Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger

Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger

Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger

Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger

Synopsis

How have different forms of colonialism shaped societies and their politics? William F. S. Miles focuses on the Hausa-speaking people of West Africa whose land is still split by an arbitrary boundary established by Great Britain and France at the turn of the century.

Excerpt

This book began with a theft. In 1979, as my two-year stint as a Peace Corps high school teacher in south-central Niger was drawing to a close, my home was broken into and my precious JVC shortwave radio/cassette recorder-player -- a gift from my father -- was stolen. Although there was a suspect, the prospects of recovering the radio were, according to the town's police chief, virtually nil: the suspect's movements immediately after the break-in were traced to a village across the border in Nigeria. Presumably the radio had been hidden or sold there, in Nigerian territory. Even if the radio could be traced, the police chief went on, its recovery would necessitate foreign diplomacy and the invocation of international law: Nigérien authorities in Niamey (Niger's capital) would have to contact their counterparts in Lagos, who would then need to follow the administrative chain of command down to the small, rather insignificant border village. I was made to understand that even in the unlikely event that the appropriate government officials were to take an interest in my pilfered radio -- hardly a matter of consequence in the larger scheme of Nigérien-Nigerian relations-the process would be inordinately time-consuming and that in all probability I would be long gone from the country by the time the affair was resolved.

As it turned out, I did get my radio back, though its recovery had little to do with Nigérien-Nigerian diplomatic intervention at the national level. My radio was returned thanks to the successful invocation of local Hausa norms. The chief of the Nigérien district where I resided sent messengers to the nearby Nigerian village to inform the chief there of the problem. The village chief summoned the fishmonger who had bought my purloined radio and prevailed upon him to sell it back to my chief's messengers. In the end, then, though it had been smuggled across an international boundary, I was able to buy back and retrieve my property from a foreign country.

The theft of my radio and the circumstances of its return whetted my curiosity about the partition of the Hausa into Niger and Nigeria and the . . .

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