Ben Hausa Ali – White Playing Hausa With Arabs

BREAKING News: Boko Haram Leader, Abubakar Shekau Claims ...THE MEMOIRS OF ABD-ALLAH AL-GHADEMISI OF KANO, 1903-1908.
By MUHAMMAD SANI UMAR AND JOHN HUNWICK, in: Sudanic Africa, 7, 1996, 61-96

These native servants are the quintessence of loyalty, and devotion, and as time goes on, I am to find out that without them Nigeria would have been untenable by the white man. – F.P. Crozier, Five Years Hard, London 1932, 72-3.

Some time in 1902 a young man named Abd-Allah arrived in Kano, ‘from the north’, presumably from Ghadames. We know nothing of the circumstances of his arrival, or of his ancestry. The document translated below is currently our only source of information on him. In it he describes himself as a ‘student’, but it is not clear in what sense he uses that term. There is no indication that he came to Kano to study, but we know that some years later he was acting as a clerk for his paternal uncles in Kano, who were evidently merchants.

Abd-Allah al-Ghadamisi arrived in Kano some eight months before the British conquest of Kano in early 1903. Thereafter we know nothing until late 1907 or early 1908 when he responded to a call by C.L. Temple for an assistant who knew both Arabic and Hausa to work with him. This was at a time when Temple was preparing to go on leave. Evidently between his arrival in 1902 and 1908 when he began his appointment, al-Ghadamisi had acquired fluency in Hausa. Indeed, his Arabic style betrays traits that are attributable to interference from Hausa, as will be discussed in the commentary on his document.

His position in Temple’s entourage did not last long. He was alarmed by Temple’s apparent brutality towards his retainers, and fled his service. Not long after he entered the service of H.R. Palmer, who was at this time engaged in rural tax assessment in Kano. As we learn from the second part of his memoirs (to be published in the next issue of Sudanic Africa), Palmer evidently treated him very differently,
and al-Ghadamisi’s praise for him is fulsome. He is no doubt the ‘young Arab’ whom Palmer refers to in the introduction to his translation of the ‘Kano Chronicle’, as being in his employ and able to read and write colloquial Tripoli and Ghadamsi Arabic.2

It is not clear why he chose to write his memoirs; possibly Palmer encouraged him to do so. It is also not clear what he did after Palmer went on leave to England. He probably returned to his service, since the sole known copy of his memoirs has survived in Palmer’s papers. They were evidently on very good terms. In fact, al-Ghadamisi was originally scheduled to travel to England with Palmer on leave, but
having got as far as Lagos, decided he could not face the long sea voyage. [?!] His memoirs are interesting for the picture they give of the Kano response to the British threat and the eventual conquest, and add to the growing literature of Nigerian memoirs of the colonial period. In a sense it is an insider’s view, yet at the same time it is an outsider’s view in as much as al-Ghadamisi was not a Kano native, not even a Hausa.

[The Arabic text published here is taken from the only known copy of the work, presumably in the author’s hand, in the Palmer Papers preserved in the Nigerian National Museum (photocopy in NU/Paden, 176).]


A man—a student (tilmıdh) called Abd-Allah al-Ghadamisi —came to a town which is called Kano, which is the land of the Südan, from North Africa during the time of its emir Ali b. Abd-Allah al-Fallati.23 He stayed for eight months and then there befell in those days a troublesome piece of news. Alı, the emir of the land, was alarmed by that news, but kept that secret and did not tell anyone about it. When fear entered him he gathered all his officers (umara), those of the city and of the countryside.

When they were gathered before him he said to them: ‘Know, O people, that I am intending to journey to Sokoto. Let those of you who are under my command and in obedience to me bestir themselves to travel with me.’ As a result, he gathered all of his commanders and officials and those who had anything to do / with his court and broadcast to them the news that he was journeying to Sokoto to visit his fathers and grandfathers.24

They remained two months or more after that making themselves ready. When the time for travel approached, Emir Alı summoned his agent, the sarkin shanu [ ]25 and advised him. The emir said to him: ‘O sarkin shanu, the time for travel has come, that is to say, I wish to travel to Sokoto to visit our fathers and grandfathers, and you, I have put this land in your charge, its urban and its rural areas, and all its district heads (aqyal). This is my house[hold] which I put in your hands. I have made it a trust in your charge, so protect this trust to the utmost degree. I have ordered ma’aji Uthman26 to assist you in protecting the city together with the Arab community, the people of Ghadames and Tripoli. If anything happens to you / in the city or if enemies come from any direction, act in concert and with one mind, and take counsel with the Arab community so they may assist you with advice.’

After this emir Alı called ma’aji Uthman and spoke to him saying: ‘O ma’aji Uthman, be aware that I am travelling to visit [my] ancestors in Sokoto, and I have placed you and the sarkin shanu in charge of this land. If anything happens to you in the city or you receive news of enemies from any quarter, act in concert with the community [of Arabs]27 who are living in this city, since we share this city with them. We have family and dependents and slaves and they have dependents and property and slaves. [Motive for this epistel. NBP] If anything happens in the city, seek them out for advice, for they are people of sound opinion. Therefore do not disdain their opinion. Now I am intending to go. If God Most High so ordains, / I shall leave from here on 4 Shawwal.28 As for Kofar Kansakali, that is the western gate, do not close it, on account of sending messages between us.’29

Then emir Alı of Kano said to his aforementioned slave, that is the sarkin shanu: ‘You are my agent, you are my deputy. Whatever happens in this city after our departure, inform us about it in a letter, and do not let messengers from you and ma’aji Uthman cease coming to us. As for the affairs of sharia, they will be in [the hand of] qadı [ ],30 and the affairs of the city, these shall be in your two hands, you and ma’aji. If God decrees for us this journey, and we travel to Sokoto, and God Most High returns us [to Kano] safely, and I find you prospering and I see that you have undertaken all that I counselled you to do, I will do something for you which will please you both with something which shall be a better compensation, for God Most High has mentioned in the Noble Qur’an: “Is the recompense of goodness, anything other than goodness?”31 / —may our Lord unite us again with you at a blessed moment.’

Then after that emir Ali of Kano went forth on 4 Shawwal, and together with his entire retinue made up of his commanders, his officials, his bodyguard (shura†a’),32 and his army which he raised here in the Südan, for they know nothing about standing armies, since they are non-Arabs.

Twenty-six days after they left Kano,33 news came from a westerly direction that the English turawa34 had reached Kano from the direction of Zaria. On first entering the land of Kano they found a village called B˙b˙ji,35 and they sacked it and killed the headman (arıf)36 known as sarkin Fulani B˙b˙ji. When news reached the aforementioned sarkin shanu he informed ma’aji Uthman, and told him of all the news he had been given to hear, to the effect that the English turawa had entered the land of Kano and had entered B˙b˙ji and killed its emir, the sarkin Fulani.

When / ma’aji Uthman heard that news he sent his messenger to the Arab community resident in Kano city. When they were assembled before him he informed them what had happened based on what he had heard of the fearful news. Then he said to them: ‘What advice [have you] and what strategy for this affair?’ They said to him: ‘Be aware, O ma’aji, that we are strangers in this land. We have no advice about anything, nor any strategy for this matter. It is simply that if they came intending to make war on us and caught us in our houses, we would fight them in defence of our possessions and our lives, in accordance with what [the Prophet], may God bless him and grant him salvation, said: “Whoever dies defending his property dies as a martyr to it; and whoever dies defending his person dies a martyr to it”. We have nothing to say beyond that.’

Then ma’aji Uthman said to them: ‘Understand my words and be aware that our Emir Ali, when he left here, commended you to us, saying that if anything occurred in the city’s affairs or there was news of enemies, we should consult with you and not disdain your opinion / since we share together with you in this city, having half of it each. In sum, listen to my words now. We want you to help us and to aid the sultan to defend his country against the enemies.’ They said to him: ‘Ma’aji, release us to go off to our houses’. So the ma’aji released them, and he saw no sign of any sort of help from them. So they returned to their houses and in the evening a messenger went back to them summoning them.

They all assembled once again before ma’aji Uthman, and he said to them: ‘O people, what is your opinion about this matter?’ They said: ‘We accept whatever God shall do with us’. Then he said to them: ‘If God brings us to morning safe and sound, attend all of you with your slaves before the city wall, and you shall find me at B˙b˙ji gate, so we shall see what God will do with us’. They said: ‘We hear what you say. May our Lord give us victory over them, for He is the best of victors.’ Then ma’aji Uthman sent his messenger to Sokoto with a letter informing the emir / of what had happened in the city of Kano since his departure.

The next day, Tuesday,37 in the morning, some of the Arabs rode with their slaves and went towards the city gate and stopped by the wall inside the gate, with their weapons in their hands accompanied by their retainers (ghilman). Shortly afterwards we saw the men who had ridden out with ma’aji Uthman galloping on their horses, having turned tail and fled. They reached their houses in disorder and in great fright, since they had witnessed something the like of which they had never before seen in this world, and they were extremely scared. After they returned to their houses they were joined by their fellow citizens who had stayed behind and they asked them what the story was.

They said: ‘We saw something that would drive rabbits from their lairs’. Their fellow citizens said: / ‘What makes you say that?’ They said: ‘Yes, it is true, for we saw something which would drive us out of this city on this very day’. Their fellow citizens said: ‘What is the thing that you saw that so scared you?’ They said: ‘We witnessed the English Christians. We saw them with our very eyes with their soldiers entering this land, and with a mighty noise, that is rigimar in Hausa,38 from firearms and artillery (madafi), and their soldiers were too numerous to be counted. Yes, these are the terrors we witnessed beneath the city wall.’

Shortly afterwards we were in the city and we heard guns being fired, the gun called mai ruwa.39 When they fired it the first time they broke the city gate. Then they fired a second time and the gatekeeper’s house was smashed at once.40 The shell (al-qunbula), that is arßas in Hausa,41 pierced the body of the gatekeeper and he died instantly.’

When the Arabs heard this account they said: ‘O Lord, protect us from the evils of this day. God is sufficient for us; how fine a guardian is He.’ They then scattered, each one to his house, and went in, bolted the door and ascended to the roof. Shortly afterwards the turawa entered the centre of Kano city. When they entered they and their soldiers made for the emir’s palace. When they reached the palace they entered by ºofar Kudu,42 and their commander was called mai kwagiri.43 They went inside the palace and found a man standing at the door with a drawn sword in his hand.

They did not know who he was, but he was the sarkin shanu who had been put in charge of the emir’s palace and his family whom he had left with him in the city. When the bature mai kwagiri saw him he shot him in the chest with his gun, and the sarkin shanu fell down dead on the spot, like the one who died the previous day.44 They entered the Emir’s palace, together with their soldiers with the porters / behind them carrying their boxes and provisions. When they entered the palace they found no one except the women and children. They made camp at that house, in the midst of the palace of Alı, the emir of Kano.45

Then in the evening at about 3 o’clock they sent their the Kawbuga gate in the same manner. In the end a party of soldiers messenger to mai unguwa Malam Na-Marwa,46 saying to him: ‘We the turawa came to this city today, and we want you, O mai unguwa Malam Na-Marwa, to inform the Arab community who are resident in this city that they should all assemble before us, leaving no one behind at home either young or old, free or slave. Let us see them all responding to us and to our desire.’ The aforementioned mai unguwa called on them and informed them of what he had been sent to say [?] and they said: ‘We hear and obey’. And these people assembled and went to the presence of the turawa, who were encamped at the gate of the Emir’s palace.

As for the student who has been recounting this story, he did not go with them for fear of the turawa, lest he be killed. Yes, when the Arab community went towards the turawa they met them at the gate of the emir’s palace. They were a great company sitting on chairs in rows, with their chief in the middle of them. When the Arab community presented themselves to the turawa, they brought them close and sat them down in a place in front of them.47 The chief of the turawa called for his interpreter—we do not know his name—and made him stand before him saying: ‘Ask this company if this is all the Arabs resident in this city’. The interpreter asked them about what the turawa wanted to know. They said: ‘This is how we are in this city. We left no one at home but wives and children.’48

The interpreter relayed what they said to the chief of the turawa, who listened and was silent for a while. Then he said to the interpreter: / ‘Tell these people: “You are strangers in this land and no harm shall come to you. We did not come here on your account, or on any one else’s account. You do not know the reason why we came. Do you have any knowledge of that?”’ They said: ‘No, O Sultan, we are merchants, and we only came here on account of commerce. We know nothing of government.’

Then he said to them: ‘Be aware, O Arabs, that our coming has a reason and a cause. We were in the west, and we had a brother bature called Maylawni,49 a senior man among us who stayed in a town called Kafin Yamüsa. Do you know it?’ They said: ‘We have heard of it’. ‘Yes, indeed our aforementioned brother came to this land to its emir magaji Δan Yamüsa under safe-conduct, and stayed with him (jalasa mafiahu) so they might help one another. One day our late / brother was off guard, having been taken in by the safe-conduct and the pact which they had agreed upon with magaji Δan Yamüsa. He did not know that slanderers had entered in between them. Suddenly the magaji entered upon our late brother and killed him in cold blood without [his] having committed any fault. Our brother died, a victim of unjust homicide. The magaji Δan Yamüsa fled and came to the emir of Kano Alı and the latter gave him shelter and honoured him most highly, giving him horses, slaves, money and a house. He honoured him to the fullest extent.50

We heard this information from people about what emir Alı did for the one who wronged us and freely shed the blood of our brother. Our hearts were seared and we were extremely saddened by this. Then we resolved and desired to come here hoping to catch emir Alı with his friend the magaji. We reached here and did not find them. However, O Arabs, I had no information that emir Alı had travelled to Sokoto. I swear to you, O Arabs, had we been certain and sure that the emir was not here in this city we would not have come here. I swear to you with a threefold oath,51 we received intelligence whilst on our way to this city that the emir had travelled towards Sokoto. I did not give credence to this intelligence. Had I been convinced of it I would have gone to where he was. We only came here because of him and his close friend the magaji. Put your minds at rest regarding us. Do not fear or be downcast. Nothing shall befall you from us, nor should you be frightened.’

Then they said: ‘Now we are going to make for where emir Ali and the magaji are. If you have buying and selling to do with your business associates, pursue your occupations in security and peace of mind. But now we desire from you something which is a matter of effort. We have some corn (dhurra), which is the staple food of our people and we want you to grind it for us of your own free will and in good faith, not under duress.’ They said: ‘We hear and obey. We welcome you and what you have brought.’ Then they brought out for them seventy sacks, that is buhu in Hausa, and ordered the porters to take them to the houses of the Arabs, and they did so.

Then the Arabs divided it up among their families who were in their houses and told them to grind that corn. So the families began to grind it in the early evening, and the sky had scarcely grown dark when it was ground and ready. They brought together all that ground flour and sent word to the turawa camp (˛adra) informing them that the flour of the corn flour was ready.52 So they sent the porters and they carried that flour and took it to their camp. Two days later they sent another two hundred sacks and also told them to grind it. They ground it for them in a single night. Then they sent their messenger with the porters who carried off the ground flour and took it to their camp. The turawa were extremely pleased and thanked them very much.

After that the turawa decided to go in search of the emir of Kano Alı and his friend magaji Δan Yamüsa. They went off with their senior ranks (a’l-kibar minhum) and left the remainder of the soldiers to guard the city. They went towards Sokoto. According to the news we heard, the turawa when they left Kano, entered Dajin Rubin and there came across the Kano officers returning to their land from Sokoto. When the two parties met—their leader was Wazir Amadu, a brother of emir Alı—they skirmished with the turawa at their first encounter but none of them was hurt.

The Kano people fought back and there was a battle between them. Within an hour the turawa army defeated them and broke their ranks and they scattered in that wilderness. The turawa broke them up one by one, and they took to their heels and fled. When the turawa saw that they had scattered in the wilderness they abandoned them and let them go, and continued on to Sokoto.53 The Kano officers returned and made for their houses in Kano. When they got close to the city of Kano the turawa came out to meet them at Kofar Kansakali (a Hausa word), led by a Kano man called Awta. When they reached the city gate, [the turawa] came out of the walled city and waited for about an hour.

When those officials came to enter the city they stopped them at the gate and took away all their weapons. This incident occurred in winter at mid-morning time. When they had taken away whatever weapons they had they left them and gave them permission to enter, on the understanding that everyone would go to his house, and this they did. Their leader at the time was wambai Abbas.54 After that the turawa went off to their quarters and they summoned the Arab community and gave them a consultation (mushawara), that is to say [presented them with] a choice (ikhtiyar) of who is most fitted for the office of emir among the sons of Abd-Allah.55 The Arabs said to them: ‘The one most deserving of it is wambai Abbas. He is the best of them, since the most senior among them, that is the wazir A˛mad, is dead.’ The British replied: ‘Yes, indeed’. Later they asked the elders of Kano, and their choice was similar to the choice of the first group.

We now return to the account of the turawa who left Kano making for Sokoto after parting company with those Kano officers in that wilderness. When they entered the territory of Sokoto they joined up with their fellow turawa / who were residing in the town of Argungu which is one of the districts of Sokoto.56 Having met up, they together made for Sokoto on Saturday evening. The battle between them began and lasted until sunset, and each group spent the night where it was.

When God brought in the morning they returned to the spot of the previous day and fought—that is the turawa and the people of Sokoto. Within a short while the Sokoto people with their emir, who was al-Tahir Abdu, were defeated, and some were killed while others fled. The Commander of the Faithful took flight from their midst and their wazir called [ ].57 Everyone made his own way in flight without turning towards his fellow man. The wazir made for the north and the emir made for the east. They all scattered in different directions, and the turawa entered Sokoto city and set about reassuring people with gentle words.58

They would say to people: ‘Remain in your houses and do not be afraid of us at all. Stay in security, the fight is over, so do not be scared or upset. Be at ease, no harm shall come to you.’ They began to reassure them with words until people felt secure. Then after that a bature called Governor Wallace came,59 and the body of Sokoto officers assembled and made peace with them and they were content with it. As for the sarkin musulmi,60 he was not among them, for he had fled, having lied and out of ignorance claimed that he was able to make war on God’s People whom God Most High had sent with justice and whom God had made his vicegerents on His earth. They did not realise that [which came] from God, because of their ignorance and lies until they saw God’s judgment executed before their very eyes.

As for the emir of Kano Alı b. Abd-Allah al-Fallatı whose name we mentioned previously, according to what we heard in accounts about him (min khabarihi), when he was sitting on the throne of his kingdom, one day a messenger came called Baban Kano. He came from Lokoja and in his hand was a letter from Adamu Jakada.61 When the messenger came he entered upon the emir of Kano Alı and greeted him and handed over to him the letter which the emir took from him and opened it and read it silently in front of his assembly. What he saw in the letter was:

‘From Adamu, messenger (jakada) of the Christians: peace. To the emir of Kano Alı b. Abd-Allah, after greetings, this is the messenger Baba Kano. I have sent him to you with this letter and he is to inform you orally. However, be aware, O emir, that the English turawa are coming to you. This is inevitable and unstoppable, so be prudent and look to your affairs. If you say that you can fight them, then arise and wake yourself from sleep and make ready. If you consider that you are not able to fight them, then submit to them and ask them for safe-conduct in humility and with good words and a generous gift, so that you may obtain wellbeing for yourself and for all of your people and your household. I have counselled you for God’s sake. If you will agree to my counsel then—God be praised— nothing shall befall you. If not, then I shall not counsel you again.’

When Alı read that letter in his council before his officers he did not disclose anything to them, but concealed what he had heard from Jakada. Then he turned to the messenger and said: ‘Be aware, O Baba Kano, that I shall not submit to the Christians, nor shall I ask safe-conduct from them. Rather I shall do battle with them if they come to us here in our land.’

He said these words openly before the assembly, but in secret it was not like that, for in his heart he had / determined upon flight and he hid that from his council. From that day forth he began to prepare himself for travel to Sokoto. Then he readied himself and made for Sokoto so that the turawa should not catch him in Kano city, and he intended to flee. When they reached Sokoto they stayed a few days, then went off to the east of Sokoto intending to return to their land of Kano. When they reached the land of Zamfara they entered a town called Gidan Goga62 and stayed there with their emir Alı. After the sunset prayer Emir Alı went out from that house [where he was staying] and sat by the door of the house in the antechamber (dihlız)63 with a small group, since it was the first part of the night.

Suddenly there came his wife called Kubura upon her horse [accompanied by] retainers. When she reached the door of the house she entered into the antechamber. Her husband Alı saw her and recognized her / and stood up and went inside. He said to her: ‘What’s wrong with you Kubura? What is the news?’ She said: ‘O Emir, the Christians have entered your abode and have looted your city and settled themselves in the centre of your palace, the dependents (al-iyal) have scattered and they have shattered your kingdom’.

He said: ‘There is no god but God. When did this happen?’ She said to him: ‘Thirty days after you left’. Then he said to her: ‘What strategem is there, what plan?’ She said to him: ‘If you desire to escape with your life, then flee from here and do not go to Kano. Be aware that he who flees escapes. After we left that city we heard that [the turawa] had come out searching for you. Since we left Kano we have known neither day nor night, but have travelled day and night so we might find you and inform you of what happened after you left.’

When Alı heard these words from her he was perplexed and the matter troubled him, / so he consulted her about flight. She said to him: ‘Flee in order to save yourself from the evil of your enemies. Fleeing is better for you than humiliation.’ So he rose in the middle of the night and prepared himself and those of his dependents who were with him in his camp (hadra). He raised his standards above his riding beasts (rafa’a alatahu fawq al-baha’im) and took along his family with him and made off with them in the direction of Gobir.

As for the rest of his party, when God ushered in the morning they rode their horses and came to the door of their emir, but did not find him in the house. They asked news of him, since when he fled his party had no information. People said to them: ‘Alı has fled during the night’. The wazir said: ‘What is the evidence for that?’ He was told: ‘His wife Kubura arrived here yesterday and told him that the Christians had entered Kano and plundered it and had made camp in his house’. Then the wazir Amadu said: ‘There is no might or strength save in God. / To God we belong and to Him shall we return. Where did this man go? He has caused us disgrace. Why did he flee?’

Then the wazir Ahmad gathered all his fellow men and informed them of what had happened, and what their brother [the emir] had done. They said to him: ‘We are under your orders in obedience to God and to you. We delegate matters to you, so see what you think for you are the senior among us, so get us back to our homes in Kano.’ Then the wazir said to them: ‘Let every one of you ride his horse and let us make for our houses in Kano’. They said: ‘We follow you’. Then they departed to return to Kano.

We return to the story of wambai Abbas. When people chose him in preference to his peers he was appointed to the emirship by the Christians. They made him emir of the people of Kano, and he became emir on a Friday in the evening. The people of Kano rejoiced and celebrated and beat drums for seven days. After he acceded to office the governor in Dungurum summoned him and he and his officers and officials travelled to Dungurum. When they reached Zungeru they went to be received by the governor. TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: HAUSA PEOPLE: AFRICA`S LARGEST ...He spoke to the emir and thanked him and expressed pleasure at his coming. He gave him an increase in rank. Then he released him and the emir returned to Kano and undertook the government of his emirate.


23 Alı, known in Hausa as Aliyu Babba, became the sixth emir of Kano in 1894 at age thirty-six. On his reign, and in general on the events described in the present document, see Adamu Mohammed Fika, The Kano Civil War and British Over-Rule, 1882-1940, Ibadan 1978. See also Paul Lovejoy et alii, ‘C.L. Temple’s “Notes on the History of Kano” [1909]: a lost chronicle on political office’, Sudanic Africa, 4, 1993, 7-76.
24 Amır al-mu’ minın Abd al-Rahman b. Abı Bakr Atıq died in 1902, and al-Tahir, a grandson of Atıq was appointed. The various views on the reason for Emir Alı’s visit to Sokoto just before the British attack on Kano are discussed in the commentary.
25 A blank space is left in the original. The office of sarkin shanu, literally ‘lord of the cows’ is one of the highest-ranking palace offices in Kano.
26 The ma’aji is the official in charge of the treasury.
27 Since the phrasing here parallels the wording of the charge given to the sarkin shanu, it is to be presumed that the writer merely omitted the words ‘of Arabs’ by an oversight.[?]
28 Apparently 4 Shawwal 1320, corresponding to 3 January 1903.
29 Kofar Kansakali— ‘the Gate of the Sword’—is close to Dalla Hill at the western edge of the perimeter which encloses the city itself and extensive agricultural lands. On the walls and gates of Kano, see H.L.B. Moody, The Walls and Gates of Kano City, n.p. [Lagos]: Department of Antiquities, n.d.; idem, ‘The walls and gates of Kano City: historical and documentary references’, Kano Studies, iii, 1967, 12-26; idem, ‘Ganuwa—the walls of Kano city’, Nigeria Magazine, xcii, 1967, 19-38 and Bawuro M. Barkindo, ‘The Gates of Kano City. A Historical Survey’ in B.M.Barkindo (ed.), Studies in the History of Kano, Ibadan 1983, 1-30.
30 A blank space is left in the original.
31 Q 55:60.
32 Hausa: dogarai.
33 That is, on 30 Shawwal/29 January 1903.
34 That is, ‘fair-skinned, white persons’, a Hausa term for Europeans and Arabs. This term and its singular, bature, are used throughout al-Ghadamisı’s memoir for the British, and have been retained as
such in the translation.
35 A small town about thirty miles south-west of Kano, and evidently regarded as a border town for Kano emirate in this direction.
36 The author’s terminology is inconsistent, first referring to sarkin Fulani as arıf and then as amır.
37 The following day, 1 Dhü ’l-Qafida, was a Friday.
38 The author gives Hausa glosses for some terms, indicating this by a word or phrase such as ‘fiajam’ or ‘bi’l-fiajami’.
39 The Maxim gun, a machine gun cooled by water (ruwa).
40 In fact, a considerable shelling of the Zaria (Dukawuya) gate by 75 mm artillery failed to open it up, and an assault was then made on had to use ladders and scale the wall to effect an entry. See Richard H. Dusgate, The Conquest of Northern Nigeria, London 1985,179.
41 Hausa: arsas,‘bullet’, from Arabic al-raßaß, ‘lead, bullet’. The Arabic qunbula means ‘bomb, shell’. Since the Hausa had no experience of artillery shells, they had no specialized term for them, and hence the writer glosses with the word for bullet.
42 That is, the south gate.
43 Literally, ‘the one with a cane’. A cane or swagger-stick was part of the formal dress of a British military officer.
44 That is, sarkin Fulani B˙b˙ji.
45 Crozier remarks that the Emir’s palace was ‘big enough to accomodate the whole expedition in comfort’, see Five Years Hard, 139.
46 The title mai unguwa means ‘ward head’. The name Na-Marwa probably indicates that he came from Marwa, a village about 10 miles south-east of Zaria.
47 Some sort of meeting between the British officers and the Arab community seems confirmed by Crozier’s casual remark (speaking of the days immediately following the fall of Kano): ‘We chat with
Arabs and while away the time…’, see Crozier, op. cit., 141.
48 Arabic: al-awlad wa’l-ßibyan. The word awlad normally means ‘children’, but here it is probably metonymy for ‘wives’.
49 That is, Captain Moloney, who was murdered in Keffi. The magajin Keffi fled to Kano, thus provided a perfect excuse to attack the city, as is to be seen from what follows.
50 Maimaina Jega, a retainer of magaji Δan Yanmusa, witnessed this event, and accompanied the magaji to Kano. Sixty years later he recounted his experience to D.J.M. Muffett who recorded it in his Concerning Brave Captains: Being a History of the British Occupation of Kano and Sokoto, and the Last Stand of the Fulani Forces, London: Andre Deutsch 1964, 63-8.
51 This is a typical Arabic formula—wa’llahi, bi’llahi ta’llahi—for asserting the truth of a statement, and no doubt comes down through a double translation for emphasis, rather than representing in any literal way what a British officer might have said.
52 Literally ‘had been found’.
53 Cf. Maimina Jega’s account in Muffett, Concerning Brave Captains, 117-37.
54 Emir Alı’s brother and soon to be installed as emir himself by the British. The title wambai is given to the heir apparent in Kano, and in seniority he is fourth after the emir, the galadima and the madaki.
55 That is, the sons of emir Abd Allah b. Ibrahım Dabo (reg. 1855-1882).
56 Argungu was the capital of Kebbi, and was not a district of Sokoto.
57 Left blank in the manuscript. The wazir was Muhammad al-Bukharı, who later negotiated the surrender of Sokoto to the British.
58 Cf. Jega’s account in Muffett, Concerning Brave Captains, 144 ff.
59 William Wallace was not a ‘governor’. A former Agent-General of the Royal Niger Company, he had been appointed Deputy High Commissioner when the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was proclaimed on 1 January 1900. The High Commissioner was Brig.-Gen. Frederick D. Lugard.
60 The Hausa equivalent of the Arabic amır al-mu’minın.
61 Adamu Jakada (‘the courier’) was from a wealthy Agalawa trading family. He received an advanced Islamic education and became a teacher before entering the service of the Royal Niger Company in the 1880s and eventually became a political officer. For a while after the British conquest he was employed by emir Abbas as a broker between the emir and the British, but was relieved of his post in 1907. Thereafter his fortunes varied, and he made a fortune and lost it. He died in 1943. See Philip A. Afeadie, ‘Adamu Jakada’s intelligence reports, 1899-1901’, Sudanic Africa, 5, 1994, 185-224.
62 Birnin Goga.
63 Dihlız is the Arabic translation of the Hausa zaure, a circular entrance chamber leading to the main courtyard of a house. Teachers often hold their classes in the zaure.




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