Feudalism In Northern Nigeria: Limping On One Leg

The Oasis Reporters

May 21, 2019

Emir Sanusi, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje (right). Not the best of times for the traditional  institution.
By Col. Gora Dauda (rtd)

Feudalism has been an institutionalized system in Northern Nigeria well before the arrival of the mercantilist colonialists. This oppressive and repressive system was doing well before the arrival of Usman Dan Fodio to Gobir where he first set camp in 1804. It is still a subject for further investigation as to whether Dan Fodio was an evangelizing islamist or just a power monger. He studied the situation existing in Gobir at the time from both the religious and political standpoints.

Realising how brutish Yumfa and his local administrators were and the fact that the dictates of the religion were not fully observed, he saw his opportunity assuring the local people of his desire to purify the religion. The local people quickly yielded their support and the existing administration was overthrown. If Dan Fodio was concerned only with purifying the Islamic faith, what took him to supplanting the entire setup and imposing his Fulani kinsmen as the new rulers? Why did he not replace Yumfa with another indigene of Gobir?

After Gobir, his mix of foreign and local jihadists as he called them moved on to much of what was then the northern part of present day Nigeria. Wherever the so-called jihadists overthrew the local Hausa Habe/Maguzawa leadership, Dan Fodio quickly appointed a new Fulani leadership over the local population as happened in Kano, Zaria and other Hausa States of that period.

For a truth, the new Fulani leadership was not really concerned with restoring the tenets of Islam, they were and have always been concerned with holding political power through the notorious Emirate system.

When the British colonizers arrived in the later part of the 19th Century and having put under the littoral areas of what is now Nigeria, they moved into the hinterland. Realising how vast the hinterland was and given that they did not have the manpower to put new areas under their control, they discovered that the Emirate system had taken hold and they quickly negotiated to administer through the Emirs in what they called Indirect Rule starting from 1900. Indirect rule provided for the Emirs retaining much of their previous powers but reporting to the District Officers (DOs) who were all whites. At the receiving end of Indirect rule were the myriad of ethnic nationalities in the north who could never get to meeting the Emirs as they were swept under a feudal carpet because they were mainly pagans or animists. Since they could hardly see the Emirs how could they possibly see the DOs? Whatever report about these pagans was passed on to the DOs by the Emir was factual since the DOs had no other way or means of getting to the truth or otherwise. The very brutish repression aside, the feudal system made sure they shielded the ethnic nationalities from direct contact with the colonizers. If any contact at all, it was through the Missionaries who were concerned with winning converts for the Christian faith. The only areas where the missionaries could find expression were only those that the feudal interest did not look in their direction or were not interested in. If head counts were organized for whatever purpose, the DOs accepted whatever figures were received from the Emirs simply on account of the fact that they were not Muslims.

The ethnic nationalities of Northern Nigeria have suffered from foreign colonialism by the British but when their time was up, they handed the people into another phase of internal colonialism under the brutish Emirate system.

I am witness to how thoroughly brutish this system was because my grandfather, uncle and father were tools in the hands if this oppressive system. They were essentially used for tax collection as well as organizing other requirements for the Native Authority as they were called at the time. I saw with my eyes how peasant farmers who could hardly feed themselves were led to prison or their poor harvest and or livestock auctioned at ridiculous prices to meet up as little as 2 shillings sixpence. At that time when food was in short supply, during visits by the feudal district heads or Emirs the peasant farmers were forced to provide corn which they would have used to feed their families which was then fed to horses. If your community was not Muslim, you were most unlikely to see any government presence.

Is anybody still wondering why in the whole of what is now Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State there was only one Senior Primary School in Kachia which was later upgraded to the only government Secondary School at that time and which happens to be my alma mater?

But for Christian evangelizing activities this part of the State would have been terribly disadvantaged but even so. The period of Military rule did make the difference as more schools were set up even if it meant forcefully seizing and converting Mission Schools to public schools without adequate compensation.

Except for a few enclaves of Jaba, Kagoro and Marwa, the whole of Southern Kaduna was under the Emir of Zaria (Zazzau).. The late General Hassan Usman Katsina inspired the loosening of the feudal grip or better still strangle hold on some of the ethnic nationalities of Southern Kaduna. This was followed up by General Jaafaru Issa as Military Administrator when he created more chiefdoms. The administration of Ahmed Makarfi created more Chiefdoms for our people so they can freely express themselves within their own milieu.

.The reversible and revisionist present government in the 21st Century has embarked on a dubious agenda by creating new Emirate to cater for or advance the interest of his adopted Fulani people even in areas that are dominated by Christians. If he must know, our people have been enjoying their hard won freedom and no 21 Century dictator can take us back to servitude. The tectonic events in the old Kano Emirate are sending shock waves in most of the feudal north. I thought that this should and ought to be the spark for other oppressed people to awaken from their slumber to take their rightful place. It is for the Hausa Habe/Maguzawa to insists on recovering their positions usurped by Dan Fodio and the so-called jihadist from the foothills of the Futa Djalon Hills in Guinea.

By far the greatest undoing to the feudal empire in the North remains the 1999 Presidential Constitution which technically quarantined this archaic institution to their palaces as it did not assign any roles to them. What is happening is indicative of the obvious fact that the feudal empire has contracted the flu.

Written by Col. Gora Dauda (rtd)

He writes from Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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