The city wall called Ganuwar Birnin Katsina, the remains of which could still be seen in some places around the city, was build in the 15th century. Based on the oral information, construction was started during the reign of Sarkin Katsina Ali Murabus (1436 – 1462) and was completed by Sarkin Katsina Ibrahim Maje (1531 – 1590). The pattern of walling was prevalent and the same all over Hausa land, so Katsina is no exception. The wall was built with mud and burn bricks (Tubal). Water for the construction of the walls was obtained from the nearby streams. The height probably reached up to 50 feet and 25 feet deep. The ditch was occasionally filled with thorn bushes to impede the movement of enemy troops attempting assaults.
The city walls were constructed by well-organized societies that could mobilize enough manpower to undertake such demand task. This was so because most of the work from the beginning to the end was manual and the mass of material needed much handwork. The size and elaborateness of the walls therefore depended on the size of the population under the control of the King and his eligibility and power to mobilize those all over his Kingdom for the work. Materials for the city walls construction differed from one area to another and from time to time. The important determining factor for materials used was the availability of the materials. In some areas like Surname in present Kebbi State, stones were used throughout in the construction of the wall. In Katsina, Kano, Bauchi and Zaria, the early walls were built of mud.
Later, the people realized the short durability of the mud alone and began to employ relatively durable materials to enable the builders to increase the height and thickness of the walls most of which are tapered The walls were constructed with several gates that leads to the ancient city which includes:- Kofar Durbi, Kofar Marusa, Kofar Guga, Kofar Kwaya, Kofar Sauri, Kofar Kaura and monumental gate called Kofar ‘Yandaka where Sir Fredrick Lord Luggard the then Governor-General of Nigeria entered Katsina through this gate in the year 1903.
Security is the most important function of the wall in the city. That is why some of the cities are located in the areas with extensive fertile lands, iron deposit, charcoal making trees for smelting iron etc. These areas have to be jealously guarded. The walls represented a collective will for defence due to the sensitive awareness of the misery of war. It enables the inhabitants to cultivate their crops and herd their animals safely especially during the period of conflict also accommodate people of the rural areas in time when enemies struck nearby. The walls also helped the inhabitants to interact freely since they constituted a community brought together by common need.
Lawal Muntari Gawo,
National Museum, Bauchi