The Core Of Nigeria: Culture To Custom; Clothing To Cuisine!

Nigeria is known all over the world for its beautifully distinct and unique traditions, colorfully vibrant, so very rich in artifacts; the English language is officially and widely used for education, business transactions, and for other official purposes because it is well spoken by many whereby the very few speak the pidgin English. The indigenous local languages accepted by the majority are Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri, Yoruba, and Igbo. The Naira notes is the Nigerian currency used as the country’s legal tender.

Muslims live predominantly in the North and the Christians are predominantly in the south of Nigeria; dwelling widely and living within these communities and the two major religion are people of different beliefs such as Ancestor worships, beliefs in deities and idols, the spirits of the dead, and super-natural powers; with fetish beliefs. Who live their lives by a strong belief in invoking the spirits of their ancestors, calling upon the God Of Thunder And Lightning “OGUN”, swearing and bringing down curses upon their enemies. Nigerians are outgoing, jovial, and very friendly; greetings are endless with polite inquiries into the welfare of the person, families, pets, animals, businesses, assets, and even the weather.

THE EXTENDED FAMILY: The family structure is so important that the extended families constitute a major part and parcel with an important role in all family issues; they include Great-Grand Parents, Grandparents, Cousins (Nephews and Nieces), Uncles and Aunties, Brothers and Sisters, all the in-laws i.e. families by marriage; find reasons here to why no member of the family lives in isolation; no wonder hardly do you find any “Old Peoples Homes” in Nigeria. Families in Nigeria stand together as one big family, looking out for one another and always reaching out to the other members of the family through Guidance, Advice, Shelter, Feeding, Protection, Financial Aids, and any other Urgent Assistance; for the overall good and welfare of every member of the families, caring and sharing responsibilities is a lifetime duty. The family leadership is by seniority hierarchy, the most senior is honored and respected to make decisions, settle family disputes and take the lead on all domestic affairs. 

RESPECT: Nigerians never fail to give respect and honor to whom it is due wherever they find themselves, respect is inculcated in every Nigerian according to their cultural practices. It is a MUST to greet an elder first thing in the morning; on their return home or while visiting them and at every meeting. It is a sign of respect to remove the hat or cap, lower the gaze, bow the head while greeting an elderly person, in age, social status, or position, and at times respect is given to a young person whose status in the society is acknowledged such as a prince, chief, king, or a political office holder. While certain tribes, expect a female to kneel down on the floor or curtsy to greet the elderly the males are expected to prostrate, squat, or bow. It is absolutely an abomination to call elders, parents, and persons of high status in the society by their first name; a title of their ascribed status is mostly attached to their name. Nigerians see it as a sign of disrespect and so disgusting to use the left hand to greet, shake hands, eat, give or accept, collect things from people made even worse when it is an elderly person. Giving or accepting anything MUST be done using the right hand ONLY or both hands if a leftie; NEVER use just the left hand.

THE IGBOS: They are of the southern parts of Nigeria, predominantly Christians. The tribal marks are not part of the Igbo culture but some Igbos have tiny incisions on part of their faces and parts of their bodies which are made for ritual purposes to identify and deter an evil child called “Ogbanje” i.e. the spirit child; from tormenting his/her earthly parents by being born only to die at a certain age to be born again and again, the mark stops the cycle of rebirth. They love in their clothing to wear stylish suits just like the Europeans; for men and smart dresses or trouser suits for women, at times for their casual wears gowns or skirts. the traditional wears include lace blouses, George lace materials, Hollandaise wax wrappers, Gele, and coral beads. The popular and most consumed Igbo foods are known as swallow and soups such as Akpu (fufu) made from pounded yam, cocoyam, Eba (Garri from Cassava), Corn, guinea corn, Semovita. An appetizer served with their main meal is a dish called Nkwobi known as Isi Ewu(Goat Head Peppersoup), made with varieties of meat choices such as stockfish, spices, and condiments. Their favorite soups are egusi (melon seeds), Oha soup, Ogbono Soup, Edi Kang Ikong soup cooked with (Snails, periwinkles, crabs, meats, and vegetables), yam porridge cooked with assorted vegetables. It is a MUST for the Igbos to serve the Sunday rice. A snack meal cherished by all Igbos is the Okpa commonly made from Bambara nut flour mix just like Moi-Moi (Bean Cake-Pudding) wrapped and cooked in banana or pumpkin leaves. The Igbos MUST have delicacy at social events is Abacha known as the African Salad made from cassava flakes, assorted meats, and palm oil served in mud bowls with the Palmwine as refreshment drinks. The Yam Festival; during which the Yam known all over as the most honored food; must go through the purification and thanksgiving to the “Gods” before it is eaten, roasted first on an open coal fire and drizzle with palm-oil; served along with garden eggs, kola nuts and of course the palm wine or any alcoholic drinks.

THE MASQUERADE: The masquerade with masks and costumes so visually striking, made of animal horns, teeth, grasses; mesmerizing and so scary comes out seasonally chasing terrified villagers with bow arrow and fierce-looking horsewhips. The masquerade is sacred, believed by its people especially a given community of its supernatural powers in the southern parts of Nigeria. When the masquerade appears, women and children are not allowed to see the masked gods, except male adults and chiefs. Certain people must stay indoors until the ritual is over or face the wrath of the gods with consequences as deadly as taking a life. The masquerade only appears seasonally to do the dance of the gods or during important ceremonies, such as the death of a very prominent person in the society such as a high priest, chief, or the king. The masquerade feared by many in Igbo land; dances around the villages, known as the dance of the ancestors portray by the masquerade, coming out with a spiritual message believing that the gods have transformed into masquerades to pass on a message only understood by the high priest of the land. The masquerades never die it lives on from generation to generation.

THE YORUBAS: The Yoruba popular main meal is “Amala”; served with the following soups “ewedu” mix with “gbegiri (Black-eyed beans soup)” and pepper sauce, “ila (Okra soup)”, “efo riro”, complimented with assorted meat fondly called “orisirisi (varieties)”, Moimoi and Akara also their favorite snack meal. They the Yorubas are known for their tribal marks called “ila”, such marks are inscribed by cutting or burning the skin at childhood which is a part of the Yoruba cultural heritage where sometimes the tribal marks are made to identify the “abiku” a “child born to die”.  the Yoruba tribal marks comprises of 12 marks made on the cheek, six made on each cheek just like the cat whiskers, very peculiar to the people of Egba Land of Abeokuta; while the abaja tribal marks are mostly seen on the Ogbomosho, Ijeshas and Ibadan people consisting of 4 horizontal marks and 2 vertical marks above them on each cheek to 3 or 4 horizontal marks on each cheek are bold lacerations. An obvious distinction is noticed in their style of dress called “Buba” and the men rocking in a long, loose-fitting shirt which comes down to the thigh and women a loose-fitting blouse which comes down to just below the waist, with a wrapper which is just three pieces of 2 yards materials for each, one to tie on the waist over the blouse; the second to tie on the hips and the third to place on the shoulder or tied on the head as Gele. The men wearing a traditional cap known as “fila” made from an “Aso Oke”, holding an “Irukere made from horsetail”. The major clothing materials are beautifully hand knitted Aso-Oke; internationally sought after because of the painstaking craftsmanship involved in the knitting, comes in multi-colored designs, so beautifully versatile use in making everything from shoes, bags, caps, bags, the males and female wears. Most couples across all Nigerian tribes are seen adorned beautifully in Aso-Oke outfits. It is absolutely difficult NOT to love the fabric; Aso-oke is a MUST have in every fashionista wardrobe, it is unisex for all to use any which way from shoes to the cap. The Ifa religion of the Yorubas is mostly sought for in the face of crisis and tragedies, to seek for the causes, solutions, and best ways to resolve it. thereby consulting the Ifa oracle that’s always authentically accurate in its predictions, findings, and solutions. The cowries have always held a significant position in the life of Nigerians especially the Yorubas dating back to the ancestors, mostly believed to bring in good fortune and good luck. The cowries are used by fortune tellers and the “Ifa Priest” to communicate with the “Ifa oracle”. The Yorubas have a strong belief in the water goddess known as mammy water the half-fish woman (Mermaid), the mermaid is a pride of some communities in Yoruba land and some Igbo communities; taking into view the Osun-Oshogbo River and its festivals believed to bless the childless couples with children and fortunes.

THE HAUSAS/FULANIS/KANURIS: The dwellers of Northern Nigeria are mostly of the Islamic doctrine, practicing similar culture, items of clothing, and cuisines. The people of the north diet consists mostly of sorghum, millets, guinea corn, rice, beans, and groundnuts with a love for fish dishes known all over the world for its Baga fish along the shores of The Lake Chad and the river of Yobe State. Horses are the symbols of prestige and most families keep and rear animals in their homesteads. The Shuwa-Arabs and Fulbe-Fulanis are the cattle herders and the Kanuris are very well known for keeping goats, sheep, rams, and large herds of cattle in their compounds; loving the cats so passionately as pets. Islamic foods and drinks taboos are strictly observed in the north of Nigeria; their cuisines and meals consist of the porridge Kunu served with the main meal as desserts and the yagi goes along with every meal made of assorted spices. The Fulani Fura da nono is a must-have super deliciously sweet so highly nutritious beverage made out of Fura millet granules and flour cooked to form balls with nono fermented milk or yogurt mix together and sweetened with sugar; served in calabash bowls “Koriya”, beautifully decorated with engravings, covered with a cute multi-colored mat known as feifei and an engraved scopes spoons made of calabash called “Ludayi”. Other delicacies enjoyed in the North include Masa, Waina, Senasirs, Funkaso, Tuwon Masara, Tuwon Shinkafa serve with vegetable or okara soups; sweet local drinks are zobo drinks and Ardeff a tamarind spicy drink. The Hausa tribal marks are known as Zube, Yan’Baka, Doddori while the Fulani tribal mark is called the Kalangu named after the Kalangu Hausa drum. The Kanuri of olden days travel far and wide and the Kanuri tribal marks were considered as an identity to serve as protection, pride, and confidence (fearless); an international identity for those traveling outside the Kanem Borno Empire; historically going back to the slave trade era. The tribal marks are nine (9) on the face with one mark drawn from under the forehead down to the nose, two marks on each of the temples above the check bones close to the earlobes, and two marks on each of the cheekbones making a total of 9 nine bold tribal marks for both the males and the females whereas for the women the tribal marks serve as a unique beauty and a mark of prestige. But hardly do the modern Kanuri person has such tribal marks considering it as archaic; it is a tradition that is fast fading away. The tribal marks are historically considered as beautification; cultural practices as a symbol of honor, pride, and heritage but due to modernization tribal marks all across the Nigerian nation are prohibited by Nigerian law; it has been realized that tribal marks are mutilation causing infections, bullying, and discriminations all over the world. The Nose Ring is an item of beautification for the elderly Kanuri women; mostly seen with round gold nose rings and ankle silver bangles whilst the young ladies with nose pierce prefer to use the shining blink on their nose instead of the large gold rings.

THE BAMA CAP AND THE KULWU GOWN: The “Zawa” by the Kanuri, “Hula” by the Hausa, “Fila” by the Yorubas are known as the Zanna Bukar Caps of Maiduguri. A beautiful intricately hand embroidery, each cap starts with a design template using a ruler and colored markers, sewn with the tiniest needles and multi-colored threads, it is then hand-stitched following the pattern takes 2-6 weeks to complete a cap. All Nigerian tribes wear the cap from the Yorubas to the Igbos, Non-Nigerians, some brave females are seen rocking the cap on the female kaftan. The traditional cap of the Kanuri is world-famous; love by young and old, politicians to musicians, celebrities, and pop stars. The men flowing gown (agbada) known as Kulwu is a traditional Kanuri dress heavily embroidered piece worn by men; is a robe or shroud consisting of trousers, a long sleeve undershirt, and an open stitched sleeveless gown atop it worn with the caps known as Zanna Bukar. The more expensive the Kulwu fabrics the higher the social and financial status of the men wearing them, the wearing of the Kulwu garment depicts respect for the culture and custom of the great Kanem Borno tradition. The Kulwu making is a noble trade passed on from generation to generation; the traditional attire is mostly worn during important events such as weddings, cultural and coronation of the Emirs and Shehus. The Kanuri or the northerner is considered properly dressed when he is completely dressed in his Kulwu, Gamaje or Danciki or Yarciki, Yange is trouser in Kanuri, and Zawa cap of the Kanuri.

THE HAUSA BOORII: A practiced by mostly the Hausas of the north; Happens during a drum beat, songs, and recitation, and the women immediately go into a trance possessed by the spirits, spinning looking into the heavens but with a blank look, jump up and slamming their buttocks on the ground, sitting with their legs spread apart, chanting, with white formy substances gushing out of their mouth a deadly dangerous look on their faces, jumping up and down severally until held down by the herbalist with the aid of charms and incantations on them to calm and de-possessed them of the hold of the cult spiritual powers, on such displays they claim to solve all life problems by selling herbs, charms, and amulets for all spiritual and physical traumas and problems. The Bokas for the Hausas are just like the Babalawos for the Yorubas who is known as the fortune-tellers, they see into the future predicting what might happen.

THE FUNERALS: The Christians of the south of Nigeria celebrate life, flamboyantly elaborate and expensive; funerals for the Non-Muslims are often delayed for several months to allow all family members to be in attendance, funerals are attributed to honoring the life of the deceased, with Gold-Encrusted Coffins, Aso-Ebi outfits, Dancing Pallbearers, and followed with feasting and festivities. Funerals are sad and sober occasions when the family gathers, the funeral rites of the Muslim is very simple and never delayed. A white shroud six yards in length wrapped around the corpse after the rituals of bathing and preparing the corpse for burial, with just a mat is immediately taken away to be buried followed by prayers for the deceased, the families left behind, and the Sadaqat a charity for the soul of the deceased.

THE DRUM AND THE DANCE: Music and dance are the real Nigerian heartbeats; music of traditional instruments is used to celebrate all festivities, public assemblies, weddings, and funerals as well as storytelling. Drums are beaten during celebrations such as new harvests, traditional weddings, child dedications, a cry for war, and the declaration of peace. A talking drum is a tool of announcements and every event gives its own unique sounds, beats, and message. The drum is an ancestral asset, legendary and everlasting; Nigerian musicians are known all over the world.

Nigeria is a blessed land flowing with milk and honey, rich in mineral resources, awesome seasonal weather with beautiful cultural heritage. An amazing custom and colorful traditional clothing; delicious cuisine and awesome poetry recitations, everlasting Orikis-praise-singing, of the Yoruba indigenous proverbs, and sayings of the elders. Tongues and tribes are different but Nigerians remain a strong indivisible part of each other. Nigerians are religiously realistic but so so spiritual in their beliefs backing up their religious practices with the powers of the gods living in the spirit realms. A trip of a lifetime awaits; from the Lagos traffic jam of go-slow to the awesome capital city of Abuja, an amazing hike on the hills of the plateau, a magical misty walk through stunning tourist attractions in the Port-Harcourt city, and do not miss the durbar royal horse parade of the northern cities of Nigeria, a visual extravaganza by the Hausa-Fulani and the Kanuri ethnic groups. A never to be forgotten hospitality and life-changing experiences; come visit the land of amazing discoveries, a nation of endless possibilities, and business opportunities. Proudly Nigeria!