There is saying floating around the world: Africa is not a country. When I think of Nigeria I think: Nigeria is not a country, it is a continent. There is so much diversity, there are so many stories, there are so many people, there are so many traditions.
This (auto)biography takes us to the uttermost north-west of the country, to the state of Sokoto, where there is a long tradition of islamic rulers and islamic traditions, with a people from different backgrounds who adhere to the teachings of the Quran. The leading lady of the book (told in cooperation with the Italian writer Raffaele Masto) is Safiya Husseini.
She starts her story when she runs away from a looming courtcase. But after this introduction she moves back to the early beginnings of her life, when she grew up in a household with her father (barber and circumciser) and mother. She was delighted when her devout father gave her permission to to a school to learn the Quran. She was seven years young. Six years later her life, her happy life with her friends, is interrupted by a marriage to Yussef, a man of about 50 years young. This is the start of many years of living in a situation in which she is unable to regain the happiness that she once knew.
At the age of 24 her inlaws sent her away, after her husband moved away to the South (another world). Her father sends her to the household of a polygamist, where she is the third wife, but also this man Muhammed sends her and another woman away.
The third man, Yakubu, turns up, he takes a long time in which he hauls Safiya in like she is a fish in a pond. Safiya gets pregnant and Yakubu wants her to get an abortion. Safiya refueses and Yakubu refuses to marry her. The situation of Safiya is getting more and more visible to the people around her.
One day the sharia police arrives to talk with her about her pregnancy, she confesses, Yakubu at first confesses as well, but later on he denies. Her (their) Adama is born. The Islamic District Court moves in for this cause of adultery.
The cases moves on and on, form one court to another. The courts prefer to communicate with her father. The males dominate the scene. There is one man who prefers to talk with Safiya directly, he is her lawyer Abdulkadir Imam Ibrahim, who resides in Sokoto, and who had studied law in Lagos.
This lawyer puts up a strong case to get freedom, one of the avenues he walks is gathering national and international publicity.
After the story of Safiya Husseini ends there is an article by the lawyer to put his case in a wider perspective of the Nigerian law. Next to that is an article by the cowriter who gives a wider Nigerian and political background to the life and times of Safiya, especially the growth of islamic orthodoxy and islamic inspired politics in the northern parts of Nigeria.
There are several photos in the book of Safiaya and people around her.
Safiya Husseini (and Raffaele Masto) – Io Safiya – 2003