The multilingual child had the opportunity to learn the languages having been born into a polyglot household in Dole-Kaina, a border town in Kebbi State, Nigeria, neighboring Niger and Benin Republics.
Apart from sitting on the border Dole Kaina banks the River Niger which stretches through Benin via Mallanville and Niger Republic. This convergence of borders and a river, gives the town a unique place in the economic activities of the region.
In this area, Dole sprawls like a blanket over the political borders drawn by European colonisers, which left half of Dole in Dandi Local Government of Kebbi State, Nigeria and the other half in Doutchi District, Dossso State of Niger Republic. Both halves bear the same name, together they give one the experience of two countries within a twinkle of an eye. One only has to cross a narrow drainage to jump from one country to the other.
Muhammadu Wali’s father, Mousa Ousmane, is one of those who has seized the opportunity offered by the border town to build a multiligual family.
A chance meeting with Ousmane at the Bakin Iyaka area of Dole, where Nigeria and Niger are separated by a drainage, reveals how he did it.
Ousmane, a counsellor, representing Dole in Niger Republic tells us about the harmonious living among the twin communities, culminating in each of his three wives coming from a different country–Nigeria, Niger and Benin.
His nine children speak Hausa, Zarma, English and French fluently and they are exposed to not only cuisines from the three countries but varying cultures as well.
“In Dole, you have people of the three countries doing a lot of things together socially, economically and in other respects,” he said.
The district head of Dole-Kaina, Marafa Muhammadu Bello, who took over the throne in 2008, after the demise of his father, underscores the peace and harmony in Dole.
“A portion of the town is being occupied by a community from Niger Republic and we are living peacefully with them. We are using the same Nigerian currency in our transactions, share one market, it is a common border, so free to the extent that you won’t know when you are in Niger Republic. There is no such demarcation only some pillars which extends to Maiduguri, Borno State from Dole Kaina,” he said.
On the relationship between the three countries he said, “We have pretty good understanding and cooperation among us. We hold security meetings with our neighboring countries. We are closely monitoring the movement of people going out and coming into our communities,” he said.
Dole Kaina is largely agrarian with three farming circles in a year bringing huge returns on rice, millet and sorghums, as well as vegetables.
Muhammadu Bello says the presence of a significant water body has helped a lot in this regard. But the water has also resulted in occasional floods, such as the one experienced in 2018, which destroyed many homes and rendered many people homeless.
“The state governor showed concern over the plight of the people as he was visiting the victims every two days including on Sallah Day when he came to Dole Kaina directly from Eid praying ground to sympathize with us.
“The governor is always there for us, he provided our farmers with fertilizer on loan and provided us with 80 hand pumps to ease our water problem,” he said.
He however noted that they lack a town road network which he said the state government had promised to provide soon.
At the Palace of Sarkin Yamman Dole, on the Niger Republic side of town, the village head, Abdullahi Yamma, revealed that he had been on the throne for four decades.
“For ages, there has been peaceful coexistence between the two Dole communities of the two countries.
There are inter-marriages between the two communities, which has enhanced cordial relations,” he said.
“We are living in harmony with our Nigerian counterparts only the usual friction involving our youths. The youth of both sides tend to engage in brawls over girls, but we usually settle the cases amicably.”
The Sarkin Yamma expressed satisfaction that during the 40 years of his tenure, the community witnessed developments in various sectors among them, the establishment of a police outpost to enhance security in the area, an ECOWAS modern market and modern telecommunication systems.
The Nigerien district head however lamented the frequent occurrence of flood in the area, which he said posed serious threats to them. He recalled the flood of 2018 which destroyed over 500 houses and farm lands.
From the main road of Kamba-Dole- Kaina, the town looks like a sleepy community but on getting to the water front, it is a beehive of activities with canoe operators, business men and women , commercial motorcyclists, and consumers in the hustle and bustle of the harbour.
For ages, Dole Kaina’s water front has been serving as a commercial hub for the people of Nigeria, Niger and Benin Republic.
The Dole Kaina waterfront at the outskirt of the town, a commercial nerve center where business transaction goes on daily especially on market days, which happens to be Wednesdays.
The boatmen of Dole
At the water front, transportation by canoe and other motorized boats is being conducted by people.
The canoes range from the ones carrying passengers, to those ferrying goods, and others still convey livestock to various destination.
Ibrahim Umar’s boat lay at anchor at the quayside. He arrived only some minute earlier.
The boat man said they transport passengers from Dole Kaina to Yauri, Benin and some villages across Niger Republic daily.
“On our market days, it is usually busy for us. We have lots of passengers, livestock and goods to ferry across. The highest fee is N4, 000 and the lowest is N200,” he said.
“We transport goods, foodstuffs, Livestock as well as passengers regularly.
I got married, feed well and also take care of my family from this business,” he said.
Ibrahim, who has clocked 17 years in what he termed a ‘lucrative’ transport business, said he only encountered a canoe accident once and survived it. The safety record, according to the Vice Chairman, Waterside Transport Association, Dole Kaina, Alhaji Sani Bulama, 46, may not be unconnected to stringent regulations.
“We have over 50 canoes at the waterside with most of them coming from Benin and Niger Republic and youth are their paddlers,” he said.
The association moderates loading of passengers, goods and livestock into canoes and boats and are very strict about it.
“We do not allow night travels and overloading, which greatly promotes sanity in the transportation business,” he said.
He said that due to their control measures, there are few cases of canoe mishaps on the large water body.
The vice Chairman however requested for more life jackets and motorized canoes and boats from government to increase survival chances in case of any mishap.
Close to the waterfront is a yard where engineers build canoes and repair dilapidated ones. Daily Trust met them working painstakingly on a large dilapidated goods canoe, which, according to them, can take 1,000 sacks of grains.
Umaru Mamuda, 55, who specializes in canoe construction and renovations, said canoes are very costly to construct hence the reason transporters pay by installments before they own one.
“This big one you see is owned by one transporter, it costs over N2 million to put together,” he said pointing at an expansive boat on the water. Mamuda attributed this to the high cost of materials used in making canoes.
“Some special planks of timber used in making the canoes cost N200, 000-N300, 000. Good canoes like this one can consume up to N2.4 million to build while passenger canoe cost N500,000 – N700,000 to make. So after collecting their canoe, customers pay back in instalments. We give our customers five months’ grace to complete the payment.”
He however decried late or delayed payment by customers after collecting their work.
The canoe expert said they also train youths to engage in canoe construction.
“We have over 17 of them currently working under the engineer.”
Nigerians and Nigeriens from Dole spoke highly of their enterprising nature.
“We have viable economic and business activities,” Sarkin Yamma said. “Our people are highly engaged in businesses of various types, including textile, crops and livestock, making them self-reliant,” he said.
Hadiza Garba, 50, from Niger Republic who is into fish business, is happy to declare that she is living comfortably from her trade.
Popularly known as ‘Kasuwa’ [market] because of her entrepreneurship, Hadiza buys fish from fishermen, smoke it and takes it to several markets across the area.
She said she meets women from Nigeria, Benin and Niger republics at Lolo market.
For Shuaibu Bagara, 57, a textilemerchant who also transacts business regularly with people from the three countries, there are many reasons people love Dole Kaina.
“Dole is a community which promotes self-sufficiency,” he said. “This makes the Dole Kaina waterfront a beehive of business activities and a preferred