Marzuq as Metaphor


Adamu Tilde


Marzuq Abubakar Ungogo just graduated from a top-ranking university in the UK with distinction in Clinical Pharmacology, at MSc. level. Prior to that, he had a first class degree in Veterinary Medicine from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He hailed from Kano state and recently turned 26.


A few months ago, Dr. Aminu Gamawa completed his Ph.D. studies at Harvard Law School, USA. Prior to his sojourn in America, he and Daniel Bwala represent Nigeria at International Law Competition in Sweden and assumed the second position worldwide. Also, of very recent, Dr. Zainab Usman (currently with World Bank), bagged a PhD degree in International Development from the prestigious Oxford University, Great Britain. Gamawa, Bwala, Usman hailed from Bauchi, Borno, and Kaduna state respectively.


What the aforementioned narratives demonstrate is the shattering of the long-held but absurd belief and mythology and wayward stereotyping of Northerners as lazy ignoramuses, intellectually inferior to their Southern counterpart, who cannot compete equitably without the aid of "Quota System".


It is a recurring but nauseating, offensive, insulting and tired metaphors and clichés that are designed to make lies sound truthful and ignorance respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind encountering pronouncements like-- "you know you are one of the informed Northerners I have met"; "you really sound smart and way too sophisticated, unlike the many Northerners I have known"; "one of the few intelligent Northerners you will encounter on Facebook" and their other cousins in illogicality, as if a certain tribe or region has the exclusive preserve and monopoly of intellect, as if excellence has a tribal mark. Never mind that many of those condescending rhetorics often come from people who have never crossed River Niger.


This reminds me of two scenarios during our NYSC year. One, it's of a certain Yoruba guy, a graduate of Ife (who is still a very close friend). We met at Mammy Market. The tea-stand belongs to a Yoruba lady. Both of us used to have our breakfast there, every morning. Yoruba guys dominate the place. One good morning, they were chatting (I hardly get myself into what I am not involved), Accidentally, I chipped-in in their conversation to clarify on a certain issue. Because of the academic tinge (use of dates and all that) that I employed, they were swayed, at the same time, surprised by my comment. My later to be friend made a bold but childish and laughable remark- that I am Aboki. I instantly retorted with--a full-blooded one, without apology. Later when I was leaving, I squeezed a paper into his hand, written on it--Excellence is not an exclusive preserve of chosen few (by tribe, region or otherwise). From then on, we became friends, always hanging out together. Glory to God, we are still cruising.


Two, it's of a certain lady (of Igbo extraction), a graduate of Nsukka. She is really intelligent I must confess. Many of my friends tease me about her, for we were very close. Two things happened that are worth of remembering and of course sharing. One, on a certain afternoon, we were part of the delegation to go and visit the Sultan. On our way, my dear friend (she must be laughing reading this writing😜), we passed through Sokoto GRA, my friend couldn't hide her admiration (I think disappointment should be the right word) that Sokoto could have such beautiful and magnificent buildings and so many flashy cars. She, without provocation, uttered the most bizarre comment I have ever expected to hear from a graduate-- so there are new cars and 'fine' buildings in the north? Have a good guess of my answer.


Two, on another day, we were chatting in the wee hours of the night, I told her that in the northeastern states, with the exception of Bauchi and Yobe, Muslims and Christians are about 50-50 or 60-40 at most, in terms of numbers. She went berserk and began to sing: Jesus is winning. I was like, don't expose your emptiness!


Nothing could be more apt than the title of the celebrated TED talk of Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story. True, as she espoused, the single story creates a stereotype. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.


I may excuse my friends for they have read, listened or encountered nothing of the north other than the typical stereotyping of the north as backward, lazy, parasites, architects of snail-moving Nigeria that it is and its Tutsis that characterized Tribune, Guardian and Punch. To them, north is anything but Almajiri, Mai Shayi, Mai Guard, Suya. It has never occurred to them that someone from the north can be intelligent enough to make an informed analysis or rich to buy a new car. What a pity! This excuse may not be tenable anymore. In Knowledge-worker age, ignorance is not an excuse. So enough of this thinly-veiled metaphor for the laziness and uncreativeness that has become the pictorial representation of everything north by many Southerners.


And to my northern brethren, we have had enough blame that goes round. If there is anything either of Marzuq, Gamawa or Zainab represent as it stands today is the demystification of our tired rhetorics and unending but shattered conspiracies. We have to come out from our denial-mode. Nobody is into an agreement with WAEC or JAMB to deliberately fail us so that we cannot make our quota into the university. Our lackadaisical approach to scholarship, unenvious stupidity misunderstood as humility (settling for less, E-grade is enough for me, after all, I am looking for "Na Tuwo"), and dispiriting cum demoralizing habit of lack competition have caused us enough damage. We have to reposition ourselves, make the necessary preparations and sacrifices to enable us to compete, survive and thrive in this fast and furious world. Yes, Mr. 'Virus', in the blockbuster movie 3-Idiots, couldn't have been more right: Compete or DIE!


To my knowledge, none of the Marzuq, Gamawa or Zainab bear or represent any of the familiar surnames of northern extraction. And do me a favour, mention nothing like 'Luck' to me. They gave their best and have reaped the rewards of their hard labour.


Adamu Tilde can be reached at