By Dr Shamsuddeen Sani
I thought The Lebanese in Kano: An Immigrant Community in a Hausa Society in the Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods merely contained a handful of newspaper tales. I was mistaken! Within its pages lies a meticulously researched body of work, a testament to the cultural heritage of Kano that begs to be savoured and preserved for generations to come. It has profound glimpses into the very foundations of Kano’s societal evolution as it illuminates the paramount role played by the Lebanese community in the rich Kano’s historical traditions.
This book, published in 1995 and authored by S.A. Albasu, unfolds with an intricate chronology of eight captivating chapters. As the introduction sets the stage, the initial chapter gracefully delves into the existing body of literature on migration, skilfully intertwining it with the historical fabric of West Africa and Nigeria. Embracing a tangent in the second chapter, Albasu illuminates the emigration of the Lebanese into Kano, beginning in the mid-19th century.
However, a pivotal juncture in Lebanese history within Kano emerged in 1920, a defining moment marked by profound geographical and religious divisions among the Lebanese migrants. The historical catalysts propelling Lebanese emigration into Nigeria were meticulously examined within this segment.
It becomes apparent that prior to the 1920s, the Lebanese immigrants in Kano predominantly belonged to the Maronite Christian community. It is only after this period that a demographic shift occurs, welcoming the arrival of Muslim Lebanese, particularly those of the Shiite sectarian extraction hailing from southern Lebanon. The book exposes the reader to the sociocultural intricacies of the Lebanese community’s towns of origin and unravels the fabric of their society, dispelling prevailing myths.
The entire Lebanese migration into Kano is thoughtfully categorised into four distinct phases, each meticulously explored with great detail: 1890-1903, 1903-1912, 1912-1920, and the 1930s during the tumultuous period of the great depression. Each of these phases represents a significant milestone in the history of the Lebanese community within Kano, as well as its impact on the city’s socioeconomic development.
Subsequent chapters of this book delve into the physical establishment of the Lebanese community, intricately entwined with crucial historical policies such as colonial taxation, the indirect rule system, and segregation policies.
Chapters four, five, and six embark on an exciting journey, covering the consolidation of the Lebanese community within Kano’s vibrant business milieu. From the thriving cattle trade to the realms of Kolanut and groundnut businesses, the book unfurls the profound influence of factors like colonial intervention, the upheaval of the Second World War, Nigeria’s independence, and the burgeoning national consciousness. The book has revelations of ground-breaking nature, leaving you enlightened and astounded, and for me, every piece seamlessly falls into place now.