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Historical Origins of Kano

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Historical Origins of Kano

 Dr. Muhammadu Uba Adamu (Kantoma)
Independent Researcher, Kano, Nigeria


The Establishment of Dala Community

The Evolutional Process of government in Kano started long ago with arrival of migrants from the middle east and north Africa. Kano has developed from a tribal society enriched by Migratory trends which led to an eventual mixture of various migrants through integration and assimilation into an emergent and district identity – the Kano Hausa.

From the historical records present on the migratory patterns from other places towards Kano, it would appear that two waves of migrants made a district impact on Kano, and each seemed to have had a hand in the establishment of two main communities in early Kano known as Dala and Madatai communities. (1)

 It would appear, from the records of the Kano Cbronicle (2) that Gaya, a small village, about 60 kilometers from present Kano seemed to have played an important role in the establishment of Kano. In the first instances it would appear that Gaya served as an important terminus of a migratory corridor through which there was an influx of immigrating peoples especially from Eastern Sudan, the Maghrib and Middle East. These included a large segment of Eastern Sudanic elements running away from the war in the region.

 In the second instance Gaya seemed to provide Kano with a name, in the person of a leader of a group of people who came to Kano from the village in search of iron-ore (tama) since 7th century which they used for manufacturing farming implements. They continued their search till they reached Dala hill in present day Kano where they found the iron-ore they needed and returned to Gaya.

Subsequently, whenever the need for iron-ore arose they would go to Dalai to obtain it until they finally decided to migrate and settled there permanently. People from other places were attracted by thise black-smith, and this led to other settlement patterns. It would appear that this community mainly produced hunting implements for the more warrior settlers who constitute a hunting group.



From this humble beginning, a smallish cottage industry seemed to have been established with users obtaining products and services based on their specifications, and the manufacturers busily yielding to the demands. Since all the migrants came along with their own skills in other areas of craftsmanship this resulted in new industries such as weaving, dying, tanning and others being established. It also led to the establishment of a loose confederation of related elements in the form of eleven occupational tribes in the basin. Thus as early as 6th to 7th century the Dala basement provided Kano with its first urban cluster.



Into this group arrived the first wave of migrants who seemed of Eastern Sudanic Negroid stock running away from wars. The rocky terrain located in a basement complex provided geomorphic features similar to their Eastern Sudanic landforms, a,-id thus made it easier to settle in the region.



The main areas of attractions by these rnigrants were the hills of t Dala and Gwauran Dutse, Panisau, Tanagar, Santolo. According to the events described in the Chronicle on arrival they encountered the indigenes of the place worshiping the stagnant water which they called Tabkinjakara (jakara pool).



Dala and the Tsupnburbura Idol



Religion, like feudalism, establishes social relationship between leaders and followers. These relationships take the form of superior subordinate connections in which two major areas of benefits are accrued to the said religion leaders. These benefits are wealth and prestige. To the followers, the benefit is the unity of various segments of the society, under the common tutelage which enhances social relationships between individuals and opens communication between one area and another within the associations.



The jakara river used to be covered by forest on both its sides(3) and in the middle formed a large pool of stagnant muddy water, surrounded by mangrove. As a result of leaves and other debris falling over years in to this stagnant water, the pool became frightfully dark (Bakin ruwa - dark pool). Its broody atmosphere seemed to have created a feeling of fear and awe in the inhabitants around the nearer Dala hill community which occupied the northern bank of the river, and subsequently became a worshipping place for them. The leader - chief priest, as it were - of the worshippers was called Mazauda.



One of the more noticeable migrants, according to the Chronicle, was named Dala after whom history, if not historians, named one of the hills in Kano plain) who came with is family. On this, the Chronicle elaborates:



"...Dala was of unknown race, but came to this land, and built a house on Dala hill. There he lived with his family. He had seven children, four boys and three girls of whom the eldest son was Garageje. This Garageje was the grandfather of Busame, who was the father of Barbushe (and who) succeeded his forefathers in the knowledge of lore of Dala, for he was skilled in various pagan rites. By his wonders and sorceries and power he gained over his brethren he became chief and lord over them". (4)



The arrival of Dala) Kano brought about not only some innovations in the entire religious activities of the community, but also an organized method of pagan rites, in line with those which used to be made in Makkah in the pre-Islamic period (jahiliyya).



In the first instance, Dala introduced a building, a four cornered room for his idol at the bottom of Dala in which nobody could enter except the chief pries',. He also introduced a yearly religious congregation in which all the followers of Tsumburbura idol from the four regions would attend. This ceremony, which was sustained long after his death, was conducted every year in the month of al-Muharram or Id-el-Adha which coincided with the same religious congregation held in Makkah for hajj in the same year and month. (5)



Having passed through other different cultures and tribes before settling down in Kano, Dala apparently had a repertoire knowledge of worshipping systems of various peoples, for it led him to immediately assume the leadership of the indigenes and introduce a more sophisticated form of idol worship. Before his arrival, the indigenes were content in worshiping a seemingly frightening blackish stagnant water grotesque mangrove trees and their thick stilt-like roots and stems jutting out of the water - a sight horrific enough to evoke spiritual fear in a simple society.



Dala's arrival refined the process. He introduced into the religious process a more sophisticated form of idol worship which, interestingly enough, seemed rooted in middle-Eastern lore. His extensive knowledge of advanced pagan rites gave him immediate supremacy over the local populace and bestowed on him the patriarchy of a generation of religious aristocrats. The idol he introduced, Tsumbiurbura, became the focus of worship.



The worshiping rituals eventually became an annual congregation of all the settlers in the area. Dala, as the innovator of the worshiping system, became the chief priest of the new religion, which incidentally, became a family affair, as it was his more famous great grandson, Barbushe, who carried on the priesthood and expanded it. The influx and inter-marriage between the Sudanic migrants and the earlier settlers of Kano basin brought about the establishment of the first political Kano community which contained the eleven occupational tribes recorded in the Chronicle. These were controlled by the Dala priesthood hierarchy and who, between them, seem to provide a well-structured social, if not political life for the emergent community. Each of the families had their heads as follows:








Control of all the religious ceremonies as the chief priest of the Jakara river



Blacksmith for farm implements and other home needs. He was said to be the ancestral father of Abagayawa black smiths



Wine-makers for religious ceremonies and entertainment



Production of native medicine (Yar mai ganye)



Liaison officer between the community and their neighbors (Kakan kurmawa). The kurmawa act also as prison warders.



Control and guidance of the youth (Sarkin Samari).



Drummers and singers for social and religious ceremonies. Their musical instruments included uniquely named kuru, gunduwa and isintsima.



Iron smelting from tin ore known in Kano as tama. He was also the ancestral father of Maguzawa clans.



Fish industry, singing and public announcement (Dan muabba)


Bakan Yaki

Archery industry and hunting



Salt making industry (Gishirin Awar) and control of river means of communication (pito)



As the idea of having Sarki as a, political leader was not known, the chief priest Mazauda became the nature leader of the community - who was supplanted by the Dala priesthood which Dala established on his arrival in the area. In addition to the Dala community, there were other family groupings that lived at some small distance from Dala but had social and economic relationships with each other. These family groupings lived under various leaderships including:




whose settlement was at jigirya, the present day Yan-kaba district

Jan-Darnisa or Rumu

who lived on Dutsin Magwan in Nassarawa district near the present Nassarawa Emir’s. (He was the leader of Rumawa)


who occupied Tanagar hills, in the present day Dawakin Kudu district.


Who lived on fanisau rock, now Ungogo district



When these settlements grew in number and territorial expansion, the Chronicle gave each region a name for simple identity. These regions were known as: Gazarzawa, Sheme, Zadawa, Funkwi, Sheriya, Gaji, Rauna, Tokawa, and Dundunzuru.



Thus Dala established a quasi-government which was based on religious fellowship, rather than feudalism, which enjoyed the total submission of all the associations within what was then known as Kano.



If it was Dala who founded the Kano religious dynasty, Barbushe, his great grandson, perfected it into a fine art when he eventually became the indisputable leader of the Tsumburrbura pagan priesthood. Members of his priesthood group that formed a council of elders under the overall leadership of Barbushe were listed by Chronicle as: Gunsago (who lived under Gwauran Dutse - the twin hill to Dala) and Gagiwa (here cormes the elephant), who also had a reputation as a powerful elephant hunter. Others were Gubanasu, Ibrahirn, Bardoje, Nisau, Kamfatau, Duje, janberi, Gamakora, Saftaro, Hangugu, and Kardagi.



The Establishment of the Madatai Community

The second wave of migrants to the Kano basin seemed to have slightly different orientations than the first. Other records on ancient Kano history, most notably Wakar Bagauda (The Bagauda Poem) (6)seemed to fill gaps left open by the Chronicle, particularly with regards to the arrival of the second wave of mainly Yemeni influenced agriculturist migrants.



The exact times and sequence of arrival of Yemeni peasants into the Kano basin was not clearly established. However, the influence of a people used to extensive irrigation schemes were clearly noticeable in the abrupt changes in the agricultural patterns of the settlers of the Kano basin. it could be recalled, from Hogben and Kirk-Greene's account, that the Yemeni lived near a dam, whose eventual collapse sent them into a migratory Diaspora. Their likely arrival in the Gaya migratory corridor might have made them come in contact with indigenous peoples to whom they imparted their extensive knowledge of sophisticated agricultural practices as well as to the introduction of new crops to the region.



This could be seen in land preparation for farming especially with regard to irrigation system, noman rani, (dry-season farming) which was not indigenous to the farming practices of the people of the area and became noticeable only after a long while. in the irrigation system they also introduced some crops which ",ere alien to the basin, and which needed special soils, such as Al-kamh (wheat; alkai,yza in Hausa)., A]-Basal (onion; albasa) and Dumadun, (Tumatur, tomatoes). These crops were cultivated and nursed carefully during the dry seasons on the banks of rivers.



It was probable that this Yemeni agricultural influence reached its maturity in Kano after its initial starting point at Duddurun-Gaya in the east and the Challawa rivers in the West. The Affiliation of later arrivals to waterways suggests an acquaintance with revering-based agricultural activities.



But since the migratory pattern was in constant flux another group of hunters from the Gaya corridor, having been influenced by Yemeni arrivals, migrated westwards towards Kano finally settling there as did their forefathers.



The hunting activities of this settler community led them to discover that the virgin land of Kano was fertile. This discovery, according to Wakar Bagauda, was made by four leading personalities among the hunters, namely: Gwale, Sheshe, Yakasai, and Guguwa. Each of these hunters found a large area of land which he took for farming. These areas still bear their names in and outside the. city of Kano. For example, there are Yakasai, and Gwale quarters in the city, and Dan-Guguwa in D/Tofa District.



It was not clear why the new settlers abandoned their hunting and took up farming. it is speculated that since the hunting was for subsistence purposes, and since they have located a fertile land, and with the knowledge of agricultural practices they seemed to have learned, it is only logical that they become sedentary farmers.



Whatever the motives, their initiatives eventually changed the whole community from hunting occupation to large scale farming enterprise. There was soon agricultural revolution in Kano, as new farming venture resulted in the production of food surplus within the community. Thus the small community of hunters and gatherers acquired farming skills, and aided by rich fertile soil, exploited it to the full which enabled them to produce surplus grains such as guinea-com and millet in abundance. Fortunately for them, according to Wakar Bagatida, as soon as food became abundant a severe famine broke out in West Africa There as no food available anywhere except in Kano.



This bumper period of agricultural productivity coincided with the outbreak of famine in the West African sub-region. With food being available only in the Kano basin, more people were attracted, this time from Western African region and this created more migratory influx into the basin. Ethnic groups and individuals from the neighbourhood started to desert their areas and conic to Kano in order to escape from hur-,cCr. According to Wakar Bagauda, the first arrivals included the following Adarawa (Algerian region inhabitants), Asbinawa (Air Tuareg), Kabawa (Kebbi), Bamawa (Bomuans), Katsinawa (Katsina) etc.



The newfound wealth seemed to provide basis for the first class system in the Kano area and established the first mercantile class structure which persisted throughout the Kano history. The new agriculturists became known as the Madatai community, as distinct from the earlier Data settlers.



The arrival of many stranger elements brought about a boom in external trade and exchange, through the establishment of various industries as ethnic groups came with their skills, in various field of endeavour, to set' in exchange for their needs. As a result the hunters turned farmers became rich merchants. They accumulated wealth -, slaves and horses which were not known in Kano before this agricultural boom. Soon villages, as an 'extension of Madatai community began to be established. The early ones, were Lambu,



Kanwa, Kwankwaso, Kura, Tamburawa ' Yankatsari, Mariri, Gunduwawa. To the east of the community there were Sugugun, Jirima and many others. The growth of new villages seemed to surround the entire Data community and its neighbours and lay siege on them. Probably this was the danger which Barbushe perceived and informed his followers in one of his sermons that certain people would come to rule them one day, as stated in the previous section.



The establishment of Monarchy



Thus two large groups of communities seemed to exist side by-side in the early Kano: the Dala community, composed of hunters, blacksmiths and fetish worshippers, and the Madatai community, "Chose religious orientation was not clearly revealed, but who seemed to imbibe and refine agricultural practices.



Kano became known in the Middle-East and North Africa as an economic city in the Sudan. The fame and wealth exposed the city and its communities to dangers of raids and consistent looting of its members and their properties by the then more powerful old kingdoms in their neighbourhood such as rulers of Tumbi and Washa.



Their position was made more risky by lack of a distinct Military leader; for while they had spiritual and mercantile class, they lacked distinct army and relied more on natural rock formations to defend them than any articulated military formation.



When the raids became unbearable the clan leaders of the community appealed, the Queen of Daura - a nearby more powerfully organized kingdom - who sent her son Bagauda to organize their protection, and who later became their first political king. The Chronicle approximated this event to 999 A.D. Bagauda’s arrival lent a military air to Kano and gave the mercantile and.'., occupational clans a sense of Protection and security. However, Bagauda did not seem to have made the city his headquarters, maintaining, a mobile army force, moving his command post from one location to another. This practice was maintained by his descendents, until sarkin Kano Yusa, (1136-94) who was the fifth king of Kano after Bagauda. when Yusa became the king he established the seat of the kingdom at Gwamrnaja in the city near Dala hill. He established a more elaborate military defence structure which successive rulers continued to expand until, during Abdullahi Burja (1438-1452) there was a consolidation of the various clans under a specific command structure into what later became Kano.



From 1463 to 1499 an elaborate administrative reform in the emirate administration was introduced by the 20th king of Kano Muhammed Rumfa which was subsequently used by the British colonial governments both the Fulani jihadis and cyclone, nevertheless a series of unique and definitely, non-aboriginal names were also manifest. To begin with, Bagauda, a latter arrival to the aboriginal settlement was also known as Dauda, a Semitic name, and Bagauda was simply a local adaptation of the name. Further, the Chronicle gave the names of Bagauda's counsellors which suggested that the Semitic roots were consistent, for they included Abdiellabi and Zakari. Subsequent counsellors (e.g. in Gijimasu's cabinet) included Isa. Further, Bagauda was credited with building a city, Talautawa. Murray Last seems to suggest that this is derived from Taluet16 , another name for Saul, first king of Israel (c. 1021-1000 BC). According to the biblical account found mainly in I Samuel, Saul was chosen king both by the judge Samuel and by public acclamation. Bagauda's immediate successor was Warisi (Arabic for successor), who became localized as Dawarwasa. It was not clear whether Warisi was actually a person; the name simply indicated a successor to the throne.



Further influences of cultural confluence in Kano are very manifest especially in the ruling house. For instance, the fifth king Yusa, whom Murray Last perceive to be josbua17, was credited by the chronicle as being the first to establish Kano City as the scat of government also named Dariki. This was also an Arabic word, meaning the one who used to make a sudden appearance for attack especially in the night. This seems to confirm theories of Semitic migration to the basin at a much earlier period. Even the apparently non-Muslim sarkin Kano who received the Wangara, Muslim missionaries in 1380 heralding the arrival of lslam in the kingdom was Usman, another Semitic influence. All these at a period when lslam his not yet reached the area, but Semitic influences had been in the region for hundreds of years - a possible evidence of' influx from the Nile hasin18.



Incidentally, other names unique to the Kano region arid independent of either Fulani arrival or Islamization from about 999 to 1776 also reveal various cultural and ethnic contributions to the gene pool of Kino. The mother of sarki Abdullathi Burja (1438-1452), for instance, was Takida, a female name very common among the Tuareg. Appetidix 1 provides a small sample of unique Kano names medieval Kano.



Thus when Islam came to the area, it therefore found a willing substratum upon which to establish itself.



The Emirate Administration





It should be recalled that as early as the middle of the fifteenth century, a Hausa King of Kano, the great Muhamrnadu Rumfa (1463-1499), tried to reform the administration of the Kingdom through the introduction of lslamic constitution commissioned from Shehu Maghili, but his efforts were not sustained by his successors. When the Fulani came they simply dusted off the original constitution and used it as a framework for sustaining their leadership.



The Emirate organization according to the new reform was to he headed by an Emir who combined the executive, military, judicial and religious powers as the head of the Emirate. This made the Ernir in the Muslin community, already a prince, the commander of the army, the chief justice as well as the chief Imam of his people (7). Under the Emir there were five functional components that constituted the machinery of government. These were.



1. The Council State, which was the Emir's Cabinet

'2. The Army

3. Territorial Administration

4. Bait al~Mai (the Treasury Directorate)

5. Administration of justice and Prison Organization



Thus there was no separation of power between the executive, legislature and the judiciary, under the control of autonomous bodies, the Emir therefore and the community were one and the same under the Emirate constitution .



This appears despotic since there does not seem to be any means by which the excesses of the emits could be checked. In practice, however, this dose not seem to be the case, at beast 1 according to the account of the explorer-adventurer, Heinrich Barth, who was in Kano around 1853 and noted that: “the authority of the governor (Amir) is not absolute, even without considering the appeal which lies to his lord in Sakkwato or Wurno, if the subjects complaints can be rnade to reach so far” a sort of ministerial council is formed, to act in conjunction with governor, which in important cases he can not well avoid consulting. At the head of this council stands.



The Galadima (sic) whose office originates in the empire of Bornu, and who very often exercises a . s in the case in Kano, the highest influence, surpassing that of the governor himself.”(8)



In addition, the Islamic Shari'ah was supreme to any

vicissitudinary peculiarities the emirs would wish to impose, and this is seen in a detailed study of the machinery of the emirate administration.



The Council of State

In the emirate administration the Amir rules in an executive council which was known in Kano as Tara-Ta-Kano, meaning, the council of the nine Kano dignitaries. This council was initially. founded by Sarkin Kano Mohammed Rumfa (1463-1499) as a result of implementation of the first Kano administrative reform suggested by al-Maghili.. The council was composed of nine most important title holders namely, the Galadma, Madaki, Alkali, Wambai, Makama, Sarkin Dawakn Mai Tuta ' Sarkip Bai, Dan lya and Chiroma. Four of these, Makama, Madaki, Sarkin Wawaki Mai Tuta and Sarkin Bai, were the King makers. In the Hausa era these king makers were royal slaves. But during the Fulani rule the appointees were colleagues of the Emir who participated in the jihad campaigns. (9)



The function of Tara-ta-Kano was to advise the Sarki not only on policy formulation and implementation, but also in the day-to-day running of the administration of the state, The council was also set up as a measure of control on the Sarki possible political and administrative excesses,



Even within this inner circle of power, tradition seems to report that there are further hierarchies. For instance, traditionally, the fist three members of the council, Galadima, Madaki and Alkali have combined authorities that super ceded the Sarki. They wield considerable power over his actions and decisions; they can gain access to him at any time, disrupt his routine and reverse his judgments. Their decision is supreme over any point of view he may have.



The next three, Wambai, Makcjma, and Sarkin Dawaki Ifai Tuta were said to be equal to him, that is to say whenever they cause to advise him he would come out to see them if he was free, but if he was doing something else, he might ask them to wait for him. When conferring with them for their advice, the Sarki could argue the point with them but on equal basis, for better understanding. If he presented superior argument, then he could implement his point of view.



The last three, Sakin Bai, Dan Iya and Chiroma were set by tradition to be below the Sarki. He might listen to their advice if he wished and might reject their advice instantly.



Thus the Sarkis powers were not absolute considering the existence of council of the state. It can be seen from the above that the s5,-steni creates its own method of checks and balances.

The Army

The fighting men in Kano were contributed by all the fief holder. Each fief holder was responsible for raising his own war contingents from the villages under his control. The leading commanders in this category were Aladaki, ,Vakama and Wambai. Wambai was usually the commander of the emirate cavalry called Yaizjibga. They were formed into a highly organized, disciplined and trained special squad. They were mostly composed of the young members of the royal house, their clients and trusted slaves that could not desert the battle field in any war under any circumstance. They were excellent horsemen and could fight with any form of armor. it was actually, a small faction of this warrior class under the command of Wazirin Kano Amadu that the British fought in 1903. The main contingent was under the command of Wamban Kano Muhammad Abbas who was subsequently appointed the: Emir of Kano under British rule in 1903. It should perhaps be pointed out that the Wambai's contingent did not actually engage in a fight with the British army; the encounter was more. like a quite acceptance of the inevitable fact of British occupation, evidenced by the latter's superior weaponry.



The second section of Kano fighting men were the emir's own troops which were under - his immediate control for his day-to-day administration. These were composed of three divisions, namely the Barade (cavalry), Dakare (infantry and Yankaba (archery) divisions.



The first two divisions - cavalry and infantry - and the musketeers were commanded by the royal slaves headed by Shamaki. Danrimi and Sallama. Under the command of these three were section commanders such as Chiroman Shamaki, -Makaman Danrimi, Turakin Soro, Kasbeka and Sarkin Dogarai. The last also was the Commander Brigade of Guards. Sallama who commanded the musketeers also acted as the chief of the armory. He was also the officer in charge of the maintenance of the palace. His role during wars included, among other things, keeping the armory as well as store and supply.



Archery Division

The archery division was commanded by the emir himself. Tile division was comprised of Sarakunan Riga. Traditionally this also a duty subordinated to Sarakkunan Fitlani of the territory. Their duty was to collect texes from their clans and also raise troops of archers on permanent bases for the defence of the emirate. The important ones among these Sarakuna were:





1. Sarkin Fulanin Jahun

2. Sarkin Fulanin Sankara

3. Sarkin Fularin Shanono

4. Sarkin Fulanin Bebeji

5. Sarkin Fularin Kunci



Apart from these Sarakunan Riga, there were five village heads who were also appointed by the emir, from among the distinguished warrior archers and sent to the frontier villages for tile defence of the emirates. These were: '



1. Sarkin Rano bordering Ningi and Zazzau (Zariya)

2. Sarkin Dutse bordering Ningi, Katagum and Jama’are

3. Sarkin Gaya bordering Ningi also

4. Sarkin Karaye bordering Zazzau (Zariva)

5. Sarkin Kudu (Birnin Kudu) bordering Ningi and Bauchi.



These two group of title holders were all Fulani of different clans who were not part of the jihad ruling class. Therefore they were not in the administrative stream of the Emirate. All their affairs WCI'C in the hands of the emir. It was he who dealt with them in matters of war and administration.


It became customary for the emirs according to the Kano tradition, to give their daughters in marriage to these Fulani tax collectors and warriors in order to maintain their loyalty. With British conquest of Kano the army was dissolved, and the inter state wars stopped.



Royal Slaves

Royal slaves were numerous and were under the control of two most senior title holders, Shamaki, and Danrimi. Shamaki was the most powerful and head of all the royal slaves. He used to act as the Chief of Staff (General Duties). He was in charge of the coordination of war efforts, such as planning and conscription of loyal fighters. Shamki was personally responsible for the protection of the sarkis person and his householder.



Under these two senior officers, there were many junior ones, Jakadu (sing. Jakada) who were assigned to various responsibilities including the collection of taxes. While Shamaki was the commander of the cavalry, Danrimi was the commander of infantry (Dakaru). The main duty of the royal slaves was to fight wars for Sarki and execute his orders. Sarkis orders were implemented out by Dogarai, a para-military organization under Shamaki, which included arrest, as well as curtailing civil disorder. In short, the royal slaves as warriors class were responsible for the defense and internal security for Sarki, hence the Sarki’s dependence on them.



As noted before, in each village a Jakadu (the tax collector), a royal slave, was attached in order to collect taxes and supervise the day to day administration of the village on behalf of the Sarki. The Jakada worked along with the fief holder’s representative called Muqaddas (messenger) who was responsible for keeping the fief holder informed about the day to day administration of the village and carrying his share of taxes of the village. At the end of each tax collection, the Jakada would take the Sarki’s share and the Muqaddas, the fief holders share, while the village head kept his own. The duty of all the fief holders was to make available cavaltry and foot soldiers for campaign or defense of the emirate.



The royal slaves served as links between 'the emir, the Hakimai and the village heads. No fief holder would need to talk to the emir directly on the affairs of his villages except through the royal slave attached to him. This is one of the areas which attracted the Lugardian reform later, as he removed the link so that Hakimai can talk to the emir concerning the administration of their village freely.



Territorial Administration

The basic unit of the emirate administration was the village community. Each village had a headman who was chosen by the village community and appointed by the emir through the medium of the district head. In most cases, the office of the village head was not hereditary as it was open to any qualified citizen who had the required quality of leadership and commanded the respect of the community. But in practice, the office frequently remained in the same family for many years.



The duty of the village head was to maintain law 1 and order and organize the protection of the life -and properties of the entire village community on behalf of the emir. He receives and arranges accommodation for visitors and strangers. He grants the for immigrants to settle after rigorous investigations in order to determine their sources of origin, their occupation and general behaviour. He arbitrates disputes between individuals and between his and his neighbours. He also mobilizes the whole community for the defence of the village. As the representative of the emir at local the village head was the security agent of the latter. He send reports on the-2imy movement especially in the border areas,, appearance of unknown religious sects, mover~ of strangers, natural disasters and possible occurrence of perennial hunger.



The Village Council of Elders

Each village within the emirate was sub-divided into hamlets, or Unguwa. In each Unguwa, the village head appoints one of his trusted friends or relative to serve as a liaison officer between the inhabitants of Unguwa and the village head on all matters pertaining to the administration of the entire community.



The village head also appointed the Chief Imam of the village to lead regular prayers as well as offer consultancy services on Islamic affairs. It was these officials that formed a village elders council under the chairmanship of the village head in order to help the village head in the day-to-day administrative duties. Other appointments which the village head makes pertaining to the economic life of his community were Sarkin Kasuwa, (the market supervisor). Sarkin Pawa, (the head of butchers), Sarkin Asia, (the head of Barbers) and so on.



Youth Organization

The youth as an informal political unit were organized and guided for a number of voluntary activities as well as promotion and maintenance of the cultural heritage of the village community. They were therefore in front as an effective working force for self-help projects (aikin gayya) undertaken for the development of the village. They also acted as vigilant group for the protection of the community. It "-as for this reason that the village head appoints a most popular youth of the village as the youth leader, known as Sarkin Samari. The duty of Sarkin Samari is to organize and control harmonious relationship between the boys and girls of the village for cultural and other youth activities.



Taxation and Baitu Mali (Treasury)

The institution of taxation had been in operation in Hausaland in general and in Kano in particular long before -the Fulani jihad in Kano, the first King to impose haraji (tax) upon farmers was Sarkin Kano Naguji clan Dariki (1194-1247). That was 1/8 (tumuni) which every farmer had to pay out of his farm produce during the harvest. The second major tax was jangali which was imposed upon the cattle Fulani by the Sarkin Kano Kutumbi (1623-1648). These were the major taxes that used to be collected yearly by the administration. They also ignited the jihad. Besides these major taxes, there were others. These included Afz4rgu, a tax fixed on article of trade coming or going out through the Kano gates. This type of tax was later extended to marriage,. as such Murgu was collected from all the newly-married girls before they were taken to their husbands. Others starting right from 1703, were markets fees, tawasa, rara, and kudin flto.



Tawasa was collected from fishermen. It was one quarter of a day's catch of every fisherman especially during the annual fishing days. Rara was a remnant of grains left after the sale of each grain load. Tax on this was collected by Korama and her grain sellers. Kudin fito was collected by Sarkin Komi for all the river users in canoes.



Many of the minor taxes especially on perishable goods did not reach the Sarki. They were in most cases shared out between the collectors and their immediate supervisors. (10)



Emirate Revenue and Expenditure

The Fulani in their efforts to reform the Hausa tax administration and introduce Islamic treasury rejected some of these taxes. When Sultan Bello was introducing Islamic fiscal policy and tax administration in the Muslim government as a method of distribution of wealth among the Muslims, he gave a guideline on the establishment of a Muslim treasury (Bait al Afal). The revenue accruing to the Muslim treasury according to Imam must be from the Halal sources (legitimate) according g to Islam. He warned against taking certain revenue which Hausa leaders used to take such as market dues on trade which he described as haram (illegal). He specified the revenue for Muslim treasury as (a) Zakat of money, animals, and grains. (b) Jizya (poll-tax), paid by non-Muslim community for military protection given to them by the Muslim government. (c) property of the unknown (d) Property of a person who died with no heir and (c) One fifth of booties realized in a war in defence of the Muslim community.



The Sultan emphasized that what was collected from the above should be distributed, (a) to the poor and needy (b) to the collectors and those whose heart are to be reconciled (c) in ransoming captives aria redeeming debtors and in the way of Allah:



And as for the money of the Muslim treasury which we have mentioned, it is up to the personal judgment of the Imam to take sufficient (for his needs) from it, even if that is the whole amount. and to spend the rest in the Masalib (welfare). And the practice of just Imam concerning fay and khums (one fifth of the booty) is to begin with fortifying weak spots and frontiers and preparing weapons of war and the salaries of the soldiers. Then, if there is any balance left over, it should go to the qadis and the Ummal (employee) and the building of mosques and bridges. Then it should be distributed among the poor. If there is anything left after that, the Imam has the choice of distributing it among the rich and keeping it against the future needs of Islam.(11)



But these reforms were not strictly followed by other emirates especially Kano which completely ignored the tax side of the reform and continued with the old Hausa system.



Administration of Justice and Prison Organization

With regard to the application of principles of Shari'a - the Muslim legal system which with the jihad reforms, became the only legal system in the empire - the Sultan stated that it was the duty of the emir to strive to implement that among the people of his domain and carry out investigation and the laws as much as is possible; and to appoint an officer to pronounce the prescribed penalties and that is the responsibilities of' those who are best suited to it (such as the policemen).



The dispensation of justice was shared between the Amir and the Alkali. The Amir, at his discretion, as the chief justice of the Emirate, could appoint Alkalis from among his colleagues, the Ulama scholars) from the city and the rural areas, to help him in the administration of justice. The jurisdiction of both Amir and the Alkali as well as the power relation between them were clearly set by the Shari'a. The Alkali was left to try all the civil cases and retain the power of Arashi - an assessment ordered by Alkali to be made on the life value of an injured person. When. a case involving injuries was brought before the court the Alkali would call the slave dealer to assess, the life value of the injured person before and after the injury, and the difference between the two prices must be borne by the person who inflicted the injury upon the victim. Thus the Alkali dealt divorce cases, the law of inheritance (Mirast) breach of contract, debts, and so on.



The emir on the other hand, would retain the power to preside over all the criminal, political, and administrative cases and it was only he that could retain the power of Alkisas. Therefore, the Amir presides over cases of murder, theft and robbery, adultery, and land disputes between individuals or between villages, cadastral cases, between individual house owners, deportation of an alien, stripping off citizenship from any member of the community who n-night have committed a crime, as well as capital punishment.



The amir also appointed alkalis in the rural communities where the population "-as considered large enough to have an Alkali. As there were no official court buildings, each Alkali had his court in his house. In addition to that, the rural Alkali used to go round in his area of jurisdiction especially on market days to look for cases to try. In any occasion, the Alkali used to go round in search of cases, he would go along with a local announcer (Danmuabba) who would be announcing the arrival of Alkali, from one street to another, ' or from one corner of the market to another. The reason for going round the town by the Alkali was to reach the complaints and other people who needed the Alkali's service but could not otherwise known where to get him. Thus by the mid-19th century; Kano had become a fully Islamized territory - a process started since about mid-14tli century. Its position as a rich, powerful and now wholly Islamic kingdom merely enhanced its established position as an economic super-power in the entire region. This opened it up further to more immigrants, especially North ,African traders.




One of the major features of the emirate administration was hierarchy and concentration of power in the hand of Sarki as the apex ruler. This type of chieftainship and concentration of power in the hand of one individual does not exist in other natives’ way of administration, not only in Northern Nigeria where the emirate administration is in existence but also among other ethnic areas especially the South of Nigeria. Describing such differences Hindern observes: “There is a great variety of kinds of chieftainship and Council of elders (governmental), hereditary and Councils, and tribes with Councils but with out chiefs”(13). Similarly if we go back to the establishment of Dala Community which, we discussed earlier in this notes, we can see that the eleven occupational groups formed the first government in Kano without a chief or Sarki, but a Council; under the religious leadership of Mazauda and Barbushe. This was probably what was obtained in the Eastern part of Nigeria among the Ibos, who are known to be republican in their political and traditional set up. These differences reveals the main reason for the success of Indirect rule in the emirate areas where authority at level is easily located.



In the non-emirate areas it was an uphill task for the British to locate the authority, for the establishment of Indirect rule, as no one chief appeared to take command from any one above him in the same manner as a village Head took, and still takes command from a District Head who, in turn, took and still takes command from the emir. Giving same examples of differences between the emirate administration and its hierarchical order on and the seemingly republican nature of the Southern native administration on the author , Oladipo observed; “In Yoruba kingdom, for example, this kind of pyramidal administration was, and still is alien. Not chief (that is Oba) was, and still is, directly subordinate to the author in Yoruba land in the same manner as a District Head was, and still, is subordinate to the emir in the classical Fulani emirate of Northern Nigeria” (14).



The problem with this system of native administration is creation of tension and conflict, between one area and another fore self assertiveness as each Oba is independent from the other Obas and Chiefs. The Egbo land may be sited as clear example in this conventional and traditional dispensation. The convention which the Egbo people operated since 1830 when they first settled in the area was codified in 1897, by British administrators. That was when the Egbo United Government become structured in order to avoid leaving in near – chaos for lack of a unifying leadership.



Under the convention, the quarters were broadly grouped under four natural rulers, namely (1) The Alake of Ake (2) The Osile of Oke-Ona (3) The Agura of Gbagura, and (4) The Olowu of Owu. The paramouncy of the Alake of Ake was supposed to be accepted by all, as a unifying factor, only, as he has no power over any one of the other chiefs. But even then the position of paramouncy become a bone of contention for bitter conflicts as other Obas demand that the paramouncy be rotational among all of them.



Further, according to Oladipo Each of the quarters of Ake, Oke – Ona, Gbagura, and Owu, ran its affairs without any meddling from the other sections (15). The autonomy of each a quarter was strictly respected in such a way that jurisdictions did not overlap. Also worthy of note was the arrangement where by all villages were grouped under the various townships, usually according to the location of the village or the composition of the people living in it. The people in the village and its head (Baale) were regarded as being under the surveillance and jurisdiction of their township Oba and Chiefs. There was therefore no village without a corresponding township in Abeokuta. Such is the arrangements of the native administration in the Yoruba land. Although from the time the Egba United Government was formed, if were was a matter too grave for any of the 4 ruling classes to tackle, such matters went to the Alake and his Council for deliberation and solution, yet the Alake was still regard by other chiefs or Obas as one among the equals. This situation was completely incontrest to the emirate administration which established homogeneoty and peace within the emirates






One of the purposes of the emirate administration was the establishment of laws and order in the entire emirate community. This was done in conformity with Islamic principles of equity, justice and civilized behaviour. Its hierarchical order established a firm control upon the population of the emirate and opened a communication linkages between the village communities and the emirs through the medium of village and Districts heads.



This situation seemed to eradicate a tendency for political conflicts within the community as every person is the subject of the emir, wherever he may be, within the emirate. It also eradicate competition between the rulers as each one knows his area of jurisdiction and the source of his authority. This in the end brought about peace and harmony amongst the emirate communities, with the spirit of Unity and brotherhood.



Although this system could be interpreted as somewhat a feudal system, yet it is judged as the best system of indigenous administration in West Africa which served as a local government administration. Assessing the value of the system especially at the material time Johnson (1967) observed:



“Judged by modern standards this whole system of administration through the feudal hierarchy was rough and ready. On the other hand, it was probably more advanced than any other system in black Africa at the time. What was more important was that it worked and that at its best it provided a benevolent if paternalistic form of local government”(16)


But there were apparent misuse of power in the system. In spite of its Islamic Courlorization corruption was rampant at all levels in the name of Kudin gaisuwa, literary meaning Money obtained from talakawa or peasants frequently for greeting the rulers. This was demanded whenever a complainant presented himself before the village officials to lodge his complaints. The tax administration was also the area of oppression and extortion of the talakawa by the emirate tax collectors (Jakada) who were the emirs personal slaves. In the side of Sharia, there was frequent miscarriage of justice due to lack of proper investigation by the Sharia officials. Before the British colonial government used the system as a local government, it had to remove some areas of the abuse of the system. With the establishment of the colonial rule the emirate fighting men were disbanded. The royal slaves were removed completely from the tax administration.



With the removal of these two sections of the emirate administration, namely the army and the royal slaves who were linkages between the emir and his Districts Heads. After that the title holders (Hakimai) were posted to head the new District administration. British administrative officers were assigned to areas for supervision and guidance for running the new administrative arrangements for the establishment of justice and peace among the rest of the members of the emirate communities.



In the emirate headquarters various new component of administration for the provision of modern amenities to the people under their emir as the Native authority, were put in place. British Resident was placed in the emirate headquarters to advice the emir and his council on how the various taxes collected within the emirate would be used to provide service to the people in areas of education, Health care delivery, water supply, agricultural experiment and many others. When this new experiment for using the emirate administration as new system of local Government administration became very successful in Northern Nigeria, the British took the advantage and used it in the other areas of their colonial control, such as Ghana, Tanganyika, Sierra Leone, Northern Rhodesia, Nyersaland, Sudan, Buganda and Southern Nigeria, as enumerated by Hinden. Such were the advantages of the emirate system of administration, for the establishment of peace and order.












1. M.U. Adamu, Confluence and Influences, The Emergence of Kano as a CityState, Kano 1999

2. Tarikh Arab Hadha al-balad el-Musamma Kano, Anon, the oft quoted Kano chronicles as translated by H.R. Palmer and Published in the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 38 (1908) PP. 59 – 98 and republished in his Sudanese Memoirs (3 Volumes: London, 1928, 3:92 – 132.

3. The JakaraRiver started from a place called Janruwa (red Pond) in Isami quarters, in the Western side of the present day KanoCity into two pairs, North and South. KanoCity was not built them.

4. There are speculation that the name Dala is localised from Dahlak, the possible place origin of Dala himself. Dahlak is an archipelago, containing more than 100 small coral and reef-fringed Island located off the Coast in the Red Sea, under the control of what is now Eritrea. The area, with its rich history, culture and contact with many peoples might have given its migrants a moiré sophisticated and recent understanding of World affairs than the settlers Dala met in Kano basin. I am grateful to the late Sheikh Nasiru Kabara for his strand of argument and for sharing with him his written record on the Dala origin.

5. Al-Asarin Kanawiyya (Legacy of kano) and Al-Ilan bi Tarikh Kano (concerning the History of Kano) (1925: updated 1932) by Adamu Na Ma’aji unpublished, and in the passion of writer.

6. For a translation and commentary on the Poem see Mervy Hiskett, “The Song of Bagauda” Buletin of School of African and Oriental Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3. Vol 28 Nos. 1 and 2, (1963-65). It was also Published as Wakar Bagauda, NNPC, 1970.

7. Bargery R.A. A Hausa – English Dictionery and English Hausa Vocabulary, Oxford, 1934.

8. H. Barth Travels and Discoveries in North and central Africa, London, 1890.

9. Several interview with late Alhaji Sadauki Wakilin Panshekara “Kano in his Hausa in PanshekaraVillage”, 1980.

10. Sir Charles Orr, the making of Northern Nigeria, London Fran, Frank Cass 1911.

11. Umar Bello, Al-Ghaith of Wabu fi Sirat Al-Imam al Adee. Edition and Translation, base on Ph.D. Thsis, University of London, 1983.

12. Interview with Alkalin Karaye, Mallam Ibrahim and Mallam Abubakar Dan Jakadan Mallam of the Aminu Kano School of Legal Studies, August, 1980.

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