In this essay I shall discuss some of the reasons why so few of the Mambila speaking people have adopted the Muslim creed. Islam has spread very rapidly throughout many parts of West Africa as well as in other regions of the African continent in the past few decades, but has made but little progress among the Mambila. There are three types of factors that explain this. The first and most important stems from the relations existing between the pagans and their Muslim Neighbours, the Fulani. The second and third are on the one hand those stemming from the social and political structure of Mambila society itself and on the other ecological and economic factors.

The Mambila speaking peoples, numbering approximately 18,0001 live on the Mambila plateau of what was then called Adamawa Province, now known as Sardauna Province, Nigeria. They are farmers with only small numbers of livestock, including: sheep, goats, chickens and dogs. None of the residents of the villages where I worked had any cattle, though elsewhere some do. The very small cash income obtained by the average Mambila is derived from the sale of surplus maize and guinea corn, their two staple crops. The largest traditional political unit is the village with populations ranging in size from approximately 200 to 2,000. In the settlements studied the population was almost entirely of Mambila origin, each housing only two or three members of other pagan tribes. Each village recognised by the Administration has a chief, nominated by the villagers and officially installed by the Native Authority. The chief's office, introduced by the external administration, has little authority in intra-village affairs, his role being confined to acting as intermediary between the Native Authority and the residents of his settlement. High status and prestige are the prerogatives of the aged, and in order to avoid the danger of a chief usurping power, the villagers are usually careful to nominate a youngish man for the office. The political system can be characterized as acephalous.

Islam has made almost no converts in the villages investigated. The majority of the Mambila cling to their indigenous religion, a few having opted for Christianity. There are no reliable statistics for the region as a whole on this matter so I must confine myself to the two villages on which I found adequate information. In the one with a population of 605 persons there was one Mambila Muslim and in a neighbouring settlement with approximately 350 residents there were none. Christianity has attracted approximately thirty-five followers in the first and ten in the second village.

At the time of the study, the Native Administration was wholly in the hands of the Muslim Fulani. The Head was the Lamido of Adamawa in Yola, while his local representatives, the District Head, the Alkali (judge), the district Treasurer, and a myriad of other office holders were all Muslim and either of Fulani origin or assimilated to that group. No Mambila with the exception of village chiefs held offices in the Native Administration and the latter had little influence. Local courts with Mambila village chiefs on the panel had recently been organised, but they were too new to have affected the local political situation to any significant extent. A British Touring Officer visited the scene at infrequent intervals, but remained only for short periods. Few if any of the Touring Officers understood Fulfulde, the lingua franca of the province, and were dependent upon members of the Native Authority who acted as interpreters for them in discourse with the Mambila, a number of whom speak Fulfulde but not Hausa. The day to day administration of the district was completely in the hands of the Fulani and since communications between the pagans and the Touring Officer had to go through members of this authority it was virtually impossible for the Mambila to appeal to him in cases of injustice.

The history of Fulani-Mambila relations is little known. In the literature are to be found mentions of frequent skirmishes between the two groups, for the most parts resulting from slave raids on the part of the Banyo Fulani into Mambila territory. As late as 1892, the Emir of Banyo was killed by the Mambila while on a slave raid.2 It is very doubtful if the Fulani were ever able to permanently conquer any Mambila villages and keep them under their domination. My informants claimed that the villages that they know of never became subordinate to the Fulani and that in the days before European conquest, while suffering from occasional slave raids, they were less troubled by these people than they are today. However, a close investigation of genealogies shows that quite a number of persons were killed and or enslaved during this period. Quite a number of former slaves returned to the plateau after the British and French occupation of the former German Cameroons. But with one exception to the twenty odd returnees only one was a practising Muslim. The late nineteenth century, the period of endemic warfare, was not one in which Islam made progress among the Mambila.

Today relations between the Fulani and the Mambila are not characterised by raid and counter-raid, but nonetheless are not good and are not conducive to the expansion of Islam.

The Mambila classify all Muslims as Fulani. A Mambila convert of long ago is today referred to as a member of that group. The Mambila are in contact with two types of Fulani: cattle Fulani and Town Fulani. They do not differentiate between the two. I shall begin by briefly describing the type of relationships existing between the first group and the pagans. The cattle Fulani live for the most part in the hills, only a few having settled residences in villages. The main area of dispute between these and the settled Mambila is over water rights and crop damage. Some years ago the Administration set down rules which were expected to keep farmer-grazer disputes to a minimum. The pastoralists were granted the right to keep their cattle on the hill sides and only allowed to bring them down to the valley floor for watering at clearly demarcated so-called "traditional watering places". Should a Mambila with to farm near one of these places he is required to fence his plot otherwise if the crops are damaged no compensation will be paid him. On the other hand if cattle stray to other parts of the valley and in so doing destroy any crops the owner is supposedly held liable for the payment of compensation. While cattle today very frequently cause much damage to farms not near "traditional watering places", the Mambila are unable to collect damages or else are given a mere pittance. The situation has become so bad that such cases very rarely come to court. During my stay in one of the villages I was a witness to a Fulani herdsman leading his cattle across some plots on which maize had been planted. The crop was almost ready to be harvested. The damage was such that only about ten percent of the expected harvest was collected. I asked the villagers what they expected to do and they said nothing. Further enquiry elicited the information that in like cases which had been taken to the courts the Fulani judges had thrown the case out, or allowed such a small amount of damages that it was not worth while going to court to obtain, while in some cases the plaintiff was found guilty of a false accusation and sentenced to prison, fined or whipped. The Mambila said that it was senseless to take a Fulani to court since the Fulani judges would always protect him.

The Mambila are very much afraid of antagonising the cattle of the Fulani for fear that the latter will take them into court on the charge of cattle theft. Irrespective of the evidence the defendant is often found guilty of the charge. An acquaintance of mine had been visiting relatives about twenty miles away. On his return to the village he was charged by one of the local cattle Fulani with having stolen (seven days before his return) one of the latter's cows. In spite of the fact that he could prove that he had not been in the area when the theft was said to have been committed he was found guilty and sentenced to prison as well as being fined. Shortly before the arrival of the Touring Officer he was released with a warning that under no conditions should he discuss the matter with either that official or myself. Needless to say my informant was so frightened that it was only several months after the event that he disclosed the matter to me. He went on to say that his accuser had once asked him to carry a load and being met by a refusal had aired threats, which appear to have been carried out.

The Mambila fear the pastoralists, considering them to be oppressors whose authority is backed by all of the power of the Native Administration, and who do not hesitate to punish the Mambila for any lack of obedience or show of respect to any Fulani irrespective of his status. Enough case material was collected to show that the Mambila are indeed oppressed and practically helpless when confronted by pastoral Fulani.

Their relations with the Town Fulani are no better though conflict can in such cases be more easily avoided. This latter category includes not only those holding offices in the Native Authority but also Fulani and Muslims of other racial stock in the area. Compulsory unpaid labour is theoretically illegal in the area, yet Mambila are often ordered to perform certain tasks, such as clearing roads, constructing public buildings and other like public works, and are very rarely renumerated for their efforts. The money allotted for this purpose often ends up in the pocket of one of the members of the Native Authority. A few labourers have had the temerity to complain and been very swiftly punished. Private individuals living in the towns do not hesitate to take advantage of their position. I shall cite one example which is not at all a typical. A Hausa living in Gembu, the District Headquarters, visited a nearby Mambila village and ordered the parents of two boys, one about fourteen and one twelve, to return with him to his home to help him carry his loads. They acquiesced and the two went off. Several says later the boys had not returned and the parents were anxious. They went off to Gembu and located the children, who had been forced to work the Hausa's farm for him. The elder had refused and was severely beaten. When the parents complained, they were driven away from the homestead without their offspring. They went to the judge and asked him to intervene. He agreed to investigate and sent them home. A few days later the two were summoned to court and charged with two offenses, the first trying to keep their children from going to school and refusing to allow them to be converted to Islam. The children's new master had sworn that the boys had pleaded with him to send them to school and have them educated in the Muslim religion and that out of the goodness of his heart he had agreed. They boys were not called as witnesses. Many cases of this kind could be listed here and in the vast majority of them the pagans had no redress. Town Fulani also take advantage of the Mambila very frequently in other ways. When travelling through the countryside they demand that food and services be provided them and rarely if ever is compensation paid.

It has been thought necessary to outline in some detail the relationship existing between the Fulani and the Mambila because it seems more than likely that this has played a considerable role in inhibiting the spread of Islam. As has been said earlier the Mambila identify all Muslims as Fulani and they do not wish to associate with their oppressors. A very small number of Mambila, converted to the new religion, have dissociated themselves from their former group and become for all intents and purposes, at least in pagan eyes, Fulani. None of these, to the best of my knowledge, have deemed it to be worthwhile to attempt to convert their fellow tribesmen; they all prefer to join the oppressors group, as indeed many of them have. None of these have reached a position of high status; they are treated poorly by their co-religionists. The rest of the pagans are well aware of this and while the renegades may on occasion be able to take advantage of their former fellows and act with considerable arrogance when no Fulani are present, their life is known to be unhappy, and they have to be satisfied with crumbs from their superiors table. The Fulani themselves have never attempted to do any missionary work in the area. So-called "Holy Men" have from time to time toured the Mambila Plateau making short stays in a number of villages, but they have confined their activities to selling amulets and spells to the pagans when they could find any with money.

Merchants act often as agents for the conversion of pagans to Islam. Since the Mambila are very poor in cash and the vast majority of their needs are supplied from their own resources it would not be possible for even the least ambitious Hausa to settle for any time in a village and expect to make a living by trade. Merchants do on occasion pass through the area, but do not stay long enough in any one place to propagate the faith either by example or teaching.

The ecology of the area itself militates against the spread of Islam in two major ways. Firstly, it is ideal cattle country, being one of the very few areas in which cattle can be kept during the whole year, grazing being relatively good even in the dry season of most years and water plentiful throughout the year. Over the past few decades, in spite of government opposition more and more cattle have been brought onto the plateau to the point where in recent years grazing has slowly been becoming scarce. During the height of the arid season in some parts of the area there is not enough grass for all of the cattle and hence herdsmen are tempted to allow their stock to graze on the farms of the pagans. Equally they are being forced to go ever farther from the "traditional watering places" and often find in to their advantage to lead their cattle directly down to the valley bottom irrespective of the fact that this will lead to a destruction of crops, for which they will not be punished. The plateau forms a "cul de sac" as it is well nigh impossible to lead cattle off it, to the South, so the only way out of it is to retrace ones steps to the arid North, and thus Fulani do not find adequate grazing for their herds during the bad years. This overstocking which becomes evident in the bad years, as well as the topography of the area tends to increase the points of friction between the local pagans and the Muslims and by so doing makes the Mambila, less prone to accept the new religion.

The fact that the Mambila have no ready source of cash helps to exacerbate Fulani-Mambila relations in at least two ways. First, although the scales are so heavily loaded in favour of the Fulani in court cases against the Mambila, on occasions, especially during the very brief periods when the British Touring Officer is in the neighbourhood a grazer may be fined for the breach of the regulations. Even if the amount is comparatively large, as much as £20 in some instances, the money is paid over almost immediately and the option of a jail sentence avoided. On the other hand if a Mambila is given the option of a fine or sentence he is almost invariably forced to go to jail since he will not be able to raise enough cash to pay the fine. The pagans feel that this is an injustice since they find that imprisonment is a much more stringent punishment than a fine, and fulani are rarely imprisoned.

If cash were more readily available a number of pagans might buy some cattle and have herds of their own. One Mambila chief from a distant village told me that he had in recent years bought a few head of cattle himself which he left with the Fulani to take care of for him. His attitude towards the latter was completely different from that of the rest of the tribe since he felt that he had certain interests in common with them. If more Mambila were in this position cooperation between them and the Fulani might grow and with this more mutual understanding, but this development is blocked by the lack of opportunity that the pagans have to obtain capital for investment in herds. Because of the limited amount of grazing in bad years it might be argued that were the Mambila to obtain cattle of their own, more grounds for friction might arise, but the fact that members of the two groups had the interest of their animals in common would at least form one link between them, whereas no such link exists today.

Of some importance in explaining the very limited success that Islam has had among the Mambila are certain features of their social structure. It has been noted above that prestige and high status as well as the limited amount of influence allowed to any individual is granted exclusively on the basis of age. There can be no competition for offices, other than that of the village chieftaincy, since these automatically go to the most senior male qualifying for them. For example the head of the hamlet, an indigenous office giving the holder considerable prestige and influence, automatically goes to the oldest male resident. The more important priestly roles, that is those whose incumbents ritual for the benefit of either the whole of the village or hamlets, are also occupied by the most senior male with the required knowledge to carry out the rites. Hence there are no offices, desirable in Mambila eyes, which can be obtained by gaining the support of the Fulani overlords; therefore there is no reason for the ambitious pagans to adopt Islam in order to better their status in the village political sphere, the only one of interest to them. The one Muslim in the village, admitted that one reason why he had opted for Islam was that he had hoped to benefit both politically and materially by gaining the support of the Fulani. His total cash income increased as a result of this step, since visiting Muslims did on occasion give him presents, but it was not materially improved since he was expected to feed and house his co-religionists when they came through the settlement and not all would reward him for so doing. Politically his hopes were dashed, since the villagers looked upon him with suspicion and were loath to turn to him for advice. He was the oldest of a group of siblings and would usually, because of his structural position, have been able to exercise considerable influence over them, but in this one case the next older brother became the unofficial leader of the group and while respect was paid to the older one, they paid him little heed.

The older members of the society enjoy high status because they are assumed to be in close contact with the deceased ancestors, from whom all blessings flow. It might be assumed that as the most influential group in the society, if they were converted to the new religion they might influence the rest to follow them, but the elders have a vested interest in maintaining the indigenous religion since it is the basis of their status position.

It equally might be argued that the younger members of the society, impatient with the old order might opt for a change and attempt to bring it down by rebelling against the traditional religion and becoming converts to another. This has happened to a limited degree. Since the end of the Second World War, protestants missionaries have embarked on an active proselytising campaign on the Mambila Plateau. They have met with some success, the majority of their converts being young persons, most having at one time left the Mambila Plateau for brief periods on trading expeditions or as carriers. Few Mambila have ever experienced life elsewhere and it is clear that those who have done so are more prone to become Christian than the others. It follows from this that the new Christians are for the most part made up of Mambila who have seen a bit of the outside world and are impatient to obtain some of the material objects that they have seen on their travels as well as more independence for themselves. The everyday Christian missionaries offer some of the few employment possibilities on the Plateau; they have a large Mission Station which must be maintained, and keep a considerable force of carriers bring goods to them from the outside. Most of their employees are of the Christian faith and the people see conversion as the first step towards obtaining paid employment. Equally the Christians have built up an organisation in all of the villages where there are sufficient members. A man debarred by his youth from obtaining influence in the traditional society may by becoming a Christian, enter into the competition for office within the sub-group and if successful may obtain more prestige than he would otherwise have had. It is clear that conversion to Christianity is believed to offer the possibility for economic advancement as well as prestige even if of a limited nature. Islam offers none of these inducements; quite the contrary. I believe then that the fact that the status system of the Mambila, while encouraging young ambitious men to opt for change, leads them to desire the kind of change which will offer them more prestige than the old order. This Islam, in this society, does not do. Equally I would suggest that if the political system had been one with one man or a small group exercising great authority over the rest of the members it might have been easier for Islam to make headway. This could have occurred if one or more of the leaders had chosen that religion and imposed it on their followers, but this has not been possible, since the important men in the society would loose their prestige if they became converts by losing their association with the ancestors the source of their authority.

There are then a variety of factors which appear to play a role in inhibiting the spread of Islam among the pagan Mambila. The most important appears to be that relations between the Muslim Fulani and the others are so bad that the kind of social intercourse which would allow for the conversion of the pagans is impossible. (That Fulani exercise such a despotic and arbitrary rule over the Mambila, that is the kind of {unfinished marginal note}) That both groups have conflicting interests in what at some periods are limited natural resources is not enough to explain the unhappy situation, to this must be added the fact that one of the two is able to work its will on the other in spite of the traditional rights of the latter by its monopoly of power exacerbates the situation. The Mambila are convinced that in spite of the equity of their case justice will not be done to them and they attribute this to the fraternal ties binding the pastoral and town Fulani. As one informant said the Fulani are wicked why should we try and learn anything from them, including their religion. Economic and ecological factors also either positively help to increase the discord between the two groups or else do not permit a link through common interest being forged between them. Finally the social system of the Mambila is such that no advantage is offered to an individual to become converted to Islam rather the contrary being the case. Since the bearers of the Muslim religion in this area are looked upon with hatred by the pagans no advantage can be gained by adopting the new religion it is not surprising that so few converts have been made.