London. Ibadan. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. 1967. 312 p.
The seat of the Empire which the Fulani created in the nineteenth century was Hausaland. To understand their achievement it is therefore first necessary to survey the geography of that country and to review briefly the origins and history of its inhabitants.
Hausaland forms part of the belt of savannah which stretches right across Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. This belt is sandwiched between the desert in the north and the equatorial forests in the south. By the Arabs it was called the Beled es-Sudan, the land of the blacks, and the Sudan is the generic name by which it is still known. Within it, Hausaland occupies the greater part of the sector between Lake Chad in the cast and the Middle Niger in the west.
Hausaland is thus part of a plain that stretches away for fifteen hundred miles to the west and two thousand to the east. It contains no mountains and possesses no natural frontiers. Essentially it is a gently undulating landscape with fertile valleys, populous and cultivated, lying between watersheds and plateaux that are often barren or waterless and therefore empty and clothed in bush. With minor variations this theme repeats itself over hundreds of miles and only occasionally does a chain of reddish hills, a wide shallow river, or a town of flat-roofed houses appear to give variety to the scene.
Climatically the year falls into two distinct parts, The rainy season starts in May or June and lasts until September or October. For the rest of the year, apart from a little irrigated farming, there is not much to be done on the land. The long dry season from November to May has therefore always been a time of opportunity when the people have been free to turn their hands to other pursuits-to their crafts, to trade, to learning, and of course to war.
The geographical position of Hausaland has also proved to be historically significant. There, at the base of the Sahara, it became the meeting place of two distinct ethnic and linguistic strains, the indigenous Sudanic strain and the Hamitic strain 1 from North Africa which, from time to time, flowed across the desert and mingled with it.
To understand the origins of the Hausa people it is first necessary to review the history of North Africa. In the latter part of the Roman era the Mediterranean littoral was populous and civilized. Its peace and prosperity depended upon two conditions, the authority of Rome and the fact that its long southern frontier was protected by the desert. Early in the first millennium, however, this security was undermined by the introduction of the camel into the Sahara and the appearance soon afterwards of predatory, camel-riding nomads. For a time thereafter the legions were still strong enough to keep the nomads at bay, but as the power of Rome waned, unity and order began to give way to fragmentation and chaos. In the sixth century, it is true, the country was reconquered for the Eastern Emperors, but revolts soon followed and in any case the authority of Byzantium never matched the departed strength of Rome. By the seventh century, therefore, the half-Roman cities of the littoral and the petty Berber principalities of the interior were enjoying a precarious freedom that made them vulnerable to reconquest 2.
It was not long before new conquerors appeared. In the middle of the seventh century the Arabs, fired by the new faith of Islam, began their westward march from Egypt and, in the space of a generation, overran the whole of North Africa. The indigenous people were unable to withstand the onslaught and had to submit. But at this period the Arabs were not sufficiently numerous to do more than impose themselves as a ruling aristocracy. They settled in the towns, but made no attempt to colonize the countryside where the Berbers remained preponderant 3.
For the next four centuries the two peoples ran uneasily in this double harness. The Arabs recruited Berbers into their service and with their help conquered Spain and threatened France. They also Put pressure on them to adopt the Moslem religion and the Arabic tongue. By degrees they succeeded in these objectives, but their subjects resented being treated as inferiors and so the process of assimilation was extremely slow. According to Ibn Khaldun, the Berbers fell into apostasy no fewer than twelve times 4 and certainly they were constantly in revolt against Arab domination 5.
Even though the Berbers were not at this stage deprived of their land, it is probable that their inferior status, the penalties suffered by those of them who did not adopt Islam, and the constant turmoil of wars and rebellions induced some of them to emigrate to the south and west. Such a movement was perfectly feasible, for by this time the principal caravan routes of the Sahara had already been established and were largely under the control of the Tuaregs who were themselves a Berber tribe 6.
In the middle of the eleventh century, four centuries after the Arabs had first appeared in North Africa, there came the second Arab invasion. This time it was not just an army but two whole Bedouin tribes that were involved. The impact was therefore completely different because the invaders were in search of land, particularly land for pasture, and not just conquest or domination. The first of the two tribes settled for a time in Libya, but the second, the Beni Hilal, overran what is now Tunisia and thence spread westward until in due course they reached the Atlantic 7.
The Bedouin of the Hilalian invasion had little in common with the Arabs of the original conquest. They did not settle in the cities but took possession of the countryside in a way that their predecessors had never done. Moreover, being pastoral nomads, they had no interest in settled agriculture and so they either destroyed the irrigation systems
that had been preserved from Roman times or else allowed them to fall into disuse 8. The Berbers, for their part, did not submit tamely to being driven from their homes and their land, and the struggle between the two peoples caused further devastation. Indeed, according to Ibn Khaldun, it gradually reduced the country-side to utter ruin with the debris of monuments and buildings bearing witness to the places where towns and villages had once stood 9.
The upheavals that accompanied this invasion caused major changes in the distribution of population in the Maghreb. Those Berbers who were not killed or enslaved were forced to withdraw from the fertile plains and either to fall back on the mountains, where the majority of their descendants are still to be found, or else to retreat southwards towards the desert 10. This point is proved beyond doubt by the fact that their language, which yielded everywhere else to Arabic, has survived in corners of the Atlas Mountains and in oases like Tuat and Ghadames 11. Those who fell back on the mountains were hemmed in by the Arabs and had to defend and maintain themselves as best they could until at length they were more or less assimilated. But, for those who had retreated to the confines of the desert, the Saharan caravan routes provided an outlet. As the pressure of the Arabs on them, and of their population on the land, grew greater, so more and more of them must have been tempted to take this means of escape.
About Hausaland, on the other side of the Sahara, we do not know very much. The tribes inhabiting it at this period probably belonged to the Sudanic or Chadic groups and recent discoveries suggest that they were not nearly as primitive as was at one time believed. They had been smelting and working iron, for instance, for at least five hundred years and perhaps more 12. By the eleventh century they seem to have been living in settled communities and the fact that some of these were governed by queens 13 and probably observed matriarchy, a custom more common among Berbers than Sudanic Negroes, suggests that they had already been influenced by previous waves of Berber immigration.
There is no doubt that at some period a considerable number of Berbers crossed the Sahara, settled among these people, and intermarried with them. We do not know exactly how and when this movement took place; nevertheless, though the evidence is scanty, there are certain inferences to be drawn from it. First, for physical reasons, the migrations could hardly have occurred before the camel had appeared in sufficient numbers to open up the caravan routes of the desert. Secondly, if they had taken place later than the fifteenth century the migrants would have been Moslems,14 which they seem not to have been, and the events would surely have been recorded in the historical documents that were then beginning to be compiled in the Sudan instead of only surviving as a myth in the folk memory. Thirdly, the migrants seem to have consisted not of tribes or clans, which preserved their racial characteristics and were strong enough to fight for the land or pasture that they needed, but of small groups, mainly of men, who were glad to marry local women and settle down peaceably. This suggests that they were refugees who had lost not only their homes but very often their families as well.
This evidence indicates that the migrations cannot have occurred much earlier than A.D. 500 nor later than A.D. 1500 and increases the probability of their having been caused, or at any rate greatly stimulated, by the upheavals that accompanied the two Arab invasions of North Africa and by the long period of unrest and sporadic warfare that came between them. If this theory is correct it means that most of the movement took place between A.D. 650 and 1100. It is conceivable that it was spread more or less evenly over the whole of this period, but if that had in fact been the case its impact at any one time would have been negligible and it would have been most unlikely to have given rise to any historical legend. From the fact that there is such a legend, and a very strong one at that, it can be argued that there must have been a point of time when the momentum of the migrations reached a peak and that the impression it made was great enough to produce the legend. From a North African standpoint we should expect that point of time to coincide with the Hilalian invasion of the eleventh century which did more than any other single event to disrupt the life and economy of the Maghreb. This date, as we shall see, dovetails neatly into the probable date of the Hausa legend. Indirect though all this evidence is, there seems to be a strong probability that the crucial period of ethnic alchemy which was to produce the Hausa people and the Hausa language came between A.D. 1050 and 1100.
The legend that the Hausas cherish about their origins could well be a simplified myth based on such a chain of events. It tells how Abuyazidu, 15 a prince of Baghdad, made his way to Daura, slew the monstrous snake that lived in the well and terrorized the townspeople, and was rewarded by being made the consort of the Queen. Their children and grandchildren subsequently became the founders Of the seven Hausa states. It seems probable that this legend crystallized the folk memory of the union between the Berber migrants and the indigenous peoples of Hausaland who were perhaps already partly Berber in blood and custom. It also suggests that the newcomers brought a higher civilization with them and that the union came about peacefully through intermarriage and assimilation.
How long the process of fusion took we do not exactly know, but if, as seems likely, there was early intermarriage and no fighting, it is reasonable to suppose that it was completed more quickly than the contemporary fusion of Norman and Saxon in England. One of the first products of the union was probably the Hausa language-which certainly goes back to this period and which is now classified as belonging to the Chado-Hamitic 16 or Chadic 17 group. Though basically simple, it is nevertheless a flexible medium, with a surprisingly rich vocabulary, and with Swahili it is now one of the two most important languages of black Africa.
While the language was evolving, the Hausa city-states began to emerge as separate powers. The original seven, which are known as Hausa Bakwai, were Daura, Kano, Kano, Katsina, Zazzau, Gobir, and Garun Gabas 18. Together they cover an area which is about two hundred miles square and, though Hausaland has subsequently widened its frontiers, this region still forms its core.
At a later stage the Hausas extended their influence over neighbouring peoples who in some cases adopted their speech and in others merely spoke Hausa as a second language and followed a similar way of life. This group, known as the Banza Bakwai, which can be loosely translated as the Bogus Seven, is a heterogeneous one and comprises some peoples who are now indistinguishable from the original Hausas and others who have little in common with them. In this secondary group the States of Zamfara and Kebbi and to a lesser extent Yauri, became most closely identified with and assimilated to the Hausas.
For our knowledge of early history in Hausaland we rely partly on the lists of Chiefs that have been preserved in most of the States, partly on oral myths and traditions which have been handed down from one generation to another, and partly on the chronicles in which those myths and traditions have, at some indeterminate time in the past, been recorded.
In the seven authentic Hausa States, with the notable exception of Gobir, the lists of Chiefs begin with the appropriate son or grandson of Abuyazidu and are thereby linked to the Daura Legend. They sometimes give the number of years that each Chief reigned and thus make it possible to calculate the dates when the dynasties were founded. Comparisons between these lists naturally reveal serious discrepancies, particularly in the period before the year 1500. The Kano chronology, for example, gives A.D. 999 as the year when Bagauda, the grandson of Abuyazidu, became Chief 19, whereas in Katsina the date assigned to his brother Kumayo falls a hundred years later 20. This is not altogether surprising, however, and what is perhaps more significant is that there is a measure of conformity to a common pattern. In Kano the number of Chiefs in the Hausa era is given as 43, 21 in Katsina as 38, 22 in Zazzau as 60, 23 in Daura as 48, 24 and in Kano as 40 25. Among the Banza Bakwai, Zamfara is said to have had 42 Hausa Chiefs 26 and Yauri, which was probably a younger foundation, 29 27
Of the early written records, much the fullest and most important is The Kano Chronicle 28. It is written in Arabic and purports to give the history of Kano from the tenth century right down to the early twentieth century. Although several copies of it have come to light, the archetype has never been traced and is probably no longer in existence 29. For this reason it is difficult to estimate when the Chronicle was first compiled, but internal evidence suggests that the date probably falls in the eighteenth century 30. From then on the Chronicle was no doubt a more or less contemporary record which was probably brought up to date each time a Chief died, if not more often. So far as the preceding period is concerned, however, though the Chronicle may well have embodied earlier written fragments, it must be regarded in the main simply as the first repository of Kano's oral traditions. Moreover, even if earlier fragments were in fact embodied, they are unlikely to have been written before the end of the fifteenth century when El-Maghili, a divine and jurist whom we shall soon meet again, visited Hausaland and founded the tradition of Arabic letters 31. It can therefore be asserted with some assurance that before the year 1475 The Kano Chronicle had to depend entirely on memorized traditions, that between 1475 and its compilation in the eighteenth century it probably relied partly on memorized traditions and partly on existing written fragments, and that only after the unknown date of its compilation did it become a contemporary written record. These considerations, while obliging us to approach the older history with great caution, do not mean that the early passages need be dismissed as worthless. On the contrary, there is independent evidence to show that the Hausas are capable of memorizing and transmitting historical facts with a very fair degree of accuracy over several hundred years 32.
Like many other ancient records, The Kano Chronicle is often lacking in continuity and historical perspective, so that on some occasions the narratives that it begins are left unfinished, while on others major events are passed over in silence but trivial episodes are set down in unnecessary detail. Nevertheless, for all its faults, it does give us a general picture of how the civilization of Hausaland developed. We see, for example, how Kano grew from a settlement to a town, from a town to a city, and from a city to a city-state. We are shown the steps by which neighbouring towns like Gaya and Karaye, which were perhaps equally ancient but happened to be less populous, were drawn into Kano's orbit. We watch the stages by which the countryside was populated, first by the voluntary movement of free men from the city to newly founded towns and villages and later by the plantation of slaves and dependents in rural settlements. We learn of an exodus of pagans in the fourteenth century and we detect in it the tensions that preceded the establishment of Islam. Finally, when Kano has already outstripped all its rivals, we see smaller city-states like Rano and Kudu being gradually swallowed and digested.
By reading between the lines we are also able to learn from the chronicles the nature of the society which developed in Hausaland. The States were ruled by Chiefs from the earliest times but these Chiefs, though they wielded the powers of life and death, were far from being unfettered autocrats. On the contrary, they stood at the apex of an elaborate bureaucracy of titled officials and of a separate hierarchy of territorial magnates whose position had much in common with that of the feudatories of medieval Europe in that they were bound, when called upon to do so, to render military service with a stipulated number of armed followers at their backs 33. So long as a Chief retained control of this political and military machine he wielded great power. If once he lost the confidence of the courtiers and grandees, however, he could easily be deposed and many Chiefs in fact suffered this fate 34.
With each State disposing of its own feudal army, and with a campaigning season of seven months in every year, wars were, of course, frequent. The fighting was usually confined to the feudal armies and probably affected the life of the common people no more than did the wars of medieval Europe. The prizes for the victors were booty and prisoners who could either be ransomed or enslaved: Conversely, the penalties for the vanquished were the loss of their lives, liberties, and possessions. As a protection against the hazards of war, towns and villages took to fortifying themselves, the towns with massive walls built of sun-baked clay and the villages with wooden stockades.
Although there was no coinage, cowry shells were introduced in the early eighteenth century and thereafter served as currency 35. Taxation was also levied from a very early date. In Kano, for example, a land-tax was imposed as far back as the thirteenth century and a cattle-tax from about the year 1640 onwards 36.
By the fourteenth century the pattern of the future had already begun to emerge. Then, as now, the States of Kano and Katsina formed the core of Hausaland, the one famous for its trade and the other for its learning. To the north, occupying the semi-desert country that is now called Air, was Gobir, noted for its warriors. To the south was Zazzau, the main supplier of slaves. To the west was Zamfara, originally one of the Banza Bakwai but now well within the pale of Hausaland. These were the five leading States. In the second rank came Daura, Yauri, and Rano, the last already overshadowed by Kano and about to be absorbed. Of the original seven, only Garun Gabas had failed to grow at all and had remained an obscure village. The tally of the future was not quite complete, however, for in the west Kebbi was still only a province and had not yet been forged into a kingdom, while in the north-west the area which was later to become Gobir was also waiting for an aristocracy and a paramount chief.
The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were periods of special importance in the history of Hausaland because, thanks to the opening of new communications with the outside world, religion, learning, and commerce received a new impetus. The ruling classes of Boron in the east and Mali in the west had been converted to Islam generations before and the fact that the Hausa States remained pagan for so much longer shows how far removed they still were from Arab influences. The first mention of Islam in The Kano Chronicle occurs in the region of Yaji (A.D. 1349-85) when Wangarawa or Mandingoes were said to have introduced the new faith from Mali and persuaded the Chief to adopt it 37. It is doubtful, however, whether he was a very firm convert, for neither he nor his brother who succeeded him took Moslem names and later his son Kanajeji (A.D. 1390-1410) reverted to paganism 38. It was, therefore, only with the accession of the fourteenth Chief, Umaru (A.D. 1410-21), that Islam can be said to have been firmly established 39.
Among the other States of Hausaland, Katsina was converted at about the same time as Kano and there the first Moslem Chief is identified as Muhammadu Korau who reigned from about 1380 to 1430 40. Zazzau, however, seems to have remained pagan much longer, for no Moslem name appears in the list of Chiefs until the early sixteenth century when the eighteenth Chief, Abu, who in any case was probably installed by the invading Songhai army, succeeded to the throne 41. For Zamfara we have no date, but the first Chief to bear a Moslem name was the twenty-fourth, Aliyu 42, and it is therefore possible, indeed likely, that this was a forcible conversion dictated by Songhai. So too, probably, was the conversion of Gobir whose thirtieth Chief, Muhammadu, seems to have been the first to embrace Islam 43. Yauri, on the other hand, which escaped the Songhai invasion, remained pagan until the accession of the eleventh Chief, Gimba, in 1578 44.
It is clear from the pages of The Kano Chronicle that for several generations a struggle went on between the new religion and the old pagan beliefs. The final consolidation of Islam, directly in Kano and Katsina and indirectly in the other States, was the work of the North African divine and jurist, El-Maghili, who came to Hausaland towards the end of the fifteenth century. His visit happened to coincide with the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa who was the greatest and most enlightened of all the Hausa Chiefs of Kano. El-Maghili evidently found him an apt pupil and wrote for him a treatise on the responsibilities of rulers 45. The contrast between the brutality and callousness which characterize the early oral literature of the Hausas and the high-minded principles laid down by El-Maghili show how important a part Islam played in advancing the civilization of Hausaland.
It was no coincidence that a great expansion of trade occurred during the same period as the establishment of Islam. Both can be attributed to a series of improvements in communications which took place at this time and which had the effect of converting Hausaland from a backwater to a centre of commerce and industry. The first of these developments came in the fourteenth century, when a new caravan route linking Kano with Ghat, in the northern Sahara, was opened, with the result that trade with North Africa could flow direct instead of having to go round by Lake Chad or the Niger Bend 46. The second development, which took place relatively soon afterwards, was that the Darb el-Arba'in, the old caravan route that had linked Egypt to the gold-bearing areas of Ashanti by way of the lower Nile, Chad, and HausaIand, was reopened after having been closed for the previous three centuries by the hostility of the Christian kingdom of Nubia 47. The third was that with the decay of the northern route between Egypt and the Niger (initially because of the depredations of the Syrte Arabs and later perhaps because of the chaos which followed the collapse of the Songhai Empire) the southern route through Hausaland became the main artery between east and west 48. These changes must have had the effect of transforming Kano from a place of purely local significance first into a major entrepôt of the trans-Saharan commerce and then into one of the principal meeting places for north-south and east-west trade. They thereby set the city on the road to becoming the greatest commercial and industrial centre of the Sudan and laid the foundations for the subsequent growth in the prosperity and importance of the whole of Hausaland.
As the Hausas are a virile people, it is surprising to find that they were almost always under the domination of some other power. The cause of this paradox seems to have been that, as the leading States were of roughly equal size and strength, none of them ever succeeded in establishing its predominance over the others. Another reason is perhaps to be found in the nature of the people who, though physically tough, are generally good-natured and easy-going. They can fight if they must but they are not ambitious for power and their interests lie much more in trade than war.
Of the five major empires of the Sudan, Ghana and Mali lay too far to the west for their authority ever to have reached Hausaland. At one time or another, however, the other three Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, and Sokoto all fought for and enjoyed the suzerainty of the Hausa States. The first of the three to impose its authority was Kanem-Bornu and the date was almost certainly the first half of the fifteenth century 49. As the Hausa States were becoming populous and wealthy, however, they made a rich prize which Bornu was not for long allowed to enjoy in peace.
The first challenge came from Songhai in the early sixteenth century. In the western Sudan, as the authority of Mali had declined, so the power of Songhai had grown until at length the new empire had completely swallowed up the old. With its capital at Gao, on the middle Niger, Songhai's centre of gravity lay much farther to the east than that of Mali. It was not surprising, therefore, that sooner or later the eyes of its rulers should have turned towards the Hausa States on their eastern borders.
In the year 1513 Askia Muhammad, having consolidated his possessions in the west, marched into Hausaland at the head of a powerful army. Thanks to the famous traveller, Leo Africanus, who visited Hausaland very soon afterwards, we have an independent account of this invasion and its sequel. According to him the Hausa States resisted, but failed to combine and were destroyed one by one. The Chiefs of Gobir, Katsina, and Zazzau were killed in the fighting. The Chief of Kano was captured when the city fell, but was restored to his throne on condition that he paid a third of his revenue to Songhai as tribute. The other States also became tributaries and before his departure Askia installed Residents in each of them who mightily oppressed and impoverished the people that were before rich 50. Bornu, the nominal suzerain, seems to have done nothing to defend its vassals, but this is not altogether surprising because, as we shall see later it was preoccupied at the time with troubles of its own.
In his description of Hausaland Leo mentioned the abundance of corn, rice, and cotton, the large herds of cattle, the wide range of crafts, the wealth of the merchants the thriving commerce with other nations, and the civility of the people 51. If he is to be believed, it is clear that the Hausas of the early sixteenth century had already achieved a high measure of civilization.
Apart from the shadowy Amina, a daughter of the Chief of Zazzau to whom all kinds of legendary achievements are attributed 52, the only Hausa in history to display imperial ambitions was Muhammadu Kanta who began his career as one of Askia's lieutenants. His paternal forbears are said to have come from the east and to have settled in Katsina a few generations earlier. His father held the title of Magaji and seems to have been a Village Head. His mother was a Katsina woman, some say the daughter of the Chief of the day. Kanta himself was a turbulent youth and when his father died he was passed over and his brother was appointed to the family title and office. Mortified by this slight, Kanta went out into the world to seek his fortune. He collected round him a following of kindred spirits and with them he seems to have founded a community of his own in the Lower Rima Valley, which at that time was a marcher province on the western fringe of Hausaland 53. When Askia's army appeared he threw in his lot with the invaders. It is safe to assume that he took an active part in the subjugation of the Hausa States and that his prowess won him recognition. At any rate he seems to have been appointed governor of his adopted province 54.
Two years after conquering Hausaland, Askia led his army against the desert centre of Asben which he annexed after defeating and expelling its Tuareg inhabitants. Kanta was dissatisfied with the share of the booty assigned to him and therefore threw off his allegiance and proclaimed himself Chief of Kebbi 55. It was an act of extraordinary daring as Songhai was now at the height of its power and controlled almost the whole Sudan between the Atlantic and Lake Chad. Askia's response to Kanta's revolt was to send an expedition against him, but Kanta met and defeated it 56.
During the next thirty years Kanta not only resisted all the attempts that first Songhai and then Bornu made to suppress him but went on to carve out for himself, at their expense, a not inconsiderable empire. At its height it stretched from the Sahara to the Niger 57, but it was a personal creation and disintegrated very soon after his death. Nevertheless, Kebbi survived as one of the leading States of Hausaland and the tributary provinces of Arewa and Zaberma remained loyal.
As the power of Kebbi began to decline in the second half of the sixteenth century, so that of Kwararafa increased. The sudden rise and almost equally sudden fall of the riverain kingdoms of the Jukuns are among the strangest features of the history of the Sudan. For a hundred years, from about 1600 to 1700, they were supreme on the Middle and Lower Benue and dominated all their northern neighbours. During this period their armies captured the city of Kano, came very near to taking Katsina, and even threatened Boron 58. But by the beginning of the eighteenth century they were a spent force.
It was only after the decline of the Jukun power that Boron was able to reassert its suzerainty over Hausaland. In 1734 the Mai, or Sultan, marched westward with a large army and apparently succeeded in overawing his former vassals without the necessity of fighting. Kano and Zazzau certainly agreed to resume the payment of tribute and we know that in Zazzau a Resident was left behind to collect and transmit it 59. No doubt the same practice was adopted in the other States as well.
About two generations earlier, an event had taken place in the north which was to have important repercussions all over Hausaland. This was the expulsion of the Gobirawa from Air 60. As has already been mentioned, the Hausas consider Gobir as being one of the original States and as having a common ancestry with themselves whereas the Gobirawa, or at any rate their ruling classes, repudiate both the Daura legend and the idea of a common ancestor. Almost certainly the explanation of this apparent paradox is that the origins of the ruling classes and the common people are altogether different 61. At this time the common people were probably ordinary Hausas who lived in a marcher province and who, like the Kebbawa before the rise of Kanta, happened to have no paramount chief of their own. The ruling classes, on the other hand, were probably migrants from the cast who arrived in Hausaland much later than the Berbers. They themselves claim to have come from Arabia by way of Bilma and to have settled in Aïr 62, but Sultan Bello was told that they were descendants of the Copts and had come to Air from Egypt 63. Be that as it may, in Aïr they were living in the territory of the Tuaregs and when at length they quarrelled with their hosts they were driven out. They thereupon moved south to the region which lies just north of the bend of the Rima River and there they were apparently accepted by the inhabitants as a ruling aristocracy. They were thus assimilated into Hausaland and their leader, whatever his previous status, became Chief of Gobir.
The Gobirawa soon proved themselves to be turbulent neighbours. For generations they had been accustomed to the lawlessness of the desert and even if they had wanted to take up a sedentary life, which was doubtful, the rainfall of their new home was hardly sufficient to support them. Internecine warfare was not new to the Hausas and indeed the pages of The Kano Chronicle are full of accounts of it.
But the Gobirawa seem to have brought a new aggressiveness to the fighting and in the period which elapsed between their migration and the middle of the eighteenth century they were successively engaged against Kebbi, Zaberma, Gurma, Aïr, Katsina, and finally Kano. Their armies ranged far afield from the borders of Bornu to the great bend of the Niger. In these battles they were generally victorious and no doubt captured many slaves and much booty. But the wars were in no way decisive and when they were over life went on much as before 64.
About the middle of the eighteenth century, however, Gobir, under its Chief, Babari, embarked on a war which was to take a very different turn. Zamfara, which straddled the fertile upper basins of the Rima, Sokoto, and Zamfara Rivers, was a rich prize which the Gobirawa had probably been eyeing for some time. At all events they went to war with Zamfara. and this time they did not content themselves, as they had in the past, with slaves and booty. In about 1755 or 1760 they brought the struggle to a successful end by sacking the capital, Birnin Zamfara. After that they proceeded to occupy the whole of northern Zamfara and to build themselves a new capital at Alkalawa which was more or less in the centre of their greatly enlarged territory 65.
After its defeat, Zamfara ceased to be a coherent entity. In the unoccupied parts of the country, it is true, individual towns preserved some measure of independence, those in the cast leaning on Katsina, which was now hostile to Gobir 66, while those in the south relied for immunity on their remoteness. But the State as such had been shattered beyond repair.
In 1734 Gobir, in common with the other Hausa States, had allowed Bornu to reassert its suzerainty, but Bornu had subsequently made no attempt to curb Gobir's aggressiveness or to save Zamfara from extinction. This inactivity was interpreted as weakness and, later in the century, Gobir threw off its allegiance 67. In this move it was certainly followed by Katsina 68 and probably by some of the other Hausa States as well.
As the end of the eighteenth century approached Gobir was again at war with Katsina. This time the cause of the hostility was Maroki, the fugitive Chief of Zamfara, who had shut himself up in the fortified town of Kiyawa near the Katsina border. While the Gobirawa besieged the place, Maroki called on the Chief of Katsina for help.
A Katsina army was sent to relieve him and at the battle of Dutsin Wake it inflicted a severe defeat on the Gobir forces 69. Nevertheless, the struggle for Kiyawa went on and it was not until 1801, when Gobir suffered another defeat and Chief Yakuba was killed, that the siege was finally abandoned 70.
These events the failure of the Hausa States to cohere, their internecine rivalry and warfare, the decline of Bornu, the dismemberment of Zamfara, the general hostility aroused by Gobir's aggressions, and the reverses suffered by Gobir at the hands of Katsina and the Zamfara diehards were all to play a significant part in preparing the way for the rise of the Fulani and the establishment of their empire.
1. These traditional classifications are no longer generally accepted, but they are familiar and well understood and they will serve for the present purpose.
2. E. W. Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors, London, 1963, p. 41-49.
3. Ibn Khaldun. See J. S. Trimingham, A History of Islam in West Africa, Oxford, 1962, p. 18.
4. Trimingham, op. cit. p. 18
5. Bovill, op. cit. pp. 57-58.
6. Ibid. pp. 5-54.
7 Trimingham, op. cit. p, 19.
8. Bovill, op. cit. p. 58.
9. Trimingham, cp. cit. p. 19.
11. R. Mauny, Tableau Géographique de l'Ouest Africain au Moyen Age, Dakar, 1961, p. 462.
12. Mauny, op. cit. p. 316.
13. S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria, London, 1966, p. 147.
14. Mauny asserts that by this time the assimilation of the Berbers to the Arab way of life, and therefore to Islam, was complete (op. cit. pp. 461-2).
15. The name has several variations and is sometime given as Bayajida.
16. D. Westermann and M. A. Bryan. The Languages of West Africa, London, 1952, pp. 170-4
17. J. H. Greenberg, Languages of Africa, The Hague, 1963, p. 46.
18. The name of the seventh state is sometimes given as Biram, but this is in fact the name of the first legendary ruler and Gamn Gabas, which is what the village is still called, is preferable as the place-name.
19 The Kano Chronicle (henceforward K Ch in footnotes). For an English translation see H. R. Palmer, Sudanese Memoirs, Lagos, 1928, vol. III, pp. 92-132.
20 F. de F. Daniel, A History of Katsina (bound cyclostyled copies published in Nigeria), p. 28.
21. K Ch (Palmer, pp. 99-127).
22. Daniel, op. cit. pp. 28-36.
23. Mallam Hassan and Mallam Shu'aibu, A Chronicle of Abuja, translated and edited by Frank Heath, Ibadan, 1952, pp. 36-37. The Chronicle (henceforward Ch A) was written in about 1945 to record the oral legends and traditions that had been preserved in Abuja.
24. Palmer, op. cit. vol, III, pp. 142-3.
25. Kano District Notebooks (henceforward DNBs), History of Kano.
26. Sokoto DNBs, History of Anka. Another list published by Hogben and Kirk-Greene (op. cit. p. 415) gives 44 Chiefs in the Hausa era.
27. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, 1920, p. 20.
28. In addition to Palmer's English translation there is a Hausa translation in vol. II of Labarun Hausawa do Magwabtansu (LHdM), published by the C.M.S. Bookshop, Lagos, 1933, pp. 22-74.
29. Apart from the risks of destruction by fire or white ants, which are ever present in Hausaland, the climate renders paper so brittle that after fifty years it begins to disintegrate.
30. See Note 1 in Appendix I.
31 A. D. H. Bivar and M. Hiskett, The Arabic Literature of Nigeria to 1904, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. XXV, 1, 1962, p. 106. This judgement is in broad accord with that of the explorer Barth who, quoting the Imam Ahmed, asserted (Travels, vol. II, pp. 255-6) that the earliest written historical records in Bornu dated from the first half of the sixteenth century.
32 M. Hiskett, The Song of Bagauda, BSOAS, vols. XXVII, 3, and XXVII, 1 and 2. The Song covers the same historical ground as The Kano Chronicle. It was not recorded until about 1920-5 but it is completely accurate both in names and dates back to 1807. Beyond that, although dates go astray, it continues to agree with The Kano Chronicle on names, with only one discrepancy, as far back as 1651.
33. M. G. Smith, Government in Zazzau, London, 1960, pp. 34-72.
34. K Ch.
35. K Ch (Palmer, p. 123).
36. Ibid. pp. 101 and 119.
37 K Ch, pp. 104-5.
38 Ibid. pp. 107-8.
39. Ibid. pp. 108-9. The Song of Bagauda also identifies Umaru as the first Moslem Chief. See Hiskett, op. cit. p. 369.
40. Daniel, op. cit. p. 29.
41. Ch A, p. 36.
42. Sokoto DNBs, History of Anka. In the slightly longer list quoted by Hogben and Kirk-Greene, Aliyu appears as the thirtieth Chief.
43. Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, 1920, p. 12. In the much longer list given by Hogben and Kirk-Greme (op. cit. p. 416) Abdullah, the fifty-fourth Chief, has the first Moslem name.
44. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 19.
45. The Obligations of Princes, translated and edited by T. H. Baldwin, Beyrouth, 1932.
46. Mauny, op. cit. pp. 429-37.
47. Mauny, op. cit. Mauny puts this event in the fourteenth century, but The Kano Chronicle (Palmer, p. 109) states that it was only in the reign of Abdullahi Burja (1438-52) that the Bornu-Ashanti section of the route was opened.
49. See Note 2 in Appendix I.
50. Leo Africanus, The History and Description of Africa, translated into English by John Pory, 1600, London, 1896, pp. 828-31. Leo was a Moor whose family had been expelled from Spain and who was himself captured by the Christians in the Mediterranean and carried off to Rome where he wrote his book. For an assessment of the credibility of his statements on the Songhai invasion of Hausaland see Note 3 in Appendix I.
52. See Note 4 in Appendix I.
53. LHdM, Vol. I, pp. 36-37.
54. Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 238.
55. Ibid. pp. 238-9.
56. LHdM, vol. I, p. 37.
57. For particulars of Kanta's Empire, see Note 5 in Appendix I.
58. K Ch (Palmer, pp. 116-22) and Daniel, op. cit. pp. 10-11.
59. Gazetteer of Kano Province, 1921, p. 9, and Ch A, p. 5. Both authorities agree on the date.
60. For an estimate of the date see Note 6 in Appendix I.
61. Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 368. '
63. Sultan Muhammadu Bello, Infaku'l Maisuri (Inf M), translated or paraphrased and edited by E. J. Arnett in The Rise of the Sokoto Fulani, Kano, 1912, p. 12.
64. LHdM, vol. I, pp. 6-14.
65. Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, pp. 10-11.
66. Daniel, op. cit. p. 13.
67. LHdM, vol. 1, p. 14.
68. Daniel, op. cit. p. 9.
69. Daniel, op. cit. pp. 13-14.
70. Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, pp. 11-12.