Tag: juju

Jangali Redux: The Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree Edition


Last year, on the thirteenth anniversary of my Dad’s death, I posted the story of Jangali 1947, the annual cattle-tax roundup conducted by the newly-assigned colonial officers in the Nigerian bush. Having arrived in Nigeria several months previous and been assigned the task, Dad didn’t waste any time imprinting the process with his own unique signature. As Sir Brian Sharwood Smith put it, in his memoir of his time in Nigeria, But Always as Friends–Northern Nigeria and the Cameroons 1921-1957 (emphasis mine):

The man I chose [to supervise the Sokoto Survey] was a newly joined officer named David Muffett. David was a very large man with an original turn of mind and an inexhaustible fund of energy. He had already achieved prominence by applying a novel technique to the lengthy and exhausting business of supervising the wet season cattle count on which the jangali tax was based. By long established tradition this annual contest between the District Heads, who assessed and collected the tax, helped on occasion by the [District Officer], and the nomad cattle owners, who sought to evade it, had acquired many of the characteristics of an international sporting event. There were rules and a ritual. If the District Head ran his quarry to earth, the Fulani paid up with good grace; if the Fulani contrived to spirit away a few hundred head undetected, there were no hard words. The odds on the whole were pretty evenly balanced, for to counterbalance the mobility of the mounted NA officials, there were large tracts of uninhabited bush in which the cattle could be concealed, and the control of the Fulani over their herds verged on the uncanny. But when David Muffett started chasing cattle across country in his Land Rover, a type of vehicle then barely known in Nigeria, the purists raised their eyebrows.  And many herds crossed over into Niger Province where they felt that they would be accorded more gentlemanly treatment.

Tall Tales: Gagara Yasin


dadweb2The year was 1956.

I knew something was horribly wrong that night, when Ahmadu dropped the soup! Normally exquisitely self-possessed, immaculately groomed, and imperturbable, our man-servant and friend was disheveled, the color of cement, and shaking like a leaf with acute anxiety and palpable fear.

Our little family—myself, Kay, and our imperious eighteen-month-old daughter, known behind her back as “She Who Must Be Obeyed”—were living in Idah at the time, among the people of the Igala kingdom.