Cooperant notes

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Some notes for incoming Cooperants by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

When you enter Kano State you will pass a large signboard stating, Maraba Kano State (Welcome to Kano State). It’s a friendly gesture, fairly indicative of the type of reception you may expect here. It means welcome to the culture of a hundred greetings, a plurality of customs and six million people. Welcome to the State of contrasts where Mercedes Benz mingle with beggars on burros.

Welcome to your home for the next two years.

Once you arrive in Nigeria you will immediately be confronted with the knowledge that YOU are now in the minority. YOU are the one who is different. YOU are the one children will run out of their houses and yell, “Baturi!” at as you pass. The separation from family and friends, from the close-knit Orientation group, suddenly becomes a real thing that you must face. You are struck by the realization that now it is up to you to discover how and where you fit into the scheme of things in your new environment.

There are several different communities in Kano. How you fit in with each of them will depend primarily upon your own personality. A rough breakdown of the various groups here reveals the following categories -- the African community, the Lebanese community, and the expatriate community. By definition an expatriate is anyone living outside his native homeland. This makes everyone who is not Nigerian by birth or by naturalization an expatriate. However, you will find that different situations tend to cause different connotations to be placed upon meanings of words.

To the cooperant, expatriate implies those people who have come to Africa either as foreign contract workers or as businessmen. It has a connotation implying those aliens who have come here primarily for material gain rather than for cultural enlightenment.

Cooperants can get along quite well with the expatriates in nearly every association. However, there is sometimes the implication in the expatriate community that we are the poor White and that we tend to associate rather too closely with the indigenous population in our thoughts, actions and dress. We do not keep up quite the same standards as are maintained by many colonialist hangers-on. Your actions may indicate your degree of acceptance by either the African or the expatriate community. Most of your dealings with the Lebanese community will be limited to business dealings. It is a fairly wealthy community and, as a cooperant, you might find it a bit difficult to keep up with them socially. The African community here is varied. The Nigerians in Kano whom you will most likely come into contact with socially, or in your work, will in all likelihood be people from the southwestern parts of Nigeria. As yet very few of the professional positions have been adequately staffed with the indigenous Hausa or Fulani. Your major means of contact with the Hausa or Fulani will be through the students you teach or the patients you are here to help.

As mentioned above, the degree of association which you have with any one particular community will depend largely upon your own initiative and personality. Kano is a large city and, in contrast to a small village, suffers from the plague of big city syndrome. If you want to meet, mix, and mingle with people you will have to make a conscious and concerted effort to get out and associate. People here are casually friendly, but too often are very concerned with their own immediate problems and pleasures. The variety of communities offers an excellent chance for you to delve more deeply into the complexities confronting a developing nation. It can be a rewarding experience to be able to associate freely and easily with each of them and to be able to see where you fit into the social jigsaw.

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