Unmarried men in northern Nigeria's mainly-Muslim city of Kano will be on the run to escape capture and ridicule from a roaming "bachelors' hunter" till the end of Ramadan.
Auwalu Sani, 40, alias Nalako, roams the streets of this commercial city at night with his noose, 'arresting' unlucky bachelors and parading them round the city amidst singing and drumming to encourage them to take wives.
Nalako caught 14 bachelors last year, one on each day.
Dressed in an amulet-dotted animal skin slung over a sleeveless hand-woven shirt, a matching cap perched on his head, and with a band of drummers and enthusiasts accompanying him, Nalako goes on the prowl for bachelors with a thick raffia noose.
"There is no escape once I place this noose on my prey", the dark, soft-spoken Nalako explained to AFP this week in a small alley in Jakara neighbourhood in the old part of the city where he had gone with his band to stalk his game.
"The noose has a special effect as any bachelor I hang it on will marry before the next Ramadan", Nalako said.
But 27 year-old Jakara resident, Hassan Hawa, wants to avoid the noose like a deadly snake.
"I?m working on getting married before next Ramadan. You never can tell, it could be my turn and I can't withstand this public ridicule", said Hawa, an artefacts trader.
The crowd of young men and children sang and danced to the thrilling beat from the band which worked on its musical instruments comprising of a gong, timpani, metal gallon with frenzy outside the house of the hapless bachelor where he was holed up.
The singing and dancing became more frenzied as Nalako blew his trademark horn and sang his age-old song ridiculing an unmarried man as a worthless dog that deserves no respect.
As two of his lieutenants dragged the caught bachelor from the house, Nalako placed the noose round his neck and smeared his face with blue indigo dye before leading him out of the alley and round the city.
Residents donated token food and money to the band as is tradition. The human game was forced to dance and sing the bachelor song.
"This is a tradition spanning three generations and it is aimed at encouraging unmarried men to take wives to curb immorality in the community", Nalako said as he blew his horn to the admiration of the crowd and ululating veiled women watching from roof tops, peering from over low mud walls and windows.
Although this carnival dubbed ?kamun gwauro? (meaning bachelor catch in local hausa) started over two centuries ago, it was strengthened and given official recognition during the reign of the puritanical ex-emir of Kano, Alu Maisango (1894 to 1901).
Nalako, which means bachelors' hunter in hausa, is a hereditary title passed down generations and for 20 years, Sani has been holding this title which he inherited from his father.
"The carnival has become part of Kano's traditional heritage," said Ali Bature, an official of the Kano State history and culture bureau.
The annual event, limited to Kano city, has undergone some transformations in the last few years.
Unlike in the past when Nalako would comb brothels and hangouts in the afternoon looking for bachelors, now the 'game' as the unmarried man is derisively called, is captured following tip-offs from friends as a practical joke, said 70 year-old Usman Mamako, the only surviving member of the Nalako band from the last generation.
In the last eight years, the carnival has turned nocturnal to forestall incessant violent clashes between participating rival gangs, said Mamako who was at the scene of the ?capture? to "relive my days and lend support to the young ones".