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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race, this favoured son may no less justly be taken as a
prototype of the cruel and self-indulgent despots, under
whose rule at a later period Haussaland fell into the state
of ruin and decadence in which we found it.

The battle in which this victory of Islam was achieved
was called the battle of Dagh. Disastrous as it was to
the interests of the confederation, the states did not
accept the result as a final and decisive defeat. They
continued their resistance to Fulani rule, and Bello
addressed himself to the task of reducing each singly
to submission. Zanfara was conquered, and he placed
his brother Atiku upon that throne. Gando then raised
a revolt against Abdallai, Bello's uncle. Bello marched


against the revolted province, and the campaign is inte-
resting for the illustration which it gives of liello's respect
for his father's division of the territory of Haussaland, and
also for the growing evidence — which even the Fulani
generals could not ignore — that the opponents of Bello
were not entirely pagans. Throughout the campaign
Bello forbade his troops to enter the town of Gando,
which was under his uncle's rule, and we are allowed to
know that warm discussions arose between the generals
as to whether their enemies were infidels or not. When
at last the battle which put an end to the revolt was
fought, it was found necessary, in observance of Koranic
law, to apply some religious test to the prisoners. They
were called upon to recite the fatiha, and to make their
ablutions. Those who passed the test satisfactorily were
set at liberty. Those who did not were sold as slaves.
The refusal to permit slaves to be made after the battle
of Dagh already indicated some scruple of conscience
on Bello's part.

It was at about this period that Mohammed el Kanemi
of Bornu, having completed the subjection of Baghirmi,
turned his attention to Haussaland. All the vanquished
Sultans of Western Haussaland, says the chronicler,
grouped themselves round him, and he promised to
restore them all to their thrones should he prove vic-
torious in the struggle with the Sultan Bello.

The encounter between the two forces took place, as
we have seen, in the south-eastern provinces, and was
unfavourable to the hopes of the Haussa kings. The
army of Bornu, bearing a letter of defiance to Sultan
Bello, marched in the first instance upon Kano. Bello,
who appears to have fully recognised the magnitude of the
danger which threatened him in now, for the first time,
frankly facing a Mohammedan foe, rallied all his forces
from the south, and called upon the Fulani sovereigns
of Zaria and Bautchi to put their armies in the field.
A general advance was made against El Kanemi, who
appears to have turned and marched southwards. The


exact spot in which the first battle took place is not
indicated ; but the fight raged long and fiercely, and it
was the troops of Yakoub, the Sultan of Bautchi, who
at last decided the action against Bornu. This battle,
which, as we learn from the history of Bornu, took
place in 1826, appears to have been the last important
battle of Sultan Bello's reign. After it a lasting peace
was concluded between Sokoto and Bornu, and the
principal Haussa dynasties appear to have acquiesced in
their final deposition from the thrones of Haussaland.

The western states of the Haussa confederation,
according to the account given by Clapperton, finally
made peace on the understanding that they were to
continue to be ruled by their hereditary native princes,
and that the Fulani were not to interfere with them. It
is not definitely stated that these were the states subject
to Gando, but the general course of events would lead
to this inference. The ruler of Gando had from the
beginning leaned upon Sokoto, in order to obtain the
submission of his subject provinces. Thus Sokoto ap-
parently gained a vague overlordship of Gando, while the
states of which Gando was suzerain existed on somewhat
different terms from those acknowledging direct allegi-
ance to Sokoto. Sokoto became the universally accepted
suzerain of the entire territory, and Fulani rule was
established more or less completely from the capital of
that province to the farthest limit enclosed between the
Middle Niger and the Benue.

According to the Fulani chronicles, while Bello lived,
Haussaland enjoyed a period of great prosperity. Clap-
perton, who travelled through the country during the
lifetime of Sultan Bello, tells us that under Fulani rule
trade was discouraged by heavy duties, but that agri-
culture flourished. The country round Zaria, when he
first saw it, was "like the finest in England." There
were quantities of rice and corn, and the land every-
where " looked beautiful." He notes fine cattle and
horses, and heavy crops of grain "just high enough to


wave with the wind." Wheat began north of Zaria.
Zaria was then largely populated by Fulani and Arabs,
who had flocked to Dan Fodio's standard, and to whom
he had given the lands of the former inhabitants, who
had fled to the mountains in the southern part of the
province. These Mohammedan inhabitants maintained,
like the pagans, a chronic state of war against the
Fulani. The general form of residence of the Fulani
rulers in Haussaland seems to have been adapted to
this condition of affairs, and was, Clapperton tells us,
"like the old keeps or castles in Scotland, near the

Throughout the whole of his active life Bello found
time to devote to literature. He was extremely fond
of study, and wrote many books. His numerous works
were, it is said, usually written in the form of dissertations,
or replies to questions which raised doubtful points of
law. But he also wrote some purely literary essays,
amongst them one upon the poems of his father, which
w^ere "composed in the Soudanese language." Some
short notes of his upon the geography and history of
the Soudan, compiled by him from Haussa manuscripts,
have been preserved. He is said to have encouraged
science and learning, and at his court distinguished men
from all countries were well received. It must, however,
be counted as a serious blot upon his literary reputation
that he everywhere permitted Haussa manuscripts to be
destroyed, in order to efface the records of the con-
quered people.

He encouraged the members of his own family to
acquire learning, and protested warmly against the form
of Haussa superstition, which would have accredited
them, by the mere fact of their birth, with inherited
wisdom. "That," he constantly told them, "is pure illu-
sion ; knowledge can be maintained only by instruction."

In his public dealings he was equitable and modest.
He maintained himself in early life entirely by his own
exertions, refusing to live upon the public treasury. He


had entered into this compact when he and his father
opened their first holy campaign. " For you," he said
to his father, "it is unavoidable that you should use the
public money ; but I am young : I can learn a trade
and support myself." This, according to one of his
historians, he continued to do all his life ; but it is
more probable that after his accession he yielded, like
his father, to the pressure of necessity, and made use
of the public funds.

He was, we are told, very good to the people, full
of indulgence, calm and patient. He was an able ad-
ministrator. When he wrote the treatises upon points
of law, to which he devoted much of his time, the first
thing that he did with them was to make them known
to all his people, in order that the law might be gene-
rally observed. He inspected the Cadis, kept them in
check, and annulled any unjust judgment. When, after
his death, he was succeeded by his brother Atiku, the
judges begged Atiku not to reverse their judgments as
Bello had done ; but Atiku was of the same breed, and
only replied: "Judge with equity, and I will not reverse
your judgments. Be on the side of right wherever you
find it." The system of justice adopted by the Fulani
was that already instituted by the Haussas. In their
system of taxation the Fulani would seem, however, to
have introduced innovations which must have been in
many instances grievous to the Haussa people.

In appearance Bello was "red, tall, and bald, with
a tufted beard." He wore the veil. His final illness
lasted for some months. When it became grave, he
sent for his son Ali, and warned him against trying to
become Sultan after him. He refused to name a suc-
cessor ; but desired that his successor should be elected
according to the custom of the people. He died at
fifty-eight years of age, and left many sons and daughters.



Bello of Sokoto and Kanemi of Bornu, who died
within two years of each other, were the two great
native sovereigns of the nineteenth century in the
country now known as Northern Nigeria.

They had established their dynasties securely on
their respective thrones, but the impression of their
greatness did not long survive them. It would but
weary the reader if I were to attempt to relate the
little wars and counter wars which filled the second
half of the nineteenth century, and immediately pre-
ceded the introduction of British administration. What
has been told of the establishment of the Bornuese and
Fulani powers is enough to show that in both cases
very strong elements of disruption were waiting only
for the removal of the hand which had welded the state
together to break into active discord. There has re-
mained the difference between the two empires, that in
Bornu the power established was to a great extent a
native power, which had to war against foreign invad-
ing elements, while in the rest of Haussaland the power
established was a foreign power which fastened itself
upon the necks of already existing and well-established
native rulers. The wars, which in the latter half of the
century decimated both empires, kept the different char-
acter imposed by this circumstance.

In the case of Bornu, the attacks of old enemies
and foreign invaders from the east tended to minimise
the native power, while pagan states previously held


subject in the south profited by every opportunity to
assert their independence.

On the western border of Bornu some Fulani states also
made good an independent position ; desert tribes raided
from the north, and Bornu proper became, in the course
of fifty years, a mere section of the Bornu Empire as
it was ruled by Mohammed el Kanemi. Barth, who
entered Haussaland from Tripoli in 1850, and travelled
through Bornu, gives some account of troubles already
tending to overthrow the power and dignity of Bornu.
By various causes, of which perpetual slave-raiding was
not the least active, the country was gradually deso-
lated. Its trade was almost destroyed, its agriculture
ruined, and towards the end of the century it fell an
easy prey to a native military adventurer known as
Rabbeh Zubeir, who, marching with a large army from
Darfur, subdued for a time the whole Mohammedan belt
to the east of Chad. In 1893 Rabbeh overthrew the
existing dynasty of Bornu, and continued to rule the
country under a military tyranny till in April of 1900
he in turn was overthrown, not by the British, but by
the French. French troops encountered his forces upon
the border of what is now German territory, and having
placed their own nominee on the throne of Bornu,
their commanders were actually levying tribute in British
territory at the moment when British administration
was established in Northern Nigeria. The fortunes of
Bornu had never in all its history been so low ; the
pride of its rulers, represented by an unhappy puppet
held captive in foreign territory, was in the dust.

In the remainder of Haussaland a no less disastrous
condition of affairs had been produced by the convulsive
efforts of some of the Haussa States to cast off the rule
of the Fulani, of others to aggrandise themselves at the
expense of weaker neighbours, and of the pagans to
maintain their cherished independence against all Mo-
hammedan and slave-raiding powers alike ; while above
the seething mass of discontent, rebellion, and civil war.


the Fulani power tightened its hold only the more
despotically upon such portions of the country as it
could keep. A domination, which was established in
the name of religion and justice, had fallen into tyranny,
tempered only by the weakness or the moderation of
personal rulers. Under Dan Fodio and Bello the con-
quering armies of the Fulani were enjoined to spread
the true faith and to convert the pagans to Islamism.
At a later period it was found more profitable to leave
the pagans in a condition in which it was lawful to
make slaves and to exact tribute, and Fulani wars de-
generated into little more than slave-raiding expeditions.
The judicial system of the Haussas, already founded
on Mohammedan institutions, and adopted in the first
instance by the conquerors, was allowed to fall into
disuse. Courts continued to exist, but the Alkalis who
should have presided over them and dispensed justice
according to Koranic law, irremovable from their posi-
tions as the judges of Great Britain, were either dis-
regarded, as in some cases by the great chiefs who
held their own courts and gave decisions at their own
will, or over-ruled by the emir, or worse still, subjected
to the authority of the emir's favourite slaves, who
decreed to their enemies inhuman punishments of their
own invention. For the nails to be torn out with red-
hot pincers, for the limbs to be pounded one by one
in a mortar while the victims were still alive, for im-
portant people who had offended to be built up alive
gradually in the town walls, till, after a period of
agony, the head of the dying man was finally walled
up, were among the punishments well attested to have
been inflicted in the decadence of Fulani power. It is
said that a considerable number of the walls of Haussa
towns are known by the people to have been so built up,
and are even now called by the name of the most dis-
tinguished victims whose corpses they contain. Impale-
ment and mutilation were among the penalties of lesser
offences. Some of the Fulani emirs would themselves

2 c


appear to have been monsters of inhumanity, who re-
joiced, like the depraved emperors of Rome, in witness-
ing the mortal agonies of their victims. The public
prisons became places of public torture, from which few
who were confined in them could escape alive. Here
is the description of the prison of Kano, as it was in
existence up to the moment of the British occupation
of the province. I quote the High Commissioner's
account, given in the Colonial Report for Northern
Nigeria, 1902 : —

" I visited the dungeon myself. A small doorway,
2 feet 6 inches by i foot 6 inches, gives access to it.
The interior is divided, by a thick, mud wall, with a
similar hole through it, into two compartments, each
17 feet by 7, and 11 feet high. This wall was pierced
with holes at its base, through which the legs of those
sentenced to death were thrust up to the thigh, and the
condemned men were left to be trodden on by the mass
of other prisoners till they died of thirst or starvation.
The place is entirely air-tight and unventilated, except
for the one small doorway, or rather hole in the wall,
through which you creep. The total space inside is
2618 cubic feet, and at the time we took Kano, 135
human beings were confined here each night, being let out
during the day to cook their food, &c., in a small adjoining
area. Recently as many as 200 have been interned at
one time. As the superficial area was only 238 square
feet, there was not, of course, even standing room.
Victims were crushed to death every night, and their
corpses were hauled out each morning. The stench,
I am told, inside the place when Colonel Morland visited
it was intolerable, though it was empty, and when I
myself went inside, more than three weeks later, the
effluvia was unbearable for more than a few seconds."

These were the forms and these the instruments to
the use of which Fulani justice had degenerated, and in
the midst of them the only chance of obtaining favourable
consideration of a given case lay in heavy bribery. The


powers and constitution of the courts varied in every
Fulani province, but in all the tendency was to inflict
heavy fines for the benefit of the emir and the court.
In all, without exception, such justice as there was, was
bought and sold.

The system of taxation, like the system of justice,
originally based in the Haussa States upon Koranic law,
and in the first instance adopted by the conquerors, was
similarly debased. The legitimate taxation established
under the Haussa dynasties divides itself roughly into
the four classes of taxes on land and crops ; taxes on
cattle ; taxes on handicrafts and trades ; customs, tolls,
and death duties. To these there was added, in the first
instance, a tax payable from all the conquered states to
Sokoto and Gando, which, though payable from Moslem
to Moslem, and called by a different name to distinguish
it from the tribute only lawfully to be taken from pagans,
was, in fact, the equivalent of a tribute, and by its pay-
ment conveyed the recognition of sovereignty. Had this
been all, the conquered states might reasonably have
accepted the inevitable. But if the abuse of justice is
one of the means by which arbitrary authority can assert
its power, the abuse of taxation is an even more fruitful
and more tempting method. Taxes multiplied in the
Fulani states. Under the four leo^itimate headino-s, now
increased by the institution of the Sokoto and Gando
tribute to five, each ruler invented at his will new imposts.
Even in Bello's lifetime, Haussa trade was, according to
the contemporary observation of Clapperton, hampered
under Fulani rule by heavy dues. In the degradation of
Fulani rule in the latter half of the century, trade was
practically destroyed, and agriculture rendered almost
impossible by the ceaseless creation of new taxes. Not
only were new taxes imposed at the will of each new
ruler, but the collection of existing taxes was made the
subject of such abuse as the collection of taxes has been
ever subject to in countries where personal authority has
supported law. A body of alien tax-gatherers fastened


like parasites upon the country. Fulani tax-collectors
oppressed the native peasantry of every village. To
show any sign of wealth was to invite the rapacity of
those higher in the social scale. The Fulani conquerors
claimed sovereign rights in land. Whole districts were
given as feoffs to favourite retainers, who, living about the
court in the enjoyments of office, collected taxes for
the emir and for themselves from their feoffs through
the agency of certain officials. These officials became
practically their private servants, and of course shared
the spoil. Agriculture groaned under the exactions that
were laid upon it.

In nearly all the country districts the peasantry had
remained pagan. To raid pagan countries for slaves
was lawful according to the Koran. In the earlier years
of their rule the Fulani used this permission to carry out
raids against the pagan centres of the southern districts.
Gradually, however, rebellion had its effect. As their
power weakened, and was confined within narrower
limits in the southern emirates, they were forced to
abandon the process of distant raiding. They began to
raid and sell their own peasantry, and thus completed the
desolation of the country by a process which resembled
the fabulous devouring of its own body by a snake.

It is not to be wondered at that revolt succeeded to
revolt, and that Fulani power was more and more con-
fined in the southern states to the limits of its own walled
towns. Mutually defiant strongholds arose over the
country. In the mountainous districts the wilder tribes
of the pagans, including still some who preserve the
habits of cannibals, found for themselves natural fortresses,
in which they defended as they could the liberty which
was their sole possession.

Yet through all the degradation of earlier Fulani
ideals it is to be understood that in the Fulani emirates
there was still to be found something of the nobler
traditions of ancient thought. Individual rulers were
still merciful and just. Abuse of power had not wholly


destroyed its dignity. Though nominally the rulers of
the whole of Haussaland, the principal seats of Fulani
power were to be found in the north. Here Sokoto still
commanded, as the suzerain of Haussaland, a something
more than nominal allegiance ; Kano sustained its ancient
reputation as a trade centre, of which the relations ex-
tended to the Atlantic, to the Red Sea, and to the
Mediterranean ; Katsena and Zaria, notwithstanding many
abuses, maintained themselves as administrative centres
of importance.

The resemblance between the feudal system of the
Fulani and the system established by the conquests of
northern nations in Europe in the early portion of the
Middle Ages, will not have escaped the reader. The
parallel is remarkable with the system established in
England by the Saxons, but in Haussaland it was perhaps
closer to that which was developed in Italy under the
Lombards. There is also this point of difference, that
whereas the Haussas were an agricultural people, the
Fulani were in their origin pastoral, and it is a recognised
law of historic evolution that the rule of pastoral races
has a stronger tendency to despotism than the rule of
agricultural races. Underneath all the abuses which have
established themselves in the Fulani administration of
Haussaland there is said to exist, by those who have
had the opportunity of studying the state systems of the
different emirates, evidence of a deep-rooted desire for
self-government. Presumably the conquered states en-
deavoured to retain as many as possible of the existing
safeguards of their constitutions. The emirs are elected
by a council of elders, and this council is not an empty
name. It has a right to be consulted by the emirs in
relation to all their important acts. The emir who
ignores it is regarded as a tyrant, and runs great risk
of losing his throne.

The constitution of Bida, by which the Fulani
emirate of Nupe is now ruled, is one in which the prin-
ciple of constitutional government was carried under the


Fulani to its most complete expression. Here, in addition
to the emir and a council of princes composed only of
descendants of the founder of the dynasty, which, though
not entirely hereditary, bore some resemblance to a
House of Lords, there was also a council corresponding
in some degree to our own House of Commons. This
was a council of notables, not of royal blood, but holding
important state offices, and including the waziri or prime
minister, the chief justice, the chief preacher, the
commander-in-chief of the army, and the principal officers
of the emir's household. The head of this council was
the prime minister, and it was the prime minister, not
one of the members of the council of princes, who was
regarded as second in the state to the emir. Neither
council was in a literal sense elective, the appointment
to both being in the hands of the emir. But by native
custom no appointment was made to either council with-
out giving time for an expression of public opinion, and
there were certain recognised methods by which the emir
took the advice of his people in the matter both of appoint-
ments to council and to all the principal offices of state.
Important matters of public policy were referred to the
consideration of the two councils sitting together, but
the ordinary business of the state was carried on by a
privy council composed of two officers taken from each
council, who were in constant consultation with the emir.
This constitution is believed to have been adopted from
the original Nupe state system. The constitutions of
Sokoto and Gando, both of them new states created by
the Fulani, are less elaborate.

By the end of the nineteenth century, that is, at the
moment of the introduction of British authority, the
territory of Haussaland may be said to have divided
itself into three classes of states. There were states
under P"ulani rule such as those just named, where Fulani

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 32 of 41)