Needless Cyber Fights Over “Emir” and “Oba”



The Oluwo of Iwoland in Osun State, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, said last Saturday that he should henceforth be addressed as “Emir of Iwoland,” and a gratuitous cyber fight has broken out between Yorubas and Hausa Muslims. But as you expend energies on this non-issue, bear this in mind:

1. “Emir” is NOT a Hausa word. It’s actually an English word by way of the Arabic “amir,” which simply means ruler or leader. So, in a literal linguistic sense, every Oba, Obi, Sarki, Sunno, Tor, Ochi, Olu, etc. is an “emir.”

2. Hausa people call their traditional rulers “Sarki,” not “Emir.” (Ironically, “Seriki,” the Yoruba domestication of Sarki, is a common Yoruba name, and even appears in titles like “seriki adinni of Yorubaland,” which means the leader of religion/Islam in Yorubaland).

3. It is unnatural for Hausa people to call their traditional rulers “emir”–or even the original Arabic “amir”–when they speak Hausa. (Read a column I wrote on this in the comment section below)

4. Interestingly, in their quotidian conversational encounters, Ilorin people call their “emir” Oba, even though the “Oba” traces ancestral descent from Fulani people. The market near the emir of Ilorin’s palace is called “oja oba,” which means “market of the oba” in Yoruba.

5. It was British colonialists who introduced the word “emir” and “sultan” to northern Nigerian royal lexical repertoire, but the words haven’t even been domesticated in the Hausa language, showing that the people aren’t quite enthused about them. The colonialists could have called Muslims obas in Yorubaland “emir” if they wanted to.

6. The roots of Islam in Iwo go back to several centuries. The town had sharia courts and was the center of Islamic scholarship several decades before many northern Muslim communities.


By Farooq Kperogi

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