You must be wondering how and why some elements are recurring features in the behaviour and ways of speaking, dressing and walking of some Nigerian people. Yes, you are right: some of these features are among the weird and sometimes, awkward cultural components of some ethnic groups in the country. These elements according to climes are regarded as cultural stereotypes. And you are right again, these bits are quite funny and often times laughable.
We have, therefore, for your consumption, offered a preview selection from an inexhaustible list of stereotypes that abound in the corners of Africa’s most populated city.
- ‘A’ and ‘H’ Factors:
Between you and me, we know where this amusing phenomenon holds sway. It is the habit, more like an ethnic insignia among the Yorubas in South-Western Nigeria. This misuse often attracts a dose of sniffs and stifled laughs whenever a Yoruba man opens his mouth for a conversation, as he is bound to contaminate the airwaves with his terrible insertion of an ‘H’ sound in front of every Vowel sound, and generous erasure of the ‘H’ sound altogether. As such, ‘I am’ become ‘Hi Ham’ and a ‘Helicopter’ becomes and ‘Elicopter.’
- ‘P’ and ‘F’ Palaver:
Another cultural regimentation that shares a semblance of the chart-topping one is the funny Hausa charade. This is a timeless occurrence in the Northern part of the country. Common among the Hausas is the hunger to always substitute the ‘P’ sounds for the ‘F’ sounds and vice versa, thereby committing an unforgivable foul to the unsuspecting ears. And this they do rather effortlessly. Meet a northern ‘shoemaker’ and you are bound to notice that, with enviable ease, ‘Polish’ becomes ‘Folish’ and ‘Father’ takes on ‘Pather.’
- The Ijebu Garri saga:
For an Ijebu man—from the interiors of Ogun state—the popular street saying is true, that ‘Garri has no advert, yet it sells even more than Indomie, a new age instant noodles, mostly for kids. Among the Ijebus, the Ijebu Garri—a staple made from Cassava—is the most enriching meal to be served. In fact, it is a cultural element. Known for the acclaimed ‘sourness’ of their Garri brand, the Ijebus—popularly regarded as a stingy lot (see the Legendary Ijebu stinginess below)—are more patriotic about the Ijebu Garri than they are about the Nigerian cause. No wonder they crave sovereignty from Ogun state, to export their Garri to the corners of the world, without ‘having to pay tax’, and drink their Garri in peace, sugar or not.
- Yoruba Parents and their Shelf-full of Ancient Plates:
You are wondering why your parents—especially your mother—who have always advised you to discard all irrelevant things and behaviors, have reneged on their own rhetoric. It is easier for a Shee—in this case—to pass through the eye of a needle than to see a Yoruba mom who does not have in her shelf, an array of ancient ceramic or steel plates, cups/glasses/mugs and spoons. These utensils and cookeries surprisingly date as far back as the time of Lord Lugard. Even the holy book says you cannot put new wines in old wineskins. But our Yoruba mothers prefer to eat daily with the new plates while they keep the ancient ones locked up until an ‘August’ visitor, in form of an Uncle or Aunt shows up.
- The Legendary Ijebu Stinginess:
Aside their loyalties to their ‘sour’ Garri, the Ijebus are unarguably the most miserly of God’s creations. In the real sense, a typical Ijebu man is a Nigerian version of Harpagan—the avaricious character in Moliere’s The Miser (a French Play), whose eccentric obsession about money goes without saying. For every Ijebu man, with the exception of a few ‘righteous ones’, the pidgin expression common among ladies, ‘moni for hand back for ground’ is a universal motto. Believe it or not, like they say, an Ijebu man is an ambassador of stinginess, and Ijebu land is the headquarters of unrepentant misers.
- Fulanis and their Love for their Cattles:
I’m sure you have heard it a thousand times in the country, that a proper Fulani man pays more attention to his Cattles than he does his children and immediate family. You think it is ridiculous right? No, it is not. The Fulanis, known for their itinerant, nomadic journeys, were perhaps, first created in form of Cattles in their previous existence—if there was one. You see the affection they shower on these Cattles like they are blood relations. Someone says that you only find a Fulani man crying when he loses a Cattle and not when his son dies. That isn’t funny, right? This excessive love for the flock, that eventually end up as beef in soup pots across the country, could be attributed to the fact that, for them, you do not send Cattles to school, pay school fees or cook meals. You only need a patch of grasslands, filled with blades of Green grasses. Shikena!
- Tivs and their Legendary Hospitality:
Sometimes, I flirt with the idea of visiting a Tiv village—a tribe of people in the North-Central region of Nigeria—to be a recipient of their famous hospitality culture—which has been tagged an erroneous misconception by people from that region. Known for their lovely culture, the Tiv men especially are reputed to be the perfect template for impressive generosity; offering their wives to every Dick (Pun intended), Harry and August’s visitor sleeping over in their houses. How interesting! I also gathered that, rather than spite the culture, married women look forward, with gusto, to the arrival of a strong, macho visitor that knows how to satisfy women. Not even Abraham’s—the Christian father of faith—hospitable reception matches this legendary warmth!!!
- This Dog is not for soup, beware of Calabars and Ondos:
When you pass through a street in Ondo state or stroll through a Calabar neighbourhood, and you here an expression like ‘404, brethren, it is not the latest automobile from Peugeot, rather, it is the street name for Dogs. It is no longer news that Ondos and Calabars are unrepentant ‘Dog-eaters’. Just like chicken and fishes are regular features in menus in most parts of the country, Dog meat—or 404, like a popular car—is a palate’s companion that is eaten with relish. Parboiled with ‘Ogogoro’—local gin—and cooked with scent-leaf, the delicacy, according to its consumers, is both delicious and nutritional. So, for you who sees the eating of Dog meat as repulsive, when in the interiors of Ondo, Calabar, and I hear Plateau, be sure that the meat lying on your plate of rice is not from a Dog’s thigh.
- Igbo men and the root of Evil:
For a typical Igbo man, from South-East Nigeria, money is never the root of evil, as suggested by the age-long rubric. Instead, it is the answer to all things, like the Bible posits, and the means to set up a car spare-parts shops in Balogun—a popular market in Lagos—and a piracy joint in Alaba International Market—a fortress for video film piracy consortium. In fact, there are not enough words in my words-bank to vividly describe how much an Igbo man is in love with the tingling smell of crisp currency notes. Maybe I could say that an Igbo man loves money the way a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ loves his “never walk alone” bag (portmanteau), or the way a Northerner loves his transistor radio. But, I’m not even sure that these images are enough. “Nna, I ‘troway’ salute o.”
- This Warri Creole:
The Warri people from the Delta are unique when it comes to their interesting language of communication. What I have chosen to call ‘Warria Franca’ is a representation of the fact that the Warri people have created their own brand of the informal Nigerian Pidgin English, or ‘Broken’ English or ‘Rotten’ English as popularized by the late Ken Saro Wiwa in his Soza Boy novel. Walk into any street in the Warri underbelly, what hits you, in terms of their way of communication, is the boldness and ‘sweetness’ of the Pidgin English that flows out of the throat of a 7year old boy from that part.
- Ogogoro in the Delta:
If the saying is true that refreshments for visitors point to the personality of the host, then there is no denying the fact that Deltans are unrepentant alcohol consumers. My first visit to that clime was, for me, a sort of lesson on alcohol consumption, where I was taught how to quaff a 2litre keg of the local gin made from Palm wine residue in 30 minutes. Couple with the bounteous mass of rivers and streams, the consumption of this scorching gin, under the fair Udala trees, is a refreshing exercise. Ogogoro is to every Delta woman what Mary Kay powder is to young Nigerian ladies of this sophisticated age.
- The Edo crave for Italy:
Maybe the grass at the other side is greener, maybe it is not; the Edos do not care. For a young Edo man or lady, there is no grass at all—not to mention green—on the Nigerian coast, as such, every grass on the other side has to be greener (at least there are grasses), and even if it is not, they do not mind planting their own grass on that other side. For an average Edo youth, male and female, Europe is where greener grasses abound, especially in Italy. Italy is where every youth from that part hopes to travel to. This unremitting hunger for travelling to Italy has made people to accuse their ladies of hoping to be enlisted into one of the various prostitution cartels that Italy houses while for the guys, we do not know. However, prostitution or not, every youth, male and female, from Edo always hopes to travel to Europe, whether by hook or by crook, with likely destinations being Italy and Belgium.