Linguistic Contestations in the ‘City of 201 Gods’: Identity Construction among Hausa In-Migrants in Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Author: Ibukunolu Isaac Olodude (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)
Speaker: Ibukunolu Isaac Olodude
Topic: Applied Sociolinguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Ethnic crises between Hausa migrants and their Southern hosts continue to reoccur in Nigeria. At the heart of these conflicts are ethnolinguistic and religious identity contestations. The Hausa people are highly mobile and are found in almost every urban community outside their domain. The migrant Hausa left their native lands in Northern Nigeria and moved down to the South to settle in Ile-Ife as individuals and family units. As they settle in the urban cities in Southern Nigeria, they usually cluster together and form an enclave known as Sabo, all in a bid to maintain their linguistic, religious, and cultural identities without being ‘contaminated’.  Since languages in contact are said to be languages in competition, and there is no language contact without language conflict, identity contestations often take place in most urban cities in the southern part of Nigeria due to differences in the linguistic and cultural landscapes. For instance, Ile-Ife, a semi-urban city in Southwest Nigeria, described as home to 201 deities has had its own fair share of such crises which often result in the death of several people. This is because the Hausa people are predominantly Muslims and their cultural tendencies are mainly sourced from the Quran. On the other hand, Ile-Ife is considered to be a holy city of deities with the Yoruba indigenous religion and cultural landscape. The worshippers of these deities such as Olókun, Olúorogbo, Yemòó, Ọ̀rànmíyàn, Ọbàtálá, Mọrèmi abound in the city. Ile-Ife is a linguistically heterogenous community with Yoruba being the primary language of the community but with other minority migrant languages. This study investigated the identity contestations between the Hausa migrants and their host which revolve around language and cultural contact which often occurs in urban cities. Data comprises key informant interviews conducted with the key leaders of the Hausa community, participant observation and questionnaire administered to 300 participants of Hausa extraction and was analyzed using the revised Ethnolinguistic Identity theory and descriptive statistics approaches. Hausa in-migrants in Sabo, Ile Ife manifested ethnic loyalty in their language use patterns, proficiency and attitude, but still manifested cases of code-switching and mixing in some domains. The mosque in Sabo played vital role in the maintenance of the Hausa ethnolinguistic identity. The study concludes that host communities accommodating the Hausa migrants must acknowledge the strong preference for their linguistic, religious and cultural identities to engender peaceful coexistence between the migrants and their hosts.

Keywords: Linguistic contestations, identity construction, cultural landscape, religion, ethnic loyalty.