MOST Ethno-Net publication: Africa at Crossroads


Africa at Crossroads: Complex Political Emergencies in the 21st Century,

UNESCO / ENA, 2001

Mmanwu Awusa : Masquerading the Hausa Muslim in Igbo Tiger Performance

Obododimma Oha
UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines

Université Gaston Berger

BP 234 Saint-Louis


Masquerading in Nigeria has become a significant instrument of the nation’s interethnic politics. There have been many instances of clashes between members of ethnically based masquerade cults and migrants from other ethnic groups. Sometimes, the clashes result from cult members’ perception of the actions of the non-indigenes as violating the norms of the cult, and also, as being insulting to the culture of the ethnic group. It is also possible, as many people in Nigeria have speculated, that the cult members deliberately use the masquerade to harass and humiliate people from other ethnic groups whom they perceive as the antagonists of their own ethnic group in national politics. Thus the masquerade, as the presence of the ancestor, has been enlisted in doing things against the ethnic Other, apart from being just a means of cultural entertainment. Or rather, the entertainment by the masquerade now includes confronting the ethnic Other (from behind the mask). This obviously pitches ethnic culture against multiculturalism, and against co-existence in a postcolonial nation.

Apart from the direct involvement of the masquerade in ethnically-oriented violence, there are also other interesting representations and inclusions of the perceptions of the ethnic Other in masquerading in Nigeria. It is this form of the “masquerading” of ethnic politics (and the masquerading of the ethnic Other) that is the focus of this paper. For us in the present context, “masquerading ethnic politics” is strategically ambiguous: on the one hand, it suggests a presentation of ethnic politics as a form of non-compromising celebration (of prejudices, fears, interests, etc). It is a celebration of the ethnic selfhood in relation to other ethnicities. On the other hand, it is meant to disguise ethnic politics within the culture of masquerading. Indeed, masquerading already always means the use of disguise, of falsehood, and suspension (deferment) of disbelief. The masked dancer is authorized as the presence of the ancestor, but both the performers and the audience know that no masked dancer is really a spirit that emerges from ant holes to speak in guttural tones. Also, masquerading the ethnic Other is a display of the ethnic Other according to our own understanding, and as a presence-in-disguise. 

The present paper attempts to analyze and discuss the semiotics of the Hausa Muslim, as represented in an Igbo masquerade performance, based on observation of the performance and conversations with the performers. It tries to show that beneath what appears to be a mere comic entertainment lies a significant politics of (ethnic) Otherness, and that the representation of the ethno-religious Other is face-threatening because it amounts to offence, to ridicule and distancing. The masquerading of the ethnic Other also reveals another level of the discourse of discontent in interethnic relations in Nigeria, which is indeed very significant because it goes on in the context of popular culture where one could observe some responses of groups to social and political situations. Moreover, popular cultural productions of this nature may indirectly serve as media of education, even for imparting knowledge on ethnic prejudice. Thus the masquerading of the ethnic Other, instead of being ignored or being treated as a "tangential" issue,  should be of interest to Peace Education research and national reconciliation projects in Nigeria and elsewhere.

The Tradition of the Igbo Masquerade and the Tiger Performance
A useful anthropological portraiture of Igbo tradition of masquerading is made in Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart. In an attempt at showing authentic African life being disrupted by colonial and Christian incursions, Achebe presents the Igbo perception of the egwugwu or mmonwu (also mmanwu or mmuo) (masked spirit) as the presence of the dead ancestor that must be revered and feared. Even if people know that the masked “spirit” is after all a human being, they keep such knowledge to themselves. To reveal that the masked spirit is a human being (itikwe isi mmuo or ikpo ntum) is regarded as a terrible abomination. As Chinua Achebe has observed also in Morning Yet On Creation Day (1975), people in a masquerading community in Igboland can tell who carries what mask, but they never talk about it. The glory and power of the masquerade seem to be constructed partly from the secrecy and sacredness accorded to cult knowledge. Achebe in Things Fall Apart presents this condition of the cultural reinvention of knowledge:

Okonkwo's wives, and perhaps other women as well, might have noticed that the second egwugwu had the springy walk of Okonkwo. And they might also have noticed that Okonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row of egwugwu. But if they thought these things they kept them within themselves. The egwugwu with the springy walk was one of the dead ancestors of the clan. He looked terrible with the smoked raffia body, a huge wooden face painted white except for the round hollow eyes and the charred teeth that were as big as a man's fingers. On this head were two powerful horns. (1986: 63-64)

This reinvention of the being of the masquerade is not peculiar to the Igbo alone; it is common to other cultures in Nigeria and Africa in general. Dele Layiwola, in his study of Gèlèdé, has noted a similar function of reinvention and transformation of being: “A man, hitherto a young fledgling in the community, attains the status of a god or an ancestor under the mask. Women and children and households, including the peers of his mothers kneel before him for benediction and prayers - general or particular. He becomes a persona, a numinous invocation with a transient personality.”(2000; http:// / ijele / vol1.1 / layiwola.html).

The reinvention of the being of the masquerader and preservation of the secrecy and sacredness of cult knowledge in this respect enable the masquerade to function in political and social spheres as an agent of conflict resolution and peace building, to police the land and to create solidarity in the community. Chinua Achebe has presented an interesting case of the procedure of the use of the masquerade in traditional Igbo resolution of conflict in chapter ten of Things Fall Apart(1986). In the fictional context of the novel, a matrimonial conflict develops into an inter-group conflict, and the mmanwu, representing the presence and the unquestionable voice/ wisdom of the ancestors ( and of the clan ), is brought in to mediate . The procedures of  making the parties in the conflict narrate their grouse and bitterness, of assigning blame unequivocally ( unlike in some contemporary discourses on reconciliation where the rhetoric of duplicity in applied and claims on the relativity of truth are made), and prescribing means of atonement ( at-one-ment !) and restitution, are very interestingly used by the mmanwu in the context referred to. Indeed, what is presented by Achebe is an indigenous African model of conflict resolution and peace building, which indeed tries to revalue the mmanwu as a source of philosophy of social action among the Igbo. 

Extended studies on the Igbo masquerade, for instance Nnabuenyi Ugonna’s Mmonwu: A Dramatic Tradition of the Igbo (1984), have drawn attention to the different categories of the masquerade, showing that the Igbo make a distinction between the type that represents the presence of dead ancestors, and which are revered and believed to emerge from ant holes, and the type that is secular and for which no pretence is made about their carriers being human. The latter type is always differently costumed and may not disguise its human features, whereas in the case of the former, there is every attempt at iconizing its non-human nature, particularly the use of features that instill awe and fear. Both traditions are, however, mimetic and semiotic: they are forms of representation. Nevertheless, the more secular and social masquerades are sometimes parodic and satirical: they may represent exaggerations of situations in human and animal worlds, sometimes representing attempts at miming the animal world as a means of narrativizing human be-ing in a world of conflicts and challenges. 

Igbo tradition of masquerading also reflects the politics of gender. Women are normally not initiated into the mmanwu cult mainly because they are regarded as being incapable of keeping secrets. Furthermore, the mmanwu, as a sacred institution, is seen as something that womanhood defiles, especially when the woman menstruates. Only women who have reached menopause may be initiated into the cult (Uwatse, in Ikwuemesi 2000), especially if such women live in environments where the cult house (ekwuru) is located. In this case, it is feared that if they are not initiated, their presence may endanger the secrecy and sacredness of the cult.

The political dimension of masquerading in Igboland is something that has started becoming more and more significant. It is not only that masquerading has been rediscovered in some parts of Igboland as an instrument of cultural nationalism and negotiation of group identity - for instance the institution of the annual Enugu State Mmanwu Festival, which involves over 2,000 masquerades from the state and beyond (Ukwu, Okeke, and Akubuilo, http:// / lib / enugustate.htm) - but also masquerading itself has become a site where ethnic and religious politics is played out. Indeed, this is not surprising for, given the political climate in contemporary Nigeria, it is inevitable that cultural productions would become means of expressing political sentiments and ideologies. Such a tendency may even be seen as not being new, for masquerading was part of the system used by local communities in pre-colonial times in testing, challenging, and consolidating the supremacy of one community over another, and for creating or maintaining community. Chidi Amuta, writing on the relationship between drama and politics in Africa in his The Theory of African Literature, has noted that this relationship, which has always been in existence even in the “ritualistic” origins of African drama, has become more pronounced and more urgent in Africa in recent times, “in response to familiar but specific historical developments” (1989:154). Such a claim is not only valid in respect of playwrights who use their plays to confront dictatorial and corrupt regimes, for instance Wole Soyinka (of Nigeria) and Bate Bisong (of Cameroon), but also in respect of the engagement of ethnic politics in communal dramatic performances. Contemporary African drama has also been enlisted in consciousness-raising projects on self-determination, gender equality, reproductive health, disease prevention campaigns, etc, as we have in the case of the Theatre for Development (TFD) projects.

The involvement of masquerading in the sphere of (ethnic) politics in Nigeria is therefore part of the perception of drama as an effective tool for political and social engineering. Even the image of the masquerade has been interestingly appropriated by some Nigerian writers in making political statements. Ezenwa Ohaeto, an Igbo poet, for instance, uses the cultural frame of the Igbo night masquerade, which is referred to in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, chapter 22, in intertextually reflecting on national disaster in Nigeria.(1) His collection of poems entitled The Voice of the Night Masquerade is indeed the use of the voice and rhetoric of an ethnic group (the Igbo) in talking about Nigeria being at the crossroads, about the “night” of the Nigerian nationhood.

The Tiger masquerade performance (Agu Ibi) of Ibiasoegbe, a community in Oru Local Government, in Imo State, Nigeria, is a secular form of masquerading, although efforts are made by the performers to dramatize the reality of the “tiger”, as well as the mystical power that supports its existence. There is even the claim that the “Tiger” is a transform of one of the members of the performing group -which is only a means of creating some awe for the masquerade (2) . But, in ironical terms, the “Tiger” is indeed a dramatic transform of the human, since a person has donned the costume “as a tiger”. In another respect too, the “Tiger” plays out particular human tendencies, in this case a representation of the fearful destructive instinct in the human. Paradoxically, the Tiger masquerade has come to be regarded as one of the cultural forms that signify the Ibiasoegbe identity. Of course, Ibiasoegbe also has the sacred mmanwu cult of the ancestor, like many other Igbo communities. But the Tiger masquerade serves a different social dramatic function, and is already being used in constructing the image of bravery the Ibi personality. As I was informed by a member of the troupe, the Agu Ibi was created in the post-independence period, as a mere cultural performance that tries to represent the “drama” of confrontation with the tiger, a beast regarded as the terror of the forest: a hunter that is able to kill this great beast is therefore highly respected as a brave man. In other words, hunting and killing the tiger is culturally seen as an important means of asserting superior masculinity, a means of constructing a unique identity in a cultural world where a man has to show that he is a man through acts of bravery, as we find Okonkwo always trying to demonstrate in Things Fall Apart. In Igbo communities generally, a man who has demonstrated his bravery in killing a tiger takes the title , Ogbuagu (Killer of Tiger). Thus Agu Ibi is originally a performance that reveals a cultural idea of masculine confrontation with a source of terror.

The masquerade performs at funerals and community celebrations, always bringing liveliness into the occasion as it tries to scare away the audience. As a dramatic performance, it is an important means of transmitting cultural ideals about masculinity, bravery, and social redemption.

The Tiger performance, although it has the “tiger” as its center and philosophy, also has other masquerades in the troupe representing other subtexts of the performance. There is a hunter (who would eventually shoot the Tiger), as well as a Hausa Muslim puppet (Mmanwu Awusa), who sympathizes with, and provides spiritual support for, the Tiger. From the conversations I had with the performers after the performance, I gathered that the Mmanwu Awusa was a later addition to the troupe, as a means of presenting the strange and amusing, Islamic figure Hausa figure. Such a strange religious figure, as one of the members of the group pointed out to me, is already a masquerade, particularly because of his appearance and what he does that makes people laugh at him. I was also informed that, although the Agu Ibi was not created as a political instrument, it has started having some significance for the Igbo performers, especially given the history of violence that has characterized Igbo-Hausa relations from 1966 to date. Precisely, the Igbos were not only massacred in thousands in Northern Nigeria by the Hausa/Fulani following the Nzeogwu-led coup in which some Northern leaders were assassinated, but also experienced a terrible genocide in the war that followed (from 1967 to 1970). Accounts of the war exist abundantly, so it would be unnecessary to go into details here. However, since after the war, Igbo people have frequently been attacked and killed in large numbers by their Muslim, Hausa-Fulani hosts, and this has gone a long way to make the post-war reconciliation impossible, especially given the attitude of the Federal government to such attacks. Thus, as the days go by, and as interethnic relations in Nigeria continue to go sour, performances like the Mmanwu Awusa, gradually enter into the scheme of the construction of roles in social experience. The Mmanwu Awusa thus becomes a changing semiotic in the Igbo masquerade, acquiring veiled political meanings in the context of ethnic discrimination and conflict in Nigeria. 

I will, in the next section, analyze and discuss the features of the Mmanwu Awusa, to show its ethno-political significance.

The Parody of the Hausa Muslim
The Tiger performance is indeed a narrative about the terrible, invincible, and immortal Tiger symbolically enacted. The Tiger, which usually emerges after all the other masquerades in the troupe have emerged (as a way of creating suspense, and of making the performance have two contrasting phases of Peace/Conflict), prances about, sometimes charging at the audience, but prevented from accomplishing its motive by somebody who holds it at the leash. The hunter eventually spots this “tiger” and seeks a chance to shoot it. After several attempts he eventually succeeds, and this shooting marks the climax of the performance. It is at this point that the role of the Mmanwu Awusa becomes much clearer. He says his prayers in a conventional Islamic way, collaborating with the other members of the troupe (whose costumes are spotted like the Tiger) in resuscitating the Tiger. The Tiger once again continues its aggressive performance until it is led off the arena. 

The Mmanwu Awusa is costumed as a Hausa and a Muslim: he wears a flowing gown normally associated with the Hausa-Fulani in Nigeria, and carries the Islamic prayer beads   (tesbiu), which he counts in mimicry of the praying Muslim. He also does ablution (symbolically), all in the attempt to signify his difference as a dramatic representation of an Islamic/Hausa identity. He also wears his red cap with white cloth tied round it, and running under the jowl. To further typify his ethnicity, he is made to wear a mask which has Hausa tribal marks.

Tribal marks have always been signifiers of difference, and are, for an ethnic group that uses them, an inclusive shibboleth used in identifying who is an insider or who is not. It is therefore a semiotic facility for practicing discrimination. However, in the context of interethnic conflict and violence, it is often a person with tribal marks that becomes more endangered. Tribal marks expose tribal sentiments, and expose the person who carries them to danger. The use of such marks on the Mmanwu Awusa makes the masquerade to be an object of ethnic gaze, marks the masquerade out as the ethnic Other, makes it an object that is subjected.

The pleasure in performing a puppetry of the Hausa Muslim seems to be located partly in the perception of the strangeness of the character: his costume and facial marks call attention to his difference; his rituals of prayer also make him draw attention to himself. Indeed, during the performance, the Mmanwu Awusa attracts a lot of attention from the audience (in the Igbo context) who laugh at both his appearance and the Hausa-Islamic life he mimes. Laughing at the ethnic Other is a strategic communicative behaviour that we find in interethnic interactions. It often represents an expression of contempt, and a distancing of the Other. Normally, no one likes to be laughed at, or likes to put oneself in a position where one would be laughed at. So, the humiliation of the ethnic Other is worked out in staging his being the one who makes us laugh (at him).

Historically, the Igbo and the Hausa-Fulani did not have much to do with each other prior to the British conquest and merging the various ethnic nations into one entity called Nigeria. The Igbo were not islamized, unlike the Hausa Islamic practices and Islamic worship are therefore strange to the Igbo. The islamized Hausa (many Igbo people erroneously regard all Hausa people as Muslims) is thus perceived as being strange (just as his religion is thought to be). As such the life of such a strange islamized person is seen as entertaining - amusing, just as it is baffling.(3) One group's religion becomes another group's dramatic performance that only gives pleasure and consolidates the stereotypes held about the Other. Generally, ethnic groups anywhere negatively  stereotype  the others, as a means of justifying their claims to superiority. The Igbo and the Hausa are no exception in this regard. While the non-Muslim Igbo person is derogated as an infidel by the Hausa Muslim, the Igbo, on the other hand, regard the Hausa Muslim as a highly unrefined and uncivilized person. These negative stereotypes find expressions in seemingly harmless cultural performances that involve the representation of the ethnic Other. 

On the other hand, it would seem as if the role of the Mmanwu Awusa in the Tiger performance indicates a collaboration with oppressive forces. In other words, the ethno-religious character is being indicted for helping to perpetuate aggression and violence. Such an interpretation seems to cohere with the allegations of duplicity often made against Islamic leaders from Northern Nigeria, i.e. that they support oppressive regimes in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the tiger is an ambivalent identity, for it commands not only admiration, but at the same time spreads fear. Often at every performance of the masquerade, somebody must be injured in an attempt to escape from the "tiger". Getting injured has almost come to be understood as part of the meaning of the Tiger performance. In fact, while we were collecting our data during a performance of the masquerade at a funeral ceremony at Uli in Anambra State, on 9 March 2001, and were monitoring the reactions of the audience, we heard the Master of Ceremony warn the audience as follows: "Be on your guard. I understand every other performance here, but this Agu Ibi, this tiger, is difficult for me to understand. I don't quite understand its character."

As a protector and supporter of the aggressor (see Plate Two), the Mmanwu Awusa further suggests its strangeness. Unlike the Hunter masquerade that is committed to eliminating the source of terror and saving the audience (hunters are often configured in Igbo folklore as courageous agents of deliverance), the Mmanwu Awusa would rather help to revive this terror. Again the ethnic Other is represented as one who sponsors terrorism.

What the Igbo audience could see in the performance of the Mmanwu Awusa therefore is betrayal, and this further distances the masquerade (and the ethnic group it represents) from them. This inclination to treachery is thus constructed in the performance to justify the logic about the Other's (moral) inferiority. As Sam Keen has shown in his Faces of the Enemy (1986), the enemy is often imagined and represented in discourses of conflict as a morally debased person, as a beast, a devil or agent of the devil, an irrational person, a thief, a terrorist, etc. These images are used therefore as justifications for seeking to eliminate or confront this "enemy". Keen's argument is quite valid when applied to ethnic conflict in Nigeria in which, we would say, the tendency has been for ethnic groups to enact the Homo hostilis (enemy-making mammal), operating rigidly in the framework of "Them" versus "Us", the "Tribe" versus the "Enemy", as Keen says.

The puppetry of the Mmanwu Awusa in the Igbo Tiger performance recalls the fate of the Outsider in the Nigerian context of conflict. The (ethnic) Outsider is always the victim, the scapegoat, used in the ritual of cleansing the "tribe". The situation has been disturbingly portrayed in Wole Soyinka's The Strong Breed where Eman, the Outsider, is picked as a carrier who would take away the ills of the community, and die for them. In this respect, the Other also impersonates "Us", acts for "Us"; "we" project all our private and imagined evils onto him. The identity of "the enemy" is always a psychological construct, as Keen argues. And Homi Bhabha has also pointed out that

… the question of identification is never the affirmation of a pre-given identity, never a self-fulfilling prophecy - it is always the production of an image of identity and the transformation of the subject in assuming that image. The demand of identification  - that is, to be for an Other - entails the representation of the subject in the differentiating order of otherness. Identification, …, is always the return of an image of identity that bears the mark of splitting the Other place from which it comes. (1995: 45)

The strategic instability involved in being for the Other (and being for Self) animates the ritual of exorcising and cleansing the community of its private demons. Not that the supposed signified - the Hausa Muslim - is practically guiltless. With the performance of the imagined guilty Other, the ethnic community feels some relief, feels a sense of justice in exposing and humiliating the ethnic Outsider, at least implicitly. The only difference is that he is never lynched physically - but nevertheless he is lynched with the gaze of hatred, lynched psychologically.

The puppetry of the Hausa Muslim is also found in other popular dramas in Igboland, for instance in traditional carnivals in Uli. The carnival - as a forum for exposure, for satire, offers an opportunity for the lampooning and laughing at the Outsider. In the carnival, the parodied and satirized Outsider may be racial (European or White colonizer), ethnic (Hausa-Fulani), religious  (Muslim or Christian clergy), or even social (the police or army officer). Thus there is already a tradition of laughing at the undesirable Outsider in Igbo popular dramas, and it is within this tradition that the Mmanwu Awusa is located.

But in laughing at the ethnic Outsider in the performance, "we" also laugh at ourselves, at our claims of understanding and knowing the ethnic Other. Linda Hutcheon has made the interesting point that " Parody is a perfect postmodern form, in some senses, for it incorporates and challenges that which it parodies" (1996: 11). At one level of discourse, the Hausa Muslim is represented as one who performs the despicable act of reviving and supporting terrorism, but at another level, the role of the puppet is made necessary and desirable for the performance to go on. Thus as a supplement, the Mmanwu Awusa subtext is complementary and challenges the idea of the "full presence" (Derrida 1989) of the authorized Insider-discourse of elimination. The ethnic community can never be fully free of threats, of conflicts, for such threats and conflicts are means of reinvigoration. The presence of the (absent) Other in the ethnic performance makes the ethnic "Us" strong. The Self becomes the Other again, ordering the Other. The "migrant" image of the Hausa Muslim dialogues, as a minority text, with the dominant text of Igbo masquerade tradition, subverting the monologism of the latter, subverting its "purity" and claim to completeness. The culture-within-the-culture (as Yuri Lotman refers to this kind of intertextuality) makes it impossible for the Igbo mask tradition to perform only itself. The intertextuality of Hausa-in-Igbo masquerading is a transformational process and condition, which speaks some lessons to multiculturalism in the democratic Nigerian context. It is no longer the Self-without-the-Other that is featured, but the ordered Other in-the-Self, the Self-with-the-Other, even if this Other makes "Us" (the Self) uncomfortable. For the Self to feel uncomfortable means that it is in need of tolerance.

Ethnic politics, metaphorically speaking, is a mask dancing; it involves the art of disguising, in which there is a problematic of the difference between the professed innocence of the face behind the mask and the guilt written on the mask face. When does the face behind the mask cease to hide, cease to pretend not to be the mask face; when does it cease to split identity, to split the iconic? The face behind the Hausa ethnic mask is also behind the Igbo ethnic mask; it incorporates what it challenges to construct its pleasure. The "new" Igbo ethnic masquerading of politics now has an/Other presence (of it/Self) it cannot fully disguise. It is a presence of an ethnically desired absence - for the resistance of the ethnic Other, the elimination of the imagined enemy of the "tribe", invokes this Other.

In a sense, the Tiger performance is a staging of ethnic helplessness, and, of course, hopelessness. Just as it was said of the condition of the Nigerian society in the reign of General Sanni Abacha, it seems the audience (the ethnic community) is at the mercy of the Tiger - in the "belly of the tiger" - and is yet to articulate a dramatic denouement. Salvation in the plot is tentative or rather deferred. And this deferment of ethnic salvation seems to represent the fate of many ethnic groups that have been betrayed in the country's politics; at least for the Igbo, this deferment has become significant since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war (1967-1970). For the Ogoni too, ethnic salvation is deferred with the tragic drama of Ken Saro-Wiwa's execution. Even "June 12" in the Yoruba case is still seen by so many Yoruba people as a deferment of the salvation of the Yoruba nation, in spite of the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as president. Similarly, the tendency to blame the Hausa-Fulani for the "offences" committed by Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha may also send the wrong signal of victimization to the two ethnic groups. The drama of the masquerade thus interestingly becomes a figuration of the unresolved ethnic politics of collusion and victimhood in Nigeria. 

Concluding Remarks
One could say that the main problem revealed in the performance we have discussed is that of the need to "learn to live together", which is one of the commitments of Peace Education advocated by UNICEF (Fountain 1999), and is also one of the four pillars or "foundations" of education (Delors 1998:22). A lot of advocacy has been made for tolerance in multicultural and multi-ethnic contexts, as one way that understanding can be achieved in a democratic system. Edgar Morin (1999) identifies four categories of tolerance as follows:

The first, as formulated by Voltaire, makes us respect the right of another to express things that we find vile, not because we respect what is vile but because we refrain from silencing him by imposing our notion of vileness. The second degree of tolerance is inseparable from the democratic option: the encouragement of diverse, antagonistic opinions is proper to democracy; the democratic principle enjoins each individual to respect the expressions of ideas antagonistic to his own. The third degree of tolerance follows from Niels Bohr's notion that the opposite of a profound idea is another profound idea, meaning there is truth in ideas antagonistic to our own, and this is the truth that must be respected. The fourth degree of tolerance comes from awareness that people can be possessed by myths, ideologies, ideas, or gods, and can be carried away in directions they hadn't intended to take. ( p.54)

There is an urgent need for proper Peace Education in Nigeria, especially considering the hurts and conflicts created/exacerbated by military dictatorships of the recent past in the country. This would facilitate national reconciliation. In this context too, Peace Education could enlist strategies that would help in changing the adversarial images still prevalent in interethnic discourses in Nigeria. Interestingly, the same puppetry could be turned around and used creatively to bring ethnicities together in a dialogue of self-criticism and renewal. Susan Fountain (1999:22) reports the success of such a dramatic strategy in Mozambique, Philippines, and the US. In this case, laughing at the self is preferred to laughing at the Other. When every group elects to laugh at its own weaknesses, offence is eliminated, the Other's face wants are not threatened (4). Such a strategy is clearly that of avoidance, which, as Lim and Bowers (1991) have observed, is more effective in creating the basis for co-operation than using forms of redress in discourse. Some existing comedies in Nigeria, for instance The New Masquerade and Baba No Regret, unfortunately, only succeed in consolidating stereotypes of the ethnic Other, although they also make attempts at laughing at the ethnic Self. 

The parody of the Hausa Muslim in Igbo Tiger performance indeed reveals the existence of other forms and levels of discourse on interethnic hostility in Nigeria. In such forms the ethnic Other is visualized as "the enemy", and laughing at him is another way of lynching him. Yet the presence of this enemy of the "tribe" is inevitable, at least in the ritual of visualizing and cognizing "the enemy". There is, indeed, some sense in paying attention to popular culture in the study of inter-group conflicts in society, for popular culture is a domain where prejudice is mass-produced and mass-consumed sometimes, where the ordinary people in society become not just observers or victims, but also actors in the social process. The "June 12" agitation in Nigeria, for instance, was pursued even more vigorously by the Yoruba ewi singer, Segun Ologundudu, than by NADECO or the Afanifere. The satirical songs of Ologundudu, which were always playing loudly in record shops in many cities in the Western part of Nigeria, did much to ideologically educate the ordinary Yoruba people on the "June 12", rhetorically engineering hatred against Sanni Abacha through its presentation of a bitter oral history. To ignore popular culture, either in the governance of African countries or in the study of responses to governance, would be to make a grievous mistake.

The "new" democracy in Nigeria seems to be more interested in money - recovery of stolen public funds (and spending such at the same time). Of course, it is desirable to be interested in "the wealth of the nation". But it is more important to focus on interethnic relationship, peace and security in the nation. Those elected to rule or to make laws for the Nigerian people may become (ethnic) masquerades too if they try to resist attempts made by ethnic groups in Nigeria (especially the minorities) to articulate and express their feelings on membership of the Nigerian nation. Peace in a country like Nigeria will not come through the suppression of desires for autonomy, for self-determination, otherwise the so-called democracy would be a fraud. It is rather undemocratic to say that an ethnic group has no right to want to opt out of a relationship it was forced into by the colonial adventurers of the past. A nation will continue to be an "imagined community" ( Anderson 1983 ). It is a violation of ethnic rights not to tolerate an open discussion of issues on nationhood, even when there are already on-going discourses that seek to deepen the divide between ethnicities that constitute the postcolonial nation.

Peace does not necessarily mean an absence of conflict; it is rather the mismanagement of conflict that is a danger to peace. One would sound Platonic to say that performances like the parody of the Hausa Muslim ought not be allowed to take place in the interest of peace in the polis. In the Platonic perspective, the kind of art that is desirable is the one that is not critical but praises gods. It is the kind art which he calls  " a model of virtuous thoughts" - and we would rather say, a model that is dangerously conservative. The role of art in fostering the democratic spirit in Africa cannot be underestimated. Dramatic art, through its deconstructive representation of cultural and religious values, indeed serves as an invaluable means of reconstructing and transforming society. In a multi-ethnic and multicultural context, this reconstructive or transformational project becomes very problematic and sensitive, especially as each cultural or religious value is used in imagining and maintaining identity. However, we find, as in the case of our study, instances where artistic representations of one group by another indicate not just an insult or irreverence, but an interesting supplementarity. For us, this inscription and recontextualization of the Hausa Muslim as a semiotic are a great lesson on how the ethnic Other becomes indispensable in a national "conversation", and how even the articulation of ethnic "destiny" resists monologism. Even through laughing at the Other, we (indirectly) suggest our need of the Other.

1 That portion of Achebe's novel says as follows: " That night the Mother of Spirits walked the length and breadth of the clan, weeping for her murdered son. It was a terrible night. Not even the oldest man in Umuofia had ever heard such a strange and fearful sound, and it was never to be heard again. It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming - its own death" (p. 132).

2 This oneness with the Tiger is signified in the tiger-spotted costume also worn by members of the group. The tiger uniform obliterates their individual identities, and unites them in an ideology of violence/aggression performed by the Tiger.

3 Similar attitude was manifested towards Christians when Christianity intruded into Igboland and sought to erode indigenous values, including masquerading itself. Even today this conflict between Christianity and the Igbo masquerade is still going on, with adversarial rhetoric performed on both sides.

4 Lim and Bowers, in their article, "Facework: Approbation, Solidarity and Tact" ( 1991) have classified face wants in Fellowship face ( the desire for inclusion, to be seen as a desirable part of an entity or group), Competence face ( the desire that one's abilities be respected or acknowledged ), and Autonomy face ( the desire to be left undisturbed or not to be imposed upon).The illocutionary acts of blaming, criticizing, and condemning, for instance, infringe on these faces, not only at the micro-interactional levels like conversation between people, but also at macro levels where ethnic groups, governments, religions, etc communicate with each other or among themselves. Strategies of avoidance, approbation, and tact are considered by Lim and Bowers as useful means of overcoming problems of face threat in discourse. 

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© The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.

© Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cet article sont celles de l'auteur
et n’engagent pas la responsabilité de l´UNESCO.