Abisi Youth Chiefs

Ares Ayira

Sarkin Samari: the Chief of Young Men

Each Abisi section has a chief of youth /arᴈs ajira/ or Sarkin Samari in Hausa.
He is chosen by the Elders among the Abiko age group  and is appointed in the presence of all the other youth chiefs. They provide beer or money to pay for musicians, horn players and drummers for his installation ceremony when young people dance traditional and borrowed styles from other communities.
After this feast, the Sarkin Samari is presented to the Sarkin Piti ( being Muslim he does not participate) but officially recognizes his status as youth chiefs, /arᴈs ajira/.
He remains in office for 5 years.
When chosen, the Ares Ayira chooses his own assistants among the youth of his section:
1) Three abiko who are given Hausa titles of Makama, Alkali and Madoki;
2) One atenkia aberje which carries the Hausa title Yari;
3) Two assistants without titles from amigan patriline
4) Two girls using the titles of Ma:ma and Maki Ma:ma (chief of girls).
With their help, the youth chief exercises a legal authority over young people of his section and serves as an intermediary with the Elders to organize different work groups.

Functions of Youth Chief

A youth chief’s official functions are to arbitrate disputes between young men to which he may impose fines of some kobos and he organizes large work groups called Sauri in Hausa.
The youth chief is also responsible for a rite of passage to the aberje age grade.
The year preceding this change of age grade, the aberje atenkia compete in strength and ability.
They work fast and try to demonstrate their capacity to replace those ahead and draw attention to their individual technical efficiency.
The youth chief, after consultation with his assistants and Elders of his section, has to determine the relative productivity of each individual worker.
The two most productive ones receive the titles of Uberje and of Azarum.
When hoeing a field, the Uberje is placed at the first furrow and Azarum at the last; other hoers are ordered between from the strongest to the weakest.
These titles are very prestigious, but according to a former aberje, this prestige is forgotten as soon as they move to another age grade.
Changing level to aberje takes place during a collective work on an Elder’s field.
When the chief and his abiko assistants arrive, they ask the hoers to leave their tools on the ground and to move away.
Each one had marked his hoe with a special sign: a pen, a stick or a cow’s tail. The youth chief then sticks each hoe into the ground in the predetermined order of productivity levels avoiding to put two men of the same patriline side by side.
Then, each uberje is placed behind his hoe and the chief urges them to earn their position throughout the grade.
He asks them to provide an amount of money in proportion to their individual performance.
For examples, these seven men had to give these amounts : Kola : 1 pound 6 pence,     Kandja: 1 pound 3 pence, Baruku 1 pound, Bordje 10 pence,  Badjim 9pence , Wada 8pence  and Dabo 7pence.
This money is shared between the chief and his assistants.
Competition for labor prestige between aberje is high all thru the duration of the grade.
Some may use a medicine made with a mixture of roots harvested in the Hill and in the bush which, when burned, will heat the victims body and weaken him. Aberje protect themselves from jealousy by washing with a fortifying potion before each collective work throughout the rainy season.
As a way to level this hard competition, men of the Damaba grade try to stall their work, stopping them and asking for 1 or 2 pence before letting them go on.
It is said that on the Hill, there were so many people in each house, that they did not need to do the Sauri.
It may be a “new idea” used when bush fields were farmed.
Maybe these youth organizations were also social innovation adopted to adapt to these new circumstances.

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