London. Ibadan. Nairobi: Oxford University Press. 1967. 312 p.
Despite the fact that Goldie's gamble in attacking Nupe and florin had apparently been a complete success, opinion in London was hardening against him. It was at last beginning to be realized that a commercial company, whose first duty was to make profits for its shareholders, was not a suitable instrument for the execution of imperial policy, and that in any case the Royal Niger Company simply did not possess the resources in men and materials to occupy a territory of hundreds of thousands of square miles and administer a population of many millions. Furthermore Goldie, who was self-willed and secretive, was coming to be regarded by politicians and civil servants alike with growing distrust.
With the Tories back in power the British Government's attitude to imperial responsibilities had in any case undergone a marked change. Its policy was no longer the purely negative one of keeping the French and Germans out of British spheres of influence with the least possible expense to the Exchequer. Now, with Chamberlain at the Colonial Office, there was a new drive towards the effective occupation of British Protectorates as a necessary preliminary to the suppression of abuses like slave-raiding and the development of potential wealth.
The days of the Royal Niger Company were therefore numbered. In 1897 the British Government, tired of having to rely on the Company's Constabulary to withstand the heavy pressure of the French in the Borgu area, decided to create the West African Frontier Force. In the following year they went further and made up their minds to revoke the Company's Charter and assume direct responsibility for the whole of the Niger Territories. These decisions were duly put into effect and on 1 January 1900 the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was brought into being. Sir Frederick Lugard, who had previously been Commandant of the Frontier Force, was appointed to the new post of High Commissioner.
On the surface Lugard appeared to be a typical product of his class and age, but in fact he was a most unusual man. He had been educated at a public school and then, after passing through Sandhurst, had gone into the army. Having spent his childhood in India, he had returned there as a young soldier and had fought in three frontier campaigns. Until he was thirty, in fact, his career had been completely conventional. At that point, however, a tempestuous love affair with a married woman had driven him oft this safe course and, after carrying him dangerously close to the shores of insanity, had cast him up, an emotional wreck, on the shores of Africa 1. There his first service had been in Nyasaland and Uganda. Then in 1894 he had been brought to West Africa to lead the Nikki Expedition and three years later had been appointed Commissioner and Commandant of the West African Frontier Force.
When Lugard became High Commissioner he was still only forty-two. For the past twelve years he had been trying to obliterate his unhappy memories by hard work and alleviate his earlier frustration through new achievements. At this period, therefore, he was a dynamic and ambitious man and a hard-driving and often ungracious master. Nevertheless, even when he was trying to exorcize his own private devils, he believed passionately in the importance of what he was doing and, at any rate in his lonely dedication to duty, was a man of the same stamp as Livingstone and Gordon.
The territory which Lugard took over in 1900 was a Protectorate only in name. Except in the neighbourhood of the two great rivers, there was no effective occupation or control. And even there Nupe had reasserted its independence when the Emir Abubakr had returned to his capital and ousted Goldie's nominee, while in llorin the Emir had resumed his attacks on the Yorubas and was disregarding all protests. In the north-west, Sultan Abdu had never asked for protection and had now become so hostile that he could not be expected either to submit or negotiate. In the north-east, Rabeh was equally determined to resist any further extension of European power.
A few months after the new Protectorate had been declared, war broke out in Ashanti. At this Lugard had to agree to half the Frontier Force, which now numbered about 2,500, being sent to the Gold Coast as reinforcements. Their absence not only compelled him to hold up the plans that he was maturing but also encouraged the Emirs of Nupe and Kontagora to resume slave-raiding in Kabba and Gwari. Although, as we shall see, there was urgent need for British intervention in Bornu, the audacity that the two Emirs were now showing convinced Lugard that his first action must be against them 2.
As soon as the troops returned from Ashanti, therefore, Lugard gave orders for an expedition to be prepared against Bida and Kontagora. Before taking this drastic step he made no attempt to get in touch with the Sultan or the Emir of Gwandu to find out whether they, as the suzerains, were willing or able to restrain their turbulent vassals. For this omission he is open to exactly the same criticism as Goldie in 1896-7.
In Kontagora the first Emir, Umaru Nagwamatse, had died in 1876 and been succeeded first by his eldest son and then, when he in turn had died in 1880 by another son called Ibrahim 3. This Ibrahim, a chip off the old block, had pursued the same policy as his father, continually harrying the pagans, particularly the Gwaris, and always looking for excuses to encroach upon the territory of his neighbour
In the 'eighties, when Umaru of the Bello House had been Sultan, Ibrahim had had to keep his depredations within bounds, but when his uncle Abdu had succeeded in Sokoto, he seems to have thrown off all restraint. He now divided his time between his capital, Kontagora, and the military camp which he had established on the Kano-Bida trade route. From this base he levied tribute on passing caravans and undertook slave-raids whenever it pleased him to do so. One of his major successes was the sack of Birnin Gwari and by 1894 he had already devastated the country for miles around and so disrupted and depopulated it that even food was unobtainable 4.
« In the course of our march from Kano to Bida, wrote a European traveller, we passed towns and villages, literally without number, which had been recently destroyed and their inhabitants sold as slaves 5.»
This description shows that under Abdu's disastrous rule parts of the Empire were sliding towards anarchy and it perhaps helps to explain why Lugard did not trouble to seek his help before taking military action.
Early in 1901 a column of the West African Frontier Force moved against Kontagora. Ibrahim barred its passage in front of his capital, but he was easily defeated and forced to flee. After his flight Lugard wrote to the Sultan to explain the action he had seen fit to take and to invite the Sultan to nominate a successor. But to this letter he received no reply.
From Kontagora the column marched on to Bida. The Emir Abubakr, Goldie's old adversary, offered no resistance but fled when the British approached. The town was therefore occupied with very little fighting. Without waiting to consult Sokoto or Gwandu about the succession, Lugard restored the Emir Muhammadu to the throne on which Goldie had placed him four years earlier. At the same time he presented him with a letter of appointment setting out the conditions on which he held his office.
When Lugard returned to his capital at Lokoja he left British Residents behind in both Bida and Kontagora, which thus became the headquarters of two new Provinces in the Protectorate. To all intents and purposes, therefore, they had ceased to he parts of the Fulani Empire.
Although the problems of Bornu still demanded urgent attention, Lugard now began to think that he must settle accounts with Adamawa before sending an expedition to Chad. In this he was influenced by the fact that river transport provided easily the best means of reaching Yola and that September was the only time of the year when the larger steamers could operate so far up-stream. Consequently, if he did not catch the flood of 1901 it would mean waiting another year.
Relations between the British and the Fulani of Adamawa had never been good. As early as 1885 a wooden hulk had been towed up to Yola to serve as a base for the Company's operations, but in the face of opposition from Sanda, who was then Emir, the venture had withered and been abandoned. In 1890 Sanda had died and been succeeded by Zubeiru, who had soon allowed the trading-hulk to return to Yola. Moreover, in 1893 he had entered into a treaty with the Company, agreeing to accept a subsidy, and four years later this agreement had been reaffirmed and slightly amplified 6.
In spite of these treaties, however, relations between the Company and the Fulani had not improved. To some extent they had been wilfully damaged by the intrigues of the French adventurer Mizon, but the main cause of the trouble had lain in the character of Zubeiru himself who, though a man of great courage and considerable ability, was proud, suspicious, and bigoted 7.
In 1897, soon after renewing the treaty with the Company, Zubeiru had received letters from the Sultan calling on him to expel the Company's agents from Adamawa as a reprisal for the attacks on Bida and Ilorin 8. Although he had not complied with the order at the time, Zubeiru had afterwards become more suspicious and intolerant than ever. Faced by this intransigence, and fortified in his resolve by reports about Zubeiru's raids against his pagan neighbours and his continued dealings in slaves, Lugard came to the conclusion that he must settle accounts with Adamawa without further delay. In reaching this decision he was no doubt influenced by the thought that a hostile and unsubdued Adamawa would constitute a serious threat to the long lines of communications of any expeditions which might be sent against Bornu.
The Yola Expedition was fitted out in the rainy season of 1901 Wallace of the Niger Company, who had become Lugard's Deputy, sailed with it to take charge of political negotiations. The steamers reached Yola in early September and, as Zubeiru refused to parley, the troops were put ashore. They occupied the town without much difficulty, but were challenged in front of the Emir's palace. This was protected by a high wall and was defended by Zubeiru's personal bodyguard, who were reinforced by sixty veterans of Rabeh's army and supported by the two cannon which Mizon had presented to the Emir some years before 9. After a stiff fight, in which the British forces suffered about 40 casualties and the Fulani 150, the palace was taken by storm 10.
When Yola fell Zubeiru succeeded in making his escape and fled across the border to Marua in the German Cameroons. On his way there he wrote this letter to the Sultan.
I write to tell you of the terrible disaster which has befallen us. The Christians have made war on us. We were warned but paid no heed … and now we have been brought down by them. They have seized Yola but have not occupied the districts. Nor have they taken me because I made good my escape. I am now three days march from Yola, seeking a dry place in which to rest until the rains cease…
I shall not stoop to double-dealing between you and the Christians. By God and the Prophet, my allegiance is to you…. Even if all my towns are taken from me I shall never submit to the Unbelievers. The Prophet declared that he who dwelt with the Unbeliever should be numbered among them… Peace be on him who adheres to the faith. 11
At about the same time Zubeiru sent the following message to the people of Yola and two other towns.
I shall return and we shall drive out the Unbelievers. But if they prove too strong for us you must leave Yola and follow me to a new country. The Koran forbids you to consort with Unbelievers…. They wish to take our country. Have no dealings with them 12.
These letters show the stern, uncompromising stuff that Zubeiru was made of. The exhortation to abandon house and home rather than submit to Christian domination is particularly interesting and we shall encounter it again. Among the bulk of the people of Adamawa, however, it evoked no response.
Even so, Zubeiru was not yet finished. Across the border he roused the Fulani to an attack on the German force which had occupied Garua. They were heavily defeated, however, and soon afterwards the Germans launched a counterattack on Zubeiru's followers in Marua. There the Fulani showed that the fanatical courage they had displayed in the jihad was not by any means dead. Though opposed by machine guns, some 400 of Zubeiru's Sikirri, who had vowed to conquer or die, fought to the last man round his standard 13.
After this disaster Zubeiru, who had again evaded capture, managed to preserve his liberty for another year in the hilly country along the border between Northern Nigeria and the Cameroons. In the end, however, early in 1903, he succumbed to the poisoned arrows of the pagans whom he had so long harried 14.
Meanwhile, in Yola the British had installed Zubeiru's younger brother, Bobbo Ahmadu, as the new Emir. At the same time Adamawa had been proclaimed a Province in the Protectorate and a Resident had been appointed to take charge of it. One more Emirate had thus been lost to the Empire.
While these events were taking place along the Niger and Benue Rivers, there had been important developments in the Chad region.
Just before the end of the century the French, in pursuit of a grand design to stake out claims to the whole of the interior of West Africa, had launched three separate expeditions from North Africa, the Congo, and Senegal with orders to march on Lake Chad and join forces there. Early in 1900 these three columns had duly made their rendezvous. Soon afterwards they had brought Rabeh to battle at Kusseri, on the River Logone, and won a crushing victory in which Rabeh had been killed 15.
When Rabeh had marched out to meet the French he had left his son, Fadr Allah, in charge of Dikwa with Hayatu as his second-in-command. By this time Hayatu had lost faith in Rabeh and he now planned to desert, but his wife, Hauwa, betrayed the plot to her brother, Fadr Allah. When Hayatu and his followers slipped away, therefore, they were pursued and overtaken by Fadr Allah with a superior force of cavalry. In the battle that followed Hayatu was soon killed. Once again, however, the Fulani displayed their courage and devotion, for they refused to abandon the body of their leader and one hundred of them, fought round him and perished to the last man 16.
As for Fadr Allah, when Rabeh was defeated and killed at Kusseri, he abandoned Dikwa and led the garrison and the remnants of the army westward into Bornu. As he was now in the British sphere of influence, the French were precluded from following him. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he sent a message to Lugard asking to be taken under British protection.
These events put Lugard in a dilemma. He was loath to recognize a man who had so recently been at war with another European nation, but he was not sure whether there was anyone else capable of ruling Bornu. Moreover, he was afraid that if the whole region dissolved into chaos, as it might easily do, the French would use the danger of anarchy as an excuse for stepping in and occupying Bornu themselves 17.
But Lugard, as we have seen, could not move into Bornu in 1900, because half the troops were in Ashanti, nor yet in 1901 because of the necessity of securing his base and southern flank by first subduing Kontagora, Nupe, and Adamawa. During the interval Fadr Allah, after recruiting his strength, began to raid and harry the French across the border. This provoked them into retaliation and, late in 1901, a French column pursued him into British territory and killed him at Gujba.
The French intervention made the effective occupation of Bornu absolutely imperative. A strong force had already been assembled at Ibi, on the Benue, in anticipation of this need, and early in 1902 Lugard dispatched it to Chad with orders to march through Bauchi and deal with that Emirate on the way.
In Bauchi the Emir Umaru had planned to fight, but when he saw the strength of the British column his discretion overcame his valour and he took to flight. Wallace, who was representing Lugard, thereupon consulted the Electors and, on their advice, appointed Umaru's cousin Muhammadu to succeed him 18. But once again there was no consultation with the Sultan either about the deposition of one Emir or the appointment of the other.
After leaving Bauchi, Wallace's column crossed the Upper Gongola and entered what had previously been the northern part of Gombe Emirate but was now the independent territory of Mallam Jibrilla. Near Tongo it was almost ambushed by Jibrilla's force, which consisted of 100 horse and about 600 foot, but the attack was beaten off and the enemy routed. In the ensuing pursuit Jibrilla, now an elderly man, was captured and sent down to Lokoja 19.
The Emir of Gombe, Umaru, who had already made submission to the British and who was in fact riding with the column 20, was then formally recognized as the ruler of the Emirate and had his lost domains, including the town of Burmi, restored to him. Because Jibrilla had been captured, it was mistakenly assumed that Burmi was no longer a danger and so no further action was taken against its inhabitants. This was an omission that the British were soon to regret.
Having dealt with Jibrilla and settled Gombe, the column marched on into Bornu. After nearly ten years of war the Kanuri people were so impoverished and exhausted that they welcomed the prospect of security and peace which the British brought with them. Bukar Garbai, a great-grandson of El-Kanemi, was formally installed and accepted the conditions of his appointment without demur. Because of the accidents of history, therefore, the ancient kingdom of Bornu, which in other circumstances might have been expected to resist European domination as vigorously as Sokoto, now submitted itself willingly to the yoke.
It was to be expected that the Emirs who had been ousted by the British would sooner or later make their way to Sokoto. Zubeiru of Adamawa would probably have done so if he had not been killed, but Nupe and Bauchi seem to have taken refuge in Kano 21 and to have made no effort to go any farther. This was bad enough, but Kontagora's conduct was positively disruptive.
After the loss of his Emirate, Sarkin Sudan Ibrahim established himself near Fatika in Zaria Emirate. It happened that at that time the Emir of Zaria, Kwasau, was not only on bad terms with the Sultan, who had not favoured his election in the first place 22, but was also at feud with Sarkin Zamfara Umaru dan Mamudu, the ruler of the great fief of Zurmi in eastern Sokoto. Now this Umaru was an old ally of Sarkin Sudan's in expeditions against the Gwari 23 and so Sarkin Sudan took his side against the Emir of Zaria, or at any rate used his ally's feud as a licence for indiscriminate attacks on Zaria's neighbouring towns and villages. The result was that in the latter part of 1901 a minor civil war developed in Zaria Emirate between the forces of the Emir on one side and those of Sarkin Sudan and Sarkin Zamfara on the other. The Emir succeeded in shifting Sarkin Sudan from Fatika to Kaya but failed to drive him out altogether 24. In the meantime his people were suffering so severely that early in 1902 he determined to call for help.
In Sokoto, Abdu was now in his seventy-third year and nearing the end of his life. Senility seems to have overtaken him because, while his Empire was disintegrating around him, he sat in his capital and concerned himself chiefly in keeping out local traders, particularly Yorubas, whom he imagined to be agents sent by the British to spy out the land 25. Apart from some rather ineffective remonstrances, however, he had done nothing to restrain his nephew Ibrahim and Umaru dan Mamudu from ravaging northern Zaria. It was therefore natural for the Emir of Zaria to conclude that there was no help to be had from him. Instead he appealed to Lugard who, having moved his headquarters from Lokoja to Jebba and then from Jebba to Zungeru, was by this time in a much better position than before to help him.
Early in 1902, in response to this appeal, Lugard sent a company of Mounted Infantry against Sarkin Sudan. They advanced so rapidly that they took him completely by surprise. Although he was surrounded by his own people in his war-camp, he offered little resistance and was hauled off into captivity. At the same time a garrison was established near Zaria city and a Resident was appointed to take charge of this new Province of the Protectorate.
For Sokoto and Gwandu the past twelve months had brought one disaster after another, each more damaging than the last. First Kontagora and Nupe had been vanquished and their Emirs driven into exile. Next Adamawa had been occupied and the Lamido had become a hunted fugitive. After that Bauchi had capitulated without a struggle and had supinely accepted the new Emir appointed by the High Commissioner. Then, worse still, the Emir of Gombe had allied himself to the British and accepted at their hands the restoration of the lost provinces which, in the previous decade, his rightful suzerains had made no effort to recover for him. And finally, worst of all, the Emir of Zaria had ignored the Sultan and voluntarily delivered up his Emirate to the occupation of the British.
When Lugard had sent a message to Sokoto after the capture of Kontagora and the occupation of Bida, Abdu had not deigned to answer. But in May 1902, moved no doubt by the series of disasters for which he considered the British responsible, he at last brought himself to reply 26. Unlike his other acts of intransigence had a certain defiant grandeur:
From us to you. Know that I do not consent to any of your people dwelling among us. I myself shall never be reconciled to you, nor shall I permit any further dealings with you. Henceforth there shall be no exchanges between us save those between Moslems and Unbelievers-Holy War as the Almighty has enjoined on us. There is neither authority nor power save in God on high 27.
1. Margery Perham, Lugard: The Years of Adventure, London, 1956, pp. 59-73.
2. Annual Reports, Northern Nigeria, 1900-11, p. 11.
3. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 11. Ibrahim is often referred to as Nagwamatse, but this is incorrect as the nickname was his father's, not his.
4. Robinson, op. cit. pp. 232-42.
5. Ibid. p. 131.
6. Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 49.
7. Gazetteer of Yola Province, pp. 20-22.
8. Kirk-Greene, op. cit, p. 49.
9. Gazetteer of Yola Province, pp. 21-22.
10. Kirk-Greene, op. cit. pp. 57-58.
11. Backwell, op. cit. cf. Letter, no. 112.
12. Cf. Kirk-Greene, op. cit. p. 59.
13. Gazetteer of Yola Province, p. 22
15. Gentil, op. cit.
16. Alexander, op. cit. pp. 203-4.
17. Annual Reports, Northern Nigeria, 1900-11, pp. 63-68.
18. Gazetteer of Bauchi Province, pp. 11-12.
19. Annual Reports, Northern Nigeria, 1900-11, pp. 65-66.
20. Gazetteer of Bauchi Province, p. 14.
21. Confirmed by Alhaji Junaidu.
22. M. G. Smith, op. cit. pp. 193-4.
23. Gazetteer of Kontagora Province, p. 11. Confirmed by Alhaji Junaidu.
24. Edges, op. cit. vol. I, pp. 191-4.
25. Ibid. vol. II, part II, no. 15.
26. Annual Reports, Northern Nigeria, 1900-11, pp. 82 and 159.
27. As the original of this letter has not been preserved, its authenticity has been called in question. See D. J. M. Muffett, Concerning Brave Captains, London, 1964, pp. 42-51. This possibility and Lugard's dealings with Sultan Abdu and his successor are examined more closely in Appendix III.