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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The eighteenth century in Haussaland was dis-
tinguished especially by the intrusion and rise to power
among the more southerly states of Gober — a state
which, it will be remembered, occupied a position on
the extreme north of Haussaland, and at an earlier
period of its history had extended into the desert as
far north as Ahir or Asben. At a comparatively early
period the more northerly portions of the territory
of Gober had been conquered by a Berber combination
known as the "five tribes." Whether these were
the five tribes of the Morabite invasion led eastward
by Abou Bekr at the end of the eleventh century, or
five other Berber tribes from the north, is a matter
of dispute. The fact alone is undisputed that they
established the Mohammedan religion in Asben, and
drove the people of Gober, who maintained the higher
type of paganism, farther south. Gober was made tri-
butary to them, and the feuds arising between the two
races kept the people of Gober constantly occupied upon
their northern frontier. In the first half of the eighteenth
century the hereditary antagonists of Gober were them-
selves conquered by the Kellowi, a fine race of North
African Berbers. The ultimate consequence was to


liberate the attention of Gober, and to change the direc-
tion of its miUtary activity. The march of its armies
from this date onward was directed to the south Instead
of the north.

Katsena alone of the Haussa States was able to resist
successfully the practised strength of this warlike state.
Zamfara was subdued by it about the year 1750, and in
Kano the century was chiefly occupied by a long conflict
with varying results. Reign after reign has the same
record of fighting with Gober, and sometimes success is
recorded, sometimes defeat, till at last, about the middle
of the century, Gober, under the leadership of the king
Babari, who had established himself on the throne of
Zamfara, triumphed over Kano. Yet the subjection was
not complete. Through this ceaseless wrangle the life of
Kano may be seen to be holding on a more or less un-
interrupted way. The wealth of the province seems to
have helped the town to weather its many storms. A
king at the beginning of the seventeenth century is
recorded as being the first to take tax in cows from the
Fulani who were settled in the province. In the intervals
of war we are told that learning prospered and that trade
was developed. After the war with Gober had reached
its climax, Kano, though conquered, appeared no whit the
worse. The king under whom the defeat took place is
described as "bad," but of the next we are told that he
reigned for fifteen years, and " he was great, kind, and
peaceful. The country was prosperous under him, and he
was much loved." Three more reigns bring us to the end
of the eighteenth century, and under them we hear only of
prosperity. One king who reigned for eight years, per-
haps about 1770 to 1778, was the first to bring guns into
Kano, and is described as being almost like an Arab in
everything. The last king mentioned by the Kano
chronicler is Al Wali, of whom we are told nothing but
that his mother's name was Bawuya, and that he was a
very powerful king. Earth mentions that, on the conquest
of Kano by the Fulani in the early years of the nineteenth


century, Al Wali the king fled to Zaria, and the Zaria
chronicle mentions the fact that a king of Kano called Al
Wali rebuilt the walls of Kano about the year 1787. We
are therefore, I think, justified in supposing that this
prince was the last of the line of Haussa kings in Kano.
The conquest of Haussaland by the Fulani, which took
place in the beginning of the nineteenth century, repre-
sented to all the towns alike a catastrophe of the first
magnitude, only to be paralleled in the country lying to
the east of the Niger by the earlier catastrophe of the
Moorish conquest in the countries lying to the west.


To the east of the Haussa States, but lying within the
same degrees of latitude — that is, north of io° and at
present south of 14° — though once perhaps extending to
the limit of the summer rains, lies the kingdom of Bornu.
The history of this country, often closely associated with
that of the Haussa States, is, as has been already said, in
truth wholly distinct, the people being of Berber descent,
and the language quite distinct from that of Haussaland.
The difference observable in the national characteristics
of the Bornuese and the Haussas is said by travellers
amongst them to be marked. The Haussa is by nature
lively-spirited and cheerful, the Bornuese melancholic,
dejected, and brutal. The Haussas are generally good-
looking, with regular and pleasant features and graceful
figures. The Bornuese have generally a broad-faced,
heavy-boned physiognomy, which, especially in their
women, is said to be far from pleasing.

The territory in which the people of Bornu rose to
occupy a position of first importance amongst the nations
of the Soudan was somewhat to the north and east of
the present province of that name. Kanem, a country
which now lies in French territory to the north and east
of Lake Chad, was their first seat of empire, and the
inhabitants of Bornu still take their native name of
Kanuri from this circumstance. Under the domination
of their early kings the territory of Kanem spread, at
one time, on the east to the borders of the Nile, and on
the west, Arab historians of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, who take no note of the Haussa States,


speak of its power as extending to the borders of the
Songhay Empire. It has been seen in the history of
the Haussa provinces that they were, at different periods
of their history, content to pay tribute alternately to
Songhay and to Bornu. In the north the authority of
Kanem extended to the Fezzan, and its limits must have
approached very nearly in its northern, as well as in its
western extension, to those of Songhay. The historians
of Songhay describe the extent of Songhay as offering
a six months' march from frontier to frontier ; Macrizi
says of Kanem in the fifteenth or early sixteenth century
that the breadth of its dominions was a three months'
march. It is under the name of Kanem that we get our
earliest information about the country, and under that
name, though El Bekri speaks of it in the middle of the
eleventh century as a land of idolaters, very difficult of
access, it seems to have entered at an early period into
relations with Europe and North Africa. A pagan
dynasty of Dugu, or Duguwa, reigned from about the
middle of the ninth century until the end of the
eleventh century, and, according to the information of
El Bekri in 1067, this dominion extended on the west to
the eastern bank of the Niger — that is, over the whole
of Haussaland. Whether his information was accurate
or not in detail, it tends to show that the kings of the
name of Du, to whom he makes allusion, were at the
time of more importance than any other rulers in that
eastern territory. In the end of the eleventh century
a new dynasty of Mohammedan kings was founded, but
though Islam was brought to Kanem at about the same
period as to the rest of the Soudan, it did not come
through the same Morabite agency ; it came direct from

Under its Moslem kings, Kanem rose rapidly to
the rank of one of the first powers of the Soudan. It
entered into close relations with Egypt and the Barbary
States. We have seen a black poet from Kanem at the
court of El Mansour, one of the Almohade sovereigns


of Spain, in the end of the twelfth century. In this and
the succeeding century the armies of Kanem were very
powerful, and the kings of Kanem, who maintained con-
stant intercourse with the Hafside monarchs of the Barbary
States, were known as Kings of Kanem and Lords of

Ibn Said, who wrote in the thirteenth century, is the
first Arab to speak of Bornu by its present name, and
to define the country lying on the south-western shore
of Chad as forming part of the kingdom of Kanem. Ibn
Khaldun, having occasion to notice the embassy which
has been already mentioned as having been sent by the
King of Bornu to the King of Tunis about the year 1257,
adds the information that the capital of Bornu was on
the same meridian as Tripoli. This fixes for us the
fact that since the middle of the thirteenth century there
has been no great change in the position of the Bornuese
seat of government. At that time a great and successful
invasion was made by Bornu of the southern country, now
known to us as Adamawa. The thirteenth century would
seem to have been a brilliant period of early Bornuese
history. In this century the power of Kanem was ex-
tended over the Fezzan, and carried as far north as to
a place within eight days' march of Augela, and Islam
was widely disseminated in the Soudan. It is probably
also to this period that the following passage from Sultan
Bello's notice must be referred. Speaking of Bornu he
says : —

" Fortune having assisted them, their government
flourished for some time, and their dominion extended
to the very extremity of this tract of the earth. VVadai
and Bagharmi, as well as the country of Haussa, with
those parts of the province of Bautchi which belong to
it, were in their possession. In the course of time, how-
ever, their government became weakened and their power

It is no doubt upon this original dominion over Haussa-
land that certain shadowy claims of sovereignty on the


part of Bornu existed. Nevertheless, as we have seen,
the Haussa States were at this period rising into individual
importance, and Kano did not receive Mohammedanism
till it was brought to her from Melle towards the end of
the thirteenth century. This information with regard to
the source of Mohammedanism in Kano receives interest-
ing confirmation from the history of Bornu, for in the
chronicle of the reigns of the kings of Bornu, it is also
mentioned that religious teachers came from Melle be-
tween the years 1288 and 1306. In the case of Bornu
it is added that these teachers were Fulani, but the
Fulani immigration did not take place in any force until
a century later.

We are told that before the twelfth century the kings
of Kanem were light complexioned, proving beyond all
doubt their Berber origin, but from the beginning of the
twelfth century it is distinctly mentioned that they were
black. Presumably there was intermarriage at an early
period between Berber rulers and black inhabitants. The
original inhabitants of the greater part of the country
which we now call Bornu, were a powerful native tribe
of the name of Soy or So. No historian, so far as I am
aware, has attempted to identify them with the Songhay,
and I have no information which permits me to do so.
Barth mentions the " So " as the name of one of the four
divisions of the Fulani, but he does not appear to regard
these people as Fulani. They seem to have been a
remarkable and very active people, who towards the end
of the thirteenth century rose against their conquerors,
and in a long struggle, which lasted for nearly a hundred
years, had almost succeeded in breaking the power of
Kanem. In the year of Ibn Batuta's visit to Melle,
1352-53, King Edris of Bornu appeared, however, to be
holding his own against them. Bornu was doing an
active trade in slaves, eunuchs, and yellow cotton
cloth, with Tekadda on the north-eastern border of the
Mellestine, and from this period the Soy appear gradu-
ally to lose their importance, though they remain as


a turbulent element in the composition of the Bornu

Edris would appear to have enjoyed a long and com-
paratively peaceful reign, but under his immediate suc-
cessors the eastern neighbours of Kanem, a people called
the Bulala, on the other side of Lake Chad, fought against
the people of Kanem with such vigour and pertinacity
that the power of the Empire of Kanem was broken, and
the kings were driven to abandon the old capital Njimye
or Jima, and to fix the royal residence in Bornu. This
happened about the year 1380, after which time different
kingdoms rose to independence in the territory lying be-
tween Lake Chad and the Nile, and the Kanuri definitely
adopted the present territory of Bornu on the western
side of the lake as the seat of their kingdom.

From this date we hear more constantly of Bornu
as interfering with the Haussa and southern pagan states
of the country lying between the Niger and the Benue.
It may be remembered that, towards the end of the four-
teenth century, a king of Bornu was driven to remain
for several months at Kano. His stay is courteously
described as a " long visit." As a matter of fact, it was
one of the effects of the Bulala invasion from the east, and
represents the final expulsion of the Bornu dynasty from
Kanem. The King of Bornu came, it is said, to Kano
with a great host, many men with drums on horseback,
fifes, flags and guns, and he was accompanied by many
Mallams. A usurper who was placed upon his throne
was shortly afterwards driven from it and killed by the

Thus in the first hours of their adversity the Bornuese
kings received shelter and help in Haussaland, but it was
not altogether without foresight on the part of Kano of
evils to come. When the reigning King David of Kano
took counsel with his Galadima, or Prime Minister, as to
the manner of entertaining the King of Bornu, the Gala-
dima warned him : "If you allow this man to stay in
one of the towns of your territory he will take possession


of the whole place." It was therefore determined to
make new houses for the Bornu party in an open field
shaded by locust trees, between Kano and a frontier
town at which they had paused. The King of Kano
did all that he could to please his guests, and the next
King of Bornu, recovering his throne, was known by
the title of the Haussa King, or the King from Haussa-
land. Fifty years later another King of Bornu was
driven to beg for similar hospitality from Kano, and it
was not refused. The name of the Bornu king was
Othman Kalnama, and he remained in Kano to the time
of his death. This was under the great King of Kano,
Mohammed Rimps, and marks perhaps the highest point
of the prosperity of Kano, and the lowest point of the
fortunes of Bornu before the rise of the Songhay Empire
in the West.

All these obligations did not affect the memory of
the rulers of Bornu when, after a long succession of civil
wars, they at last made good their position on the throne,
and, in the person of Ali Ghajideni, who began to reign
in 1472, opened a new and glorious epoch of Bornu
history. Ali Ghajideni, who built the old capital of
Bornu, now known by the name of Birni, three days
west of the modern town of Kuka, on Lake Chad,
reigned from about 1472 to 1504, and therefore brought
the history of Bornu up to the moment of the Songhay
conquest of Haussaland. He reformed the government,
reorganised the army, and renewed the ancient glory of
Bornu. He fought many and successful local wars, and
amongst other exploits marched against Kano, where
his immediate predecessor had dethroned a weak and
incapable ruler.

It will be remembered that the Wankor6, or Wan-
garawa, were mentioned as having brought Moham-
medanism in the thirteenth century to Kano. This
people effected a settlement in the Haussa country, and
in the fifteenth century the province of Wangara, or
Ungara, is described as lying south-easterly of Zamfara



and westerly of Bornu. This would seem to place the
territory of the Wangarawa between the jurisdiction of
Kano and Bornu ; so, at least, the rulers of these two
places would appear to have considered. Bornu appar-
ently regarded the Wangarawa as in its dependence.
The King of Kano, who, in spite of some discrepancy
of dates, I take to have been the contemporary of Ali
Ghajideni, having a cause of quarrel with them, took
their punishment into his own hands. He marched
against one of their towns, took it, and, sitting under
a bread-fruit tree by the principal gate, ordered that all
the roofs should be taken off the houses and burned, but
that no prisoners should be made. The King of Bornu,
demanding an explanation of the outrage, Kano refused
to give it, and war was the result. According to the
Kano chronicle the King of Bornu was beaten. Accord-
ing to the Bornu chronicle Bornu had resolved upon
the complete conquest of Wangara, when once more the
Bulala attacked Bornu upon the east, and diverted its
attention from western fields. There is no mention of
any conflict with Kano in the Bornu account.

The very brilliant reign of Ali Ghajideni covered the
period at which the Portuguese were making settlements
upon the Guinea coast, and the intercourse of Bornu with
Arab civilisation in the days of its early greatness having
caused its territories to be well known, it is not sur-
prising that the fame of Ali Ghajideni should rank with
that of his contemporary, Sonni Ali of Timbuctoo. It
has already been mentioned that the territories of the
Mellestine were shown upon European maps in 15 12.
The territorial limits of Bornu were known to Euro-
peans at an even earlier date, and Bornu is shown upon
Portuguese maps in 1489.

The attack of his eastern neighbours upon Ali Gha-
jideni prevented him from carrying any further his
intended subjugation of the west, and, in the meantime,
Songhay, under the great Askia, achieved from the west
what Ali Ghajideni had intended to do from the eastern


frontier of Haussaland. Askia Mohammed intervened,
as has been already related, in the local disputes of the
Haussa States, and conquered them all. From this time
the central Haussa States lay between Songhay and
Bornu, as between the upper and the nether mill-

It may be remembered that, on the return of the
Askia from his second expedition into the Haussa country,
in February of 15 16, an influential chief, of the name
of Kanta, revolted, and that he formed an independent
principality, of which Kebbi, on the eastern side of the
Niger and to the west of Zamfara and Katsena, became
the seat. Sultan Bello, who gives us some further
account of him, describes Kebbi as being under his
rule a very extensive and fruitful province, which was
peopled half by Songhays and half by natives of Kat-
sena. The town of Birni-n-Kebbi, which is to be found
now on the north-western frontier of Northern Nigeria,
lies almost directly between Katsena and Gao, and it
was natural that the at-that-time important province of
which it was the capital should be peopled partly from
one and partly from the other source. As will presently
be seen, this hybrid province played so important a part
in defending Haussaland from the inroads of the Moors
that its rise to power in the early part of the sixteenth
century is worth mentioning. Probably Kanta's court
formed a nucleus of meeting for all the more vigorous
of the turbulent spirits of Songhay, who for any reason
were discontented with the administration of the Askias.
The growth of luxury and the love of ease, which
gradually undermined the Songhay Empire, left Kebbi
perhaps untouched, and thus, at the end of the sixteenth
century, there was yet a refuge in the territory lying
between Haussa and Songhay, for all that remained of
local energy and courage in the empire of the fallen
Askias. It was in Kebbi that the Moors met with their
first reverse ; Borgu and Kontagora sustained the opposi-
tion to their rule, and the rocks of Almena, in the pro-


vince of Zaria, marked the furthest limit of their advance
into Haussaland. But these were among the events
of a century yet to come. At the beginning of the
sixteenth century Kanta had but just estabHshed his
independence, and the vigour of his arms was yet to

AH Ghajideni of Bornu lived only through the first
twelve years of Askia's reign. But Bornu, like Song-
hay, was at this epoch of its history fortunate in the
succession of two remarkable kings ; Edris, who fol-
lowed his father, Ali Ghajideni, on the throne of
Bornu, was scarcely less enlightened than his great
neighbour of Songhay. He extended the power of
Bornu, and carried still further the administrative re-
forms initiated by his father. The early part of his
reign was distinguished by conquests in the East. He
defeated the Bulala, who had interfered with his father's
intended conquest of Wangara ; but when he in turn
directed his arms against Haussaland, he was met and
defeated by Kanta. Sultan Bello gives an account of
the campaign, attributing it to Ali Ghajideni, but as
Kanta did not establish his independence until after the
death of Ali, we must take the opposing forces to
have been under the command, not of Ali, but of his
equally warlike successor, Edris.

Sultan Bello says that at this time Kanta, who
had conquered the country, governed it with equity,
and had established peace in its very extremities and
remotest places. Bello makes no distinction apparently
between the conquests of Kanta as a general of Song-
hay and as an independent prince. He speaks of him
as having conquered Katsena, Kano, Zaria, Gober,
and the country of Asben or Ahir, all of these being,
of course, really the conquests of Songhay and not
of Kebbi. It would seem to have been some act of
oppression on Kanta's part towards one of these towns,
which gave the King of Bornu an excuse to march
against him. It is evident that the campaign on this


occasion was undertaken with the consent of the
Haussa States, for the armies of Bornu marched north
of Daura and Katsena and to the west of Gober with-
out opposition till they entered the country of Kebbi
and reached a fortified place called Surami. Then after
a battle, which lasted from the rising to the going down
of the sun, Bornu was victorious, and Kanta was
forced to fly westward. But the fort held out. The
Sultan of Bornu was unable to reduce it, and, finding
himself obliged to raise the siege, he marched south
to Gando and thence easterly towards Bornu. Kanta
reorganised his army, and rapidly, pursuing the Bornu
force, he came up with it at a place called Onghoor
(presumably Ungar or Wangara) and there inflicted a
crushing defeat.

The Sultan of Bornu after this again found himself
fully occupied in the East, where, as a result of more
than one brilliant campaign, he entirely subdued the
old enemies of Bornu and re-established his authority
over Kanem. Kanta himself shortly afterwards died,
but the successors of Edris of Bornu continued to dis-
pute with the descendants of Kanta the supremacy of
Haussaland, while, as we have seen, the life of the
individual Haussa States went on without much regard
either for Kebbi or for Bornu. The chronicles, though
somewhat confused, would seem to assign the final
victory to Bornu.

This period of constant war was the period which
we have seen to have been one of great adversity in
the Haussa provinces. Although we find no mention in
their chronicles of the campaigns of their greater neigh-
bours, there can be no doubt that the long struggle
between opposing powers for the suzerainty of Haussa-
land must have contributed much to the conditions of
disturbance and unrest which issued for them in local
wars. It is only amazing that under the circumstances,
every province being at war with each other, and two
great powers fighting over their heads, there should


have been any possibility of the continuance of trade
and the spread of learning, of which the chronicles
continue constantly to speak. That trade should have
persisted under conditions so adverse says much for the
commercial tenacity of the Haussa people. Agriculture
probably suffered even more severely than trade, and
the great famine with which the century ended was
widespread. The famine is mentioned in the chroni-
cles of Bornu as extending to that country, and we
find the statement in the Songhay accounts of the
Moorish conquest that during the campaigns of the
first two years (1591-92) on the eastern side of the
Nio-er, the Moorish soldiers were reduced by famine
to eat the pack animals on which the transport of the
army depended.

Nevertheless, under a king of the name of Mo-
hammed, Bornu rose about the middle of the sixteenth
century to a position of great prosperity and power^
and its relations with the outer world were maintained.

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 22 of 41)