By Ahmed Yahaya Joe
The earliest handshake in recorded history is on an antique mural stored at the British Museum dated the 9th century BC. It depicts the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III sealing an agreement with a Babylonian monarch. Are handshakes really necessary? A firm one looking at the other party eyeball to eyeball conveys fidelity and even when necessary signifies apology. A handshake formalizes a relationship either business, casual or even political.
A handshake is a form of non verbal communication; that says this is whom I am.
“The handshake has existed in some form or another for thousands of years, but its origins are somewhat murky. One popular theory is that the gesture began as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending their empty right hands, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and bore no ill will toward one another.
Some even suggest that the up-and-down motion of the handshake was supposed to dislodge any knives or daggers that might be hidden up a sleeve. Yet another explanation is that the handshake was a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. When they clasped hands, people showed that their word was a sacred bond.”
In medieval Japan they didn’t shake hands. Rather they “pissed together” by simultaneously urinating into a bowl.
Meanwhile, Indians taught the world the type of gesture with which Donald Trump welcomed the Irish Prime Minister to the White House on March 12, 2020. Israel’s Netenyahu, Canada’s Trudeau and the Prince of Wales are also acolytes of that hand shake equivalent called Namatse “derived from the Sanskrit language, formed by joining two words – ‘Namas’ which means ‘bow’, ‘adorations’, ‘obeisance’ and ‘salutation’; and ‘te’ means ‘to you’. Therefore, meaning ‘bowing to you’.”
Did we shake hands before the coming of the European conquest? I have my doubts because the Arabs that arrived long before Oyibo through the Trans Saharan Trade, kiss on both cheeks as a form of greeting. The use of handshaking was made a religious ritual during the celebration of the Eucharist by the Roman Catholic Church known as the “exchange of peace”
Nigeria’s most famous handshake was between General Yakubu Gowon and the erstwhile Head of State of Biafra, Col Phillip Effiong that took place in the council chambers at Dodan Barracks on January 15, 1970. Their handshake ended a bitter 30 month unneccesary war between brothers which genuinely ended with “No victor, no vanquished” Little wonder the 70s were Nigeria’s most prosperous years. No Nigerian leader has replicated the unusual candor of the Gowonian days with the notable exemption of the architect of the Niger Delta Amnesty – Umar Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory.
I particularly find the handshake between Israeli leader Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat iconic. It was to formalize the Camp David agreement after 30 years of hostility between the Arab world and Jews which returned Egypt’s Suez region and part of the Golan Heights to Syria that took place at the Rose Garden of White House in 1977 during the adminstration of Jimmy Carter. Another unforgettable handshake was between Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk signifying the end of the atrocious era of Apartheid and the beginning of Black majority rule in South Africa.
Interestingly, in the traditional core North you don’t shake hands with your seniors or women. However, when Lt Col Hassan Usman Katsina became the military governor of the North (now 19 states) he embarked on a region wide tour. On getting to Katsina where his polo playing dad, Usman Nagogo MBE was emir he was compelled to shake hands as protocol dictated. Reportedly, the governor’s twin brother Hussein, then a ranking title holder went viral on the “sacrilege” During the IBB era, Margaret Thatcher touched down in Kano during her state visit before proceeding to Lagos. Her handshake with Emir Ado Bayero caused no small consternation back then.
To whom it may concern; with the Covid-19 pandemic please do not be offended if I refuse to shake hands with you when next we meet. No offence intended as I don’t carry any knife up my sleeve. Doing a Namatse doesn’t make you Hindu nor Buddhist. The world is now a global village. Besides keeping safe in a time of Covid-19 is paramount!