The ancient Emirate of Adamawa was a part of the Sokoto Caliphate, the politically dominant empire of the Central Sudan in the 19th century. Adamawa was known as The wild east of the Caliphate, were Fulani settlers occupied the vast highlands of Northern Cameroon and provided slaves for the empire from the neighboring areas.
One assumes that nomadic Fulani started to leave Futa Toro in Senegal, looking for new pastures and water for their herds around the year 1000. Following the next four-five centuries, they had spread over the most of the Sudan-zone west of Lake Chad. By the 16th century they had established themselves at Macina (upstream from the Niger Bend) and were proceeding eastward into Hausaland. Some settled in the 19th century at Adamawa (in the northern Cameroons). Many of the Fulani continued to pursue a pastoral life; some, however, particularly in Hausaland, gave up their nomadic pursuits, settled into existing urban communities.

The oldest written sources mentioning the Fulani in the Baghirmi empire (southeast of Lake Chad) are dated to the 16th century. Most probably, the Fulani were welcomed by local ruler, as they brought with them cattle and constituted a market for agricultural products. The groups of nomadic Fulani had to pay a tribute in cattle to the local ruler, thus recognizing his authority. With time, a group of sedentary Fulani began to emerge. These often distinguished themselves as educated Muslims and were highly appreciated by the local rulers for their services as civil servants, teachers and legal advisers.
The Fulani came into contact with Islam already before their emigration from Senegal. Conversion to Islam was especially widespread amongst the sedentary Fulani, while the Bororo (nomadic Fulani) were less receptive to Islam. Amongst the Bororo, Islam never created profound changes of mentality, but laid as a thin shell above the traditional cultural heritage, and this is pretty much how the situation remains today in the small remaining societies of Bororos. The sedentary Fulani in Futa-Tooro, Futa-Jallon, Masina, as well as those in Haussaland, were strongly influenced by Islam.

The Caliphate of Sokoto

Adamawa may be seen as the last link in a chain of empires being Islamized in the Sudan-belt during the last grand movement of Muslim expansion in Africa. With the outbreak of jihad in the West African Futa-Jallon (in modern Guinea) in 1725 stated the age of an Islam more militant and fundamentalist, promoted by the Fulani, sharply contrasting the earlier spread of Islam by peaceful Muslim traders.
Haussaland (in modern Northern Nigeria) was loose groupings of nominally Muslims, small haussa kingdoms. They were united by a common language and culture, and the area was an important center of trade and education, politically and economically highly developed. It is assumed that the Fulani began to settle here in the 15th century. A relatively high proportion of these Fulani establishing themselves in the Haussa towns were educated Muslims, assimilating well into Haussa culture.
In 1804, Fulani in Haussaland rebelled against their Haussa rulers. The rebellion was led by the Fulani Uthman dan Fodio, one of the most recognized Muslim intellectuals of the region. It originated in the public denunciation of the religious and administrative circumstances in the Haussa kingdom of Gobir by dan Fodio. Haussa aristocracy, claiming to rule in accordance with the principles of Islam, were in reality only nominally Muslims. As dan Fodio's denunciation only led to further oppression of faithful Muslims, he called on a rebellion. As the appeal for conquest spread all over Haussaland, Fulani and other Muslims gathered around dan Fodio and participated in the fighting. Dan Fodio led them to success. Already in 1810, almost all the Haussa kingdoms were subjugated. Muslim Fulani empires were established and call emirates. The caliphate of the Fulani was to become the biggest and most influential empire of Central Africa in the 19th century.

The Emirate of Adamawa

Independently of the conquest in Haussaland, a local Fulani rebellion took place in the so-called Fombina — the southern country (referring to the lands in the south of the Bornu empire, nowadays Northern Adamawa). For some time, a modest group of Fulani had been settled in towns and villages ruled by non-Muslims, so-called Kirdis. The areas of the Diamaré plains and the Benue lowland were excellent pastures and attracted more and more Bororos. Around 1800, the local Fulani rebelled against the ruling Gisiga-Kirdi, and were sustained by the neighboring Muslim Sultanate of Mandara. Based on their strong cavalry and their strategic methods, they soon conquered the urban centers, and about 1810 the main town of the Gisiga, Marva (Fulfulde: Maroua) fell into their hands. As early as one year after the appeal of holy war by dan Fodio, in 1805, the mobido Adama of the Ba clan received the white flag of the jihad, and the title as chief of command against the Kirdi in Fombina. Adama thus received the title of Lamido Fombina or emir, as he normally is called in European literature. He established his headquarters in Gurin by the River Faro, but later moved it to Yola by the River Benue in 1841. Fombina later became known as Adamawa, named after its founder Adama.
The new alliance with the Fulani from Haussaland and the religious dimension of dan Fodio's jihad gave new force to the rebellion of the Fombina Fulani..
About 1850, the conquest of Adamawa in general was fulfilled, with some 40 established lamidates and most of the indigenous population subdued by Fulani rule or living as refugees in marginized areas.
The large number of lamidates were to develop in the decades before European colonial conquest.
From the 1850s onward, European explorers visited Adamawa; in the 1890s, the British Royal Niger Company, French and German explorers competed for obtaining treaties with the Emir (Lamido). In 1901 Britain and Germany partitioned the Emirate, the larger part of it became part of German Kamerun, the smaller western part, with the capital Yola, part of British Northern Nigeria. The Germans established a Military Residenture in Garua, close to Yola, where they stationed one company of soldiers, obviously to discourage the Adamawans from rising in revolt.
After 1901, the Emirs at Yola had to accept British domination; Bobo Ahmadu Ahmadu was deposed and exiled in 1909. The larger part of their territory, now located in German Kamerun was lost to their influence, only a part of it being granted to Britain by the League of Nations in 1922 as a part of the mandate of British Cameroons.

Adamawa's Emirs
Independent Emirate
Emirate of Yola under British Protection
1848-1872 Lawal
Bobo Ahmadu
1872-1890 Sanda
1890-1901 Zubeiru
Muhammadu Bello


House of Modibo Adama

Modibo Adama

In the early 1800's Modibo Adama brought the news of Usman dan Fodio's jihad in Sokoto. Modibo encouraged Fulɓe from the area to join in the jihad or holy war. Dan Fodio was asked to come and help, and Fulɓe families joined in the fight. They enslaved or drove out all non-Fulɓe. The ruler of the area lived in Yola (present-day Nigeria), was called a lamidate, and had heads of families as chiefs under him. This jihad made the = the rulers of the area, and they named it Adamawa after Modibo Adama, their first leader.

Ahmadu Ahidjo. A Pullo of common origin, he was also a product of the French school; he tried to get northerners from Cameroon to be more active in politics.


Contrary to the rest of the Sokoto Caliphate, where Haussa became the pre-dominant language, even among the Fulani, Fulfulde is the lingua franca of the region, although different Kirdi languages were prevalent in certain areas. In the lamidates of Ngaoundéré and Tibati, the Mbum language became as widespread as the Fulfulde, even in the royal courts. Nowadays, French, and to a certain degree English, has taken over the role as lingua franca in Adamawa.


The Fulani nomads live in wet season camps while planting and harvesting. The pastures are lush and green, and the cattle graze freely. These camps consist of beehive-like huts made of woven twigs, leaves, and grass. During the dry seasons they camp in portable huts, moving the cattle or sheep to well-watered lands in the flood plains.
Adamawa Fulani men hunt, trade livestock, and tend to the herds. While the older men exercise the leadership of the tribes, it is the duty of the younger men to move the herds. Young boys are responsible for helping their older brothers with the herds. The women usually milk the cattle and sell butter in the markets.
The Fulani are a proud people who teach their young children to have tribal dignity. Fulani children are required to love their mothers and respect their elders. They are also taught to strictly hold on to important Pulaaku values such as generosity, honesty, and modesty.
While Fulani children are still infants, marriages are arranged for them by their parents. When a boy is initiated into manhood, he moves into a separate hut. This hut will eventually become the home of his fiancé. Young girls look forward to being married, since this will give them a higher social status. Having many children will also bring them honor.
The Fulani have an unusual way of initiating boys into manhood. The young boys must beat each other across the chest with walking sticks while showing no signs of pain. Throughout the rest of their lives, these scars are proudly shown as signs of courage.
There are many taboos within the Fulani culture. For example, they are forbidden to call a first son or daughter by name. When in public, wives must stay at a distance, but are watched over by their husbands. Goat meat may not be eaten and beef is only eaten at formal ceremonies.

Culture Shock (nderkaaku)

The Revolt of Young Fulani Herders in Adamawa

With the changes introduced by the modern currents, the Fulani of the Ngaoundéré area in Adamawa are increasingly distraught by the changing relationships between parents and children. When they become young adults, boys do not obey their fathers anymore. They escape for a life of adventure, called nderkaaku in the local Fulani language. The parents are offended by this situation, even though it has taken place for many generations. This is especially true for a family without cattle. To seek their own fortune elsewhere, the young men have to leave home. The Inheritance law which favors the eldest is also another source of rebellion.
But the most pervasive influence is the city life. When the young men take the cattle to the urban markets, they learn about modern life and become further distant from their rural families. Overall though, despite the family disapproval, this rebellion is seen as inevitable changes which may even contribute to the enrichment of the family and to a dynamic Fulani Diaspora.

Glossary of Terms

Fulfulde ar'do, plural ar'du'be. In Adamawa, ardo could be translated as chief of district. Mostly a term of a clan leader of the
In several dialects, ardo means leader of a group of Fulani, or simply leader.
Fulfulde Mbororo
Originally a condescending term, describing the nomadic Fulani. Alternative terms are Cattle-Fulani or Bush-Fulani.
Arabic amîr: actually meaning Commander, Leader, Prince, Emir. Emir is the most common term in European literature for rulers in Adamawa or other places being direct subjects to the Sultan of Sokoto. The correct term in Fulfulde would be laamiido (contrary to laam'do, which is called Lamido in European literature).
Arabic imaara, plural imaaraat: actually meaning Power, Emirate. In this context it is referred to as a Fulani empire, headed by an emir.
Fulfulde Fommbina: actually meaning The South. Early term referring to Adamawa.
Arabic. "Jihad has two meanings: one, non-violent struggling within oneself for a life of virtue; the other, fighting for justice, a supreme goal in Islamic teachings.
Kanuri kanúri: actually meaning a person of the Kanuri people, or kanurí: Language or Culture of the Kanuri people. Important people and language of the central Sudan. The Kanuri were the people heading the powerful Bornu empire.
This word is a European construction and does not exist in Fulfulde, where this unit is called laamu. The word is constructed of the Fulfulde word laamii'ɗo and the Arab emirate. Thus, Lamidate means Fulani empire headed by a lamido.
Fulfulde laam'ɗo, plural laamiɓe. Originates in the verb laamaago ; govern/head, and is a term describing the ruler of the inhabitants of a Lamidate, which in turn is subject to an emir.
Fulfulde maayo: River.
Fulfulde moodibbo, plural moodiɓɓe: Loanword from the Arabic mu'addib: Term describing an educated man, normally teacher in a Koran school.
Sokoto Caliphate
The term Sokoto Caliphate is the European form. It has its origin in the capital of the empire, Sokoto. The ruler of the empire called himself sarkin musulmi, or ruler of the Muslims.
Within Islam, the Sufism is characterized by mysticism. While Islam normally emphasizes the great distance between Allah and man, and thereby often does not meet the needs of the faithful to come into contact with the transcendent, Sufism opens a door to the unity with Allah. For example through the leading of an ascetic life or practicing suggestive exercises, each and everybody could get to feel the closeness of Allah, however after going through a long process. Sufism, thus, was more popular than orthodox Islam, and therefore more suited for the spread of the religion or mission. From the 12th century, Sufism became a widespread popular version of Islam amongst ordinary people, the poor and the illiterate. In Africa it gained great popularity and became widespread.

Abstract from: Rainer Chr. Hennig. Rise and Fall of the Adamawa Emirate (translated introduction to thesis, 1993). Jamtan