Saturday, 16 February 2008
FACIAL MARKS: NIGERIA'S FADING 'IDENTITY CARD'
ONE morning in the late 1960's, six-year-old Danjuma approached his father and insisted that he be given the cuts that Igala citizens wore on their faces with pride. Danjuma felt that he could no longer endure the ridicule of his schoolmates who taunted him for not having the facial marks. Though the cuts were usually administered to Igala infants too young to dread the operation, the boys viewed the marks as a sign of bravery. They regarded those without them as cowards who could not face the knife.
Until then, Danjuma's father had resisted giving his son the facial marks. But that morning, pressured by his son's determination to prove his bravery, he took a knife and made three deep horizontal cuts on each side of the boy's face, slightly above the corners of his mouth.
Danjuma's father knew that the real significance of the cuts had little to do with courage. Instead, the cuts would heal into scars of identification. They would be a permanent 'identity card' that could be neither lost nor forged. They would make his son instantly recognizable to his kinsmen, qualifying him for the rights and privileges of an Igala citizen. But the marks would also set him apart from the more than 250 other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Should facial marks be [outlawed] made illegal in Nigeria?