The study of Hausa language, literature and culture started very long ago, in fact it started during the pre-colonial period when Hausa was written in Arabic scripts known as the Ajami form or in non standardized roman scripts by European scholars. After the fall of the Sakkwato caliphate, the study of Hausa people intensified. Hausa as a language is spoken by millions of people across Africa, besides being a lingua-franca in Northern Nigeria and Southern Niger. There is no language that enjoys patronage in Africa as Hausa. It has been established that Hausa Literature is the fastest growing literature in African languages. The literary production especially by women in Hausa is so far ahead of all indigenous literatures in Africa.
By the 1960s there were new departments in various universities studying the Hausa language and awarding academic degrees. Within this period, Hausa people started studying their languages, literature and culture through the modern educational system, and started earning degrees including PhD. In this period, the teachers were largely Europeans who studied the language, the people and their literature and culture. Colonial officers like R.M. East ushered in modern Hausa fiction, while earlier scholars like Bargery produced the first dictionary of Hausa language. Many non-Hausa scholars like Schon, Hiskett, Skinner, Kirk-Greene, Schuh, Besmer, Coles, Cosentino, Crow, De Campos, Edgar, Erlmann, Newman, Hill, Jaggar, King, Pilaszewicz, Pweddon, Scharfe, Westley, Larkin and so on, have produced a large body of work on Hausa people, their environment, language and culture.
Here at home, our departments and centres have also produced scholars who have done enormous work on Hausa. The teaching and learning of Hausa is still on at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Hausa linguistics which used to be taught in English is now taught almost entirely in Hausa now. Studies on Hausa literature and culture have also gone far.
In Nigerian Universities, notably Bayero University, Kano, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the University of Maiduguri, Umaru Musa ‘YarAdua University, Katsina, Kaduna State University and so on, studies in Hausa have reached an advanced stage. There are also two key centres that study Hausa language, literature and culture, in addition to other languages, notably Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages at B.U.K. and Centre for Hausa Studies at U.D.U.S. In Niger Republic, Hausa studies have also gone far. Outside Nigeria, in Europe, Asia, the U.S.A., Hausa is studied in Centres for African Studies and the like.
Based on the fact that Hausa studies, if we may call it so, stands internationally as an academic and scholarly field of study, there is a need to have a kind of a professional or academic body that will bring scholars, students and other professionals into one fold. For instance, in the social sciences, each discipline has a professional or academic body like the Nigerian Geographical Association, the Economic Society of Nigeria, Political Science Association of Nigeria and so on. Even in the Faculty of Arts or Humanities where Hausa studies is based, we have academic Associations like the Historical Society of Nigeria for Historians, Nigerian English Studies Association for English academics, Arabic and Islamic Studies also have such Associations. Hausa studies have no umbrella Association. Some may say that there is the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN). Yes, Hausa linguists can be members of LAN but other scholars in literature and culture will be at the periphery. The Folklore Society of Nigeria is also there, but it does not accommodate studies in Hausa linguistics. However, there is no Academic Association for Nigerian Languages which Hausa studies may hide under.
In addition to other academic disciplines in Arts and Humanities having Academic Associations, Hausa studies have world renowned scholars who are established nationally and internationally and in all walks of life. In fact, a Hausa linguist was a President of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria and one was also the President of the Nigerian Folklore Society. Therefore, Hausa Studies has all it takes to form an Academic Association that will be an umbrella Association for all scholars and students of Hausa studies.
Lack of an Academic Association hampers Hausa studies in no small measure. Firstly, because there is no academic and or professional body for Hausa studies, Hausa scholars and students cannot have annual conferences as other academic Associations do. This affects the growth of Hausa studies because scholars have to wait for the irregular international conferences organized by the Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages at the Bayero University, Kano or sporadic seminars and conferences organized by departments of Nigerian Languages.
Secondly, because conferences allow scholars and students to share and interact, in addition to knowing the state of knowledge in different areas of Hausa studies, lack of regular conferences serves as a disadvantage to young Hausa studies scholars and students.
Thirdly, the inability of Hausa scholars to have an Association has left them with the moribund Hausa Board which is not able to make any meaningful contributions to Hausa studies. Also, scholars who are not within the mainstream Hausa departments and centres are not supported to give meaningful contributions to Hausa studies.
Hausa studies students and scholars have no official voice and no one takes them seriously because they do not have an Academic/Professional body that can stand and speak on their behalf. This does not only affect the language but also its literature and culture.
We Hausa scholars in Diaspora as we often call ourselves, see the need to have a Hausa Studies Association that will be an umbrella for all of us interested in Hausa studies and this article, is a wakeup call to those in the departments of Nigerian Languages in our Universities and other tertiary institutions of learning and those in research centres to come together and form this Association. This is also a challenge to Bayero University, Kano, the navel of Hausa studies. The time is now. We are waiting.