Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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During the next reign a general of the Kano forces
remained in the southern provinces for seven years,
conquering the pagans, taking many prisoners, and send-
ing every month a thousand slaves from the seat of war
to Kano. The King kept the armies well supplied, and
after this experience the affairs of the southern portion
of Haussaland seem for a time to have given no more
cause for preoccupation. Relations with Bornu in the east
had in the meantime become pressing. Embassies and
the opening of the roads led finally to war, of which
the result, towards the beginning of the fifteenth century,
is glosed in the single sentence that "many towns were
given to Bornu." This, king was the first to have camels
and to drink wine in Haussaland.

In the reign of the following king, Yakoub, or Jacob
— that is, about the year 1402 to 1422 — we first hear of
the immigration of Fulani, who came from Melle and
Masina, to Haussaland, and were given land in Kano,


Zaria, and Gazawa. This was the declining period of
the history of Melle, and the emigration seems to have
been a movement of considerable magnitude. Some of the
Fulani, we are told, passed on eastward to Bornu, some
were left on the way with their slaves, and all who
were too weak to proceed on their journey remained
in Haussaland. At this period, trade seems to have
received an active stimulus, and foreign caravans are
noticed as coming from various places. Berbers and
Arabs came into the country, some of whom settled
in Kano and some in Katsena. There was also local
trade between Kano and Nupe.

This peaceful reign brings us, in the first half of the
fifteenth century (probably 1422-1459), to the reign of
a king of Kano, whose name of Mohammed Rimpa
has survived in all the chronicles. Under him Moham-
medan civilisation spread through the country. Sherifs
came to Kano from the East, bringing with them books
and learning. Mosques were built, and "religion became
strong in Kano." Mohammed Rimpa was the first to
observe the fast of Ramadan. He gave titles to his
eunuchs, and shut his women up after the fashion of
the East. Mohammed Rimpa built the walls of the
town of Kano with seven gates. He also built a palace
for himself, as did some of his principal officers. He
divided the territory of Kano into nine provinces, and
appointed to rule over them nine subject kings. " There
was no king," says the chronicle, "so great as Rimpa."
Of contemporary history during his reign, we are told
only that for eleven years Katsena was at war with her
neighbour Mastur.

Mohammed Rimpa seems, indeed, to have possessed
one of those commanding individualities which, when
fortune places it upon a throne, marks an epoch in
the country over which it rules. From the reign of
Mohammed Rimpa, Kano may be reckoned with the
civilised native powers of the Soudan. Yet, as so often
happens when the influence of one man has achieved


a strong forward movement, the brilliant period of the
prosperity of Kano under Rimpa was destined to undergo
a speedy reactionary eclipse under weaker successors.

The ten years' reign of the next king was a long
series of wars with Katsena in the north-west, with
Zaria in the south, finally and disastrously with Bornu
in the east. The result of the Bornu campaign is again
tersely related in a sentence: "The King of Bornu
dethroned the King of Kano, and put his own slave on
the throne of Kano."

History does not condescend to record the fate or
the doings of the Bornu slave, but after the persistent
fashion of Haussaland, we shortly find the son of the
defeated king of Kano reigning in his father's stead.
This king, Ahmadu Kesoke, had the strong blood of
his grandfather Rimpa in his veins. He " conquered
the four corners of Haussa, east and west and north
and south." Bornu marched against him, but was de-
feated and driven back with considerable loss. In this
reign learning prospered, and various Sheiks and Mallams
are mentioned as coming to Kano from other towns.

The reign of Ahmadu Kesoke must have represented
the summit of the greatness of Kano, for we know that,
in the early years of the sixteenth century, Haussaland
was overrun by the armies of Songhay. The dates and
account of the campaign given in the TmHkh-es-Soudan
are too circumstantial to admit of doubt, and Leo Africanus,
writing in 1526, speaks of the greatness of Kano as being
already in decline. After a description of the state and
of its capital, he says : " The inhabitants are rich mer-
chants and most civil people. Their king was in times
past of great puissance, and had mighty troops of horse-
men at his command, but he hath since been constrained
to pay tribute to the Kings of Zaria and Katsena.
Afterwards Askia, the King of Timbuctoo, feigning
friendship unto the two foresaid kings, treacherously slew
them both, and then he waged war against the King
of Kano, whom after a long siege he took, and compelled


him to marry one of his daughters, restoring him again
to his kingdom, conditionally that he should pay to him
the third part of all his tribute."

In the storm thus curtly described we may discern
the ever recurring conditions of Haussa convulsions. The
king, though conquered, was " restored again." The
detail of having to add a daughter of the Askia to his
harem was not onerous. From the Haussa point of view
it would, not unnaturally, be accounted among the
customary compliments of an honourable peace. To
surrender a third of his tribute was more serious, but
to the philosophic Haussa this was but the fortune of
war, and the resident officials whom Askia placed at the
court of Kano would seem to have incommoded no

It is characteristic of the life of Haussaland that the
whole of this important and well-attested episode is
ignored in a chronicle which professes to give a minute
and continuous record of the reigns of the kings. The
name of Songhay is never mentioned. Nor can this
omission be attributed wholly, as might at first be
imagined, to a patriotic desire to ignore an inglorious
chapter of local history. In the accounts which are
given of contemporary local wars we are told frankly
enough when Kano is beaten, and we are allowed to
see the disastrous results of the fighting with Zaria and
Katsena. I incline to believe, and that is why it may,
I think, be properly qualified as characteristic, that the
omission of this chapter of foreign conquest from the
local annals is based on a real indifference to the event.
The net result of the operation was that the King of
Kano was restored to his kingdom. The conditions
which attached to his restoration were not important in
the eyes of a historian who was acquainted with Zaria
and Katsena, Gober and Bornu, but who knew practi-
cally nothing of the foreign king who reigned at Tim-
buctoo. Local affairs would seem to have been little
affected by the inroad of the Songhay, whose adminis-


tration of these distinct provinces was never much more
than nominal. Therefore, though we know from outside
information the epoch at which the Songhay conquest
must have taken place, the chronicle pursues its narra-
tive as though Songhay had not existed.

In addition to the disputes with Katsena and Zaria,
which, as we know, occasioned the intervention of Askia
the Great, we hear from it of civil war in Kano itself.
A King Jacob, who was taken off the throne by a local
revolution, refused to be reinstated when his generals
had subdued the opposing faction, because he preferred
to devote his life to study. The fortunes of Kano are
very evidently in eclipse. Yet, through several reigns,
we are given no hint of what must have been the pre-
dominating cause. The conquest by Songhay must appa-
rently have taken place during the last years of the
reign of Ahmadu Kesoke, then a very old man. After
Kesoke came Jacob, and then others of no importance.
Durino- the war with Katsena the condition of the pro-
vince became so bad that people could no longer farm
in the open country. They were obliged to take refuge
in the walled towns. The villages were broken up, and
the land was left untilled. The King Abu Bekr, who
had succeeded to Jacob and another dethroned king,
gave himself up to religion. "His throne was uncared
for, and so were his people. But the town was crowded
with priests and learned men, many of whom came, it is
said, from Baghirmi." The next king was more active,
but not more fortunate. In his war with Katsena there
were two great battles, and being outnumbered, "Kano
had to run away, willing or unwilling." The weakness
of Kano provoked a revolution of the southern provinces,
and in the succeeding reign Kororofa, one of the southern
pagan provinces on the right bank of the Benue, invaded
the province of Kano, ravaging all the lesser towns and
getting actually within the walls of Kano. The Katsena
war proceeded at the same time, and the chronicler
sorrowfully narrates that the Katsena and Kororofa wars


"broke the spirit of Kano." "The people had to sit still
and be afraid, and for twenty years they were not able
to go to war."

After this, famine, the not unnatural result of a long
period of war, during which the agricultural population
had been driven from the land, added its desolation to
the miseries of the country. It lasted for eleven years,
and brought the fortunes of Kano to their lowest ebb,
at a moment which must have coincided with the date
of the Moorish conquest in the last decade of the sixteenth




The Moorish conquest, for reasons which will presently
be told, affected the Haussa States so much less than it
affected the more westerly portions of the Soudan that
it will, I think, be excusable to abandon the strictly
chronological order of narration, and to say here what
remains to be said of the history of Haussaland, even
though it carries us somewhat beyond the era of the
great convulsion which severed the connection of the
Soudan with the civilised world.

I wish that I had the material which will perhaps
some day be discovered for a history of the interesting
pagan states, especially Nupe and Kororofa, which lay
on or to the south of the tenth parallel of latitude,
peopling both banks of the Benue, and clustering about
the confluence of the Niger with that river. We know
of the inhabitants of Kororofa who occupied the eastern
end of this belt, that they were long-haired, and apparently
of the higher physical type which was brought to per-
fection in the Songhays. At a very early period we hear
of them and of the people of Nupe as practising the arts
of smelting, of smith's work, of weaving, dyeing, &c., and
as being well clothed in neat cotton robes. Their local
civilisation would appear to have preceded the more
northern civilisation of the Haussa States proper. Though
they were pagan, their paganism was of the order of the
goddess- worship of the Haussas, and as far removed from
the fetish worship of the coast as their industrial and
social habits were removed from those of the Dem-Dem

cannibals, whom they partly drove southwards across the



river and partly hunted into the mountains which on the
north made a defensible barrier between their own and
subsequent Haussa settlements. The river, no doubt, at
first formed the southern boundary of their territory, and
was afterwards peopled by them on both sides.

The northern mountains, constantly visited by all
the peoples of Haussaland for the sake of the gold, silver,
tin, lead, iron, and antimony, which from the earliest
times they were reported to contain, were rendered
dangerous by the nature of the rude tribes who inhabited
them, and they are to this day the home of lingering
tribes of naked cannibals. They were from the earliest
period a favourite hunting-ground for slaves, more valu-
able because more easily obtained than the minerals with
which the sometimes inaccessible rocks were reputed to
be so richly stored. Landor observed, in travelling south
from Zaria to the Benue through this country in 1827,
that the people on his route were ready to sell their
children for a chicken, and at the moment of the British
occupation these districts still formed a slave reserve for
the more northern states. Last year, 1904, when the
High Commissioner made a tour through these provinces,
he found that, notwithstanding the suppression of slave-
raiding which has taken place under the British flag,
parents were privately selling their children at a price
varying from is. 6d. to 2s. apiece.

Between these people and the higher-class pagans
of Borgu, Nupe, and Kororofa, there has been, for all
the time of which we have any record, a very wide gulf
fixed. For the most part these lower-class pagans have
been driven by the movements of local civilisation far
southward towards the coast.

Assuming, as I think we may assume, that the belt
of native civilisation which stretched from Borgu on
the west bank of the Niger through Nupe to Kororofa,
not far from the sources of the Benue on the east, re-
presented the earliest wave and farthest extension of
the great movement which at some very distant period


pressed upon the Soudan from the north and east, we
may observe that the chronological order of civilisation
in the Haussa States was almost coincident with the
ascending degrees of latitude.

Next after the civilisation of these southern states
followed the rise and domination of Zaria, a province
which, even in the nineteenth century, the Fulani his-
torian describes as the most extensive of the Haussa States.
It is probable that the early prosperity of Zaria may have
been contemporary with that of Daura and Biram in the
north, but I am obliged reluctantly to abandon the history
of these Haussa States for lack of material. References
to Daura as an old and still existing state are frequent
in the Kano chronicle, and Dr. Barth specially commends
Daura, of which the capital is at the present day a town
of some importance, to the notice of the antiquarian for
the interest of the legends which attach to it. The only
legend with which I am acquainted is one resembling
that already related in connection with the foundation
of Kano, and attributes the foundation of the town to a
strong man who killed there the " dodo " or fetish lion.
" Dodo," I may say, is a native word signifying the
King of Beasts, and may apply equally to rhinoceros,
elephant, or any other great wild animal. The myth
may, I think, be taken to indicate that, in the time of
this hero, the worship of the goddess was substituted for
the worship of the fetish, and it is interesting to observe
that here, as in the early history of Songhay, the memory
of the destruction of the fetish is preserved as an historic
era in local tradition. The latitude of Daura is not far
from the latitude of Gao, and such facts, collected from
wholly different sources, tend to confirm the theory
that there was a time when the fetish worship now
confined to the belt of the southern coast extended far
to the north.

The sign-posts in the almost forgotten ways of ancient
local history are few, but they point to the conclusion that
at some very early period a general and widespread religious


movement, having points of resemblance to the Phoenician
worship of Astarte, and assimilated with a superior order
of native civilisation, superseded the fetishism which is
now to be found among the tribes of the coast, driving
it gradually towards the south, and that the difference
between the peoples professing this form of paganism
and the cannibal fetish worshippers, was scarcely less
than the difference which afterwards declared itself be-
tween the peoples who accepted Mohammedanism and
those who retained the local form of goddess-worship.
Interest is added to the subject by the fact that the
three types still exist, and can be studied in Nigeria,
where it may be said that, at the present day, three
distinct historic ages are persisting contemporaneously.

After dominating the southern provinces, Zaria in
its turn was dominated, as we have seen, by Kano.
With the rise of Kano, and its conversion to Moham-
medanism in the thirteenth century, we enter historic
times, and the history of Kano involves to some extent
the history of the principal provinces of Haussaland.
After the period of the Moorish conquest, its arms, which
had been directed to the south and east, were turned
more continually to the north and west. In its later
history Katsena, Zamfara, and Gober, take the place
previously occupied by Zaria and the southern provinces,
with the difference that, following the mysterious law
by which conquest remained ever with the north, Katsena
in the first instance established its superiority, and, after
Katsena, Gober, a still more northern state, took the
leading place, until the Fulani eruption of the nineteenth
century, issuing from Gober, subjugated the whole of

Katsena, whose literature, like that of Kano, was
purposely destroyed by the Fulani at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, but of whose history a chronicle similar
to the Kano chronicle has been preserved, would seem to
have risen into importance somewhat later than Kano.
The dates which have been examined and accepted by


Dr. Barth attribute the foundation of the city to a hero of
the name of Komayo as late as the middle of the four-
teenth century, while King Ibrahim Maji, who lived about
the middle of the sixteenth century, is counted as the first
Mussulman king. This must, however, I think, be an
error. It seems scarcely probable that Kano, which is at
no great distance, should have had Mussulman kings from
the end of the thirteenth century, while Katsena, nearer
to northern civilisation, and in commercial and intellectual
touch with Egypt and the Barbary States, should have
waited till 1550 to seat a Mussulman on the throne. A
little bit of direct evidence which supports the assump-
tion of Katsena's earlier conversion is contained in the
Tarikh-es-Soudan, where, in relating the life of one of
the distinguished Mussulman scholars of Timbuctoo,
Aicha Ahmed, who died in 1529, it is stated that, having
spent many years in study in the East, "he returned to
the Soudan and took up his residence at Katsena, where
the Sultan treated him with much consideration, and
conferred on him the function of Cadi." It may, I think,
be taken for granted that the appointment of Cadi was
not made by a pagan Sultan, nor would a pagan court
have offered attractions as a residence to one of the
most cultivated traditionists of Timbuctoo. The Kano
chronicle mentions Katsena as a place to which many
of the Fulani went to settle when they came from Melle
in the end of the fourteenth century. It seems probable
that Katsena, shortly to be distinguished under a Habe
dynasty for superior learning, cultivation, and enlighten-
ment, and gladly sought as a residence by men of
letters from all parts of the Soudan, received Moham-
medanism very shortly after the foundation of the town.

It is not certain that the present town of Katsena
was the first capital of the province, but if it is not
certain neither is it material. By the middle of the
sixteenth century, that is, after the conquest by Songhay,
and the at least nominal incorporation of Katsena with
that great empire, the present town had spread to a


size of which the circuit was between thirteen and
fourteen English miles, and was divided into quarters,
of which the names give some indication of its activities.
There was the "old quarter," which was believed to
have been the site of the original town ; there was the
Melle, or "strangers' quarters," which would seem by its
double name to have been associated with the Fulani
immigration from Melle ; there were also the quarters
for people from Bornu and Gober, and there was an
Arab quarter. There were quarters for the different
trades and industries, saddlers, shoemakers, dyers, &c.
There was, as in all great towns, a students' quarter ;
there was — not far off — a dancing quarter. There was
a government, or official quarter. There were quarters
taking their names from the eight gates of the town,
and besides these, innumerable others of which, after a
list of native names approaching to a hundred, it is
said : " These are the names of the larger quarters of
the town, but there are still many smaller ones."

The province of Katsena, extending — within prob-
ably fluctuating limits — to a considerable distance beyond
the town, contained places of importance of which the
names compose a long list. The town has now fallen
from its former greatness, and has shrunk to a fraction
of its dimensions ; but the province, like the province of
Kano, retains its natural advantages. It is thus de-
scribed by Dr. Barth, writing about half a century ago ;
"Altogether the province of Katsena is one of the finest
parts of Negroland, and being situated just at the water
parting of the Chad and the Niger, at a general eleva-
tion of from 1200 to 1500 feet, it enjoys the advantage
of being at once well watered and well drained, the
chain of hills which diversify its surface sending down
numerous rapid streams, so that it is less insalubrious
than other regions of this continent. Its productions
are varied and rich." In the country lying between
Katsena and Kano, though devastated at the time of
his passage by civil war. Dr. Barth proceeds to enumerate


cotton, corn, yams, sweet potatoes, beans, ground nuts,
bananas, papaws, wheat, onions, tobacco, indigo, as
forming the ordinary crops. Katsena had also, he tells
us, figs, melons, pomegranates, and limes, and, until
the destruction of the vines at the period of the Fulani
conquest, grapes were plentiful. In addition to these
evidences of agriculture, the rich pasturage was dotted
with vast herds of cattle and goats, while the park-like
scenery, diversified by native woods, formed, he says,
one of the finest landscapes he had ever seen in his
life. Amongst the woods the shea butter tree of com-
merce and the tamarind tree were remarkable.

The effect of the Moorish conquest on Katsena was
rather to increase than to diminish its importance, for
the downfall of Kagho, the Songhay capital, and the
disasters which followed under its Moorish conquerors,
diverted a stream of commercial activity to Katsena ;
and the Habe dynasty, whose system of law and ad-
ministration was so admirable as to command the respect
and the still more emphatic tribute of adoption by the
Fulani conquerors of the nineteenth century, was founded
in Katsena in the beginning of the seventeenth century,
shortly after the coming of the Moors. " Habe," which
is the name given to this dynasty by the Fulani, would
seem to be only a native name for Haussa, but it
applies to a special dynasty which at about this period
possessed itself of power.

Katsena, like Kano, came early into conflict with
Bornu, and would seem to have acknowledged its suzer-
ainty by the payment of a tribute in slaves. No other
inconvenience arose from the conquest, and for all prac-
tical purposes Katsena not only remained independent,
but having come successfully out of the long wars with
Kano, filled, during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries of our era, the position of the leading city of
this part of Negroland. In the latter half of the
eighteenth century it was said to be at the height of its
prosperity. It was important not only in commerce and


politics, but also in learning and in literature. It seems to
have been regarded as a sort of university town. The
Haussa language attained here, it is said, to its greatest
richness of form and refinement of pronunciation, while
at the same time the manners of Katsena were dis-
tinguished by superior politeness over those of the other
towns of Haussaland.

During the rise of Katsena in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, Kano recovered in part from its
prostration. But it was subjected to many indignities,
and the end of the seventeenth century was marked by
a war with the then rising power of Zamfara on the
north-west, in which the troops of Kano were beaten
with great slaughter at Argaye, and so utterly dispersed
that few were able to find their way home.

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 21 of 41)