fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns

the war nerd says of some of the populations in nigeria:

“Nigeria’s three parts were simply nailed together by the British for their Imperial convenience: The North is a Muslim theocracy dominated by the Hausa and Fulani; the West, where the Yoruba kings (Oba) ruled city-states; and the East, where the Igbo operated on something a lot like ancient Greek assemblies, with every freeborn man entitled to a voice.”

hmmmm. doesn’t that sound interesting! more…

“The Yoruba were the first to meet the whites and take up Western education. They dealt with the British town by town; to the Yoruba, your town was more important than the broader ethnic identity. The Igbo came late to British rule but took to education very quickly. The Igbo get called ‘the Jews of Africa’ because they’re good at book-learning and business.

“And then there were the Northerners, the Hausa-dominated Muslims of the dry inland territory. In a way, you wouldn’t be far off thinking of the great Nigerian divide in California terms: the coasts vs. the hot inland redneck zone. The North, in Nigerian terms, is usually called ‘Hausa,’ or ‘Hausa-Fulani,’ but it includes the Kanuri of the Northeast, who are the most remote from the coast and the fiercest opponents of anything coastal, Christian, or modern. These were all war-forged Sahel caliphates, with no tradition of local loyalties like the Yoruba, or egalitarianism like the Igbo. They had the traditional Sahel-Muslim organization, top-down all the way: Sultan gives orders to Omda, Omda gives orders to Sheikh, Sheikh gives orders to commoners. And commoners obey.”

so we’ve got clannish/tribal northerners — the fulani and the hausa. and then we have the city-state yoruba and the “egalitarian” igbo.

i’d just like to point out that:

– the fulani prefer first or second cousin marriage and specifically father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. they’re pastoralists. there are good chances i think that, like other groups elsewhere, the fulani adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs when they converted to islam (starting in the 1400s?), but perhaps they simply practice fbd marriage because they’re pastoralists.

– the hausa also prefer cousin marriage, but it seems cross-cousin marriage, so we’re talking father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) or mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage. they are also largely muslim, but don’t seem to have adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs like their neighbors the fulani. islam has been present in hausa lands since the 1200s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that it had fully penetrated the population.

– cousin marriage doesn’t seem to be very prevalant amongst the yoruba [pg. 74] — definitely they don’t seem to *prefer* any particular form of cousin marriage [pg. 102]. some subgroups of yoruba do have very high cousin marriage rates — the people in the town of oka akoko were found to have a consanguinity rate of 51% which included uncle-niece marriages [pg. 4]. notably, oka akoko is in a mountainous region. another case of mountaineers marrying closely? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM!

– the igbo avoid cousin marriage altogether. no form of cousin marriage is permitted. no idea how far back this goes, but it would sure be interesting to know. if wikipedia is to be believed, the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s (see also here). wouldn’t it be cool if that system was connected to mating patterns?! dunno though. we shall have to wait and see if any further info presents itself.

oh, and btw — polygamy is present in all of these groups — and probably has been for a long, long time.

perhaps there’s something in all this, perhaps not, but these groups do seem to fit the usual pattern — closer mating patterns=more closed societies, broader mating patters=more open societies. dunno. just sayin’. Further Research is RequiredTM!


previously: the bamileke of cameroon

(note: comments do not require an email. jaja of opobo.)



  1. Thomas Sowell discusses socioeconomic disparities amongst the ethnic groups of Nigeria in Conquests and Cultures, also in Affirmative Action around the World. Of course he attributes most of these to the religious differences in receptivity to western education that started in the late 19th century. Yet, despite political dominance by the underperforming groups (Hausa-Fulani) and the preferential policies they enacted for themselves in education, the Yorubas and the Igbos continue to outperform them. By the way I’m pretty sure most of the Nigerians we see in the immigrant communities in the UK and the USA are Igbos.


  2. @pseudoerasmus – “Thomas Sowell discusses socioeconomic disparities amongst the ethnic groups of Nigeria in Conquests and Cultures, also in Affirmative Action around the World.”

    oh, excellent! thanks! (^_^)


  3. I know a older Igbo. He said 100 years ago the British gave his grandfather a stick, and told him he was king of the area, his job was to maintain the roads. Later he was assassinated by nationalists.


  4. You know, I have been thinking a lot in the past week regarding the need to incorporate biorealism into sociopolitical models. By this, I mean taking into account the effect a governmental system would have on the assorted matting patterns of the population when declaring that a given government should be forced on them (e.g. democracy on Africa/ Middle east) or other unintended effects. Now that we are aware (if you ascribe to Wade, Cochran, harpending etc) then surely we have a moral requirement to factor this into social polices and institutions?


  5. Masses are inbred . Individuals are always exogamous . I ‘ll continue with the theory that there are no genes for individualism but the lack of phenotypic similarity or building small differences bell curve of our individual personalities that produces the individual , that would explain why the Swedes for example, are both different from each other , but still related to a collectivity . The combination of different cognitive and personality profiles produces a society of individuals and law while an inbred society produces clans , where exist several independent versions of big state that the advanced Western societies tend to create with their own laws and privileges . The clan is the embryo of the open society . The demands and control are also very well catered for within the various hierarchical family schemes by the ability to reach because of the small amount of people . Swelling of the state , in exogamic case, however , it becomes increasingly unlikely to achieve control of society .


  6. “then surely we have a moral requirement to factor this into social polices and institutions?”

    i’d say so


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