He also created this tradition before even farming, because it has to do with health, and without it, one cannot even think of farming. We inherited the trade from our fathers. And that is why we don’t joke with it. Before the advent of the modern hospital as we know it today, people relied on traditional healers for solution to their health problems. Even today, a leader cannot rule without the help of Wanzami; life generally is not going to be well without the help of wanzami. We are still relevant to our society and we will remain until the end of the world.
WT: But what role does Wanzanci play in health?
Maigari: In the past, whenever a woman delivers a baby, people bring the baby to us to certify its health condition. If we observe that there is fever, or any illness associated with new-born babies – that type of fever is called dahuwar-kashi in Hausa – we give traditional medicines. Second, when an accident occurs, I personally receive the victims who have one form of fracture or the other on their legs or hand or any part of their body. We treat and give them some herbs. I ask them to come back after two or three weeks, while sometime I visit them when they cannot come due to the severity of their ailment. Sometimes, fractures come with complications, which could not be treated in the hospital.
So, these are some of the things we used to do and which we are still doing and people patronise us every day.
WT: How often do you receive your patients?
Maigari: Every blessed day, I receive people. Sometimes, I receive between 20 and 30, each with different problems. For fracture patients, we treat between five and six people or more daily. In the case of Beli or Hakin-Wuya, we used to have more than 10 babies daily here in Abuja.
WT: Do you charge for your services?
Maigari: I personally consider this tradition as a gift from Almighty Allah, so I do not have any specific charges on my patients. It is God who blessed me with these herbs and I will continue to thank Him for this.
Can you tell us a little about your family?
Maigari: My full names are Alhaji Ahmad Sarkin Aska. I am blessed with 19 children, seven of them are female, and for now, I have three wives.
WT: Considering the number of dependants you have, do you have another business?
Maigari: This is my only business. And through it, I have been feeding my family with the help of the Almighty. However, sometimes, people do me one favour or the other which sometimes last me a month or more. But you have to bear in mind that without this trade, some of these people might not even know me let alone be nice to me. Honestly, this is what I rely on. It may interest you to know that my entire children depend on this job to go to school.
WT: The youths prefer going to modern barbers to cut their hair. They see your type as old-fashioned. Don’t you think this business has no future especially in a place like Abuja?
Maigari: Wanzanci is not just about barbing, like I told you, there are so many other things the wanzami does. Even me the Sarkin Aska people seldom see me barbing, but there are a number of traditional barbers who can do it for me whenever I am ready. And I do it so often; It is the popular name of this business, that is why many people think we rely only on barbing, but the other things we do as wanzamai are more than barbing.
People should, therefore, understand that wanzanci is more than barbing. It encompasses bone-setting, removal of epiglottis (beli/hakin-wuya), infants’ healthcare, circumcision (kaciya), breast cancer, etc. In fact, we even have herbs for treating diabetes, among others.
WT: But still, some prefer going to hospitals for most of the things you mentioned.
Maigari: Well, those who like to go to the hospital are many and those who come to us are many. Presently, I can give you a list of nurses who when they give birth don’t go to the hospital; they call me first. Sometimes, they even come direct to my house, because they themselves believe in our work, because babies spend time crying after being injected in the hospital, unlike in our own case, where the pain lasts for less than five minutes. Second, on the issue of bleeding after circumcision, in fact, they used to bring patients after circumcision in the hospital with bad odour and I treat them carefully.
Hospitals have their own methods and we have ours. And I am proud of this tradition, because it is a blessing from God.
WT: Has any of your children shown interest in this tradition?
Maigari: My children have to like wanzanci as I also inherited it from my father. My father inherited it from his father(s) so my sons have to continue. Presently, my eldest son is in secondary school. But any time he comes back, he assists; even the female among my children know how to do a lot about this wanzanci. Whenever there is an emergency, they assist in my absence.
WT: Can you suggest ways through which this tradition can be sustained?
Maigari: My colleagues should be proud of this business; they must look humble and modest. That way, they would attract more customers. But in a situation whereby you look dirty, no one will come to or invite you. There was a time I used to call meeting of wanzamai from all the area councils in Abuja like AMAC, Kwali, Kuje, Gwagwalada, Bwari and Abaji. During the time of Abba Gana, we used to meet, but when he left, the organization also ceased to exist.