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Ethnic Groups In Nigeria: The Asu People


Introduction / History

The Asu is a small group of agricultural people who live in west-central Nigeria. The Asu speak their language of Asu. The Hausa language and culture are taking over the Asu culture. The Asu people will probably lose their own language and culture and adopt folk Islam like the much larger Hausa-Fulani peoples. As for their location, the Asu people are found in few rural settlements particularly in Mariga Local government area, near Kontagora in Niger State in central Nigeria.

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The Socio-Economic Characteristics of the Asu People

The majority of the Asu are farmers and their literacy level is quite low. Some are traders and artisans. The Asu live in villages surrounded by their farmland. The Asu grow beans, maize, millet, melons, and yams. They raise goats and cattle for milk, meat and hides. They raise chickens for meat and eggs. Village elders settle legal disputes and deal with outsiders. Most people and groups in rural Nigeria like the Asu enjoy music, story-telling and dance as a form of entertainment and communication. These art forms are very meaningful in rural Nigeria. Engagement of those art forms that the Asu people are interested in, serves as an easier way to gain acceptability amongst them.

The Religious Beliefs of the Asu People

The Asu people are Sunni Muslims. Their Islam is heavily influenced by folk or an ethnic religion. They believe that the One, Supreme God, Allah, revealed through his prophet, Mohammed, and taught mankind how to live a righteous life through the Koran and the Hadith. To live a righteous life, you must utter the Shahada (a statement of faith), pray five times a day facing Mecca, fast from sunup to sundown during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca if you have the means. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, slandering, and making idols. They gather for corporate prayer on Friday afternoons at a mosque, their place of worship.

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The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah.

In most of the Muslim world, peoples like the Asu depend on the spirit world for their daily needs since they regard Allah as too distant. Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well we live in our daily lives. For that reason, they must appease the spirits. The often use charms and amulets to help them deal with spiritual forces. If the evil spirits are not appeased, they can bring disaster upon the community.

It is, however, important to note that the Asu people are very concerned about the incidences of rainfall to their livelihood. The rain is important for their crops and their livestock so they can have a productive farming season which they believe can impact on their livelihood. In addition, there is a need for modern medical care and good schools amongst them, which will play significant roles in impacting the next generation to thrive in a rapidly changing world.


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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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