Tea selling stands, popularly known as ‘mai shayi’ in local parlance, are more than just tea hubs in northern Nigeria but a sort of parliament where men converge to discuss a variety of issues ranging from current affairs to politics and security in between sips of tea, Daily Trust reports.
In most parts of northern Nigeria, people patronize mai shayi spots mostly for their breakfast and dinner.
Tea spots could easily be found in strategic locations where residents could be served tea, bread, fried eggs and noodles.
But besides serving as fast food spots, mai shayi joints in Northern Nigeria have become melting pots for people of different backgrounds to connect and discuss wide ranging issues.
Kaduna: It’s avenue to discuss politics, national issues
In the Mogadishu area of Kaduna, Tanja, who makes tea and noodles, is known to attract residents who squeeze themselves into his tiny shack to get refreshed, mostly in the mornings and evenings.
Tanja who joined the business a little over two years ago said: “I feel happy when I see people converge here even though things are hard now because of coronavirus. We don’t make as much sales now.”
He said discussions at the tea shack range from current affairs, to security issues and matters concerning COVID-19.
“Issues of poverty in the country are equally discussed and sometimes people come here to vent their problems which could be domestic issues,” he said.
Adamu Hassan, who frequents Tanja’s shayi shack, says there are times one gets to drink tea on credit or get someone to buy him tea in the course of discussions.
“Sometime, we make friends here based on the nature of discussion; we could meet as strangers but the nature of discussion could determine whether you will leave the tea shack as friends or not,” he said.
On his part, Salis Mohammed, who also frequents a tea shack at Kurmin Mashi said the people who usually patronize mai shayi are usually very current on international happenings and national issues.
“You may take them for granted because they are members of the lower class in society but these are people who are always on their radio sets; they listen to BBC in the mornings as well as VOA and other stations, then, they analyse the issues with others.
“The mai shayi himself usually has a radio set which he uses to attract people to come together and listen.
“In the midst of listening to news, you could order tea or noodles and so you sip, eat, listen to news and have good conversation,” he said.
Mohammed explained that regulars at the shayi spot have nicknames adding that: “someone could be called chairman because he is a regular or because he is outspoken and has some knowledge about issues being discussed.”
Bauchi: It helps youths keep off social vices
In Bauchi, mai shayi spots have become one of the platforms that bind people together to discuss socioeconomic and political issues on regular basis.
At one of the popular joints, UK Green Tea along Adamu Jumba road in Bauchi metropolis, the owner of spot, Ukasha Mohammed told Daily Trust that people that usually meet to drink tea drive a lot of joy and fulfillment from doing so.
“The major benefits they drive from the tea joint include the bond of unity and strong fellowship.
“They engaged in in-depth discussions on pressing national issues.
“The tea joint has become a meeting point for interactions among the youth which is now restricting them from engaging in social vices and drugs spots as well as reducing their urge of flirting with young ladies.”
He said his observation from the discussions that usually go on amongst those that patronize the tea spot is that they also brainstorm on issues that affect their personal and collective development.
“The first issue of discussion affects their individual development especially, their social wellbeing, academic, economic and political issues but every one of them focuses on what he is directly involved.
He said one exceptional thing about the shayi joints is the fact that people who just meet for the first time could become intimate friends in no time after their discussions at the joint.
“They become like a single family and if something happens to a member of a group, they would meet to assist and help the person.
“In my tea shop, I have three different groups of majalisa (assembly) who setup their meetings here and become a team of friends in my joint.
“When a member has an occasion like marriage or naming ceremony, members of the group would contribute money to sponsor the event. If a member wants to do a business, they would assist him with capital,” he said.
He said some of them who work in public or private sectors sometimes secure job opportunities for other members of the group.
He, however, lamented some challenges and problems facing the shayi joints including unnecessary arguments especially when it has to do with football matches and politics.
“Some people visit the tea spots with ulterior motives either to spy on individuals or track down persons to rob but we are working with security agents to address the problems.
“Another challenge has to do with closing time; we usually close between 12 midnight and 1am but some of the customers especially members of a group would insist on staying beyond our closing time.
“In the same vein, some heavyweight politicians use to come to the joint after 1am due to their privacy and other security concerns and we cannot ignore their services,” he said.
A resident of Bauchi metropolis, Alhaji Manasa Muhammed said that he is not a member of any of the groups at shayi joints but derive a lot of joy from the tea spot.
“For many years, I have developed the habit of visiting the mai shayi spot to get rid of personal problems and stress because, I get relief when I listen to strange or jovial stories from tea spots.
“Although, some of the stories are not factual, some are even fabricated but there are true life stories too.
“I have continued to patronize the tea spot because it’s a platform for peaceful debate on national issues.”
Another resident, Garba Umar told Daily Trust that the tea spots serve as a unifying factor that brings people from diverse background together.
“I used to visit mai shayi joints both in the morning for breakfast and evening for my dinner for many years before I married.
“But despite having a family, I still attend the tea spot in the evening to discuss with friends and know what’s happening in town.
“If not because of the insecurity in the country today, we used to stay at tea joints until dawn,” he said.
Borno: It fosters friendship, sense of belonging
A tea vendor in Low Cost, Bolori, Maiduguri, Simon Caleb said the joint promotes unity, friendship and a sense of belonging among residents and visitors.
He said people especially youths, usually frequent tea shops to drink tea with someone or eat cooked noodles and fried eggs.
“A lot of people have made new friends and learnt current affairs as well as listened to conversations about government and security issues,” he said.