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

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

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Chapter Seventeen
Cracks in the Edifice

Given the circumstances in which Shehu's supporters seized power, it was inevitable that, once their enemies had been overcome, some of them should start quarrelling over the spoils. In the early days there were strong Sultans to settle these disputes and so they did little harm to a movement that was still vigorous. As time went by, however, the vigour evaporated and the Sultans became less incisive. It was then that the same inherent weaknesses that had undermined the other great States of the Sudan began to make themselves felt and threatened the unity and cohesion of the Empire.

The first of these weaknesses was the combination of great distances and bad communications. From Sokoto city, which lay far to the west of the geographical centre of the Empire, the distance to the remoter parts of Adamawa was well over a thousand miles. At the best of times this span, as great as that which separated Britain from Imperial Rome, was uncomfortably long for the exercise of a suzerain's authority. What made the task much more difficult in Africa than in Europe was the nature of the climate. The concentration of all the rainfall into the space of a few months had the effect, as Clapperton and Lander discovered to their cost 1, of making the roads virtually impassable during part of the year. This in turn, by giving people living near the periphery a sense of isolation from the centre, sometimes tempted them into disloyalty and rebellion.

The Empire's second great weakness was the want of a standing army. To fight his wars the Sultan had to rely on his own feudatories and vassals and, if the emergency justified calling them out, the feudal levies of his Emirs. In the early days, as we have already seen, Bello and his successors did not hesitate to summon the Emirs to the major expeditions that they mounted. Adama, for example, the first Emir of Adamawa, is said to have made the long journey to Sokoto on no fewer than eleven occasions 2. But as time went by the Fulani grew weary of fighting and it became more difficult for Sultans to mobilize their full strength, particularly when the enemy was not an external one but merely a rebellious vassal.
The third weakness was moral, not material. It was the corruption brought about by worldly success, the loss of early ideals, the ebb of zeal, the decay of resolution, and the general decline in standards of conduct. It would be an exaggeration to say that by the second arid third generation the Fulani had become decadent, but they had unquestionably lost their early fire.
Furthermore, as the century wore on, the stature of the succeeding Sultans tended to diminish and the inherent weaknesses of their position seemed increasingly to inhibit them from dealing vigorously with the internal crises that arose. Bello, it will be remembered, had quickly scotched the first of them, the revolt of Abdu Salami and Banaga dan Bature. Later in his reign, as we shall now look back and see, he showed equal firmness in quelling potentially serious trouble in Kazaure and Muri. But when his successors faced similar problems in Hadeija and Kontagora, they flinched from hard decisions and either acquiesced in the defiance of their vassals or else took refuge in inglorious compromises.

Dan Tunku and Kazaure Emirate

It will be remembered that Dan Tunku, was the Fulani leader who, early in the jihad, had prevented a coalition between the forces of the Hausa Chiefs of Kano, Katsina, and Daura. For this feat he had received a flag from Shehu 3. Later he had helped to establish a Fulani régime in Daura, but thereafter he had not played a particularly active part in the jihad and had made little contribution to the victory of the reformers in Kano.
By the end of the war his position in northern Kano was strong but ill-defined. As a flag-bearer he had the right of doing homage direct to Shehu, and subsequently to Bello, but in spite of this it seems to have been recognized that he was to some extent under the tutelage of Kano. So long as the unworldly Sulimanu was Emir of Kano this loose arrangement apparently worked satisfactorily, but when the much more forceful Ibrahim. Dabo succeeded in i gig it broke down. Ibrahim demanded Dan Tunku's allegiance and was refused. He thereupon conferred on one of his own vassals, Sarkin Bai of the Dambazawa family, a fief embracing all the territories that Dan Tunkii and his followers had acquired in the jihad. This move led to open hostilities 4.
The fighting, though intermittent, lasted about five years. At first Dan Tunku. had the best of it and raided right up to the walls of the city. Gradually, however, Kano's weight began to tell and he was pressed back. Nevertheless, he still continued to harry all the northern part of Kano Emirate. When Clapperton passed through the country in 1824 he found the Emir Ibrahim in his war-camp, preparing for the annual campaign, and in many ruined and deserted villages he saw evidence of Dan Tunku's past ravages.
Later in the same year Ibrahim made a determined attempt to bring Dan Tunku, to heel. He took an army up to the Kazaure hills and occupied the fortified camp where Dan Tunku had made his headquarters. Soon afterwards, however, Dan Tunku made a surprise counter-attack and drove the Kano forces out again 5.
As the fighting had ended in stalemate both sides agreed that the dispute should be referred to the arbitration of the Sultan. When the case was brought to him, Bello found in favour of Dan Tunku and reaffirmed his independence of the Emir of Kano. Kazaure was thereby recognized to be a separate Emirate and its boundaries were demarcated 6.
This decision brought the hostilities to an end and after that Kano and Kazaure lived together as good neighbours. But the fact remained that, even in Sultan Bello's day, Fulani had begun fighting against Fulani. Unfortunately, as the century advanced, this phenomenon was to become more common.

Gombe and Muri

It will be recalled that one of the leaders of the jihad in the east had been Buba Yero, who had made himself master of the area enclosed in the bend of the Gongola River, previously tributary to Bornu, and had created out of it the new Emirate of Gumbe.
During the next phase, after the Kanuri had broken off the war in western and southern Bornu and fallen back on Lake Chad, Buba Yero had proceeded to round off and consolidate his new acquisitions. In the process, he had attempted to extend his jurisdiction beyond the Gongola to the north and west, but in doing so had come into sharp collision with Yakubu of Bauchi, who regarded this territory as his own. There had therefore been some fighting and Fulani blood had been shed on both sides. In the end, however, Buba Yero had withdrawn his forces, which in any case had got the worst of the encounter, and had agreed to accept the river as the boundary between the two Emirates. On this basis, peace between him and Yakubu had been patched up.
While Buba Yero had been thus occupied in the north, he had entrusted to his brother, Hamman Ruwa, the task of extending his boundaries into the Benue Valley in the south. In this Hamman Ruwa had been conspicuously successful. It is true that, apart from some remnants of Jukuns, the indigenous people were backward and were organized only into small principalities and tribes. But even if they were not very formidable individually, they were collectively numerous and the terrain suited their style of fighting much better than that which the Fulani had now adopted. Their subjection had therefore been a considerable feat of arms.
As a result of these conquests, Gombe by 1825 had become a sprawling Emirate like Zaria. Muri, the territory in the Benue Valley, was remote from the capital, Old Gombe, which Buba Yero had recently built on the Upper Gongola. Moreover, because of the hilly country and still untamed tribes that intervened, communications between them were unusually difficult. Buba Yero therefore recognized his brother as the ruler of Muri and gave him a free hand. At first this arrangement worked perfectly well: Hamman Ruwa continued to acknowledge Buba Yero as his overlord and always rode in his train whenever they were summoned to attend the Court or camp of the Sultan.
As old age came over him, however, Buba Yero became obsessed by suspicions about Hamman Ruwa's loyalty. He seems to have feared either that Hamman Ruwa would secede and declare himself independent of Gombe or, worse still, that when he himself died the Electoral College might appoint Hamman Ruwa as Emir and so exclude his own sons. Whether he had any justification for these suspicions we shall never know. What is certain is that in 1833 he summoned Hamman Ruwa and his eldest son Bose to Gombe and then, on the pretext that they were scheming secession, had them both executed 7.
This treacherous and arbitrary act, which was completely out of keeping with the god-fearing character of the first generation of Fulani rulers to which Buba Yero belonged, caused consternation. Hamman Ruwa's people at once appealed to Sokoto for justice and Bello was so incensed by what had happened that he then and there severed the link between Gombe and Muri and presented Hamman Ruwa's sons with a flag to mark their independence 8.
Thanks to the Sultan's firm and prompt intervention, this conflict had no damaging repercussions. Nevertheless, it represented an early and ugly crack in the edifice of Fulani unity.

Buhari of Hadeija

The Emirate of Hadeija, it will be remembered, was one of the first to be created when the jihad spread eastward to the Bornu marches. Sambo, the third Emir, had played a leading part in its formation and it was he who, in the course of a long reign, had enlarged and consolidated it.
In 1845, when he was approaching the age of eighty, Sambo decided to retire in favour of his sons. The eldest, Garko, succeeded as Emir, but lived for only two years. He was followed by the second son, but after a short and stormy reign of only seven months he too died.
The death in rapid succession of his two eldest sons brought Sambo back from retirement and for a short time in 1848 he resumed power, but then he too fell mortally ill. His third son, Buhari, was known to be cruel and unscrupulous and Sambo now tried to procure the succession of the fourth son, Ahmadu. Like Jacob, however, Buhari is said to have impersonated his brother and in this way to have obtained his father's death-bed blessing. Certainly, when Sambo died it was he who was chosen to succeed 9.
About a year after becoming Emir, Buhari began to grow apprehensive of the influence and popularity of his cousin, Sarkin Auyo Nalara, and to fear that he might develop into a dangerous rival for the throne. To prevent his ever doing so, Buhari had him assassinated 10.
Aliyu Babba was Sultan at this time. No doubt he already knew that Buhari had a reputation for ruthlessness and so he summoned him to Sokoto to answer the charges made against him. Buhari refused to go. Aliyu therefore sent Abdul Kadir, who had succeeded his father Giɗaaɗ0 as Waziri, to deal with him 11
The Waziri Abdul Kadir made his way to Katagum, assembled a mixed force drawn from the eastern Emirates, and marched on Hadeija. Buhari, on this occasion, put up little resistance but gave up the town and withdrew to the north. The Waziri thereupon invested as Emir the younger brother, Ahmadu, whom their old father had always preferred to Buhari. Having done this he dismissed the troops who had been furnished to him and returned to Sokoto.
Buhari, cast out by his own people, retired to the north-east and sought the succour and alliance of the enemies of the Empire. The Chief of Matsena allowed him to make his headquarters in the town of Yarimari and from Bornu, Matsena's suzerain, he received help in the form of arms and men. With this help he soon became strong again and pressed on with his preparations for recovering the throne that he had lost 12.
In 1851, just after Barth had passed through that part of the country on his outward journey, Buhari launched his attack on Hadeija. Although he must have had news of Buhari's warlike preparations, the Sultan had apparently done nothing to strengthen the hand of his nominee Ahmadu. Buhari was therefore able to retake Hadeija without much difficulty. Furthermore, having captured Ahmadu, he emphasized the fact that he no longer acknowledged the Sultan's authority by putting him to death 13.
This was the most flagrant act of rebellion that any Emir had yet committed. Seven years earlier, it is true, the Emir of Katsina, Sidiku, had gone over to the Hausa diehards after the Sultan had deposed him 14 but he had not resisted his deposition, as Buhari had done, much less recaptured his throne and killed his supplanter. To maintain his authority and prestige the Sultan now had to take some drastic action. It was characteristic of Aliyu, however, that his measures were half-hearted and inadequate. Instead of taking the field himself, or at least sending the Waziri, he at first entrusted the operations to the Waziri's younger brother, Ahmadu dan Giɗaaɗ0, who held the relatively minor title of Dan Galadiman Waziri 15. Later, it is true, he dispatched the Waziri to take over the command, but the campaign never recovered from this false start.
The Waziri now again put himself at the head of the mixed force, assembled by his brother the Dan Galadima and drawn mainly from Katagum and Jama'are Emirates, and marched on Hadeija. To reach the town they had to cross the river, whose broad valley was hereabouts cut up by small lakes and covered with a dense growth of thorn trees 16. In this difficult terrain Buhari ambushed and routed them. The Waziri thereupon abandoned the enterprise and returned to Sokoto. The Sultan also acquiesced in the defeat and so Buhari was left in undisputed possession of Hadeija.
If the damage to the Empire had been confined to the loss of one Emirate it would not have been felt too badly. Unfortunately, however, Buhari was not the man to let bygones be bygones and he now embarked on a deliberate policy of harrying his Fulani neighbours and enriching himself by plundering them. Katagum, Jama'are, and the whole of the northeastern part of Kano Emirate had to suffer his depredations. Success emboldened him and his raids took him as far afield as Misau, Dutse 17, and even to the vicinity of Kano 18. When Barth passed through this area again in 1855 he remarked upon the extraordinary change which, daring the space of less than four years, Buhari had wrought in what had previously been a populous and flourishing countryside.
Buhari was never subdued and to the day of his death in 1863 he remained the scourge of his fellow Fulani. When he died Hadeija was, it is true, brought back into the Empire and reconciled to Sokoto. But the damage that he had done lived on after him. The solidarity of the Empire, especially in the north-east, was shattered. Worse still, his evil genius had proved how easy it was for a determined ruler to defy the distant suzerain. Worst of all, he showed the Sultans how to turn a blind eye to the distress signals of their people and he taught the people to doubt the willingness and ability of the Sultans to protect them.

Nagwamatse and Kontagora

In Umaru Nagwamatse the ruling family of Sokoto produced a man who had the same combination of audacity, courage, and ruthlessness as Buhari.
Nagwamatse was the son of Sultan Atiku and the younger brother of Sultan Ahmadu Zaruku 19. From his youth he proved to be rebellious and turbulent. As a young man the first responsibility assigned to him was the headship of the town of Gwamatse, which stands in the Rima Valley about a day's march west of Sokoto. At that time it did not form part of any fief but was in the gift of the Sultan to whom its ruler paid allegiance direct. It was his early association with this place that later caused him to be called Nagwamatse 20.
During the reign of Sultan Aliyu Babba, Nagwamatse was given command of the garrison town of Katuru in the eastern part of the Sultanate. With Isa and Zurmi, this was one of the fortresses in the upper Rima Valley by means of which the Fulani were trying to contain the Gobir and Katsina diehards, who were then rapidly recovering their strength. The responsibility was therefore a much greater one than he had borne in Gwamatse. While he was there Nagwamatse attracted a large personal following with the result, apparently, that he aroused the jealousy of his own elder brother, Ahmadu Zaruku, who perhaps feared that he might be displaced as heir apparent when the Sultanate next fell vacant. He was therefore relieved of his command and recalled to Sokoto 21.
After this Nagwamatse was sent to Talata Mafara. This was a Zamfara town, the most populous and important in central Sokoto, and Nagwamatse's role was not to rule it himself but to act as a Fulani Resident and keep an eye on the Sultan's vassal, Sarkin Mafara Agwaregi, whose loyalty was suspect. But the Sultan and Ahmadu again became apprehensive about his growing power and so, in about 1851, he was once more recalled 22.
These snubs seem to have convinced Nagwamatse that there was no advancement to be had at home, for soon afterwards he shook off the dust of Sokoto and went out into the world to seek his fortune. He made his way to the south because there, on the still fluid frontiers of the Empire, the opportunities were greatest for a man of his stamp. It happened that Makama Dogo, who later became first Emir of Nassarawa but who was then still only a soldier of fortune employed by the Emir of Zaria, was at that time conducting his campaign in the Lower Benue Valley against the Igbirra Kingdom of Panda 23. For a time Nagwamatse served with him as a mercenary captain and helped him to take the important town of Toto 24. After about two years, however, they parted company and Nagwamatse went westward to Nupe.
His arrival there in the year 1857 coincided with the suppression of Umar Bahaushe's insurrection. Umar himself was dead, but most of his defeated and leaderless troops were still at large. Nagwamatse enrolled many of them among his own followers and thereby enhanced his stature as a mercenary leader. Moreover, he succeeded in getting on good terms with both the Fulani leaders, Usuman Zaki and Masaba, and he supported them in expeditions against the pagan Gwaris 25.
When Usuman Zaki died in 1859 he was succeeded as Emir of Nupe by Masaba. Although Masaba was still friendly with Nagwamatse, he probably regarded him as an uncomfortably powerful subject. At any rate, he encouraged him to leave Nupe and carve out a new kingdom for himself in the no-man's-land to the north, which lay between Yauri, Sokoto, Zaria, and Nupe. First he allowed him to set up a war-camp at a place called Bogi and later he agreed to give him a free hand north of the River Kurmin Kada 26.
The territory into which Nagwamatse now moved lay outside the borders of Hausaland and had never been effectively subdued or occupied by the Fulani. It was very extensive, at least ten thousand square miles, and inhabited in the north by the Dakkakeri, in the east by the Gwaris, and elsewhere by a mixture of tribes and tribal fragments. Being covered in thick bush and heavily infested by tsetse fly, it did not lend itself to the cavalry warfare which the Fulani now favoured. Nevertheless, to an able and unscrupulous adventurer like Nagwamatse, its scattered pagan population promised rich hauls of slaves and booty.
Nagwamatse began his operations in the east against the Gwaris. Though they received some help from the unsubdued Hausas of Abuja, they were unable to withstand him and he soon overran the southern and western part of their territory 27. His operations had been undertaken without the sanction of the Sultan or Emir of Gwandu, however, and they were therefore regarded with disfavour. Indeed, Sultan Aliyu Babba placed an interdiction on him 28, but died soon afterwards and was succeeded as Sultan by Ahmadu Zaruku, Nagwamatse's elder brother. Nagwamatse not only managed to mollify him but later, under the title of Sarkin Sudan, obtained recognition as a paramount ruler in his own right 29.
In 1863 the Gwaris rose against Nagwamatse, but after nearly a year of hard fighting he subdued them again. The insurrection brought famine in its train and food became so scarce that a single Dunya or wild plum could be sold for five cowries 30.
Having secured his position in the east, Nagwamatse next turned his attention to the west. There he found a situation which he was quick to exploit to his advantage. Yauri, it will be remembered, was one of the Banza Bakwai and its population consisted of Hausa ruling and middle classes living in the towns, and a mainly pagan peasantry who had not adopted the Hausa language or been assimilated to the Hausa way of life. During the jihad the Chief had made voluntary submission to Shehu and had been confirmed in office. Yauri had thereby become part of the Empire and after Shehu's death had paid allegiance to Gwandu.
Since 1844, however, Yauri had been torn by a dynastic clash, which soon afterwards had led to civil war. The two factions were led by Jibrilu Gajere and Abubakr Jatau. In 1848 Gajere, who had previously been deposed, returned and defeated his rival. Jatau was killed in the fighting and Gajere regained the throne for a year before he in turn was defeated and killed. His son, Yakuba dan Gajere, thereupon had himself proclaimed Emir. Except among the Kamberawa, however, he enjoyed little support and the rest of the Yauri people preferred to follow his cousin Sulimanu. Under these two leaders, the civil strife continued 31.
Nagwamatse, for reasons of his own, espoused the cause of Yakuba dan Gajere and soon had him completely within his power. Under the pretext of helping him, he extended his sway over what had been eastern Yauri, right up to the Molendo River, and forced the Emir Sulimanu back on to the islands in the Niger and a comparatively narrow strip of the mainland 32. Sulimanu repeatedly appealed for help to his suzerain, the Emir of Gwandu, but without success.
The truth is that the Emir of Gwandu was in an embarrassing predicament. Not only was he preoccupied with the Kebbi war, as we shall see, but he must have been mindful of the fact that Nagwamatse was the younger brother as well as the vassal of the Sultan. The easiest course was, therefore, to ignore the appeal from Yauri and do nothing. In 1866, however, Sultan Ahmadu Zaruku died and in the following year the Fulani patched up a temporary peace with Kebbi. This freed the Emir of Gwandu's hands and he warned Nagwamatse not to encroach further on his preserves 33. But the damage had already been done and he had to recognize that eastern Yauri had been lost.
Having established his authority in both west and east, Nagwamatse built himself a capital at Kontagora in the centre of his territory. There, in 1876, death at length brought his turbulent career to an end. In his favour it can be said that in the space of seventeen years he created a new Emirate out of what had previously been a no-man's land and added it to the Empire. But to his discredit it must be added that throughout his life he followed a course of unscrupulous acquisitiveness that was completely contrary to all that was best in the Fulani tradition.
In retrospect we can see how sharp a difference there was between the way in which the earlier and the later of these four episodes were handled. Bello showed firmness and wisdom in coping with the problems raised by Dan Tunku and Buba Yero. Aliyu Babba and Ahmadu Zaruku, in contrast, displayed weakness and nepotism in their dealings with Buhari and Nagwamatse. The difference was an indication of the extent to which the grip of the Sultans on the Empire was beginning to relax. In the next generation, as we shall see, it was to slip further still.

1. Clapperton, Journal, ch. V.
2. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 18.
3. Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, p. 30.
4. Kazaure Emirate Notebook, Historical Note.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid. Dan Tunku did not live long to enjoy his success. Soon afterwards, while repairing a flintlock, he accidentally set fire to some loose gunpowder. He was a man of the old school, however, and even though his clothes and the roof of the building caught fire he refused to move, saying that he was a Fulani and would show no fear. He was dragged out of the flames, but died of his burns two months later.
7. Gazetteer of Muri Province, 1922, p. 17.
8. Ibid.
9. Gazetteer of Kano Province, p. 22.
10. Ibid.
11. Alhaji Junaidu, op. cit. pp. 35-36. For the family tree, see Table 7 in Appendix II.
12. Barth, op. cit. vol. II, pp. 175-6.
13. Gazetteer of Kano Province, p. 22.
14. Daniel, op. cit. p. 20. In 1853 Barth met Sidiku among the Hausa diehards.
15. Alhaji Junaidu, op. cit. p. 36.
16. Author's personal knowledge.
17. Kano DNBs, History of Dutse.
18. Barth, op. cit. vol. V, pp. 370-2.
19. For his place in the family tree, see Table 2 in Appendix II.
20. Information confirmed by Alhaji Junaidu. The belief that Nagwamatse means ‘the destroyer’, which has survived to this day, is incorrect.
21. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 8.
22. Ibid. pp. 8-9. Confirmed by Alhaji Junaidu.
23. Panda is the Fundah which Sultan Bello mentioned to Clapperton.
24. Ch A, p. 12.
25. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 9.
26. Ibid. pp. 9-10.
27. Ibid.
28. Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, p. 33.
29. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 9.
30. Ibid.
31. Ibid. pp. 16-22.
32. Ibid.
33. Gazetteff of Kontagora Province, p. 10.

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