The indigenous Christians in Kano State, Nigeria, popularly known and addressed as ‘Maguzawa’ are historically the original inhabitants of the State.
These group of people who are mostly found in rural areas of the state are also scattered around other Northern neighboring states.
The group who fought against the Islamic Jihadist who conquered the State in 1805 were pushed away to the inter-lands of the state leading to their decrease and dwindling in number as many had to flee the area while others lost their lives in the battle.
Even after the Jihad, many of the indigenous Hausa people would not accept Islam but continued to practice their traditional beliefs and a distinction had to be made to differentiate between them, the fulanies and those who accepted Islam and had inter-marriages giving birth to a new class known as Hausa-fulanis.
Hence, the Word Bamaguje (singular, male, Bamagujiya, Female) which means an idol worshiper or someone without religion or Maguzawa (plural form) to distinguish them from the rest of the Hausa Muslims came to be.
The Christian Missionaries who came to Northern Nigeria in 1870 however met vehement resistance from Islamic Jihadists whom had taken over mantle of leadership and introduced what is known today as emirs in their conquered territories which Kano is part of it and wouldn’t let them propagate the gospel in their strong holds.
However, the missionaries somehow found listening ears among the maguzawa who were already relegated to the background and were lacking in terms of education, health and other basic needs of life.
Although not much was achieved due to the hostilities of the Jihadists, with the provision of health care and mission schools provided to these people, many came to accept Christianity where they were educated under the early Catholic Mission Schools which have since been converted to Government Owned Schools.
These village dwellers, like in other part of the world are farmers and engages in other agricultural practices as the major source of their livelihood and have lived with their muslim neighbors for decades.
Although there are no official data to show the exact number of the group as an official of the National Population Commission in the State explained that “Issues as to which religion has more population is a sensitive one, so we don’t document such data but the data of the general population of a state”.
However, out of the 44 Local Government Areas of the state, they are largely found in 14 LGAs which are; Bagwai , Shanono , kabo ,Karaye ,Rogo , Bebeji ,Kiru, Rano, Tudun Wada ,Garko Doguwa Sumaila and Garin Malam with an estimated number of over a million according to an indigenous Christian youth leader, Dahiru Saleh.
The State which is the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria is a bee-hive of activities which witness the influx of people from all over the country and even beyond and continue to receive more settlers even till today.
Despite the accommodating nature of the State, the Indigenous Christians are not without complaints about their survival in a predominantly Muslim State.
According to a youth leader, Dahiru Saleh, said to start with, the term “Maguzawa” is a derogatory word used to disqualify them from being bonefied members of the State.
The Word Maguzawa which is same as “ARNA” is an offensive word which means Pagans.
He said “It has been erroneously believed that every Hausa person is, or must be a Muslim hence the use of the word to showcase us as being something else”.
“People find it strange to believe us when we say we are Christians and Hausa by tribe because of how we have been addressed and positioned for years”.
“People recognize us as ‘Maguzawa’ but find it difficult to believe we are Christians and Hausa because many think that the name ‘maguzawa’ is our tribe and it disturbs us a lot,” he narrated.
Speaking further, Saleh said, “We don’t have or speak any other native dialect than Hausa, why must we be referred to by a name(s)that has no connection with our tribe but call are Hausa Muslim counterparts, Hausas?, He queries.
“We are all Hausa and reject any other name(s) that discriminate, relegates, intimidate or negatively describes us base on our faith rather than who we are”.
According to him, they hide their religious identities, such as christian names, articles of faith and wears also have been changed to fit in and survive in the midst of their fellow muslims in order to reduce the extent of discrimination and marginalization they suffer in terms of job opportunities, education etc.
” We have also recorded series of attacks on our places of worship in places like Sumaila, Kibiya Garko and others”, he added.
Tales of Marginalization
According Saleh the (Hausa Christians) hardly get employed into the State Civil Service except in rare cases where the person hides his religious identity because it is difficult for them to get State jobs through mere interview which himself is a victim.
Freedom of Religion
According to him, Christians in some local government in the State continue to face challenges of Freedom of worship as series of attacks have been recorded in their places of worship. These are places like Sumaila, Kibiya Garko and others.
The Activist who is a member of the affected Communities said, “We only benefit from infrastructural facilities through our neighbors, that is our Muslims brethren.
It is hard to see a Hausa Christian dominated area with good road, good/clean water whether tap or boreholes unless they are mixed with Muslims.
These, he said could he found in some villages in Tudun Wada LGA, Sumaila, Kibiya, etc, citing also, Sabon Gari area which he said sufferers from poor road networks, water and others just because it is dominantly occupied by christian setllers despite being a commercial center that generate huge sum of revenue for the State.
However, Al-Hassan Ibrahim , an indigenous Christian who hails from Gwarzo Local Government Area of the State who also spoke on their relationship explained that despite some of the challenges they experience, they still live and associate with their Muslim counterparts.
“Although our experiences varies from one community to another, but we cohabit with our muslin brothers and sisters.
“We share same markets, schools and even inter-marry because our christian ladies are allowed to marry the Muslim men but a Christian man is not allowed to marry a Muslim lady with converting to Islam”
“At the communal level we live together and engage in different social activities that has to do with all”.
People are now becoming more enlightened and are beginning to imbibe the spirit of religious tolerance, we’ve had cases of some pastors building mosques for the Muslims and we’ve also had instances where the some Muslims pay us surprise visit during church services with the view to further foster understanding and cordial relationship.
“Like I said earlier, it depends on the people around you. Some even go out to defend us the Christians when there is some sort of religious unrest,” Al-Hassan noted.
The Indigenous christians are mostly Catholics, protestants and with a large number of them belonging to the Evangelical Church Winning All, previously known as Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) largely due to their use of the Hausa Language during their services which makes it easier for communication.
This report was supported by the Africa Resilience Network (ARN), a project of Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).