Hausa/Fulani Pre-colonial Political Administration

Pre- colonial political administration in Hausaland
Fulani took over the political leadership of Hausa states in the early 19th century. After the great Jihad war (1804-1810) led by Usman Dan Fodio, the former fourteen Hausa states were merged and then divided into two caliphates.

 

The eastern caliphate (which included states like Yola, Gombe, Kano, Zaria and Katsina) had Sokoto as its capital while the western caliphate (including Ilorin, Argungun and Kontagora) had Gwandu as its capital.

Usman Dan Fodio became the head (Sarkin Muslim) of the whole Hausa land while the control of Sokoto (eastern caliphate) and Gwandu (western caliphate) went to Bello, Usman Dan Fodio’s son and Abdullah, Usman Dan Fodio’s brother respectively.

Furthermore, the Sokoto and Gwandu caliphates were subdivided into emirates for easy administration. Each emirate was headed by an Emir who was appointed from two or three ruling families with the approval of the Emir of Sokoto or Gwandu, depending on the emirate the selection was made. These lesser Emirs were responsible to the Emirs of Sokoto and Gwandu respectively.

However, in each emirate, the Emir was assisted by some officials who were assigned to certain duties. These officials were:

  1. Waziri who was the administrative officer or prime minister;
  2. Galadima who was in charge of the capitals;
  3. Madawaki who was the commander of the army;
  4. Dogari who was the head of the police;
  5. Maaji – the treasurer;
  6. Sarkin Ruwa – the river fishing official;
  7. Sarkin Fada – who was responsible for the administration of the palace;
  8. Sarkin Pawa – the head of all butchers.

In the Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial political administration, these officials who were appointed by the Emir were consulted in running the affairs of the emirate.

This is similar to the Yoruba political administration. But unlike a Yoruba king, power was centralised in the hands of the Emir who had absolute control over these officials and could depose any of them at his will.

Each emirate was further divided into districts which was headed by an official known as Hakimi. The Hakimi was appointed by the Emir to oversee the affairs of each district which included maintaining peace and order and collection of taxes like Jangali (cattle tax), Jizyah (land tax) and Zakat. The Hakimi was however assisted in carrying out these functions by the village heads whom he appointed himself.

The judicial administration of Hausaland was based on Sharia law which covered a wide range of issues like marriage, divorce, theft, murder, debt and so on. These laws were interpreted by the Alkali judges in the Alkali courts.

Each emirate could have more than one Alkali court depending on its size. However, issues that were not covered by the Sharia law were transferred to the Emir court where the Emir could preside over such issues.

The Emir must be careful in making his laws or judgments as they must not go against the will of Islam religion which was the main practice of the people in Hausa land.

For example, the Emir could not legalise the drinking of alcohol in the emirate. Therefore, the legislative powers of the land can be said to be solely wielded by the Emir in accordance to the religion of Islam.

The Hausa/Fulani pre-colonial political administration was a highly centralised one with the Emir possessing almost all the powers. This was one of the main reasons why the Indirect Rule System was very successful in the Northern part of Nigeria (Hausa/Fulani empire).

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References:

  1. Teslim Opemipo Omipidan. Pre-colonial Systems in Nigeria. highlifextra.
  2. C. C. Dibie; Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools; 3rd edition; Lagos; Tonad Publishers; 2008
  3. E. Ola Abiola. (May 1974). A Textbook Of West African History.