Katsina Emirate In The Making Of Sokoto Caliphate – By M.T. Safana
KATSINA, it will be remembered, was one of the original Hausa States and had always been in the first flight. Its capital, with walls nearly eight miles in circumference, was an important centre in the trades of both the Sahara and the Sudan and its people were renowned throughout Hausaland for their learning.
When the jihad began in 1804, the Hausas of Katsina were probably not sorry to see the Gobirawa in difficulties. Certainly, although an appeal was made to them, they sent no help to Yunfa before the battle of Tabkin Kwatto. After the battle, however, they seem to have been quick to perceive that Shehu constituted a new force which might threaten them as well as Gobir. Yunfa pointed the moral in a letter which he wrote at this time to all his brother Chiefs. There had been a small fire in Gobir, he wrote, and because he had neglected to stamp it out, it had flared up and burnt him. Let them be warned by his experience.
Yunfa’s letter probably reached the Chief of Katsina before the conciliatory message which Shehu sent at about the same time. At any rate, when Shehu’s letter was brought to him he did not hesitate, as did the Chiefs of Kano and Zazzau, but simply tore it up. ‘Even so’, Bello wrote afterwards, ‘did God tear up his kingdom and his power.
In Katsina, as in other Hausa States, Yunfa’s message gave the signal for the outlawing of the reformers and the Fulani to begin. ‘When Sarkin Katsina heard what had happened to Sarkin Gobir he commanded his Chiefs to make war upon all who were allied to Shehu. Then the Katsina Chiefs combined to kill and capture them until our people came into the open and banded themselves together in large bodies and set to work to arm themselves.
Two such bodies fought their way westward in the late rains of 1804 and reached Shehu when he was making his way to southern Zamfara. They were the first important reinforcements to reach him, and must have been doubly welcome.
Meanwhile their comrades who had remained behind in Katsina and Daura had alarmed the Hausa Chiefs sufficiently to cause them to try to join forces with the Chief of Kano with the object of crushing the Fulani risings. Contingents led by Sarkin Katsina and Sarkin Daura actually set out for Kano, but found their way barred by strong Fulani forces under Dan Tunku, the future Emir of Kazaure, who defeated them and compelled them to turn back.
Among Shehu’s personal followers was a Fulani called Umaru Dallaji. He seems to have fought at Tabkin Kwatto and the other early battles of the jihad, but after the subjugation of Kebbi and the defection of Zamfara, that is to say in the middle of 1805, he was sent to take charge of operations in his native Katsina. His arrival, fortunately coincided with the defeat of the Hausas by Dan Tunku. He was therefore able to take the offensive straight away and capture many towns in the southern part of the State.
One of the places which did not fall to Umaru Dallaji was Yandoto, a town which had long been celebrated as a seat of learning.Its Mallams had never accepted Shehu’s teaching and since the start of the jihad they had been maintaining that he was in error and guilty of deceiving and misleading the people.In a war that was being fought on issues of religious principle such a centre of opposition was of course more dangerous than a hostile army. For the reformers it was therefore imperative that this strident voice of dissent should either be won over or else stifled. And so towards the end of 1805, as soon as Kebbi had been subdued again after the rising that followed the battle of Alwasa, Bello was dispatched to Katsina Laka, the southern part of the State, to deal with Yandoto and to reinforce and direct Umaru Dallaji’s operations.
With him Bello took Muhammadu Ashafa, a Fulani from this part of Katsina who had himself studied in Yandoto, but who had been expelled when he had declared for Shehu. When Bello arrived before the town he sent Muhammadu to the people with a message saying that he had not come with the intention of making war on them but in the hope of settling all differences by discussion. They spurned this overture, however, and refused either to see Bello or to listen to what he had to say. This rebuff proved too much for Bello’s patience and so, without further ado, he moved up his forces and took the town.
After this, still accompanied by Umaru Dallaji and Muhammadu Ashafa now with the support of another influential Fulani called and Muhammadu dan Alhaji, Bello went on to exploit his success. He captured many other Hausa towns and subdued a group of local Fulani who had been assisting the Hausa regime.
When southern Katsina (which at this time also included the Chafe-Gusau-Kanoma area) had been secured, Bello decided that the time had come for him to return to Shehu. He therefore presented flags to Umaru Dallaji and Muhammadu dan Alhaji, as symbols of their authority, and ordered them to move north, into the centre of the State, and attack Awai and Ranko, while Muharnmadu Ashafa remained in Katsina Laka to consolidate the territory that had already been won.
Ranko and Awai soon fell. The Hausas, under the Ubandawaki, launched a counter-attack against Ranko, but this was repulsed and they were compelled to fall back on the capital. The way was now open for the decisive blow.
But before any attempt was made to deliver it, another powerful ally was recruited to Shebu’s cause, namely Umaru Dumyawa, the Chief of the Sullubawa in Katsina. The Sullubawa, like the Toronkawa, were not pure Fulani but part Fulani and part Mandingo. They had come with the Fulani from Senegal, however, and they shared their outlook and way of life. Those settled in Gobir and Kebbi had already thrown in their lot with Shehu and now Umaru Dumyawa also took up arms. As his people were settled in the north of the State, which was still in the hands of the Hausas, his accession to the cause was of particular importance. He too was therefore rewarded with a flag.
In the dry season of 1806-7, while Muhammadu Ashafa held the south and Umaru Dumyawa the north, Umaru Dallaji and Muhammadu dan Alhaji closed in on the capital.
Soon afterwards Muhammadu dan Alhaji died. Umaru Dallaji intensified the pressure, however, and at last forced the Hausas to come out and fight in the open. In the ensuing battle the Fulani were completely victorious, the Hausa Chief being killed and his army forced to yield up the city and fall back on Dankama in the north.
The capture of Katsina was a major success, but in neighbouring Gobir and Zamfara the war was far from over. Soon afterwards, therefore, Umaru Dallaji went off to help Namoda, the leader of the Zamfara Fulani, in the task of containing Alkalawa. It was probably during his absence that the Katsina Hausas, under their new Chief, Magajin Halidu, launched a surprise counter-attack and recaptured the city.
The Hausas, however, lacked the strength to exploit this unexpected success, or even to hold Katsina, and they fell back to Dankama. There, soon afterwards, they were attacked by Umaru Dallaji, who had come hurrying back from Alkalawa accompanied by the Zamfara Fulani under Namoda, and by a contingent sent up from Kano. This combined force defeated the Hausas and took the town. Among those who were killed was the new Chief, who either fell in the fighting or, as some say, committed suicide by jumping down a well.
After the victory at Dankama, Shehu recognized Umaru Dallaji as the first Fulani Emir of Katsina. There remained, however, the problem of how to find suitable fiefs for the families of the other two flag-holders. It was solved by a compromise which, if it did not satisfy everyone, at least kept the peace and prevented the Emirate from being broken up. Aihaji’s flag had been inherited by his son, Mamman Dikko. He was now appointed warden of the western marches and given the title of Yandaka. Furthermore, though he was expected to accept the local leadership of the new Emir, he was nevertheless allowed to do homage in Sokoto instead of Katsina and the appointment of his successors was retained in the hands of the Sultans of Sokoto and not delegated to the Emirs of Katsina. The other flag-bearer, Umaru Dumyawa, who was still alive, was given the title of Sarkin Sullubawa and accorded similar privileges. This solution had the effect of circumscribing the power of the Emirs of Katsina and consequently their rule never became as autocratic as those of some of the other Emirs.
The early victory in Katsina played-an important part in the jihad and particularly in the decisive struggle against Gobir. First of all it convinced waverers everywhere that Shehu’s supporters were really capable of winning the-war. Secondly, as already described, it isolated Gobir from the other Hausa States and cut off any prospect of help coming from them or from Bomu. Thirdly, it helped Namoda to complete the pacification of eastern Zamfara. Finally, it released important forces with the result that both the Katsina contingent under Umaru Dallaji and the Zamfara contingent under Namoda were able to take part in the final siege and storming of Alkalawa.
On the Hausa side the great mass of the peasantry had probably taken little part in the war and they now accepted the new régime without protest. For the ruling classes, however, it was a different story. It was they, with their slaves and feudal levies, who had persecuted the reformers and then taken the field against them. During the war they had first been driven back into the city and then forced to flee the country altogether. As soon as they had gone, the victors, who were mainly Fulani, were free to take possession of their houses and step into the public deices which they had occupied. This process went on all over the Emirate, in the villages and hamlets as well as the towns, and it explains why the seizure of power was so thorough and far-reaching.
As for the Hausa diehards, though defeated and driven into exile, they were by no means finished. After the death of Magajin Halidu, they appointed Dan Kasuwa to be their Chief. Under him they had at first to fall back on the neighbouring State of Damagaram, but they rallied later and established themselves round Maradi in what had previously been the northern corner of their kingdom. This foothold they managed to retain for the rest of the century and when they had recovered some of their former strength they became a most painful thorn in the side of the Fulani.
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