The Fulani Attack’s And The Coming Of The El-kanemi Dynasty

The Fulani Attack’s And The Coming Of The El-kanemi Dynasty was a story not many historian can give account of.

The success of Uthman Dan Fodio’s forces Against the Gobir authorities induced his fulani kinsmen in borno to ride in revolt. Fulani uprising in borno first erupted in the western provinces over which the Galadima presided.

By 1805 , the Fulani led by Bi Adur and Sambo , had received a flag from sokoto. Shortly thereafter , they succeeded in taking Hadejia and other western part of the empire soon , the Galadima was expelled from Nguru .

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In the south too , two fulani mallams , Goni Mukhtar and al-Bukhari led their kinsmen against the ruler of Deya. In the west , the Fulani were defeated.

But the battle in the south ended in Fulani favour . It was then that the sokoto authorities declared their support for the Fulani movement in Borno .

In 1808, Goni Mukhtar led his men to sack Ngazargamu , the borno capital. Much of the Borno territories in the West and in the south soon fell to the Fulani . Mai Ahmed , aged , blind and infirm , now abdicated for his son , Dunama , whose main purpose was to deal with the Fulani menace. To this end , Dunama soon engaged the services of one Muhammed Al Amin ( Later El-kanemi ) , then living in Ngala , south of lake chad . ( El-kanemi had established his reputation as a learned mallam and a capable military leader who had beaten back several attacks launched by the Fulani Against his community.) With support of El-kanemi and his forces , the Borno were able to recapture Ngazargamu . Dunama was this restored to his capital . Then El-kanemi returned to Ngala , bearing gifts of money , cattle and slaves from the Mai .

In 1809 , , the Fulani took Ngazargamu again , sending Dunama into exile once more . Once again , El-kanemi came to the rescue. But this time , he requested for and obtained  a Fief in Nguru before matching against the Fulani . However , after another Fulani threat and now routine El-kanemi rescue operation , Dunama finally abandoned his capital and established an itinerant base in the eastern provinces which had spared the Fulani ravages.

Dunama’s inability to check the Fulani and , worse , his increasing reliance on El-kanemi , irked his leading chiefs , most of whom had in any case opposed his accession since it was it customary for a new Mai to emerge when his predecessor was still alive. Eventually , Dunama was ousted and replaced by his uncle , Muhammed Ngieruma .

The new Mai quickly reactivated the sefawa court by building a new capital at birni kafela , close enough to El-kanemi base in Ngumo. Ngileruma’s deliberate proximity to El-kanemi’s base is a pionter to the fact that , like Dunama , the new Mai also came to rely on the mallam ( Bi-kanemi ). And even with El-kanemi , the Mai could only hold the eastern sections of the empire.

By 1813 , there was widespread disaffection with Ngileruma. El-kanemi , whose influence was substantial , took advantage of the situation and drove Mai Ngileruma out of office.

He then brought Dunama back to the throne , and Dunama rewarded him by allotting him a Fief that equalled one-half of the entire territory under  the Mai himself. This Fief certainly provided El-kanemi with a platform for political action.

In about 1814, El-kanemi moved from Ngornu , shifting his capital to a new site , Kuhawa . He then took the arabic tittle of sharleh ( Shehu ), which implied both religious and political Leadership. From then , he was known as Sharleh al – Amin or Shehu Laminu  , and he started to act more as an independent agent than that of Mai .

For example, his campaigns against the fulani now resulted in tributes being diverted to Kukalawa rather than to Kafela, the capital of Mai Dunama.  As a result, Dunama felt insecure and plotted with the sultan of  Baghirmi, Burgu Manda, to contain El-kanemi. But Dunama himself lost his life in the ensuing struggle.

The death of Dunama left El-kanerni as the virtual ruler of Borno. It was he who presided over the appointment of ibrahim as the new Mai . El-kanemi’s death in about 1837 was no relief to the Mai , for El-kanemi’s son ,Umar , still conducted himself as the real power of Borno . However , during the absence of the Shehu of zinder , ibrahim intrigued with muhammed Sharif , the sultan of wadai , for a coup against El-kanemi family . The plan leaked , and ibrahim and his men were executed. With this , the venerable Sefawa Dynasty was finally eliminated in 1846 from Borno political system after a region of about one thousand years.

Borno Under The Shehus

With the destruction of the sefawa , the capital of Borno shifted to Kukawa . Umar assumed some of the symbols of authority of the sefawa setup. His mother became Ya Magiva ( mother of Mai ) , and his senior wife became Ya Gumsu . Certain palace slaves were also given the traditional tittle of Yiroma , Mustrema , Zaifada , and Digma .

Shehu Umar surrounded himself with people who , like him , had no claims to positions in borno except through their association with him . His court this considered of people who were fiercely loyal to him . He also introduced the military system of Kazzallas – people of slave origin and , therefore , of complete loyalty to the state.

 The El-kanemi Dynasty

By 1846, Umar’s Court had vastly expanded , embracing a royal and nobel class which consisted of his own brothers and the sons of his father’s leading companions . All the princes became members of the Shehu’s court and on formal occasions, sat nearest to the Shehu. If any of them died , his place was taken by his ( the dead person’s ) own sons or brothers. Upon marriage , the prince or princess received a Fief for his or her financial upkeep.

The Ya Magiva , Ya Gumsu and Ya Magaram – the leading female tittle- holders also received fiefs. The fiefs of these women were among the largest in the state , indicating that they must have wielded a lot of influence.

It may be noted that , generally ,the granting of fiefs and tittles was one important means through which the Mai built up and sustained his power : he used them to reward his favourites. This gave rise to situation in which many angled for the Shehu’s favours.

Directly below the royalty in the hierarchy came the courtiers of the Shehu. The nucleus of this new nobility was the family of El-kanemi’s six companions , whose name became court tittles . Each of such tittles was occupied by someone who descended from the companion after whom the tittle was named . The Shehu also had non-titled  clients who could rise to great power in the state. The mallams ( Muslim Scholars ) formed another Important group . They filled numerous roles connected with religious activity, including teaching , leading in prayers , officiating at ceremonies and curing of illnesses.  Those of them who were titled at the court – the state Imams , qadis and the courts mallams  , enjoyed great financial support , and their offices tended to be hereditary.

The Shehu’s was this the nerve – centre of Borno politics ; he was the source of all powers and property. His executive power lay in the army , composed mainly of slaves . In 1870 , the army was estimated at 3,000 , and these were the royal slaves alone , the total strength of the army must have been considerably higher . Their weaponry consisted of riffles , spears , and bows and arrows . In essence , the army was a strong force , not only for purposes of defence but also do the enforcement of executive decisions.

Under the Shehu’s, Borno attained a place of first – class Importance in the commerce of the central sudan . El-kanemi himself had realised the Importance of international trade to the well – being of Borno. He therefore encouraged North african merchants to settle in Kakuwa , and these formed  the colony of Tripolitanian and  Fezzan merchants who have remained in borno ever since . Borno served as gateway , a central market between North africa and the forest region : goods brought from  north africa were exchange in borno for those from the forest region and vice versa . The main article of trade which found their way into Kakuwa included a great variety of cloths , kolanuts , gold and salts, Across the sahara and from the Red sea came horses , swords , perfumes , ornaments and textiles.


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