Growing up, my mother had many best friends, or at least a deep connection with a lot of women that transcended time and their different situations. One of those women was Anty Adama, they had been friends since secondary school, called each other sister (even though this was a practice for the girls that went to Queen Elizabeth school in Ilorin) in fact, when my mother passed on, she was coming from a trip with Anty Adama.. they had made that sister title permanent and now, I’m cousins with her children, our families are related. Anty Adama (of blessed memory, she also passed on shortly after my mother) was a very lovely but also firm lady from Ilorin, her husband was from Offa ( it was from her, I first heard the Ilorin Offa debate, lol) essentially they were Yoruba and they lived unapologetically as so in sokoto. I remember loving visits to her house because there was always a hot bowl of amala on offer, what was even more fascinating was then, when we visited, anyone available will make the amala, boy or girl…
She really did have friends from all walks of life and from all corners, the Indian lady we inherited a lot of plants from when she was moving away. When we visit the village, she had a group of unlikely friends, women from the “lower class” that will visit us and she also visited them, sat with them, ate with them. Sometimes you could see the connection other times we will just marvel at the fact that she made a connection.
My father also had “Uncle Yomi” as a close friend.
I grew up like this, I remember in secondary school, I didn’t really belong to the “malo group” ( an exclusive group of Hausa people, not Hausa speakers) even though I had access as a Hausa girl but I didn’t really belong to that group, I spent break times with Dorcas, Seyi was my best friend and we made noise in class with Gbolahan. I was everybody’s friend, I belonged to everyone and to no one (LMAO!) I really did because I remember being chastised for it asked if “kowa ne kike magana da” when Ikenna and I were sharing a joke.
It was easy for me to find a connection with people beyond my tribe even though as I got older I realised people’s main goal was to find things that divided us, it happened at a “cousins” wedding (another of my moms friends son was getting married) they were Christain but the wife was catholic, and even though it had been a long battle before the actual wedding day, on that day, there was still a struggle, the family refused to release the bride, my “aunt” and her husband again had to go and beg the family, there was kneeling involved and tears. And I just sat in all that commotion wondering “are they not all Christain?” But I’ve come to know better over the years. My bubble was shattered after the first boko haram attack, on Facebook when I saw my “friends” give eye opening reviews of how they viewed “my people” I lost many friends. And then over the years, thanks to social media, I realised the contempt at which northerners, Hausa people, Muslims, were regarded. And it baffled me, how did we earn so much hate? How is there so much misconception about us?Maybe I haven’t read our history enough. And it made me be cautious, it made me realise that at much as I find connections, as much as that has been primarily my goal, others work hard to find disconnect and ultimately stick to “their own” and so, I learning also to stick to my own. Am I still friends with kowa? Yes I am, I can’t help myself. But I’m also learning caution. I am defining my tribe, humanity first. It feels like such a heavy burden to carry and it makes me worry about my children, half Yoruba and half Hausa, which I think is a beautiful thing but even now, I see people put them on the fence. Not quite Yoruba not quite Hausa and I worry about what the future will look like..