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

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

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Chapter Sixteen
The Machinery of Government

In the jihad in Hausaland it had been the Hausa ruling classes rather than the Hausa people who had suffered defeat. Some of them had fled with their Chiefs and become the diehards of :

Others, without going into exile, had moved away and begun new lives elsewhere. Others again had stayed in their towns and villages and simply retired into private life. Except for those who had adhered to Shehu's cause, therefore, and outside Zamfara they were a small and unimportant minority, the feudal rulers of the Hausa States, when they had lost the war, had also abandoned or forfeited all their titles and offices.
The Fulani leaders had fought the war to purify religion, not to reform the social or economic structure of society. When they emerged as the victors, therefore, they did little to change the feudal system which they had inherited from the departed Hausa rulers. They simply took it over. Those who had distinguished themselves in the war obtained for themselves and their families the spoils of victory in the shape of the posts which the defeated Hausas had vacated and the privileges which went with them.
It is not easy to describe in summary form the feudal system which the Fulani inherited from the Hausas and themselves elaborated, firstly, because it varied from Emirate to Emirate and, secondly, because it did not stand still but developed as the century wore on. If due allowance is made for these difficulties, however, a description in broad and general terms can be attempted.
The first point to be emphasized is that the society which the Fulani ruled was a complex one, not only because the people who made it up were separated by differences of race, religion, and language but equally because the Emirates which comprised the Empire were diverse in size and heterogeneous in structure and composition. Even the Emirates that had previously been Hausa States normally embodied older chiefdoms and principalities, swallowed at an earlier date but still only half-digested, and to these the jihad often added fresh conquests.
The Emirate of Zaria provides a good example of this diversity. In Hausa times it already contained the petty principalities of Kajuru, Kauru, and Fatika. To these the Fulani later added Kagarko, Lere, and Durum. In addition, however, the jihad and the period of expansion that followed it brought four satellites into Zaria's orbit, namely Jema'a, Keffi, Nassarawa, and Doma. By the end of the Fulani conquests, therefore, Zaria was made up of three separate components — the fiefs into which the main body of the Emirate was subdivided, its six minor vassals, and its four larger satellites 1.
The relationship between the Emir of Zaria and each of the three components of the Emirate was different. The four satellites naturally enjoyed the greatest measure of independence. Originally, as already described, the founders of three of them had intended going to Shehu in the hope of receiving flags direct from him, but they had been told by Mallam Musa, the first Fulani Emir, that they were too late because Shehu had already conferred upon him possession of the whole territory as far south as the Benue. They had therefore been content to receive their flags from Zaria instead of from Sokoto. As for the fourth of these founding fathers, Makama Dogo of Nassarawa, he had been encouraged by the Emir of Zaria to carve a new Emirate out of the decaying Igbirra kingdom of Panda and there had therefore never been any question of his paying homage elsewhere than in Zaria.
These Chieftaincies were recognized from the start as being hereditary in the families of their founders. Each had its own Electoral College and the role of the Emir of Zaria at this stage was only to confirm the choices made by the electors and install the new Emirs. These Emirs enjoyed considerable latitude. They had their own administrative hierarchies and judiciaries. They wielded powers of life and death. They imposed what taxes they pleased. Although, of course, forbidden from fighting among themselves, they did not require their overlord's permission to make war on the Hausa diehards of Abuja or to raid and harry their pagan neighbours. The main symbol of their subordinate standing was the annual tribute that they had to pay to Zaria. This consisted of 100 slaves from each of them together with horses, gowns, corn, salt, locust-beans, palm-oil, cola nuts, mats, and cowries 2.
The authority of the six vassals, as one would expect, was not as great as that of the satellites. True, their dynasties were hereditary, they had their own administrative hierarchies, and they enjoyed full discretion in assessing and collecting tax. On the other hand, they themselves were denied powers of life and death and the jurisdiction of their courts was limited to minor cases. Similarly, in military matters they were not free to go to war or even to undertake a raid without their overlord's permission. Moreover, the Emir of Zaria had the authority to depose as well as to appoint them 3.
Even more restricted, of course, were the powers of the hakimai or fief-holders in the main body of the Emirate. Their fiefs were sometimes hereditary or quasi-hereditary, especially the major ones which might be vested in some branch of the ruling family or in some noble house whose founder had played a prominent part in the jihad, but the majority were not tied to any particular family and were freely in the gift of the Emir. Similarly, while the major fief-holders might have large enough responsibilities for their personal followers to be organized into a proper hierarchy, the remainder commanded little more than a set of henchmen who served them, whenever the occasion demanded, as troopers, constables, gaolers, bailiffs, tax-gatherers, and messengers, in short, as men-at-arms in war and factotums in peace.
These fief-holders, great and small, though their powers were circumscribed, nevertheless occupied positions of basic importance in the feudal system of the Empire. Their duties were partly civil, partly military, and partly judicial, and they were the first of the vital links which connected the Emirs and their Courts to the peasants in their villages. In peace they were responsible for the maintenance of law and order, for the collection of tax and tribute, for the execution of any orders that the Emir might from time to time give, and for carrying out such local tasks as clearing tracks, repairing town walls, and supervising markets. In the judicial sphere they were required to leave cases covered by the Shari'a to the courts, but they were empowered to deal with Siyasa 4 cases if they were not grave enough to send to the Emir. Land disputes were also regarded as coming within their purview. In addition, of course, as they were vassals of a Moslem Sultan, they were bound to do all in their power to uphold Islam. Finally, as the eyes and cars of their overlords, they were expected to know all that was going on in their fiefs and to report to the Emir anything that might endanger the state or the dynasty 5.
In return for the position of privilege which these-offices conferred, their holders were required to render military service when called upon to do so and to bring with them a recognized number of men-at-arms whom they had to equip. In this respect the system closely resembled the feudal structure of medieval Europe. A summons to serve was naturally answered with more eagerness if there were chances of capturing prisoners or taking booty but, however hard the prospect, it could never be ignored. To do so would be tantamount to rebelling.
Fief-holders had two sources of remuneration, one official and regulated, the other largely unregulated but nevertheless officially condoned. The official source was a share, generally one fifth, of all the tax and tribute that the fief-holder collected. As there was no census, however, the Emir had only a general idea, based on his own observation and the yield of earlier years, of the return to expect from any particular fief. This lack of precise information gave an unscrupulous hakimi some latitude to enrich himself by under-declaration or over-collection. The other source of revenue was perquisites. The scale on which these could be exploited was to some extent governed by tradition and by the operation of public opinion, but generally speaking fief-holders had a free hand to accept what they considered fair or to demand as much as they thought they could get.
Although the fief-holders could and indeed often did abuse the system for their private gain, it would be wrong to think of them, as a class, simply as parasites on society and oppressors of the poor. Their positions in the hierarchy were only intermediate ones and much of what they received from their inferiors as presents they had to pass on to their superiors. From what they kept, moreover, they had to feed, clothe, house, arm, and sometimes pay the staff with which they administered their fiefs.
Some of the great fiefs, such as Gwadabawa in Sokoto or Dutse in Kano, were geographically compact and not dissimilar to English counties. But this was the exception, not the rule, and fiefs generally tended to be scattered, having at the most a core in one part of the Emirate and outlying towns and villages in other parts. In Sokoto itself this fragmentation went so far that it took the first British Resident about two years of hard work to trace the ramifications of the fiefs and regroup them into self-contained districts 6.
Although many hakimai lived in their fiefs and administered them personally, there were others who did not do so, either because the towns and villages entrusted to them were too scattered to make local administration possible or else because they were councillors or courtiers and had to live in the capital. In such cases local administration was entrusted to Village Heads and a confidential messenger, called a jekada, served as the link between them and their overlord. Naturally, this indirect form of administration was more open to abuse than the system whereby the fief-holder ruled his domain personally and was accessible to complaints and appeals from his people 7.
Judged by modern standards, this whole system of administration through the feudal hierarchy was rough and ready. On the other hand, it was probably more advanced than any other system in black Africa at that time. What was more important was that it worked and that at its best it provided a benevolent if paternalistic form of local government.

A feature of the feudal system of the Empire was that authority was first centralized and then extensively delegated. The role of the Emir was consequently of vital importance, for on him everything turned.
The general rule, to which Zaria was an exception, was that there was only one ruling family although within it the choice might lie between several of its houses. In theory, any legitimate male descendant of the founder was eligible for election, but in practice the candidates were narrowed down to a small number by the elimination of all those who lacked the requisite strength of personality, experience of public affairs, and popular support.
When an election became necessary it was usual for each dynasty or house of the ruling family to agree upon the candidate which it intended to back and, consequently, elections sometimes became contests between dynasties or houses rather than individuals. The desirability of preserving a rotation among dynasties or houses was also taken into account but could not always be met. The final choice, as in the metropolitan Sultanate, was made by an Electoral College consisting of the leading men of the Emirate who were not members of the ruling family and, consequently, not themselves eligible to stand for election.
Once elected the Emir found himself in a position of great, but certainly not unbounded, authority.

All these factors, while they combined to place real limitations on the authority of the Emirs, still left them in positions of great potential strength. In the last analysis, therefore, the amount of power that they wielded depended mainly on the force of their personalities, their skill in playing the political game, and the length of their reigns. Some, like Abdullahi who ruled Kano from 1855 to 1883, became complete autocrats. Others, like Ahmadu of Hadeija, lacked the personality and standing to assert themselves and always remained ciphers.
The administrations over which the Emirs presided were partly bureaucratic, partly feudal, in nature. To sustain them, therefore, public funds were required and these, for the most part, were raised by means of taxes. Taxation, as we have already seen, had been introduced into Hausaland at a very early date. The system which the Fulani took over and developed was by no means uniform but everywhere it fell into four broad categories.

The method of assessing haraji varied from Emirate to Emirate. In Katsina, for example, the head of every household had to pay a flat rate of 2,500 cowries with an additional 500 cowries for every household slave. The total revenue from this source was estimated by Barth in the middle of the century at 20-30 million cowries. In Kano the rate was the same but the revenue much higher, probably about go million. In Zaria, on the other hand, instead of a flat rate, free men paid 500 cowries in respect of every member of the household, slave or free, who was capable of wielding a hoe 13. In 1860 there was a change to a flat rate of 2,000 cowries per family and this gradually rose until by 1900 it had become 6,000 cowries 14.
There is no doubt that before the jihad this tax was also levied at comparable rates in Gobir, Kebbi, and Zamfara. Under the Fulani, however, the territory of these three States became the metropolitan region of the Dual Empire and therefore the repository of the tribute paid by all the other Emirates. This sufficed to keep the two Treasuries reasonably full. The inhabitants of the Sultanate and the Emirate of Gwandu were therefore excused from the payment of haraji 15. This concession was one of the more important reforms in the Hausa system which the Fulani made when they came to power.
Among the miscellaneous impositions some, such as caravan tolls, dated back to the Hausa era and were in any case practised all over black Africa. Others were innovations introduced by the Fulani. By the end of the century, one way or another, duties were being levied on a wide variety of objects such as canoes, market-gardens, date palms, and dye-vats. Occupational taxes were also imposed on such craftsmen and traders as blacksmiths, butchers, tanners, leather workers, honey-gatherers, snuff-makers, entertainers, and brokers 16. The collection of these taxes was entrusted to the heads of the craft guilds, almost invariably Hausas, who were recognized by the Emir and given such titles as Sarkin Makera and Sarkin Fawa 17.
In these hierarchical societies, indeed, titles played a most prominent part. The tradition had of course come down from the Hausa era, but the Fulani, forgetting Shehu's teaching, perpetuated it with gusto. Each Emirate had its own set of titles and among them the styles of :

were usually to be found together with others which were peculiar to the locality. Nor was the practice confined to the capitals. Satellites and vassals had their own separate hierarchies and even fief-holders and Village Heads often dignified the standing of their henchmen and servitors by conferring on them, in their humbler sphere, one of the great titles of the State.
In Sokoto the metropolitan Sultanate was administered on much the same lines as the Emirates of the Empire. As the States of Gobir and Zamfara, which composed the greater part of it, had been broken up in the wars, there was no difficulty in embodying them in the new structure. Had their people not deserted Shehu's cause during the jihad, the larger fragments of Zamfara might indeed have been accorded the same degree of autonomy as the satellites of Zaria. But as it was, Anka, Talata, Mafara, and Gummi were given a lower status similar to that of the Zaria vassals, that is to say the hereditary claims of their dynasties were recognized and they were allowed a measure of administrative, judicial, and fiscal control of their own affairs, but in all matters of major importance their powers were strictly circumscribed. The Burmawa of Bakura and Tureta were treated in the same way. So too, when they returned to the fold, were the Gobirawa of Sabon Birni.
Among the vassals of the Sultanate, former Hausa Chiefs were only a small minority and the vast majority of the feudatories were Fulani whose forbears had distinguished themselves in the jihad. So far as the greater ones were concerned the practice of Sokoto differed in an important respect from that of Zaria. There, as we have seen, the growth of hereditary and quasi-heriditary rights was held in check and most of the major fiefs remained in the Emir's gift. In Sokoto, however, events were allowed to develop in just the opposite way and hereditary succession became the general rule.
Mention has already been made of the great fiefs of Tambawal and Zurmi which were conferred on Buhari dan Shehu and the heirs of Namoda. After two generations their families were now unassailably established in possession of them. In addition, there were many others of only slightly less importance in which the hereditary rights of the families concerned had become just as securely entrenched. For example, the descendants of Muhammadu Moyijo and Muhammadu Ashafa, whom we have already met, established similar liens on the fiefs of Yabo and Gusau 18. Likewise, the descendants of Shehu's youngest son Isa, who had been installed in Kwarre after the defeat and flight of Abdu Salami, had soon been recognized as having hereditary rights to the succession, while the family of Muhammadu Dadi, who at about the same time had helped Bello to subdue Abdu Salami's rebellious ally Banaga dan Bature, had acquired a no less enduring stake in the fief of Maru 19. This process, moreover, was by no means confined to the period of the jihad and its aftermath. In the early 'sixties, as has already been described, the Sultan Ahmadu Zaruku created the great fief of Gwadabawa and subsequently his heirs lost no time in consolidating their title to it. Later, though by different methods, the Sultans Aliyu Karami and Ahmadu Rufa'i used their influence to establish hereditary rights for their families in the fiefs of Isa and Silame which they had themselves ruled before their elevation 20.
The proliferation of hereditary rights probably went further in the Sultanate of Sokoto than in any other part of the Empire except perhaps Gwandu. Moreover, it was not limited to the territorial hierarchy and before long the great offices of the Council and Court, including that of the Waziri, had also come to be regarded as hereditary. Even the dignity of Chief justice became a monopoly and was enjoyed by the family of Mallam Mustafa, whom Bello had appointed in 1817, right down to the year 1898 21. This entrenchment of privilege carried with it the germs of future decay, but the process was to be a slow one and in the meantime the administration of the Sultanate still seemed perfectly healthy,
As the government of the Empire rested largely in the same hands as the administration of the Sultanate, it was of course exposed to the same dangers. On the surface, however, it too seemed sound enough. It was still based on the kofa system that Bello had introduced nearly two generations earlier. No Councillor had been assigned special responsibility for imperial affairs and so the brunt of the work fell on the Waziri who had in his portfolio the Emirates of Kano, Zaria, Adamawa, Gombe, Hadeija, Katagum, Misau, Jama'are, and Air 22. To help him sustain this burden, which involved a good deal of travelling, he was allowed to appoint a deputy who, needless to say, was drawn from the same family and given the title of Dan Galadiman Waziri. Responsibility for the remaining Emirates was shared by some of the other great families. Bauchi fell to the Magajin Rafi and Katsina, Daura, and Kazaure to the Galadima 23 while Muri and Kontagora, two of the more recent Emirates whose creation will be described in the next chapter, were assigned respectively to Sarkin Rabah and the Ubandoma 24.
Being the imperial power Sokoto was entitled to collect tribute from its vassals. This was levied at the Islamic rate of one-fifth and fell equally on revenue collected in peace and booty taken in war. As the yield from booty was very volatile, the amounts remitted tended to vary from Emirate to Emirate and from year to year. This explains the large divergences in the accounts which have come down to us. In 1853, for example, Barth was told that there were

in the caravan bearing Zaria's tribute to Sokoto and that similar instalments were dispatched every second month. On the other hand, he learned that in the whole of the previous year Katsina, from which similar contributions might have been expected, had been able to scrape together only 800,000 cowries and a single stallion 25. The discrepancy between these two sets of figures reflects the difference in the situation of the two Emirates at that time, Zaria being free to raid its weaker neighbours to the south while Katsina was preoccupied in defending itself from the attacks of the Hausa diehards in the north.
Forty years later another European traveller was informed that Kano was the only Emirate rich enough to pay its way without having recourse to slaves and that its tribute amounted to

Katsina apparently made a mixed contribution of 100 slaves supplemented by horses and currency. Bauchi and Adamawa, on the other hand, paid entirely in slaves, 500 and 2,000, respectively 26. According to still later sources, Muri's tribute at the end of the century consisted of 100 slaves and 100 horses 27 while Kano's, after the civil war, was reduced to 100 horses and 1,000 gowns 28.
Whatever the precise amounts may have been, there is no doubt that the flow of tribute into Sokoto, and to a lesser extent Gwandu, was very considerable. At the time it was regarded as a source of strength. In the perspective of history, however, we can see that, like the gold that poured into Spain from the Americas, it served only to soften the fibre of the people and hasten the decay which soon began to attack the heart of the Empire.

1. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 73-136.
2. M. G. Smith, op. cit. p. 77.
3. Ibid. pp. 78-79.
4. In Moslem jurisprudence there are many offences which do not come within the scope of the Shari'a. Normally these are not tried in the ordinary courts but dealt with by the Emir or, at a lower level, by executive officials like District Heads who represent him.
5. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 73-136.
6. Monthly and Quarterly Reports from Sokoto Province, 1903-6, now in the National Archives, Kaduna.
7. In Government in Zazzau, M. G. Smith gives a map of the fiefs of Zaria in the nineteenth century. This shows the extent of the fragmentation and gives an indication of the large proportion of fiefs held by the Galadima, Madaki, Alkali, Imam, and other high officials of the Emirate who, in the nature of things, must have been absentees.
8. Daniel, op. cit. p. 20.
9. Gazetteer of Kano Province, p. 22.
10. Gazetteer of Zaria Province, 1920, pp. 10-11.
11. Alhaji Abubakar, op. cit. pp. 59 and 61.
12. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 118-20.
13. Barth, op. cit. vol II, p. 144.
14. M. G. Smith, op. cit. p. 94.
15. See the Monthly and Quarterly Reports from Sokoto Province, 1903-6. When Burden, the Resident, reported to Lugard, the High Commissioner, that no haraji had hitherto been paid in Sokoto and Gwandu, he was reprimanded for allowing the wool to be pulled over his eyes. Nevertheless, he was right and Lugard was wrong.
16. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 157-8 and the Gazetteer of Zaria Province, pp. 16-17.
17. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 85-86.
18. Sokoto DNBs, Histories of Yabo and Gusau.
19 Ibid. History of Maru.
20 Ibid. History of Isa and Silame.
21 Ibid. Historical Note on the Chief Alkalis.
22. Information furnished by Alhaji Junaidu.
23. Ibid.
24. Sokoto DNBs, Histories of Rabah and Hamma'ali.
25. Barth, op. cit. vol. IV, p. 127.
26. C. H. Robinson, Hawaland, London, 1896, p. 105.
27. Sokoto DNBs, History of Rabah.
28. Monthly and Quarterly Reports from Sokoto Province, 1903-6.

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