London. Ibadan. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. 1967. 312 p.
The boundaries of the Empire which the Fulani created did not stop short at the open plains of the Sudan. To the south of Bornu and the Hausa States lay a belt of much closer country with a higher rainfall and many more natural features. In the centre, between the converging Niger and Benue Rivers, was the Bauchi Plateau. To the cast of it were the mountainous ranges which formed the watershed between the Atlantic and Lake Chad. To the west was the area of dense, tsetse-infested bush which separated the Lower Kaduna and Middle Niger Rivers. This country, sparsely populated by small pagan tribes, lay mostly outside the pale of Hausa and Kanuri civilization.
The peoples of the Sudan were the heirs of a common culture and, though often at feud, at least regarded each other as being more or less equals. On the other hand, they were at one in treating their neighbours to the south as inferiors. Because of this attitude there had been very little intercourse between the Kanuri and Hausas on the one side and the pagans on the other, except for a little trading and a good deal of slave-raiding. With the Fulani, however, it was otherwise.
The first Fulani to reach Bornu may have appeared as early as A.D. 1300 1, but the date when they began to arrive in significant numbers was probably, as has already been noted, the middle of the fifteenth century. Until then, in their migratory drift through the Sudan, they had moved mainly among settled agricultural peoples and had encountered few serious rivals for the pasture and water for which they were always searching. When they reached Chad, however, their east-bound tide ran into the west-bound tide of the Shuwa Arabs, who were pastoralists like themselves 2. This collision, long drawn out and peaceful though it was, seems to have had the effect of halting the Shuwas, who made no further advance towards the west, and of turning the Fulani aside. A few Fulani, it is true, passed through the Shuwas and moved on eastward into Baghirmi and Wadai 3, but far greater numbers either settled in Bornu or were diverted to the south.
As it happened, the country lying south of Bornu was admirably suited to the Fulani's needs. Today it contains one of the greatest concentrations of Fulani that exists anywhere in Africa and so we can take it that the process of infiltration continued over a long period. By the end of the eighteenth century it had certainly reached an advanced stage. But the great majority of the immigrants were still semi-nomadic pastoralists and consequently, though by now numerous, they were widely scattered among the valleys and plateaux of a region in which communications were poor. Furthermore, apart from Buba Yero's recent conquests on the Lower Gongola, they possessed no territory or strongholds of their own but had to accept the authority of their hosts.
Being superior in culture and intelligence to the people among whom they settled, however, the Fulani gradually acquired influence at the Courts of the unsophisticated pagan Chiefs. Sometimes, too, they forged closer links by accepting the daughters of these Chiefs in marriage. But as they increased in numbers and influence, so the role of subservience, which they had previously been content to accept, became increasingly irksome to them. In fact, it seems probable that, even if Shehu had never risen against Yunfa, the Fulani of Adamawa and Bauchi would still have overthrown the pagan rulers, as Buba Yero had already done, and set up some kind of State of their own. As it was, however, these movements all became part of the larger jihad.
It is sometimes supposed that the creation of the Emirates of Adamawa and Bauchi out of the backward tribes and petty States which had previously occupied the area was an easier task than the seizure of power in the much more advanced kingdoms of Hausaland. In fact, with the sole exception of Gobir, the reverse was true. In the open plains of the north the issue was decided by a few pitched battles and sieges. Once the Hausas had been defeated, the Fulani were able to take over the States as going concerns. The Hausa diehards, it is true, were later able to harry the conquerors by raids, but these, except for Kebbi's, had to be carried out from distant bases and never threatened the integrity of the Fulani Emirates. In Adamawa and Bauchi, on the other hand, the pagans generally managed to avoid pitched battles and instead retired to fastnesses in the hills from which it was extremely difficult to dislodge them. Consequently, the jihad lasted much longer in the south than it did in the north.
Another difference between the jihad in Adamawa and Bauchi on the one hand and in the Hausa States on the other lay in the origins of the participants. In the Hausa States the contest was in the main a straightforward one between the Fulani with their miscellaneous allies and the Hausa ruling classes. Outside Hausaland, however, where the adversaries were pagans and where there were rich prizes to be won, plenty of Hausas were to be found among the ranks of the Fulani reformers. In Adamawa, for example, volunteers from Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Gobir took part in the fighting 4, while in Bauchi the Fulani were reinforced by men from Kano and even Bornu 5. Some of these Hausas doubtless shared the reforming zeal of the Fulani leaders, but it seems likely that the majority were adventurers or young men bent on making their fortunes 6.
In Adamawa, where the Fulani were already numerous, the latent ill-feeling between them and the Bata pagans flared up into fighting in 1803, a year before the start of the jihad. According to legend, the cause of the trouble was the Bata Chief's insistence on exercising the droit de seigneur. When this right was asked of Ardo Jobdi in respect of his daughter, he not only refused to concede it but killed first his daughter and then the Chief who had demanded her. Fighting followed and the Fulani, although they repelled the attacks of Bata, were forced to withdraw to the south of the Benue River 7.
In the following year there returned to his people a young Fulani called Modibbo Adama, who for some time previously had been away studying under the leading teachers of the day. He had first been taught by Mallam Kiari of Bornu and had then become a pupil of Shehu at Degel. When he at length reached home it was to find that his father had been killed in the fighting with the Bata in the previous year 8.
Adama was a man of purpose and strong character. First he induced the Fulani, who belonged to a number of different clans, to band themselves together and then he enlisted their support for Shehu's jihad, which by this time was under way in the west. As one of the clans was already embroiled with the Bata, perhaps the others did not need much persuading. At any rate, they agreed readily enough to ally themselves with Shehu and to seek the sanction of his authority. To this end they appointed a deputation and Adama was of course included in it 9.
In 1805 or 1806 this deputation was received by Shehu, probably in Gwandu town, and presented with a flag. Although he was not the senior member of the party, Adama was recognized to be its staunchest and most zealous member. It was, therefore, to him that Shehu entrusted the flag and as he delivered it he spoke the following words :
«When you return tell them that this is what Shehu gave you. Say also that I accept their greetings. Bid them place their hands in yours ; whoever gives his hand to you, joins hands with me. Tell them I greet them. Make flags for them like this that I have given you and give them the flags with the orders I have laid upon you. You are the envoy ; whatsoever they desire let them tell it to you, then do you come and tell me 10.»
Shehu then conferred the title of Lamido Fombina or Ruler of the South on Adama and allowed him to recruit volunteers from his own forces before dismissing him. By the time the deputation started for home, therefore, Adama had emerged as the undisputed leader.
Back in the east, Adama made his headquarters at Gurin, the place to which the Fulani had retired after their battle with the Bata in 1803. It lay in the angle formed by the Benue and its tributary, the Faro, and at that time was probably no more than a fortified camp. Starting from this narrow base, the Fulani set out to win a kingdom.
The struggle which followed was too protracted and intricate to allow of its being described here in detail. At the outset the Fulani established themselves in the plain of the Benue Valley and from there they gradually extended the area of their influence. Sometimes they were able to achieve their ends by peaceful means, as they did, for example, with a branch of the Bata tribe, whose Chief was persuaded to throw in his lot with them and who ever after remained a staunch ally 11. Sometimes diplomacy was successful as it was with the Holma pagans where the daughter of the Chief was given in marriage to one of the Fulani leaders and the son of this alliance was later accepted by the tribe as their new Chief. Sometimes, even when pagans were never wholly subdued in their fastnesses, a satisfactory truce could be arranged with them as it was with the Kilba, who were induced to come and trade at a border market 12.
For the most part, however, the Fulani had to resort to arms to impose their will on the untamed pagans. Though they were usually the victors, it should not be supposed that these contests were markedly one-sided. On the contrary, the pagans, fighting mainly with bows and poisoned arrows from behind natural or artificial defences in terrain where the Fulani horsemen found it difficult to operate, normally enjoyed a tactical advantage and often inflicted severe casualties on their more sophisticated enemies. How successful the pagans could be is revealed by the fact that the Bata stronghold of Bagale, which was so close to the Fulani capital that the pagans could actually look down on it from their hills across the river, was repeatedly attacked but never captured until 1853 when it was at last taken by a ruse 13.
Nor should it be thought that the aggression always came from the Fulani side. On the contrary, pagans were constantly making forays from the hills against the villages, the cattle, and the caravans in the plains. So persistent and damaging were these raids that Adama had to consolidate all his gains by building fortified towns and outposts as bulwarks against them 14.
The most formidable enemy whom the Fulani had to face, however, was not one of the pagan tribes but an Emirate very similar to their own. This was Mandara, which lay to the north of them, still in the bill country, and which was in alliance with the hostile power of Bornu. In 1823 the Emir of Mandara, reinforced by a powerful contingent from Bornu and by the Tripolitanian Arabs who had accompanied the Oudney-Denham Clapperton expedition across the Sahara, attacked the town of Masfel in the north-eastern corner of Adama's domain. Major Denham, who accompanied the expedition as an observer, watched the battle at very close quarters and afterwards wrote a vivid description of it which is the best account we have of how contemporary battles were fought and in particular of the way in which the Fulani bowmen dominated their adversaries:
« We now came to a third town, in a situation capable of being defended against assailants ten times as numerous as the besiegers: this town was called Musfeia [sic]. It was built on a rising ground between two low hills at the base of others, forming part of the mass of the Mandara mountains: a dry wadey extended along the front; beyond the wadey a swamp; between this and the wood the road was crossed by a deep ravine, which was not passable for more than two or three horses at a time. The Felatahs [Fulani] had carried a very strong fence of palisades, well pointed, and fastened together with thongs of raw hide, six feet in height, from one hill to the other, and had placed their bowmen behind the palisades, and on the rising ground, with the wadey before them; their hone were all under cover of the hills and the town: this was a strong position. The Arabs, however, moved on with great gallantry, without any support or co-operation from the Bornou or Mandara troops, and notwithstanding the shower of arrows, some poisoned, which were poured on them from behind the palisades, Boo-Khaloom, with his handful of Arabs, carried them in about half an hour, and dashed on, driving the Felatahs up the sides of the hills. The women were everywhere seen supplying their protectors with fresh arrows during this struggle ; and when they retreated to the hills, still shooting on their pursuers, the women assisted by rolling down huge masses of the rock, previously undermined for the purpose, which killed several of the Arabs, and wounded others. Barca Gana, and about one hundred of the Bornou spearmen, now supported Boo-Khaloom, and pierced through and through some fifty unfortunates who were left wounded near the stakes. I rode by his side as he pushed on quite into the town, and a very desperate skirmish took place between Barca Gana's people and a small body of Felatahs. These warriors throw the spear with great dexterity ; and three times I saw the man transfixed to the earth who was dismounted for the purpose of firing the town, and as often were those who rushed forward for that purpose sacrificed for their temerity, by the Felatahs. Barca Gana, whose muscular arm was almost gigantic, threw eight spears, which all told, some of them at a distance of thirty or thirty-five yards, and one particularly on a Felatah chief, who with his own hand had brought four to the ground. Had either the Mandara or the Sheik's troops now moved up boldly, notwithstanding the defence these people made, and the reinforcements which showed themselves to the south-west, they must have carried the town with the heights overlooking it, along which the Arabs were driving the Felatahs by the terror their miserable guns excited ; but, instead of this, they still kept on the other side of the wadey, out of reach of the arrows.
The Felatahs seeing their backwardness, now made an attack in their turn ; the arrows fell so thick that there was no standing against them, and the Arabs gave way. The Felatah horse now came on ; and had not the little band round Barca Gana, and Boo-Khaloom, with a few of his mounted Arabs, given them a very spirited check, not one of us would probably have lived to see the following day ; as it was, Barca Gana had three horses hit under him, two of which died almost immediately, the arrows being poisoned ; and poor Boo-Khaloom's horse and himself received their death-wounds by arrows of the same description. My horse was badly wounded in the neck, just above the shoulder, and in the hind leg ; an arrow had struck me in the face as it passed, merely drawing the blood, and I had two sticking in my bornouse. The Arabs had suffered terribly ; most of them had two or three wounds, and one dropped near me with five sticking in his head alone ; two of Boo-Khaloom's slaves were killed also, near his person.
No sooner did the Mandara and Bornou troops see the defeat of the Arabs, than they, one and all, took flight in the most dastardly manner.... We instantly became a flying mass. » 15
Although this campaign resulted in a complete victory for the Fulani, the Emir of Mandara later gained his revenge and almost completely wiped out one of the Fulani clans. This reverse prompted Adama to take a hand in the war himself and soon afterwards he defeated the Mandara army at Gider and occupied the capital. Although not strong enough to hold the place, his victory nevertheless enabled him to annex the south-western districts of Mandara Mubi, Michika, and Uba and incorporate them in his own domains 16.
During the rest of the 1820s, for the whole of the 1830s, and in the early 1840s Adama was engaged in pushing forward his frontiers 17, subduing pockets of resistance within his boundaries, suppressing the revolts against his authority which broke out from time to time, and consolidating and assimilating his gains. Gurin remained the capital until 1830, when Adama moved first to Ribadu and then to Jobolio. Finally, in 1841, he started to build Yola, the present capital 18.
As a man, Modibbo Adama was universally respected on account of his character as much as his achievements. He combined the outlook and tastes of a scholar with the ambition and drive of a man of action. By nature he was said to be mild to a fault and yet, when the occasion demanded he could be both ruthless and inflexibly resolute 19. He came from a hardy generation and all his life he observed the true Fulani traditions of austerity and piety. He never acquired any personal wealth and when he died in 1848 he had practically nothing to bequeath save his Koran and an Emirate, still not fully consolidated, of about thirty thousand square miles, which was called after him.
In Hausa the word Bauchi means the land of slaves. Originally the term was applied generally to the whole region lying south of Hausaland, but later it came to be identified with the central massif which separates the Chad basin from the Niger-Benue River systems.
The core of this massif consists of a high plateau of grassy plains at an elevation of 3,000-4,000 feet with rocky peaks rising to 7,000 feet. From it the ground falls away in steep escarpments to a more extensive lower step, which forms an irregular outer ring to the plateau proper at an altitude of about 2,000-3,000 feet. Here the bush is thick and the country is broken by fast-flowing rivers and irregular ranges of hills.
Before the jihad this region was inhabited by a large number of small tribes. Some of their languages show affinities with Hausa and it is safe to assume that they were the descendants of the indigenous people who, at the time of the Berber migrations, chose to retreat into the hills rather than stay and intermarry with the strangers from the north.
Those inhabiting the high plateau and the southern half of the lower step which surrounded it remained as untouched by the influences of the Hausas and the Kanuri as the more remote pagans of Adamawa. If they saw one another at all, it was probably only as slave-raider and quarry. Those living in the northern half of the outer ring, however, were only just outside the pale and were not separated from the more advanced societies of Hausaland and Bornu by any physical barriers. On the contrary, the plains of the north merged imperceptibly into the foothills of the plateau and so it was inevitable that with the passage of time the tribes of the foothills should begin to absorb some of the civilization of the plains. The slave-raids and plundering forays did not cease, it is true, but neither did they prevent the growth of legitimate trade and the mingling of the races in the border markets. Such evidence as there is suggests that by the end of the eighteenth century the process of assimilation, at any rate among the more advanced and accessible tribes, had already gone a long way. Some of the pagans had abandoned their vernaculars in favour of Hausa. Others, while retaining their mother tongues, could speak Hausa as a second language. Others again had been converted to Islam 20.
We do not know exactly when the Fulani first reached this area, but it was probably at about the same time as their arrival in Adamawa, that is to say in the fifteenth century, when their migratory drift to the east came up against the Shuwa Arabs in the Chad Region and caused them to turn aside and seek pastures for their cattle among the hills whose blue outlines they would have seen to the south. The country was, in fact, very well suited to their needs and a movement which may have been born of necessity was certainly perpetuated by free choice.
By the end of the eighteenth century the Fulani had penetrated the whole of this region except the citadel of the high plateau. The conquest of the Lower Gongola by Buba Yero in 1798 shows that in numbers they were already strong and that they were less disposed than hitherto to accept the rule of the petty chieftains of the country. In other words in Bauchi, as in Gombe and Adamawa, the jihad came at exactly the right moment and found the Fulani ready and indeed eager to assert themselves.
The man who was to become the creator of Bauchi Emirate was the only leader of the first rank in the jihad who was not himself a Fulani. His name was Yakubu and he was born into a family of the Gerawa tribe, which had been Moslem for at least two generations 21. His father happened to be a close friend of a learned Fulani called Mallam Isiyaku and when Yakubu was still a boy he was handed over to Isiyaku's guardianship to be brought up and educated. Later on, Isiyaku went to Degel to study under Shehu. He took Yakubu, now a young man, with him and so it came about that Yakubu also became one of Shehu's pupils 22.
At the start of the jihad Shehu presented a flag to his supporters from Bauchi and bade them go and rally the country to his cause. Hitherto, it has always been supposed that the flag was given to Yakubu in the first place, but Mallam Isiyaku's descendants claim that in fact he was the original recipient. According to their version, Isiyaku set off for home, but before reaching Kano, fell ill and died. The question of who should succeed him as leader was referred back to Shehu, whose choice fell on Yakubu. Isikayu's son Lawan was offended at being passed over and stayed in Kano, where he took part in the jihad and afterwards became the founder of the town of Gwaram. Yakubu, however, pressed on 23.
Back in Bauchi he made his headquarters not far from the site of the present city. Although his own people, the Gerawa, did not at first support him, he seems to have had no difficulty in persuading the local Fulani to accept his leadership. At any rate, he soon collected a large following, which was later strengthened by the arrival of Hausa and Kanuri volunteers and adventurers from Kano and Bornu, and created a firm base for his future operations 24
As there was no state or tribe of any size to oppose him, Yakubu's task was basically similar to that of Modibbo Adama's in Adamawa. The area of his operations was smaller, however, the country less rugged, and the people with whom he had to deal less recalcitrant. Even so, there was no quick road to success and each tribe had to be subdued or overawed separately. In seven years of fighting he broke the back of the resistance and made himself master of virtually the whole region between the high plateau and the Upper Gongola. In 1811, pausing from these labours, he set about the building of his new capital, Bauchi City, on its present site 25.
As Yakubu of Bauchi and Buba Yero of Gombe had both carved their Emirates out of the territory of the pagan tribes there was no formal boundary between them. Consequently, in the period when they were both extending and consolidating their gains, they came into collision on the Upper Gongola. There was fighting and some Fulani blood was shed. In the end, however, the two leaders were reconciled and agreed that the river should be the boundary between the two Emirates 26.
Soon after this, in about 1818, Yakubu led his army right round the southern skirts of the high plateau to the town of Lafia Beriberi. Lafia, which stands in the plain between the plateau and the Benue, was a recent Kanuri settlement and its people, by subduing the surrounding pagans, had in the space of about fifteen years created a small city state. Yakubu invested the place and after a short siege accepted its submission 27. The Chief was offered vassal status of the same kind as that accorded by the Emir of Zaria to the rulers of Keffi and Jema'a. In this way Lafia, as a tributary of Bauchi, was absorbed into the Empire 28.
In spite of this success Yakubu, at any rate in his attitude to the more recalcitrant pagans, seems to have been less venturesome than Modibbo Adama. Had Adama been in his place, it is difficult to believe that, having once subdued Bauchi, he would not have attempted to add the high plateau to his dominions. It was inhabited, it is true, by warlike pagan tribes, but the terrain was no more difficult than parts of Adamawa and the open grasslands and plentiful water made a rich prize for a pastoral people. Yakubu certainly raided the tribes living in the high plateau and its southern escarpments, for we know that he sent expeditions to Bukuru and Shendam and fought against the Montol and Yergum pagans 29. These were fleeting raids, however, and he seems to have made no attempt to subjugate the tribes and annex their territories. The task was certainly a formidable one and he may well have been right not to have undertaken it. As no other Fulani leader attempted it, however, the high plateau was never subdued and remained to the end an unconquered pagan bastion.
Yakubu ruled his Emirate with justice and wisdom for forty years. He never wavered in his loyalty to Sokoto and in the reign of Sultan Bello, as we shall see, he was to save the Empire.
1. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 10.
2. It is significant that, according to The Kano Chronicle, Arabs and Fulani both appeared for the first time in the reign of the same Chief (Palmer, p. 111).
3. According to Berth the first Fulani reached Baghirmi in the sixteenth century. In about 1822 their descendants tried, rather belatedly, to extend the jihad eastwards, but their rising failed and was suppressed. See Travels, vol. 10, p. 339.
4. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 14.
5. LHdM, vol. I, p. 47.
6. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 14.
7. Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 431.
8. Ibid. Modibbo is the courtesy title accorded by the Fulani to a man of learning, the Fulfulde equivalent of the Hausa Mallam,
10. Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 432.
11. Ibid. pp. 431-2.
12. A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, Adamawa Past and Present, London, 1959, p. 132.
13. Ibid. pp. 138-9.
14. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 14.
15. Major Denham, Travels, vol. I, pp. 313-16.
16. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 16.
17. At least one expedition reached the sea, but it was really only a long-range raid. See Note 17 in Appendix I.
18. Kirk-Greene, up. cit. pp. 129-32.
19. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 18.
20. Gazetteer of Bauchi Province, 1920, p. 11.
21. Hogben and Kirk-Greene, OP. cit. P. 454.
22. LHdM, vol. I, p. 45.
23. Kano DNBs, History of Gwaram. Alhaji Junaidu agrees that the flag was originally given to Mallam Isiyaku.
24. LHdM, vol. 1, p. 47.
25. LHdM, vol. I, p. 47.
27. Notes on Nassarawa Province, p. 11.
28. M. G. Smith asserts that Zaria had established a prior claim to the suzerainty of Lafia, but abandoned it to Bauchi, either as an act of solidarity or in return for the suzerainty of Lere. See Government in Zazzau, p. 14. Voluntary cession seems very unlikely and if there was a prior claim Yakubu's army is probably what extinguished it.
29. LHdM. vol. I, p. 47.