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Zamfara Kingdom

Zamfara was very little known to Europeans. Zamfara Kingdom was established in the 11th century and flourished up to 16th century as a city-state. It extends up to the bend of River Rima to the north west and River Ka in the south west with its capitals previously in Dutsi, Birnin Zamfara -destroyed by the Gobir Kingdom – and after which a new capital was established in Anka by the second half of the 19th century.

The region of Zamfara bordering eastward upon Zegzeg was inhabited by a most base and rusticall people. Their fields abounded with rice, mill, and cotton. The inhabitants were tall in stature and extremely blacke, their visages broad, and their dispositions most savage and brutish. Yargoje (a Queen that once ruled Zamfara) was a powerful queen sometimes at par with Queen Amina of Zazzau. She reigned between 1310 and 1350 during which she moved the capital of Zamfara from Dutsi to Kuyambana. The ruins of her palace where she used to hold court is still visible in Kuyambana, a village 60km south of Gasua.

The State of Zamfara got its name from Zamfarawa. This is the traditional appellation by which the people of the old Zamfara Empire have been known and called for ages.Zamfara Kingdom was founded in the 11th century with Dutsi as its capital. By the first decade of the 16th century, Zamfara had become a flourishing dynasty under the Sarauta system with its borders extending from the River Ruma bend in the North to the River Ka in the Southwest. The king, known as the Sarkin Zamfara was the head of the Kingdom.

Many Kings and Queen reigned at Dutsi. They include Bakurukuru; Dakka; Kakai; Dudufaru and Yargoje. Queen Yargoje ascended the throne in 1310 and reigned up to 1350. She relocated the Capital of the kingdom from Dutsi to a more strategically suitable area at Kuyambana, a thick forest zone Southwest of Dutsi.

Yargoje was a very powerful ruler, her reign ushered in an era of peace and progress in the Kingdom. Yargoje’s lamp, a beautiful piece of indigenous technology is now one of the most prominent artifacts in the Sokoto State History Bureau Museum. The ruins of Yargoje’s Palace in still visible at Kuyambana in Dansadau District of Maru Local Government. Yargoje’s successors moved the capital once again from Kuyambana to Birnin Zamfara.

The Zamfara king was slain by Askia, and the people made themselves made tributarie. Askia the Great marched first against Katsena and took it in 1513. He also made himself master of Zaria and Zamfara — this last province being mentioned as especially rich in cotton and other crops — and proceeded to march against Kano and Gober. The conquest of Kano cost him a long siege, but both states fell to his arms, and were made tributary to Songhay.

Zamfara Kingdom was from the 15th Century one of the Kingdoms that made up the old Sokoto caliphate. The Kingdom extended from the River Rima Bend in the North down to River Ka in the South – West. By the first decade of the 16th Century Zamfara Kingdom had become a flourishing dynasty operating under the Sarauta System of Sarikin Zamfara. Its first capital was Sutsi. Many Kings and a Queen reigned at Dutsi. They included Bakurukuru; Dakka; Kakai – kakai; Dudufaru; Jatau and Queen Yargoji. Queen Yargoje ascended the throne in 1310 and reigned till 1350. She relocated the capital of the Kingdom from Dutsi to a more tragically defendable area at Kuyambana, a thickly forested zone to the South – West. This zone is today believed to be somewhere in Dansadau.

Yargoje was a very powerful ruler and her reign ushered in an era of peace and progress to the Kingdom. The remains of that dynasty is today a today a tourist attraction while her famous lamp, the Yargoje Lamp, is one of the prominent artifacts in the Sokoto State History Bureau Museum. Her immediate successor moved the capital once again to Birnin Zamfara.

The Hausa states wrestled for ascendancy among themselves for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the rise of Katsena in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Kano recovered in part from its prostration. But it was subjected to many indignities, and the end of the seventeenth century was marked by a war with the then rising power of Zamfara on the north-west, in which the troops of Kano were beaten with great slaughter at Argaye, and so utterly dispersed that few were able to find their way home.

Gobir, Katsina, Zamfara, Kano, Kebbi, and Zaria formed various alliances, but only Zamfara ceased to exist as an autonomous state, falling to Gobir in the eighteenth century. This powerful Kingdom collapsed when its capital, Birnin Zamfara was destroyed by the forces of Gobirawa in the second half of the 18th Century. This led to yet another relocation of the capital Southwards. It was temporarily based at different times at Kiyawa, Morai, Sabon-Gari and finally settled at Anka where a new permanent capital was built in the second half of the 19th century.

At the end of the eighteenth century the still pagan state of Gober had established a military ascendancy over the more northerly Mohammedan states of Hausaland. It had conquered Zamfara and subdued Kano. Katsina alone had been able successfully to resist its power. Katsena alone of the Haussa States was able to resist successfully the practised strength of this warlike state. Zamfara was subdued by it about the year 1750, and in Kano the century was chiefly occupied by a long conflict with varying results. Reign after reign had the same record of fighting with Gober, and sometimes success is recorded, sometimes defeat, till at last, about the middle of the century, Gober, under the leadership of the king Babari, who had established himself on the throne of Zamfara, triumphed over Kano. Yet the subjection was not complete.

Before the Jihad, Zamfara Kingdom was a power that was reckoned with in the socio-geographical settling of Hausa land. When the Jihad broke out in 1804, Zamfara became the base from which the Jihadist launched campaigns against both Gobir and Kebbi. The security available in Zamfara enhanced its significance and strategic importance in the appreciation of the Jihadist leader, Sheikh Shehu Usman Dan-Fodio (of blessed memory). So when he decided to escape from the constant harassment of Kebbi and Gobir, it was to Zamfara territory that he came with his followers. He moved to Sabon – Gari where Sarkin Zamfara Abarshi had already established a Garrison Headquarters. (Sabon – Gari is in present day Bakura District, Bakura local Government).

Inside the territory of Zamfara Empire of that period there were also in residence other tribes and ethnic settlements scattered all over the Empire, especially in Zurmi; Bungudu; jabaka (Maku District)and Jangeru (Isa Local Government); Katsinawa around the eastern border at Yandoto (Gusau District); Kotorkoshi, Kuhambana and Burmawa in Bakura District. These ethnic groups settled alongside the Zamfarawa and with time interacted freely and even inter-married.

The kingdom became part of the Sokoto Caliphate after the 1804 jihad by Usman dan Fodio. After the Jihad, some key lieutenants of Sheikh Shehu Usman Dan-Fodio were appointed to administer parts of the Kingdom and were given pleni-potentiary powers. The Alibawa Clan Head (Abu Hamid) was appointed as Sarkin Zamfara. He was deployed to Zurmi; Mallam Sambo Dan Ashafa as Sarkin Katsinan Gusau; ibrahim Dan Zundumi as the Srikin Fulani Bungudu; namoda as Sarkin Kiya wa based at Kaura namoda while the title of Bango was conferred on Dadi, an Adar Fulani residing in Maru. During that time, Zamfara remained very powerful in the history of western Sudan despite the political upheavals that occurred.

At the time the British occupied Sokoto, the Zamfara Empire was still viable as a distinct kingdom with the ruler, Sarkin Zamfara, at Anka and his viceroys at Talata Mafara, Bukkuyum and Gummi. By around 1900 there was a considerable trade, mostly in cattle and Asben salt, from the north-east (Gobir), through Zamfara (augmented in Zamfara by local cloth), towards Kano and Nupe. Difficulties of transport prevent the export of other produce. The wealth of the province consisted in its enormous herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Of the former there were probably 100,000 head.

During the colonial era, Zamfara was still regarded as semi-autonomous by successive administrations. This was the reason why an Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) was stationed at Gusau to take charge of the sub-treasury and other administrative zonal offices established in the town. The then Sokoto Native Authority (NA) established NA branch offices to supervise the administration of the zone. Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the first and only Premier of the defunct Northern region was deployed to Gusau in 1938 to head and supervise all the NA branch offices in Gusau. The house in which Ahmadu Bello resided, Gidan Sardauna, is still very much around at Kanwuri area of Gusau town. In 1962, the people of Zamfara as one Entity sought for a separate Native Authority. The issue was however buried for over 21years until it re-echoed in the second republic when people of Zamfara submitted, to the National Assembly a request for the creation of Zamfara State out of Sokoto State. After a struggle of over one and half decade, Zamfara State become a reality on the 1st of October, 1996.

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Page last modified: 12-02-2019 18:56:13 ZULU