London. Ibadan. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. 1967. 312 p.
The style of the Chronicle is unlike that of the Fulani historians of the nineteenth century and it almost certainly goes back to an earlier period. On the other hand, the chronicler, when describing two reigns in the middle of the seventeenth century, admits that there is doubt about how one Chief met his death and why the other was deposed. These two clues point to compilation at some indeterminate date in the eighteenth century.
The Kano Chronicle (Palmer, p. 109) relates that in the reign of Dauda (A.D. 1421-38) an official from Bornu took up residence in Kano. It seems probable that he was, in fact, a Resident, in the imperial sense, and that his advent marked the beginning of Bornu's suzerainty. There is an old house in Kano city known as Gidan Shettima and, as Shettima is a Bornu tide, it is possible that this in its day was the Residency.
Leo's credibility as a witness is sometimes questioned because his account of his African travels was written many years after the event and because his famous mistake about the direction of the Niger's flow showed how deep into error he could fall.
For the Songhai annexation of Agades there is independent evidence, but the supposed invasion of Hausaland in A.D. 1513 rests almost entirely on his evidence. Most historians have accepted it, but some have remained sceptical and have pointed out that The Kano Chronicle makes no mention of the invasion. This is perfectly true, but the Chronicle does state (Palmer, p. 112) that the Sultan of Bornu brought an army against the city in the time of Abdullahi (A.D. 1499-1509) who was compelled to go out and humble himself. As the slight discrepancy in dates is within the tolerance of historical error, this may well be a garbled account of the Songhai invasion. On balance, this explanation certainly seems more probable than the alternative theory that Leo's account of the Songhai invasion, which goes into some detail, was all an invention.
Amina, or to give her full name Aminatu, is described in The Kano Chronicle (Palmer, p. 109) as a Chieftainess who lived in the first half of the fifteenth century and pursued a career of conquest over a period of thirty-four years. She does not, however, appear in either of the lists of Zazzau Chiefs that have come down to us (Heath, Appendix I and LHdM, vol. I, pp. 43-44. The Abuja Chronicle describes her as the daughter of Bakwa Turunku, who was Chief or Chieftainess of Zazzau a hundred years later than the date given by The Kano Chronicle and who in any case reigned for only three years. The Labarun Hausawa da Makwabtansu list does not mention Amina at all and clouds the issue by describing the Abuja Chronicle's Bakwa Turunku as Bako Turunku (thereby suggesting that he was a man and not a woman) and giving him a reign of thirty years instead of only three. Sultan Bello follows the Abuja Chronicle in describing Amina as the daughter of a Chieftain and not as a Chieftainess in her own right (Arnett, p. 12).
It is just conceivable that the Abuja Chronicle and Sultan Bello were right and that Amina was an Amazon of the ruling house who flourished about A.D. 1540, but for a number of reasons it is very unlikely. First, as already mentioned, The Kano Chronicle places her a century earlier. Secondly, if she had in fact lived about i54o she would have overlapped Kanta in time, whereas we know that some of her reputed conquests, such as Nupe and most probably Zazzau itself, formed part of his Empire. (See Note 5 below.) Thirdly, her fame rests partly on her activities in fortifying towns with walls, but The Kano Chronicle (Palmer, p. 100) gives the early twelfth century as the period when walls were first built and by 1540 the art was certainly already several hundred years old.
For these reasons it is very difficult to believe that Amina lived as late as the sixteenth century and this doubt is reinforced by the shadowy nature of her legend. Even The Kano Chronicle may have placed her too late and, if wall-building is the key to her period, we may guess that it was the twelfth or thirteenth century. Alternatively, she may never have existed but simply be a myth with its roots in an earlier matriarchal era.
Kanta is known to have led his army as far east as Bornu and as far west as Songhai (LHdM, vol. 1, pp. 36-37), but at this distance of time it is difficult to tell which countries he actually subjugated and which he merely raided or marched across. There is no doubt, however, about his having subdued the provinces of Arewa and Dandi and the principality of Zaberma: they remained loyal when the rest of the Empire had disintegrated and were still giving Kebbi active support when the British arrived nearly four centuries later. Similarly, it is almost certain that Zamfara, Zazzau, Yauri, Gurma, Nupe, and southern Air became tributaries (Hogben and Kirk-Greene, p. 246). Sultan Bello says that the Empire also embraced Gobir, Katsina, and Kano (Arnett, p. 13). Gobir at that time was still a province without a paramount Chief (see Note 6 below) and its subjection by Kanta along with Adar and southern Air is likely enough. Similarly, it is difficult to believe that Kanta, with his Katsina origins, did not make a point of conquering or at least overawing that State. On a balance of probability, therefore, this too can be accepted. On the other hand, The Kano Chronicle makes no mention of his ever challenging Kano, nor of any incident that might be a garbled account of an invasion by his army. Indeed, the only mention of Kano's involvement comes from the historian of Kebbi quoted in Labarun Hausawa da Makwabtansu (vol. I, p. 37), who speaks of the Kano forces helping to drive back Kanta's attempted invasion of Daura. It therefore seems unlikely that Kano and Daura ever formed part of his Empire.
Bovill puts the date of the expulsion of the Gobirawa from Air in the early fifteenth century (p. 107, n. 1) but it almost certainly took place much later. We know that this move was made in the reign of Chiroma (Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, p. 12) and that his son Muhammadu dan Chiroma became Chief in about 1715 (Hogben and Kirk-Greene, P. 416). The correct date therefore seems to be the late seventeenth century.
The Fulani go under so many different names that nomenclature presents a difficulty. They refer to themselves as FulBe and to their language as Fulfulde. To the Wolof and many French authors they are Peuls, to the Bambara Fula, to the Kanuri Felaata, and to the Hausas Fillani in the plural and Ba-Fillace in the singular. In Nigeria they are generally called Fulani, the anglicized version of the Hausa plural. In this book Fulani has been used to describe them (in both the singular and the plural) and Fulfulde their language.
Similarly, the Hausa Toronkawa has been preferred to the Fulfulde Tooroɓɓe.
Today there are more Fulani living in Northern Nigeria and the Hausa-speaking areas of the Niger Republic than in all the rest of Africa. Among them the majority have already abandoned Fulfulde for Hausa and the remainder, as they already speak Hausa as a second language, are likely to follow suit in the foreseeable future. Moreover, it is not only for Hausa that the Fulani have exchanged their own language; Barth (vol. V, pp. 222-3) encountered a group on the Niger who had abandoned Fulfulde for Songhai. On this evidence, despite the doubt of some modern authorities, it is not difficult to believe that Fulfulde is simply a language that the Fulani picked up during a long sojourn in Senegal and that their original language, which would have given a clue to their real origin, was then discarded and lost (?!). This theory is supported not only by the Fulani's own legends but also by the fact that in their writings Bello and Abdullahi sometimes refer to the Hausas and other indigenous people as Sudanese or Nubians (see, for example, Arnett, P. 53, and Hiskett, p. 109), thus implying that the Fulani belonged to an entirely different grouping. Mungo Park noted the same habit among the Fulani of Senegambia and remarked that, when speaking of different peoples, they always classified themselves as being among the whites.
The Tuaregs were Berbers by origin and from a very early date they dominated the whole region of the central Sahara. They made their living partly by rearing stock, partly by trade, and partly by banditry and raiding their more peaceable neighbours. Their way of life was semi-nomadic, that is to say they were loosely anchored to oases like Agades but roamed far afield from these bases, either with their flocks in search of pasture or with their pack-camels in search of trade or else with their allies in search of booty. Among the peoples of the Sudan they had the reputation of being false friends and predatory enemies.
Their organization was tribal and the desert north of Sokoto was dominated by the Kelgeres of Air and the Itesen of Adar. Both owed nominal allegiance to the Emir of Agades, but the arrangement was a curious one because the Emirs were not Tuaregs themselves and did not wield much authority over the tribes who did not hesitate to depose and even kill those that displeased them. (See chapters XVII-XVIII of Barth's Travels.) In fact, the status of these so-called Emirs was hardly higher than that of the Commandant of a military base from which mobile and very badly disciplined troops were operating under independent command. The Chronicle of the Sultanate of Air (Palmer, op. cit. vol. III, pp. 48-50) reveals how very precarious their tenure of office was.
Among the Tuaregs the real power resided with the Tambaris or military leaders. At the time of the jihad the Kelgeres were led by Tambari Agumbulu and the Itesen by Abu Hamidu. At the start of the war both were friendly to the reformers (Bello, Inf M-Arnett, pp. 51 and 70) but later they changed sides and fought with the Gobirawa at Alwasa, Gwandu, and Fafara (ibid. pp. 81-85 and 88-91). The Fulani have never really forgiven their treachery and to this day passers-by will dishonour the grave of one of the Tuareg leaders who fell near Gwandu by casting a fresh stone on the great cairn which already covers it.
In the Tazyin AI-Waraqat, Abdullahi has described the spiritual crisis which overtook him in October 1807.
Then there came to me from God the sudden thought to shun the homelands, and my brothers, and to turn towards the best of God's creation, in order to seek approval, because of what I had seen of the changing times, and [my] brothers, and their inclination towards the world, and their squabbling over its possession, and its wealth, and its regard I considered flight incumbent upon me and I left the army … and faced towards the East, towards the Chosen One … and I entered the wilderness with five of my companions, and we passed three nights without seeing anyone, nor the traces of anything other than the tracks of many elephants in the wilderness … (Hiskett, pp. 120-1).
Having traversed what was probably the Gundumi or Ruma Bush, Abdullahi and his little party came at length to Kano. At the time he evidently intended to travel on eastwards, probably with the idea of going to Medina, but in Kano he found that the reformers, who had recently driven out the Hausa Chief and seized power, were at odds with one another in their struggle for precedence. He recognized in this worldly discord the very thing from which he had himself been fleeing and he was persuaded to stop in Kano until harmony had been restored.
The qasida that he wrote at the time displays a mood of disillusionment with the world and of longing to escape to a more spiritual life. He does not reveal what provoked the crisis, but it may be that Shehu had already informed him of his decision that Belle should be in supreme command when the time came to make the final assault on Alkalawa and so bring the war to a triumphant conclusion. From this Abdullahi may have divined that Bello would gradually supplant him and that he himself would never become Commander of the Faithful.
If these were indeed the causes of Abdullahi's spiritual crisis we should be doing him an injustice if we supposed that he simply rode off in dudgeon when he heard that Bello was to supersede him. On the contrary, it is clear that disgust with himself and a desire to purge himself of worldly ambitions which he was unable to banish were uppermost in his mind.
I knew, he wrote, that I was the worst of them.
Whatever the original cause of the crisis, Abdullahi seems to have cured himself by the work he did in Kano. But although he returned to his own people just before the final overthrow of Gobir, he took no further part in the war but left Bello to play the leading role (Hiskett, pp. 120-3).
In the controversy that arose later between the Fulani leaders and Sheikh El-Kanemi, one of the accusations made by El-Kanemi was that the Fulani had been guilty of destroying religious books (Arnett, p. 103). From Bello's answer it is clear that he recognized the incident referred to and that it occurred during the capture of a town which was almost certainly Yandoto. This place, incidentally, seems to have had special ties with Bornu (ibid. p. 8) which helps to account for its hostility to Shehu's cause. In his reply Bello indignantly rebutted the charge, ascribed the scattering of the books to the accidents of looting, and recounted how he had himself laboured to recover the papers and identify and punish the looters (ibid. p. 107). This denial is worth repeating because in the past some historians have accepted El-Kanemi's allegation as true.
The Kanuri, or at any rate their ruling class, cherish a legend that they are descended from an Arab called Saif Dhi Yazan, an historical personage who ruled the Yemen as the Persian viceroy in the century before the rise of the Prophet Muhammad. On the other hand, the
historian Yakubi described the Kanuri as Zaghawa and Leo Africanus as Libyans (Palmer, up. cit. p. 6): both definitions, if correct, place them among the Berbers and are in accord with the Hausa name for them, Barebari, which of course has the same meaning. Unfortunately, the linguistic evidence does not provide a clear lead in the direction of either of these alternatives, because the latest classification places the Kanuri language not in the Afro-Asiatic Group with Hausa, much less in the Semitic Group with Arabic, but in the Nilo-Saharan Group (Greenberg, op. cit. p. 130). The only supposition that fits all these apparently conflicting facts and legends is that the Kanuri at some state in the past changed their language (as the Fulani almost certainly did see Note 8) and that their ruling classes and common people, like those of the Gobirawa, had different origins. Palmer seems to support this theory (op. cit. vol. I, pp. 11-12), and, certainly, the fact that the Tripoli-Chad and Egypt-Nile-Chad caravan routes were open from as early as the eighth century (Mauny, op. cit. p. 429) makes it inherently probable that there would have been immigration on a significant scale from both North Africa and the Middle East.
In the middle of the fourteenth century Ibn Batuta reported that the rate of exchange in the western Sudan was 1,500 cowries for one mithqal (approximately 1 oz.) of gold. By the end of the sixteenth century the rate in Timbuctoo had risen to 3,000 cowries (Bovill, p. 141, n. 1), but in Ashanti in 1820 it was still no more than 3,500 cowries (I. Dupuis, Journal of a Residence in Ashantee, London, 1824, vol. II, p. 145). The change in the rate of exchange may have been due to the appreciation in the value of gold, which was getting worked out, rather than the depreciation in the value of cowries. In any case the pace of devaluation less than 60 per cent in nearly 500 years was very gradual.
The first of Katsina's two natural advantages over Kano as a trading centre was the fact that it lay farther north and was to that extent a more suitable terminal for trans-Saharan trade. The second was that, whereas the Kano-Bida trade route had to cross many rivers, the Katsina-Bida route mainly followed the watershed between the Niger and Chad basins. It could therefore be negotiated by caravans, particularly camel caravans, during much more of the year than the Kano route. Apart from the fact that Bida was a centre of considerable commercial and industrial importance in its own right, it also acted as the main entrepôt between the canoe-borne trade of the south and the caravan-borne trade of the north. The superiority of Katsina's link with it was therefore an important factor in Katsina's commercial rivalry with Kano.
Direct evidence of the extent to which Hausa feudatories and Village Heads joined Shehu's cause in the early stages of the jihad is scanty. Where we hear of their doing so, like the Village Head of Durum in Zaria, for example, their actions seem to have been the exception rather than the rule and were normally rewarded by their being confirmed in their posts (M. G. Smith, op. cit. P. 78). On the other hand, where they remained hostile to the reformers, as did the Chief of Kajuru, for example, they normally had to flee, or at any rate step down, when the war went against them and make way for Fulani successors (ibid, p. 160). It is therefore significant that in Hausaland today, except in Yauri and parts of Zamfara, the great majority of Village Heads are of Fulani descent. When due allowance has been made for subsequent changes, this fact confirms the impression that, in the Hausa States, not many Hausas played prominent enough roles in the jihad to have been rewarded with the sweets of office.
The early history of Hamdallahi, the first of the two States that the Fulani established in the Upper Niger, ran closely parallel to that of the Sokoto Empire. There was a concentration of Fulani in Masina,
a province in the pagan kingdom of Segu,
and in about is 1810 Seku Ahmadu, who was himself a Fulani and who had previously been a pupil
of Shehu, succeeded in raising them in a jihad. So successful was
he that, within the space of a few years, he had carved out for himself a State
that stretched from Timbuctoo to the Volta. Though much smaller than the Sokoto
Empire, it was organized on broadly similar lines. Despite its theocratic character, Ahmadu was succeeded by his son and in due course the succession became hereditary in his family (see Hogben and Kirk-Greene, pp. 125-6, and Trimingham, pp. 177-81).
According to the information given to Barth, Ahmadu had received a flag from Shehu at the start of his jihad. The fact that he subsequently terminated this relationship by proclaiming himself Commander of the Faithful, thereby asserting his equality, no doubt accounts for the marked coolness that Barth observed between Sokoto and Gwandu on the one hand and Hamdallahi on the other. Another cause for dissension possibly lay in the fact that, as Barth also testified, a much more bigoted and less tolerant form of Islam was practised in Hamdallahi (?!) than in the Sokoto Empire (see Barth, chapters LVII, LXVI, and LXXXII).
The founder of the second Fulani State on the Upper Niger, which was to crush and absorb the first, was Haj Umar. He was born in Fuuta-Tooro towards the end of the eighteenth century and as a young man went on the pilgrimage. After a long sojourn in the Hejaz he returned by way of Sokoto towards the end of Sultan Bello's reign. Some reports say that Bello gave him a daughter in marriage, but Alhaji Junaidu asserts that there is no record of any such alliance. From Sokoto he went on through Hamdallahi and Segu to Fuuta-Jalon where he settled. He had already become a member of the Tijaniyya sect and he spent the next decade building up a strong and fanatical following, mainly among the Fulani and the Tukolors. In 1854 he in his turn proclaimed a jihad. His first objective was the conquest of his native Fuuta-Tooro, but this move brought him into collision with the French. After suffering some reverses he withdrew eastward, and in the early 'sixties conquered Segu, Hamdallahi, and Timbuctoo. At its height, the State that he thus created was considerably larger than Hamdallahi. When he was killed in 1864, his son Ahmadu tried to hold his conquests together but was plagued by tribal rivalries and by dissension between the two rival sects, the Kadiriyya and the Tijaniyya. In the end the French, who had gradually penetrated this region between 1879 and 1893, destroyed the remnants of his power and forced him to flee.
The fact that Haj Umar and Ahmadu were militant Tijanis did not commend them to successive Sultans of Sokoto who remained faithful to the Kadiriyya sect. While they were in power, therefore, there seem to have been no dealings between the two capitals. But in the 'nineties, after their defeat by the French, Ahmadu and a large following appeared in Sokoto as refugees and were allowed to settle (Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, pp. 34-35). Later, as Chapter Nineteen and the Epilogue describe, they moved on to Burmi.
The Adamawa Fulani made some daring expeditions and there is no doubt that at least one of them, under the command of Amba (or Hama) Sambo, reached the sea. As the ruler of Chamba, Amba Sambo owed fealty to the Emir of Adamawa, but his position was such a powerful one that in 1842 he made a bid, which only narrowly failed, to cast off this allegiance and pay homage direct to Sokoto (Hogben and Kirk-Greene, pp. 436-7). A few years later he won great fame by leading an expedition southwards to the sea. Barth, in 1881, kept hearing of this feat and indeed met two men who had participated in it. Both his informants spoke of Iboland as having been their destination but, while one mentioned it in the context of the Niger Delta, the other said that the expedition's route had passed through Bafut in the Cameroon highlands (Barth, chapters XXX, XXXVI, and XLII).
As the men were apparently mounted, it is difficult to believe that they penetrated into the creeks and equatorial forests of the Niger Delta and it seems much more likely that they followed the high ground down through Bafut towards Calabar and operated at the mouth of the Cross River rather than in the Niger Delta. There is no doubt, however, that they reached the sea. The second of Barth's two informants said that his party, which was not the main one, had sailed along a rocky coast and he convinced Barth that he had seen an ocean-going vessel.
The expedition was only an isolated raid, of course, and did nothing to extend the boundaries of the Empire. Nevertheless, as it involved making a round trip of seven or eight hundred miles through broken country and operating in unfavourable terrain, it was a bold venture and shows how hardy and confident the Fulani then were.