For three days running, Billiri town in Billiri Local Government Area of Gombe State was upbeat when the Tangale people celebrated “Shag-bai” dog meat-eating carnival.
At the close of the event, in the evening of Tuesday 28/11/21, the carnival procession brought back nostalgic memories of the festive celebrations to Billiri town in an event said to have been observed by Tangale forefathers.
The mammoth crowd, mostly youths, who marched excitedly from the popular Kalmai Dog Meat Market to the town, were accompanied by loud music, including Tangale traditional dancers, who thrilled excited onlookers.
Convener and Chairman of Shag-bai Carnival, Mr. Jesse Malum, said the essence of the carnival was to protect the identity of the Tangale people as a people who eat and do so many other things with dog.
According to him, “The essence of this carnival is to project our identity. Many people think eating dog is a dirty thing and our people face some social stigma. We are trying to tell them that eating dog meat is a positive way of life. There is nothing negative about it, we’re not ashamed of eating it.”
He recalled that not long ago, “a DPO came to this place and there was an ugly event where people believed he was trying to stop somebody from selling dog meat at a particular spot.”
Jesse Malum, who is a lecturer at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Nduifo Alike, Ebonyi State, said, “I think such things should not happen because this is Tangale land and the constitution of Nigeria has made security agencies and government to protect and promote people’s culture.”
He stated also that, “Shag-bai is not just about celebrating dog meat, but dog as a whole. So, if you talk about dog meat, our forefathers didn’t have goats before now, what they had were dogs.
“If they were celebrating anything, they kill dogs. In fact, in our marriages till today, there is what is called ‘Bayauli’. That is, money paid to buy firewood to cook bai (dog).”
Talking about dog meat market, Jesse said, “that is a loud statement of a Tangale man’s culture”, adding, “If we had visitors, our forefathers used to welcome them with dog meat.”
He said there existed a gap between the present generation and their culture which the carnival was trying to bridge with interface and the opportunity to mingle provided by the carnival.
He cautioned the youths against being Eurocentric, saying, “They must come back to their African culture.”
Speaking on the massive turnout for the carnival, he said, “Despite the challenges we faced in organising this carnival, there has been massive support and turnout and it goes to say that eating dog meat is in our blood.
“If you separate a Tangale man from eating dog meat, it means you don’t even know the Tangale man. If a Tangale man’s new religion forbids eating dog meat, we don’t force him, he should face his religion.
“But he shouldn’t tell us that Tangale man doesn’t eat dog. Even the person that doesn’t eat dog meat, his parents had eaten dog meat so much that dog meat is running inside his blood.”
Also speaking, an elderly man by name Isaac Usman, added that the outing was to tell the world that “this is Tangale land and we are synonymous with eating dog meat, it is our culture.”