webPulaaku
Sokoto


H.A.S. Johnston.
The Fulani Empire of Sokoto

London. Ibadan. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. 1967. 312 p.


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Chapter Nine
The Consolidation of the Empire

By the year 1810 the first phase in the creation of the Fulani Empire was complete. The former States of Gobir, Zamfara, and Kebbi had been merged into one and had become the metropolitan Sultanate. In Kano, Katsina, and Zazzau, as we have seen, the Hausa Chiefs had been driven out and supplanted by Fulani Emirs. In western Bornu the new Emirates of Hadeija and Katagum had been created. Similarly, in the south-cast the Emirates of Gombe, Adamawa, and Bauchi had been forged out of formerly pagan lands and were still in the process of enlarging their territory and influence.
Meanwhile, other lesser prizes had also been acquired. In Daura, the first of the Hausa States, events had followed a course similar to those in Katsina, that is to say the Hausa Chief had been overthrown and had fled with a few diehards, while a new Fulani régime had taken over the government 1.
In the north the Emir of Air, Muhammadu Bakiri, had come to Shehu in about 1810 and done homage. When he had died soon afterwards he had been succeeded by his brother, Muhammadu Kamma, who had also come in person to pay allegiance. During this visit a treaty had been negotiated whereby the new Emir had undertaken to keep open the desert trade routes and to transfer to Shehu the suzerainty of certain northern towns which the Tuaregs had hitherto controlled. In this way the distant oasis of Air and the intervening region of Adar had become parts of the Empire 2.
In the south the State of Yauri, one of the Banza Bakwai, had also submitted. On the outbreak of the jihad Shehu had sent an expedition against it which, though it had failed to take the capital, Bin Yauri, had succeeded in capturing a number of other towns and defeating the Yauri army in the field 3. Soon afterwards the Chief had sued for peace and, on doing homage to Shehu, had been allowed to retain his office and title. Yauri had thus become an exception to the general rule in that it had been embodied into the Empire without much bloodshed and without the wholesale substitution of Fulani for Hausa in the feudal hierarchy.
To the west of Yami, on the other side of the Niger, was the State of Gurma, another of the Banza Bakwai, which resembled Yauri in having a pagan peasantry governed from a few walled towns by a Moslem ruling class. During the heyday of Songhai it had formed part of that Empire and then later it had fallen under the domination of Kebbi 4. When Kebbi had declined, Gurma had recovered its independence, but it had remained weak and its people had tended to slide back into paganism 5. In 1809 and again in 1810 Shehu, had dispatched expeditions against it under the command of Mallam. Abdullahi, who had first occupied the provinces of Dandi, Kamba, and Zaberma, which lay between Kebbi and Gurma, and then crossed the river and subdued Gurma itself. In the following year Bello, had led a third expedition to this part of the country, conquered the little principality of Illo, and consolidated Abdullahi's gains 6. The Empire had thus been extended in the south-west to the Niger and beyond.
The Fulani's next move had been made against the Gwaris, a numerous people who occupied a large pocket of hitherto unsubdued country between Zamfara and Zaria in the north and Nupe in the south. The Gwaris, although usually included among the Banza Bakwai, had, in fact, made little or no progress with the Hausa tongue and still spoke a difficult language of their own. Politically they were organized into a loose confederation of clans rather than a state and the centre of this confederation was the walled town of Birnin Gwari. As they had made no move to submit to the Fulani, but on the contrary had continued to attack their neighbours, an expedition under Bello had been sent against them in 1810. Birnin Gwari had been stormed and sacked and the Chief, who called himself Sarkin Gwari, though his authority was, in fact, more limited than his grandiose title suggested, had been carried off into captivity 7. Having achieved their aim of subjugation, however, the Fulani had made no attempt to create a Gwari Emirate, but had simply left the scattered tribe, which now had neither head nor capital, to be governed piecemeal by the surrounding Emirs.
At the close of 1910 there was still much consolidation to be done, particularly in Adamawa, Bauchi, and southern Zaria, while in the south considerable conquests, notably in Nupe and Ilorin, had yet to be made. But in the north the war was virtually over.
In most of the Emirates the victors were eager to enter into their new kingdoms, but in the metropolitan Sultanate, Shehu showed no desire to do so. He had always concerned himself much more with spiritual than temporal matters and now, when his aims had been achieved, he withdrew more than ever from the world and gave himself up to his mystical devotions. He continued, of course, to discharge his religious responsibilities as Commander of the Faithful, but his political and military authority he delegated more and more to Abdullahi and Bello. At this stage there was no precise demarcation of spheres or allocation of duties, but Bello gradually assumed a general responsibility for the east and Abdullahi for the west, while Sarkin Yaki Aliyu Jaidu was recognized as having a special interest in the north 8.
Shehu had always set his face against courts, hierarchies, and titles, all of which he regarded as earthly vanities 9, and so during his lifetime the machinery through which the Sultanate was administered and the Empire governed remained rudimentary. In fact, apart from the post of Waziri or Vizier, which had already been assigned jointly to Abdullahi and Bello, only six offices of state were recognized and filled 10, namely:

Sarkin Yaki Captain-General
Alkalin Alkalai Chief Justice
Yari Constable
Sa'i Standard Bearer
Liman Imam
Ma'aji Treasurer

Of the other titles of Hausaland and Bornu, such as Galadima and Ubandawaki, he positively disapproved, and he warned his followers against the system of government under which they flourished 11. Consequently, at any rate in the metropolitan Sultanate, it was not until after his death that the Hausa hierarchies and titles were adopted and a Court came into being.
One secular enterprise to which Shehu did give his consent, however, was the creation of a new capital. The place that the Fulani selected for this purpose was a village called Sokoto, which was situated on high ground near the confluence of the Rima and Sokoto Rivers at the point where the Gobir-Kebbi and Adar-Zamfara trade routes intersected. The area was already familiar to them because they had moved into it for a short time after the battle of Tabkin Kwatto. Bello probably chose it because, though rather far from eastern Zamfara, it was reasonably near the centre of what had now become the metropolitan area 12.
It was Bello who took the initiative in establishing the new city. He laid it out on a generous scale on the high ground overlooking the rivers and enclosed it with a wall. As soon as it was habitable Shehu, who in 1810 had moved from Gwandu to Sifawa 13 took up residence there. Bello, Atiku, and Shehu's other sons also built themselves houses, but Abdullahi, who had moved to Bodinga while Shehu was at Sifawa, did not join them.
Among the other leaders of the movement there were several who shared Shehu's belief in the corrupting qualities of worldly power. Foremost among them was Mallam Abdullahi, later to become Emir of Gwandu and heir to about a quarter of the Empire. He had already shown his distaste for temporal ambition 14 and later in life he, too, was to divest himself as far as possible of secular responsibility so as to devote himself to study and scholarship 15. Similarly, in Kano there was the unworldly Sulimanu who hesitated for some time before he could even bring himself to take possession of the palace, because he was afraid lest he and his family should be corrupted by the wealth and power which it symbolized 16. Although it was in the authentic tradition of the early Caliphs, such high-mindedness was necessarily rare, however, and for the most part the victors were glad enough to take possession of their conquests.
Who exactly were these victors? The question lies at the centre of a controversy which we must now pause and examine.

The general course that the jihad took is well established and not in dispute, but there have been disagreements about its real causes and the motives of those who took part in it. The orthodox view is that it was first and foremost a religious movement, as its leaders claimed, and that, though the Fulani provided its main driving force, tribal distinctions were of only secondary significance. But another school of thought has suggested that it was the religious manifestations that were of only superficial importance and that the real causes were ethnic, in other words that what passed as a movement to purify religion was in fact a revolution designed to give the Fulani control of the less gifted people among whom they had settled 17. More recently a third school has maintained that too much emphasis has been laid on both religious and ethnic factors and that the movement drew a large part of its strength from Shehu's social teaching and the response of the Hausa peasants and the Fulani pastoralists to his attacks on the oppression, exploitation, and injustice which were then rife 18. According to this theory, the movement was as much a peasants' revolt as a jihad. In seeking the truth among these divergent views it is necessary to recognize from the outset that there are two separate problems to be solved:

To take first the question of establishing identities, there is no doubt that the Fulani played a central part in the jihad, but it is by no means easy to determine how large a contribution was made by the Hausas and other peoples. Abdullahi asserted that some of the ruling classes forsook their Chiefs and came to join Shehu, bringing their possessions with them 19. If the roll of prominent non-Fulani adherents is called, however, the numbers will be found surprisingly small. Among men of the first rank, apart from Yakubu of Bauchi who still had to make his way, there were only the Chief of Yauri, Usuman Masa of Kebbi, and the two Tuareg leaders, Agale and Abu Hamidu. Among men of the second rank there were Abdu Salami of Gimbana and a number of subordinate chiefs from Zamfara Kebbi, and of course Yauri, but very few, so far as we know, from the other Hausa States 20. About the rank and file there is some conflict of evidence. In one of his poems about the victory of Tabkin Kwatto, Abdullahi spoke of “our Fulani and our Hausa all united.” 21 On the other hand, it is clear from two passages of Bello's writings that, when the reformers moved down to the Gawan Gulbi a few months later, their only Hausa supporters were the Zamfarawa and certain Kebbawa 22.
The fact is that in the early stages of the jihad in Hausaland were strong moral and material influences at work which tended to keep the Hausa population on the side of their Chiefs, or at any rate neutral, and to drive the Fulani, whether or not they were deeply religious, into the camp of the reformers. For a Hausa, joining Shehu's cause meant engaging in a rebellion, losing all his property through confiscation, and volunteering to fight against his own people. For a Fulani, by contrast, refusing to join Shehu's cause tended to land him in even more trouble than joining, because it meant that he incurred the odium of his own kith and kin without necessarily gaining the confidence or escaping the persecution of the Hausa authorities. And as for property, his cattle in the bush, which the reformers soon began to dominate, were worth more to him than his house and chattels in the town.
From the start of the war in Hausaland these polarizing forces tended to divide the contestants into the Hausas on one side and the Fulani and their miscellaneous allies on the other. Here and there we catch glimpses of them at work and elsewhere we can discern them through their effects. On the Fulani side, for example, we know that, before ever the war began, Abdullahi was active in enlisting the support of those Fulani who had not committed themselves to Shehu and that he was successful in bringing the majority of them into the fold 23. A minority evidently remained aloof or hostile, however, because he later mentions them as serving in the army that Yunfa brought against the reformers at Tabkin Kwatto 24. But, according to Bello, even some of these defected at the last moment and went over to Shehu 25.
Thanks to these defectors and to Shehu's victory, the number of Fulani who still remained with the Gobirawa after the battle seems to have dwindled to a handful. Even so, Abdullahi thought it worth while to maintain the pressure by addressing a poem of veiled reproach and exhortation to them 26.
Elsewhere in Hausaland we hear of a few Fulani fighting with the Hausa Chiefs, for example round Yandoto in Katsina Laka 27 and in the Wamakko district of what was then still Kebbi 28, but the instances are so few and scattered that it is clear that the number of Fulani who for long remained hostile to Shehu's cause was negligible. For this the Hausa rulers had partly themselves to blame. In an effort to nip the movement in the bud and forestall an insurrection they had recourse to very severe measures of repression 29. In theory, no doubt, these measures were supposed to be aimed only at men who were known to sympathize with Shehu's teaching, but in practice they probably fell with little discrimination on the Fulani community generally. Many who were indifferent or hesitant, therefore, would have found themselves persecuted and threatened, sometimes even put in fear of their lives 30, and would thus have been driven along with the real zealots into the arms of the reformers.
On the other side, the very preponderance of the Fulani among the reformers may well have deterred some of the Hausas who were attracted by Shehu's teaching from actually joining the cause. Certainly, the Hausas and the other non-Fulani people who did join seem to have found something uncongenial or unsettling in the atmosphere of the reformers' camp, because on the whole they proved much less constant than the Fulani. Their fickleness first showed itself in the treachery of Usuman Masa and his Kebbawa, reached its height with the defections of the Tuaregs and Zamfarawa, and came to an end after the war, as we shall see, with the revolt of Abdu Salami and the Gimbanawa. These widespread desertions naturally had the effect of shifting the movement's ethnic centre of gravity even further towards the Fulani. As a result, the jihad in Hausaland became more than ever a straight contest between the Fulani on one side and the Hausa ruling classes on the other. In a later phase, however, when the war had spread beyond the old boundaries of Hausaland, this swing was balanced by another swing in the opposite direction. Having at last freed themselves from their inhibitions, the Hausas then made a significant contribution to the success of the jihad and the creation of the new empire. We have already met their volunteers in Adamawa and Bauchi and we shall encounter them again in Nupe and llorin.
Having traced the complicated pattern of identities, let us now try to determine whether the private motives of the reformers were the same as those they proclaimed publicly. Here again there is an intricate pattern to be explored. At the summit, the generally accepted view of Shehu is that he was a religious reformer, pure and simple, but an unorthodox theory recently put forward has suggested that, besides being a religious fundamentalist, he was also a radical social reformer whose campaign was directed just as much against current abuses, such as fraud and ignorance, as against religious unbelief 31. There is some truth in this assertion, because his teaching undoubtedly had a large social element in it, but it could just as well be argued that he was a political reformer or a legal and judicial reformer, because these elements were also present in his doctrine. Where this theory becomes misleading is in suggesting, as it does when it couples Shehu's name with that of John Stuart Mill 32, that the reforms which Shehu preached were independent of, and did not derive from, his religious beliefs. In fact, if the evidence is dispassionately examined, it will he found to lead in exactly the opposite direction. His sympathy with the common people was genuine enough, but it is nevertheless true that the only abuses he condemned were the practices Islam forbade and the only reforms he demanded were those Islam required. This point is well illustrated by his attitude to taxation: what he criticized was not any excessive burden of taxation but the imposition of taxes which the Shari'a did not recognize. Other political, legal, judicial, economic, and social questions interested him only in so far as they were aspects of Islam, and then he judged them solely from a religious standpoint 33. With malpractices like slavery and enslavement, provided that they had the sanction of Islam, he did not concern himself. His aim, quite simply, was to establish a theocratic state which he, as God's chosen instrument, would direct in strict accordance with the sacred law.
Compared to Shehu, Bello was much more secular in his outlook. Though devout and perfectly sincere in his faith, he was essentially a man of the world who understood power and had no qualms about exercising it. Abdullahi, on the other hand, had a more complex character than either Shehu or Bello and in these respects fell somewhere between the two : he was certainly not devoid of worldly ambitions but he was perceptive enough to recognize them for what they were and high-minded enough to despise himself for harbouring them 34. Of the other early leaders only Sulimanu or Kano seems to have been cast in the same mould as Shehu. The remainder were much more like Bello, that is to say they were genuinely religious and had a sincere belief in the justice of their mission, but were nevertheless practical men of the world with material as well as moral aims.
About the motives of the rank and file we naturally know less, but even so there are certain inferences to be drawn. It seems probable, for example, that when Shehu first raised his standard he was joined only by the most devoted or fanatical of his followers. This view is borne out by the references made to the men who fell at the battle of Tsuntsuwa in 1804: Abdullahi recalled their noble qualities 35 and Bello asserted that two hundred of them knew the Koran by heart 36 But some at least of the new recruits who took their place must have been men of an altogether different stamp, because within twelve months there followed the plundering incidents in Zamfara and the mutiny at Kwolda. In one of his poems Abdullahi contrasted the piety and devotion of the men who fought and died at Tsuntsuwa and Alwasa with the cowardice and degeneracy of those who mutinied at Kwolda and then saved themselves by flight at Alwasa. These he castigated as mutineers, cheats, hooligans, pleasure-seekers, and backsliders 37. When every allowance has been made for poetic exaggeration in the description of a humiliating disaster, it is still clear that the ranks of the reformers now contained more than just saints and scholars.
As the war progressed and Shehu's prospects of winning it improved, the proportion of reformers with worldly ambitions as well as religious aims must have tended to grow. The call of blood was, of course, only one of a whole range of secular or purely selfish motives, but among the Fulani, with their pride and racial consciousness, it must have been a particularly powerful one. The horsemen who changed sides just before the battle of Tabkin Kwatto, for example, can hardly have undergone a sudden conversion and were probably responding to its call. In such ways as this it tended to divide the contestants on ethnic lines and thereby helped to make the war a racial as well as a religious conflict. But one must beware of overrating its importance. When, for example, Abdullahi addressed his poem of veiled reproach to the Fulani who had remained with the Gobirawa after the outbreak of war, it was as good Moslems that he appealed to them, not as fellow tribesmen 38. Such influence as the ties of blood had, therefore, seems to have remained on an instinctive or subconscious plane and was not openly exploited by the leaders of the movement.
We can now turn to the second of the unorthodox theories, namely that the underlying forces which produced the jihad were not religious but social and economic. It is based mainly on the emphasis placed by Shehu and the other Fulani leaders on the oppression and corruption that flourished under the Hausa Chiefs. To a people accustomed to higher standards these abuses might perhaps have acted as a spur to rebellion, but it must be remembered that the Hausas, in spite of El-Maghili, had never known any better government. Nor, perhaps, was it quite as bad as it was painted. Some of the practices that Shehu condemned, such as the levying of tolls on merchants and travellers, were then universal throughout Africa. Others, such as the sequestration by rulers of the goods of strangers who died in their territory, survived the jihad and were not unknown in the Fulani era 39. Others again, such as administrative bribery and judicial corruption, were admittedly alleviated when the Fulani succeeded to power, but were certainly not eradicated by them or even by the British after them. The truth is that, by the standards of the Africa of that day, oppression and corruption on this scale were not out of the ordinary.
So far as the Hausas were concerned, there is no evidence to suggest that the hardships of the peasantry at this time were any worse than they had been for generations past. It is true, of course, that Shehu's teaching drew attention to them, and perhaps helped to crystallize current discontent, but it is unlikely that it did more than this because the Hausas as a people are not given to peasants' revolts and seem to be hard to rouse on such issues. In their time they have followed adventurers like Koran of Katsina 40 and Kanta of Kebbi, and occasionally they have been willing to support self-styled Mahdis 41, but so far as we know they have never thrown up or fought for a Robert Kett or a John Ball. This may be one of the reasons why so few of Shehu's Hausa supporters were ready to take up arms in his cause. Another reason is probably to be found in the nature of the impact that Shehu's austere and radical teaching made upon the tolerant and easy-going Hausas. When, for example, he denounced the practice whereby the authorities made forced levies on produce and goods displayed for sale in the markets 42, the common people doubtless applauded him, but when he also condemned the social mixing of the sexes and the custom of allowing women to dance before men at bridal feasts, there must have been many who demurred 43. Similarly, when he said that the rule of law should apply to the Chiefs, as well as to their subjects, the people would have supported him, but when they realized that this meant the full rigour of the Shari'a might be applied to them, without benefit of the compromises by which the Hausa Chiefs and judges had habitually softened it, there must have been many who questioned whether the change would really suit them.
But the Fulani pastoralists were made of altogether different mettle. First of all, being Fulani, they were more passionate and intense than the Hausa peasants and less willing to compromise or submit. Secondly, as has already been described, they seem to have had a major grievance, at any rate in Gobir, about the severity with which the Hausa authorities now assessed and collected jangali, the tax on their cattle. It is easy to imagine, therefore, that Shehu's denunciation of this tax as an illegal imposition must have won him strong support and at the same time have heightened the discontent and provided it with a focus. It is conceivable that it did more than this and that, as he was himself a Fulani, his teaching may somehow have harnessed these resentments to subconscious racial aspirations and, without his intending it, have sown in the minds of his Fulani audiences the idea that the time had at last come to put an end to the injustices that went with their subordinate status. If social and economic grievances did, in fact, play on racial aspirations in this way, they could easily have Produced an explosive mixture, and their interaction may indeed explain why the pastoral Fulani rallied to Shehu's standard in far greater numbers than the Hausa peasants.
Reviewing all this evidence we can only conclude that the truth about the origin and nature of the jihad lies somewhere between the extremities of the three theories. It was certainly not a purely religious conflict. But nor, for that matter, were its primary causes either racial or social. Social and economic forces may well have had some effect in rousing the Fulani pastoralists, but they seem to have obtained little purchase on the Hausa peasants and on balance they were only a secondary factor. More important were the ethnic ties that bound the Fulani together and the vague aspirations that they may have harboured of asserting themselves as a people. These probably constituted a major factor. Nevertheless, the movement was fundamentally a religious one. Nothing illustrates this truth so clearly or proves it so conclusively as the fact that from first to last, without challenge or question, the leadership remained in the hands of an unworldly mystic.

Notes
1. Gazetteer of Kano Province, p. 29, and Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 151.
2. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, pp. 95-97 and 120-1). Bello implies that Muhammadu Bakiri died a natural death, but according to Barth he was killed by some of his own people, the Kelgeres. The peculiar relationship between the Emir and the Tuareg tribes is described in Note 9 of Appendix I.
3. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, p. 87).
4. See Note 5 in Appendix I.
5. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p. 127).
6. Ibid. pp. 127-9.
7. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, pp. 98-99).
8. Bello, SK (LHdM, vol. I, pp. 27-28).
9. Shehu, KF (Hiskett, pp. 569-70).
10. Information provided by Alhaji Junaidu.
11. Shehu, KF (Hiskett, p. 569).
12. Sokoto DNBs, History of Sokoto City. According to tradition, Shehu approved of the site because he thought that corrupting wealth would never come to such a bare and stony plateau.
13. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p. 127).
14. See Note so in Appendix I.
15. Hiskett, Introduction to TW, p. 22.
16. Alhaji Abubakar, op. cit. p. 48.
17. See, for example, C. K. Meek, The Northern Tribes of Nigeria, London, 1925, Vol. I, p. 100.
18. D. A. Olderogge, Feudalism in the Western Sudan from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries, Sovietskaya Etnografia, no. 4, 1957, and Thomas Hodgkin, ‘Uthman dan Fodio’, in the magazine Nigeria, October 1960.
19. Abdullah quoted by Shehu in TI (Palmer, JAS, vol. XIV, p. 189).
20. See Note 15 in Appendix I.
21. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p.110).
22. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, p. 72). See also Alhaji Junaidu, op. cit. p. 21.
23. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, pp. 98-101).
24. Ibid. p. 109.
25. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, p. 55).
26. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p. 111).
27. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, p. 87).
28. Sokoto DNBs, History of Wamakko.
29. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p. 114).
30. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, pp. 77 and 79).
31. Hodgkin, op, cit.
32. Ibid.
33. See Hiskett, AITR, pp. 586-96.
34. See Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, pp. 120-3), and Note 10 in Appendix I.
35. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, p. 114).
36. Bello, Inf M (Arnett, p. 68).
37. Abdullah, TW (Hiskett, pp. 118-19).
38. Abdullah TW (Hiskett, p. 111).
39. Barth, op. cit. vol. IV, p. 104.
40. Daniel, op. cit. p. 3.
41. See, for example, Hogben and Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 479, and Johnston, op. cit. pp. 163-7. Shehu's movement, of course, had no connections with or leanings towards Mahdism. Bello, it is true, once spoke as if the advent of the Mahdi was near, but this seems to have been an isolated reference and later he stated explicitly that Shehu was not to be called the Mahdi (Arnett, pp. 87 and 125).
42. Shehu, KF (Hiskett, p. 568).
43. Shehu, NUM (Hiskett, AITR, p. 587).

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