Where Did the Nigerians Come From?

Since I have been writing for you about where the different types of people came from in the countries where I have lived, I thought I should include Nigeria.  I spent one year in Nigeria when I was in my twenties.  I lived in a big concrete teacher’s house on a school compound. The school was called Kuru Special Science School. It was a high school.  Kuru Special Science School is right outside of Bukuru.  Bukuru is a suburb of Jos, the Capital city of Plateau State, Nigeria.  There are 17 major States in Nigeria, so I won’t list them all yet.  If you look right in the middle of Nigeria, you should be able to find Plateau State.  It is the vacation spot of Nigeria because it has the coolest weather.  People come from all over Nigeria to escape the heat to Plateau State because it stays in the 60’s and 70’s Fahrenheit all year.

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Most of Nigeria is made up of a people group called the Bantu.  The Bantu are people who are in many central, east, west, and southern African countries.  There is a bit of disagreement among historians about where the Bantu people originated.  They are a really large group.  The current estimation is that there are 440-680 distinct Bantu languages and 350 million Bantu people in Africa. Nigeria is the most populated and the most progressive of these countries.

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Besides the Bantu people, there is another people group in Nigeria called the Fulani.  The Nigerians call them black whites because they have black skin, but white features.  They are herdsmen who migrated to Nigeria from the north.  They walk around with the cows all day.  There is some disagreement to their origins.  the most plausible one I have heard is that the Berber people from Northern Morocco who are white with blue eyes migrated south and married Bantu people and just continued migrating as herdsmen.  They are in several African countries.  They are a minority in Nigeria, mostly living among the Hausa in northern Nigeria, and have intermarried so much with the Hausa that some people want to begin lumping them in with Hausa, the largest tribe in Nigeria.

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The Hausa make up 25-29% of the population in Nigeria according to who you talk to.   The Hausa language is distantly related to Hebrew and Aramaic.  I know a few Hausa words.  If you want to say “hi” in Hausa, say “sanu!”  If you want to say there is no water, which happens often in northern Nigeria, say “ba ruwa.”  If you want to say “go,” say “teffi,” and “doesn’t go” is “ba teffi ba.”  I used to speak enough to carry on conversations and deal at the market, but I have forgotten a lot.  No one speaks Hausa outside of Nigeria.  The Hausa tribe is dominant in the northern part of Nigeria.  There are several smaller tribes, but since the Hausa tribe is the largest, Hausa is the trade language of the northern part of Nigeria.  They learn their tribal language first, and if they aren’t Hausa, next they learn Hausa, and then they learn English.  Everyone who goes to school in Nigeria learns English because English is the national language and all the schools are taught in English. They got their independence from England in 1960.

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The Nigerians, in general, are blacker than the American blacks.  They have not been mixed with white like the American blacks. The American blacks are basically all mulatto.  The Nigerians are the real pure black people. However, at times, you can see someone who isn’t as black as the others, and they will tell you they have a white relative, and the Nigerians call them “yellow,”  so American blacks, you aren’t black. You are yellow according to the Nigerians.

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The Hausa people raise cattle and crops. They do a lot of trading. They are mostly Islamic people, but the Christians in southern Nigeria have been sending missionaries north.  When I was in Jos, the church of Christ in Jos was made up mostly of people from Cross Rivers and River States, from the south.

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The oldest kingdom in Nigeria was the Nri Kingdom.  It is known to be there since the stone age.  The Igbo people come from the Nri people. The Nri people are Bantu. The Igbo people live in South Eastern Nigeria.  They occupy Cross Rivers and Rivers States, and maybe more.     They are mostly Christian.  The first member of the church of Christ was from the Igbo tribe, Essien, a policeman who took correspondence courses in several subjects from the sister in law of Hitler.  He asked her for a Bible correspondence course, and she didn’t know anything about the Bible, so went to a church in Germany who referred her to an American church in Tennessee.  They wrote “World Bible School” correspondence courses with Essien in mind which are still very popular Bible correspondence courses in English.  He became a Christian and began what is called “a people movement” in southern Nigeria causing whole villages at a time to become Christians.  When he called for help to America, they sent an old friend of mine, Wendell Broome, to help him along with several other missionaries.  Through their efforts and the efforts of many others, Nigerian Christian Hospital and Nigerian Christian Bible College were begun in southern Nigeria. The Igbo are very opposed to Sharia law.

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The Igbo people are the most educated people in Nigeria because they have oil. Many Igbo have been to America to study.  Oil is Nigeria’s major export.  Before oil, it was peanuts, and there are peanuts everywhere in Nigeria.  They call them ground nuts.  When the Igbo people began getting rich off the oil, they tried to pull away from the other Nigerian states, but the Hausa in the north were too strong. When I was growing up, I heard about the Biafran people, and how they were starving, but at the time, they were so far away, and I had no idea who they were.  They were the Igbo people of southern Nigeria.  The war began in 1967 and lasted for 2 years.  There were mass graves like the ones they found in Yugoslavia when they had a war.  The Hausa people cut the Igbo people off so they could get no food, and they were starving.  That is how the Hausa people stopped the Igbo people from becoming a country all on their own.  The Igbo people make up 18% of the Nigerian population.

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There were no uniforms, so they couldn’t tell the difference between the different kinds of people.  They didn’t want to accidentally fight a brother, so the different tribes cut their faces so they had scars with different patterns on their faces according to which tribe they were from.  When I was in Nigeria, they were still scarring their faces, but the girls were doing it then because they thought it was pretty.

Another large group in Nigeria is the Yoruba.  The Yoruba make up 21% of the Nigerian people.  They are in the south west mostly around Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.  The Yoruba are all three major religions in Nigeria, Christian, Muslim, and pagan.  There are actually still pagans all over Nigeria.

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The pagan believe in the traditional religions of Nigeria.  They believe in the Juju man, the man who does witchcraft and are very superstitious.  I saw a Juju man at the marketplace in Bukuru, and they are a sight to behold. They look very primitive.  The man was wearing just a loin cloth of animal skin and a crazy wig. He was throwing puffs of smoke and scaring the people.  These guys have superstitious people under their power.  Some are considered good and some bad.  Some of their rituals involve human body parts and cause people to murder, but murder is against the law in Nigeria.  When I was there, I heard rumors of human sacrifice and was told the police didn’t know what to do, so they just winked at it and acted like it didn’t exist even though there are laws against it.  When I was reading about Juju men, I learned that some of their rituals also include cannibalism.  I was under the impression that cannibals were a thing of the past in Nigeria, but even though it is against the law, Juju men prompt it as part of their rituals. When the people are caught, they are arrested and put to death, but it still happens prompted by the Juju men.

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When I visited a friend of mine who lived off the Plateau in Dingy, down where it was hot in Nigeria, I saw an old woman sitting by the side of the road.  My friend said he had talked to that old woman, and she used to be a cannibal. He said he asked her why she ate people.  She said that when the white men came, they had never seen white men, and their skin was the color of pigs, so they thought they were related to pigs, so they killed them and ate them.  The accounts I have read say the cannibalism was usually part of a pagan ritual.

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Another pagan believe is they are scared of twins. I actually thought this practice had been done away with, but not yet.  There has been a lot of progress made in educating the people that twins don’t come from the devil and are not evil spirits, but evidently, there are still some who are still scared of twins.  When twins are born, many mothers just abandon them out in the bush and let them die because they are scared of them. An article I read said mothers do this because if they don’t, pagans led by Juju men will come in and kill the babies, and possibly the mother too. With the advent of Christianity and the influence of British and American missionaries, many understand that they don’t have to be scared of twins, but there are still those who are because of the pagan religions and the influence of the Juju man.

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Another large tribe in Nigeria is the Ijaw who live in the Niger River Delta.  They are 10% of the population.  There is a lot of oil there, and people have come in to take it out, but the Ijaw don’t get the profits.  When I was in Nigeria, I knew foreigners who had been to very fancy compounds where the people who were taking the oil out of the land lived.  The Ijaw provided Nigeria with one of their prime ministers from 2010-2015. his name as Good Luck Jonathan.

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Another Nigerian tribe is the Kanuri.  They make up 4 % of the population, about 4,000,000 people.  They are Sunni Musims. Boko Haram, the Nigerian Muslim group who has caused so much trouble in the news in recent years, come from them.  They are under Sharia law.  Some Kanuri people don’t like it, but there isn’t much they can do about it.

Another tribe in Nigeria is the Tiv.  The Tiv are into agriculture and trading.  They make up about 3.5% of the population.  They are Christian, Muslim, and pagan.

There are other tribal groups in Nigeria, but there are too many to describe each one.  They make up about 12% of the population.

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The government works hard to integrate all these tribal groups together.  If you go into one of their high schools, you will find students in the dormitories from all over the place.  They are not allowed to go to school in a local school because the government wants the people to be one people.  They think if they become friends with people from the other tribes, they will be more accepting of the other tribes.  All the tribes come from the same original people group that the largest part of Africa comes from, the Bantu people.  When I was in Nigeria, I lived in a concrete house, but there are still many mud huts in Nigeria. The government decided to make a museum with mud huts so the people could remember where they came from, and people decided the mud huts were nice and moved into them. The Nigerians have the same concept toward the land that the American Indians did, the land belongs to everyone.  I had lemon trees in my front yard, but I couldn’t claim those trees because everyone picked the fruit.  My friend had banana trees in his back yard, and everyone picked the bananas.  Some missionaries built a big wall and grew a garden inside, and people still climbed the wall and took their vegetables telling them the land belongs to everyone.  There is so much more I could tell you about Nigeria, and I may in succeeding blogs, but this helps you understand a bit about them.


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