detailed recount of the actors and factors that paved the way for the Lagos light rail system. It didn’t happen over night or over the course of one administration. Indeed the story of what is now a beautiful infrastructure started with an election into office of a visionary governor and reformer-leader, over 24 years ago.

It was not Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu (as he then was) who laid the first blocks for the light rail system. He did not award the contract even. He did much more than that. His decision that Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve-centre and former capital city deserved to be more than the jungle it was, was the most important foundation, well before the engineers laid the first stones for the rail project.

The then Governor Tinubu gave the Lagos the futuristic leadership whose full benefits are still being reaped, over 15 years after he left office. The rail line, as Governor Sanwo-Olu duly acknowledged, was Tinubu’s brainchild which benefited from inputs from successive governors and technocrats before coming into fruition. The story of the Lagos light rail resembles the story of many other tangible and intangible initiatives that made Lagos a model to all states in Nigeria and an envy of its peers anywhere.

This illustration is vital especially at a time like this when a section of the public – buoyed by the media’s near canonisation of a borrowed American concept of “100 days in office” –seems to be in a frenzy to judge 1,460-day tenure by the first 100 days. Yes, there is a saying in Hausa that signs of a good Friday could be perceived from the preceding Wednesday. And in this regard the Tinubu administration has shown good signs of a great future. The strategic leadership being provided by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu are meant to put Nigeria on a sure footing for enduring progress and development.

Conscious of the usual judgement that comes at the end of the first 100 days, many leaders are wont to rush into laying blocks and asphalts to satisfy the mediocre demand of “something to show”, even if those things to show are short-lived niceties that would not translate into any long term gain. Others would opt for politically-correct adventures just to pander to populist appeals. We had, for example, a leader who within his first 100 days rolled back many critical decisions taken by his predecessor to gain public applause but over 15 years later we are here paying for those misguided decisions.

For President Tinubu, who believes, like all great leaders in history, that leadership is a quantum of critical decisions and bold steps capable of impacting positively on the society in the long run, he is in no hurry for quick applause. Quick fixes and populist actions could generate immediate praises, but to what end? For perceptive leaders, leadership is a marathon that is adjudged by how well one persevered, remained focused and strategic to get to the finished line. It is not a relay race which requires all rush and less tact.

For President Tinubu, the best measure of successful leadership is the quantum of qualitative actions and decisions not quantitative. What are the timeless policies and actions that one bequeaths to the coming generation? What are the personal examples and traits, what changes to the system were made to strengthen efficiency? In the last 100 days, President Tinubu has demonstrated that he is made of the finest stuffs as a leader, looking at these parameters.

First, he has demonstrated he possesses the salient traits of many great leaders in history; vision and courage to take action. The visionary is the one who realises the need to save the future of our children by stopping a dangerous trend of borrowing to fund fraudulent fuel subsidy. It is only a courageous leader who can dare the subsidy cabal and, against his wish, administer on the larger public the bitter pill in striking off the fuel subsidy. There are many other examples.

There were government officials who felt they were government unto themselves. Indeed some of them had set up fiefdoms within the government and felt they could even undermine the President while taking Nigerians for a ride. President Tinubu has demonstrated that this was impossible under his watch.

Yet, while taking some of the bold and courageous decisions with inadvertent impact on the average Nigerian, President Tinubu remains a very compassionate leader. I have seen him grimaced every time he discusses the pains people go through as the result of the fuel subsidy removal. He knows, because he has ears to the ground. This was why he kept prodding all officials and state governors who have the mandate to roll out government’s interventions to cushion the effect. But more importantly, he is constantly thinking and working on ways that the savings government made from the subsidy removal would go into meaningful enterprises. The priority sectors are those capable of catapulting growth, notably energy and transportation infrastructure.

Setting the building blocks for solving Nigeria’s legendary problems of dysfunctional public sector, poor revenue base and lack of optimisation of the available resources as well as resolving the infrastructure gaps are the issues on top of President Tinubu’s priority list. It is also around them that he has devoted most of his energy and attention in the last 100 days. The belief, by all development experts, is that addressing those issues are what would turnaround the fortunes of Nigeria. These are not things that can be done in 100 days but the steps to attain them are firmly on course.

Abdulaziz is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Print Media

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Embracing the power of Artificial Intelligence: Making life easier tomorrow



By Lawal Opeyemi Martha

Imagine a world where machines can help us with our everyday tasks, making life smoother and more efficient. This is the magic of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a technology that’s shaping our lives in incredible ways.

You might wonder, why should we care about AI? Well, it’s like having a super-smart friend who can assist us in getting things done faster. This cool technology is a big part of our future, and young people are encouraged to learn about it. By understanding AI, we can open doors to exciting job opportunities in the digital world.

One of the coolest things about AI is how it can be our researcher. It quickly finds the information we need, helping us learn new things or finish tasks faster. Imagine having a speedy helper that never gets tired of searching for answers!

But AI’s talents don’t stop there. It’s a growth superhero, boosting economies worldwide. A report says that by 2035, AI could contribute around $15.7 trillion to the world’s economy. That’s a massive amount of money that could make our world better if we use AI wisely.

Think of AI as a computer-powered buddy that thinks like a human. It can even do tasks like diagnosing illnesses or booking appointments, just like a smart friend would help you out. This smart sidekick can learn languages, too, making communication easier than ever.

Ever heard of Siri, the friendly voice on our phones? That’s another form of AI. It listens to our commands and makes our devices do what we want. With AI, we can talk to our phones like they’re our buddies!

AI’s creativity doesn’t stop at making our lives efficient; it’s also a whiz at creating stuff. It can help us come up with social media posts, which saves us time and energy. Just imagine having an AI friend that helps us be creative and interesting online!

In a nutshell, AI is a game-changer. It makes industries better, helps our economies grow, and even assists in healthcare and communication. As we move towards the future, embracing AI’s powers can lead us to a world where technology and humans work together, making life smoother and more exciting than ever before.

Martha is Student of Mass Communication,  writes from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State.


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Nigeria’s twin Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratories



By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta

A report in the Nigerian Journal of Cardiology in 2021 indicates that, heart or cardio vascular diseases involving the heart and blood vessels, particularly obesity-induced hypertension, are rampaging among the youth in the country.

Cardiologists or medical doctors who specialized in the treatment of heart diseases in the country, including hypertension and heart attack, need certain vital specialized equipment to treat their patients timely and effectively. One of the facilities they urgently need is Catheterisation Laboratory (Cath Lab).

A Professor of Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Professor Kamilu Musa Karaye indicates that, Cardiac Catheterisation laboratories are specialized advanced medical technology facilities used for diagnosing and treating heart conditions. These laboratories have equipment such as X-ray machines, ultrasound devices and several other diagnostic tools.

The tools in cardiac catheterisation laboratories can also be used in various non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures such as coronary angiography, angioplasty or widening narrowed or blocked blood vessels and stent implantation. Stent implantation is done to keep blood vessels open. Beside using the Cath Lab to detect and treat the over 30 distinct types of heart diseases, surgeons use them for other interventional procedures like valve repair or replacement.

Still on what a Cath Lab is, medical Internet sites described it thus, “A Cath Lab is a specialty laboratory equipment for imaging of coronary and blood vessels in the body. Apart from displaying on the monitor, images can be seen in 360° in details and total clarity. This enable doctors to see the images from many perspectives. The clarity leads to high precision in diagnosing. A catheterisation Laboratory also enabled surgeons to conduct minimally invasive tests and procedures in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases involving the heart and blood vessels.”

The critical role Cath Lab plays in the treatment of cardiovascular heart diseases and blood vessels complications makes it a vital tool for medical doctors, especially cardiac and thoracic surgeons, the super specialists who operate on the heart, lungs, esophagus, major blood vessels inside the chest and the bony structures and tissues that form and support the chest cavity.

In other words, a Cath Lab is a one-stop facility used in procedures to detect, identify and finally treat heart diseases. But in the whole of Nigeria, there are only two catheterisation laboratories, one in a private hospital in Lagos, and the other at the State House Clinic, Abuja. Both are obviously grossly inadequate for the country’s large population.

The two Cath Labs are probably inaccessible to most patients of cardio vascular and blood vessels diseases. They may not have the financial wherewithal to afford the services available at the private one. The other one in the State House Clinic is provided to basically serve the top echelons of the country’ s political leadership.

Data from various sources indicate that Nigeria is one of the countries that suffer high death rates from various heart diseases. Professor Kamilu Musa Karaye, the professor of Medicine and Consultant Cardiologist who teaches and conducts research at the Bayero University Kano, and the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, revealed that Kano state has one of the highest rates of death from heart diseases. Such diseases are widely prevalent in Northern Nigeria. So obviously cardiacatheterizationon laboratories are urgently needed to assist cardiologists in diagnosing and treating the large number of patients before it is too late.

The two-Cath Lab status of Nigeria is surprising because the first very complicated open heart surgery was conducted in 1974, evidence of the availability of competent Cardiologists and associated personnel to make it a routine activity. It is astonishing that none of the 22 public University Teaching Hospitals, 20 Federal Medical Centres and 17 Specialist Hospitals in the country has acatheterisationn laboratory. Although the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, which serves a huge population and one or two more of the federal Teaching Hospitals are working hard to have one each, as of now that is just an aspiration.

Surprisingly, the price for Cath Lab starts from $200,000 for the most basic with few tools to $3-$6 million for the most advanced version that has sophisticated tools. The Federal Government and some philanthropists can procure Cath Labs for some of the Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres in the country. Health-care businesses can also invest in Catheterization Laboratories. Doing so will help cardiologists in doing their job faster and with greater accuracy, thereby saving precious lives. It will also contribute in minimizing foreign medical tourism.

Salisu Na’inna Dambatta is an advocate for Health Journalism

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