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The Background and Demography of the Study

The city of Kano has been famed to be one of the most advanced cities in pre-colonial Northern Nigeria, being probably the largest urban centre in Sudanic West Africa in the nineteenth century (jihad), oral traditions of its origins suggest that it was founded between A.D. 1000 and 1200 during which period centralized political authority evolved.  The oral tradition is based on the legendary Bayagida.2

According to the Bayajida legend of the traditions of origin of the Hausa states, one Bayajida fled from Baghdad to Kanem-Bornu, a state in the Chad basin.  The Mai of Bornu gave Bayajida his daughter in marriage but deprived him of his follower.  Bayojida in a cautious move fled from the Mai for fear of the Mai’s intentions towards him.  Bayojida traveled westward but left his wife at Biran-ta Gabbas to bear him a son before stopping at Gaya near Kano.  At Gaya, Bayajida met some blacksmiths who made a knife for him to his specifications.  With this knife Bayajida delivered a people that had been oppressed and deprived of water from a well by a sacred snake called “Sarki”, by killing the snake.  Daura the queen of the place married him for his bravery and also gave him a Gwari concubine.  By Daura, Bayajida had a son called Bawo.  One of the traditions had it that Bawo had seven children who became founders of the Hausa States Hausa Bakwai.  These were Biram and Daura, the oldest; Katsina and Zaria, twins; Kano and Rano, twins; and Gabir, the youngest.  Whether these were names of persons or places is not certain, however in almost all Hausa traditions Biram and Daura are considered to be the earliest settlement of the Hausa people in their present location.  These states were independent of each other but were bound by language and culture.

According to traditions the earliest inhabitants of Kano were the Abagiyawa, borne by few Kano blacksmiths.  The Abagiyawa have it that one of their ancestors, a smith called Kano came from Gaya in search of iron stone and charcoal and settled at Dala hill.  The Abagiyawa also practiced the arts of medicine, beer-brewing, archery, drumming and dancing including smithing.  They were organized in local patrilinear groups each with its own head and distinguished by some special trait or skill.  Among the Abagiyawa was a man called Barbushe, the hunter priest of a local deity.  Barbushe had influence and power among the people of Kano of his day.  In subsequent time several immigrant groups arrived in Kano; one of them was led by a man called Bagauda and overwhelmed the Abagiyawa and settled at Sheme in Kano.  Probably among these immigrants were the men of the Bayajida invasion and the legendary seven children of Bawo, one of whom was called Kano.  The name Kano was ascripted to two different ancestors, this in a way describes the complete assimilation and identification achieved between the newcomers and the earlier inhabitants.

From the Kano chronicle the city wall of Kano was built in the twelfth century  and was inaugurated in the reign of Gijinmasu (1095 – 1134).  The walls were later completed by his son and successor, YisaTsaraki (1136 – 94).

The early forms of social and political organizations in Hausaland were centred round the ‘birni’, the walled or stockaded town; as distinct from the ‘gari’ or kauyi’, the village or hamlet.  The community in the birni was self-sufficient and was united by trade, industry and engaged in agriculture.  In the times of wars or other conflicts, the ‘birni’ could support its inhabitants from siege and neighbouring hamlets could take refuge within the walls.  The gradual expansion of a birni into a Hausa state took the form of absorption or subjugation of outlying territory, population and power.  The expanding ‘birni’ developed from a village to a city town and its head – the sarki, changed from a village to a city chief with an elaborate court and official hierarchy.  The other neighbouring ‘birni’ became subordinate to it.  The earliest Hausa states were small in size and had limited sphere of influence being within a radius of only a few days’ march from the capital.6

The political and social order in Hausa states had underlying support from religion, which closely integrated and regulated the societies with ritual sanction and forms.  In Kano, Barbushe and other senior lineage heads exercised ritual jurisdiction and leadership over the Abagiyawa.  The priest – king, town and royal deities, symbols and taboos were spiritual bonds which reinforced political unity.

Islam and Its Impact In Kano

Kano being at the centre of the trans-Saharan trade was influenced by the activities of the traders from North Africa.  Islam came through these traders to Hausaland in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  Islam became the religion of the ruling classes in the fifteenth century and onwards and had the consequences of altering the political and social institutions of the Hausa people.  The Sarki became more powerful but these were generally checked and limited by his central council composed of the chief ministers and territorial officials who were acting in advisory capacity but were not to be ignored.

The village or district head was in-charge of judicial affairs in his district in the early times.  The king sat in his compound in the capital with the SarkinFada (chief official of the household) and others to listen to grievances.  But if the matter was of great importance, and serious like in murder cases, the councilors were consulted.9

With Islam adopted in the Hausa states and Muslim system of justice gradually adopted, separation between the executive and judiciary was evident.  Though the king, as head of state and supreme judge, he exercised judicial functions in some matters with the advice of the chief Alkali and other legal experts.  Matters of major importance that concerned land and the king’s political position, serious cases of murder and manslaughter were subject to the King’s final revision.

The Alkali carried out a sole judicial function by administering the Maliki code.  The administration of law in a Muslim state required not merely a knowledge of local customs but on intimate knowledge of the sharia.  The Alkalis were professional magistrates who were generally learned in the law and had access to libraries containing the works of eminent jurists.  Occasionally, there was also a traveling judge which decisions were also subject to revision by the chief Alkali.  In the smaller villages the judicial authority was commonly the village head but minor offences could of course be dealt with by the heads of wards and families.11

The system of taxation and revenue collection developed from the ancient tribute in grain and other local products with the adoption of Islam.  These elaborate system of taxes and dues included the ‘Zakat’, a tax on available income authorized by the Qu’ran for cheritable purposes,’ ‘janguli’ paid on livestock, the ‘kharaji or land tax.  There were taxes on professions, paid by craftsmen, butchers, dyers, prostitutes, dancing girls and others.  Dues were paid on luxury crops, such as tobacco, onions and sugar cane.  Tolls were paid by caravans and fees on markets.12

The Muslim law sanctioned these taxes and dues but the taxation system was abused by corrupt officials.  The methods for assessment of these taxes were done arbitrary which resulted in the extension of people’s resources.  These abuses of the taxation system robbed it of its religious sanctions.  And these abuses were part of the reasons the leaders of the nineteenth century Jihads struck.

Islam with its long history in the Hausa states had become an integral part of the people’s way of life.  The institutions in Kano and other Hausa states were influenced and patterned on Islamic modern – the political, legal, judicial and the social life of the people.  Islam transformed the Hausa states by giving them advantages in that, Islam provided a written language; Arabic, a literate and learned administrative class and a bond of union, a common ideology that cut across other groups.  Islam was a powerful factor in nation-building in western Sudan states, like Kano.

The revival of Islam in Kano and other Hausa states in the nineteenth century  Jihads brought about new political and cultural unities and new impetus in commercial activities linking western Sudan with the south and gradually replaced the declining trans-Saharan trade.

The greatest influence on the socio-political evolution and organization in Kano was Islam.  The introduction of the Emirate system of government and the sharia legal system to Kano greatly transformed the socio-political organization of Kano state.16

The Nature and Demography of Kano State

Kano developed into a cosmopolitan city even before colonialism.  Colonialism only expanded its cosmopolitan frontiers because it opened the city to migrants from southern Nigeria, principally the Igbo and Yoruba.  Prior to colonialism, Kano was a large urban settlement which had an estimate of 75,000 in the sixteenth century and was organized into 74 quarters by 1851.

The quarters were divided into areas which made up Kano city.  One of the divides was the ‘birni’, the walled city and traditionally called the holy city.  This ‘birni’ has over the years being the exclusive reserve for Kano indigenes and other Hausa.  The other divide was the ‘waje’, the outside city where non-indigenes lived in their quarters and groups.  Nassarawa and SabonGari became parts of the ‘waje’ and quartered Europeans and southern Nigerians and other non-Islamic migrants respectively.  These territorial divisions provide an insight into the structure of relations between Kano peoples and other people or strangers, a structure which was maintained in the colonial period.  Kano being a major commercial and Islamic centre, attracted a lot of foreigners and these foreigners were quartered outside the walled city.  The practice of quartering foreigners outside the walled city has been from the beginning.  The practice was successfully implemented because of the fact that the Emir was the only one who had authority to allocate land and quarters.

The major reason for setting migrants outside the walled city was to prevent the pollution of Islam by strangers and foreigners who were known as ‘kaffirs’ (unbelievers or infidel).18  The colonial authorities followed the line of this reasoning to continue the policy of quarterization and this led to the establishment of SabonGari.Although, Kano continued as a commercial and Islamic centre during the period of colonial rule.  Colonialism was to transform the commercial and political orientation of northern Nigeria, of which Kano is a part, away from the Trans-Saharan Trade to a trade which linked it to the southern and coastal ports.

The cosmopolitan outlook of present day Kano, took root during the mass movement of Nigerians from other parts, especially the south into Kano after the colonization of the country was completed.  Even, with the influx of migrants into Kano in the colonial period, and the new laws introduced by the colonial authorities, quartering remained as a policy which saw foreigners being quartered outside the walled city.

The mass movements by southern Nigerians were made possible by the opening up of upland towns like Kano through the development and expansion of transportation systems, specially road and rail transport both affordable means of mass transit.  The Lagos – Kano railway line was completed in 1911, while the Port-Harcourt – Kano line was completed in 1926.19With the development of the ports in Lagos and Port-Harcourt, these lines linked Kano to the commercial and administrative nerve centres of the country.  Rural – Urban and urban-urban migrations were facilitated by these linkages.  The development of infrastructure in the 1920s completed the integration of the national economy which resulted to the mass migrations to the north.

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