Daily Trust: How did you learn Hausa?
Anwar Sa’eed: I learned Hausa (phrases) from Hausa children. We used to meet in the mosque. We read (learn) the Qur’an together. I learnt words such as ‘lafiya kalau’,’ Yaka’, ‘Wannan’. It’s been a long time but I still remember these and many other things. There was a market as well, and many Nigerians (Hausas) were very good people, very nice people.
DT: What else were they doing (apart from learning the Qur’an)?
Sa’eed: I saw them in the market, buying and selling things like hats, caps, jallabiya, and perfumes.
When Hausa people come to buy things in my shop here, if I hear them speak Hausa, I chip in and say things like ‘lafiya kalau’, and they will be surprised and startled and ask ‘How did you learn to speak my language?’ I tell them I learnt it when I was very young.
DT: What was the extent of your interaction with the Hausas? Did they marry from the local community?
Sa’eed: No, it was just business, marketing. Mostly men. But there were few women, mostly elderly ladies. This is about 20 years ago.
DT: When you visit home, do you still see them?
Sa’eed: No, no, I don’t. I don’t go there anymore. It’s in the other country (Eritrea). It’s next to my country (Ethiopia). It was an Ethiopian border town. Now it is in Eritrea. The two countries were together, but now they are separated. I don’t go to Eritrea but I go to my country, Ethiopia. I don’t have time, and it’s very far away.
DT: How long have you been here in the UK?
Sa’eed: I’ve been here for about ten years. Business is okay, but not like before. It’s a bit quiet. I don’t really know why, or what happened. These days, people are sitting at home and buying things online, so they are not coming here much now.
DT: Are you thinking of going online?
Sa’eed: Yes, I’m thinking of going online. People are selling better there. Customers don’t like coming out to shop much, especially when it’s cold. Plus sometimes it’s cheaper to buy online, and it’s delivered to your home.
DT: Who are your customers mostly, people from which countries?
Sa’eed: Arabs, but you also get customers from other countries, like Nigeria.
DT: How do you know which customers are from Nigeria?
Sa’eed: When they speak Hausa, I know they are from Nigeria. When they say things like ‘wannan’, I usually chip in and they become surprised. But I understand just a few sentences. I understood much more before, but I have forgotten a lot. But I still understand foul language, which the Hausa speak when they are fighting, but I’m not going to speak it.
DT: What is your impression of Nigerians?
Sa’eed: Nigerians are very good people. They are very good. They conduct themselves very well. They are very peaceful.
DT: Are you staying here in the UK permanently or are you going back home?
Sa’eed: I will go back home to my country. I can’t stay here forever.
DT: But what if your children prefer to stay here?
Sa’eed: I can’t leave my children here. Child discipline is not good here. You can’t smack your children here, and they are given too much freedom. I like the way children are disciplined in Africa, so I won’t leave my children here.