Now, before anyone talks about the socio-religious and ethnic taboos in Nigeria, one must possess a profound knowledge of the Nigerian people, their ethnic groups, their culture and norms, and religious backgrounds. Only in that way, one could be able to understand and justify the reason for the many taboos in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a country with a population of 204,630,242 according to the 2020 census estimation, with its people coming from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, which is recorded to be over 290-300 ethnic groups as measured by the presence of different languages and self-identification. This is according to the American Historical Association, so do not be overwhelmed about the so many taboos in Nigeria.
According to Nigeria Fact Sheet, Nigeria consists of 250 ethnic groups, the most popular and politically influential are the Hausa-Fulani’s, the Ibo’s (Igbo’s) the Yoruba’s, and the Ibibio’s.
Nigeria’s Official language is English, Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba, Fulani and over 500 additional languages.
Two-third of the country is dominated by the Hausa-Fulani’s in Northern Nigeria, mostly of Muslim descents, coupled with other small ethnic groups found in Northern Nigeria, the Kanuri, Nupe, and the Tiv’s. The Yoruba people are predominant in the Southwest, the Igbo’s are predominant in the South East and the Ibibio’s in the South-South of Nigeria.
Now, for the sake of the cumbersomeness in history, which we may not be able to cover in this article, we’ll only streamline this article to discuss only the Socio-Religious and ethnic taboos from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria.
In most places in Nigeria, a person or group of persons, can be publicly trolled, shamed, brutally or gravely penalised for breaking a religious taboo, especially in the Northern Nigeria which mainly consists of Muslim descents.
Alas! we’ll also briefly on the taboos of few of the minority ethnic groups present in Nigeria.
The three major ethnic groups in Nigeria are;
- The Igbo’s (pronounced Ibo’s)
- The Hausa’s
- The Yoruba’s
Ancient Superstitious beliefs and Taboos in Igbo land (Ibo land) South-Eastern Nigeria
- Do not whistle at Night; this is considered summoning evil spirits.
- Do not look into the mirror at night; it is believed that when you do, you’ll see evil spirits and the spirits of dead restless souls.
- A woman should not extend her hand to a man for a handshake, rather prostrate in greeting, it is considered in Igbo culture an abomination for a woman to extend her hands to a man for a shake.
- A married woman must not have a sexual relationship with another man, if she does, she’ll eventually run mad. this is a grave abomination in Igbo culture.
- Do not Sweep the house at Night; it is believed that the wealth and good luck in the house will be swept away.
- Do not respond to unanimous voice calling your name from nowhere; this is believed in Igbo tradition that the evil spirits are calling your name from the land of the dead, and if you eventually had answered, it spells big trouble and a bad omen which superstitiously could mean your death is near.
- Do not cross over the legs of a pregnant woman, it is believed that the baby will be born dwarfed or looks like you after birth instead of the parents.
- It is believed in the Igbo culture that when a person hits his left toe against a rock, stone, or any object on his way to any occasion it spells a bad omen, and necessarily needs the person to cancel the appointment or journey.
- Do not kill a Python, the python is believed to be a sacred reptile in the Igbo tradition, it is believed to be the chief guardian and the god of the Igbo land and spirits of their forefathers manifested in the python. Most of these pythons dwell in sacred shrines and most times crawl out their comforts. If a person eventually kills a python in Igbo land he/she is by the Ig bo tradition mandated to perform a burial right to lay the python to rest. Note: this burial rights must be performed in the same way it’s being done when the human corpse is being buried.
- Committing Suicide in Igbo land is a grave taboo that is generally forbidden. When a person commits suicide, his corpse must not be laid to rest within the community, his/her corpse is considered a curse and forbidden, and must be buried in an evil forest or very far away from the community, this is to spiritually avert such incident from subsequently happening to others in the community. It is mostly believed to be an incident engineered by evil spirits or by those that practice evil voodoo.
- Do not receive or issue items to people with your left hand, this is generally frowned at in any Igbo community. it is considered disrespectful and evil. Though the Igbo people understand that congenitally one could be born into this world left-handed, but the Igbo people, do not hesitate to train their descendants who are born left-handed in the mastery of the use of their right hands in writing, eating, giving and receiving items. Generally, it is forbidden to perform activities with your left hand in the Igbo tradition.
Ancient and Modern Taboo in Yoruba land southwest Nigeria
- A king must not look into his crown, it is believed that any king that does is digging his own grave and would die by doing so.
- Do not whistle at night, it is believed that whistling at night summons evil spirits and snake, this is also similar to the Igbo believes in whistling at night.
- Do not commit suicide, it is considered an abomination and such a corpse of a person who committed suicide shall not be lowered from the rope until a certain sacrifice is done. And the corpse will be buried in the evil forest. similar taboo is also found in Igbo land.
- A king in Yoruba land is considered a demigod, and must never prostrate before anyone regardless of their political and social status.
- Do not consume dog meat pigs and cat meat, it is abominable in Yoruba land
- Pregnant women must not walk outside at noon, it believed in the Yoruba land, that some certain evil spirits walk the earth at noon (12:00-3:00 PM), if a pregnant woman walks outside by this time of the day those evil spirits will possess the body of the pregnant woman leading to stillbirth or a deformed baby
- Same-sex (Homosexuality) is forbidden in Yoruba land
Taboos in Hausa-Fulani Land in Northern Nigeria
In northern Nigeria which is occupied mostly by Muslims, has their taboos and culture streamlined along with the tenets of the Islamic religion?
Also Read: Common Social Taboos in Russia you must know
One needs to be very careful when visiting or touring the northern Nigeria as to not in a way commit any action or say words that is considered a taboo as they could be grave punishment that would be unleashed upon those that breaks the taboo.
- Men should not urinate standing, Men are mandated by their tradition to squat while urinating. Women Must not be seen urinating in public unlike the other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
- Sexual freedom is prohibited sexual activities like gay, lesbianism, fornication, adultery, and other forms of sexual position, sex during a woman’s menstrual period, and open sex education is frowned at and prohibited.
- Do not make pictorial drawings or artistic paintings of the prophet Muhammad in any form; this is a grave religious abomination in Northern Nigeria and one could get killed for it. It is considered disrespectful to God and his prophet.
- Do not consume pork products; consuming pork and pork products in Northern Nigeria is religiously forbidden, it is considered ‘Haram,’ to consume pork products. According to the Islamic Quran, pigs are unclean animals.
- Must not eat dog meat in Northern Nigeria
- Do not put on silk clothing together with Gold jewelries, such combination of fashion is reserved only for women to wear Gold jewelry and apparel made from silk, it is forbidden for men to wear such in Hausa-Fulani Land in Northern Nigeria.
- Do not Dress nude or half-naked; Women in Northern Nigeria are prohibited from dressing half nude, they are obligated to dress appropriately and decent. A woman dressing half nude will eventually provoke the public or provoke the sharia law upon her. Women are prohibited from revealing sensitive parts of their bodies to the public.
- Do not drink alcohol; it is forbidden to consume alcohol and alcoholic products openly in Hausa-Fulani land. For persons who drink alcohol and alcoholic products, only do so in secrecy. Those who are caught drinking alcohol is liable to be punished accordingly by Sharia law.