1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sokoto

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SOKOTO, an important Fula state of west central Sudan, now a province of the British protectorate of Nigeria. The sultan of' Sokoto throughout the 19th century exercised an overlordship over the Hausa states extending east from the Niger to Bornu and southward to the Benue and Adamawa. These states and Sokoto itself, known variously as the Sokoto or Fula empire and Hausaland, came (c. 1900–1903) under direct British control, but the native governments are maintained. The province of Sokoto occupies the north-west corner of the British protectorate, and is bounded west and north by French territory. South and east it adjoins other parts of the British protectorate. Bordering north on the Sahara, it contains much arid land, but south-west the land is very fertile. Running through it in a south-westerly direction is the Gublih Kebbi or, Sokoto river, which joins the Niger in 111/2° N. 4° E. On a tributary of this river is the town of Sokoto.

The Sokoto or Fula empire was founded at the beginning of the 19th century. The country over which the Fula ruled has, however, a history going back to the middle ages. Between the Niger and the kingdom of Bornu (q.v.) the country was inhabited by various black tribes, of whom the Hausa occupied the plains; Under the influence of Berber and Arab tribes, who embraced Mahommedanism, the Hausa advanced in civilization, founded large cities, and developed a considerable trade, not only with the neighbouring countries, but, via the Sahara, with the Barbary states. The various kingdoms which grew up round each large town had their own rulers, but in the first half of the 16th century they all appear to have owned the sway of the Songhoi kings (see Timbuktu). On the break—up of the Songhoi empire the north-eastern part of Hausaland became more or less subject to Bornu, whose sultans in the 17th century claimed to rule over Katsena and Kano. In this century arose a dynasty of the Habé, a name now believed to be identical with Hausa, who obtained power over a large area of the northern portion of the present British protectorate. The Hausa, whose conversion to Mahommedanism began in the 12th century, were still in the 18th century partly pagans, though their rulers were followers of the Prophet. These rulers built up an elaborate system of government which left a considerable share in the management of affairs to the body of the people. Dwelling among the Hausa were a number of Fula, mostly herdsmen, and these were devout Mahommedans. One of the more cultivated teachers of this race, named Othman Dan Fodio, had been tutor to the king of Gobir (a district north of Establish-
ment of
Fula Rule.
Sokoto). He incurred the wrath of that king, who, angered at some act of defiance, ordered the massacre of every Fula in his dominions. The Fula flocked to Fodio's aid, and in the battle of Koto or Rugga Fakko (1804) the king of Gobir was utterly defeated. Thereupon Fodio unfurled the green banner of Mahomet and preached a jihad or religious war. In a few years the Fula had subdued most of the Hausa states, some, like Kano, yielding easily in order to preserve their trade, others, like Katsena, offering a stubborn resistance., Gobir and Kebbi remained unconquered, as did the pagan hill tribes. The Fula were also defeated in their attack on Bornu, In most places they continued the system of government which had grown up under the Habé, the chiefs or emirs of the various states being, however, tributary to Dan Fodio. This sheik established himself at Sokoto, and with other titles assumed that of Sarikin Muslimin (king of the Mahommedans). As such he became the recognized spiritual head of all the Mahommedans of west central Sudan, a headship which his successors retained unimpaired, even after the loss of their temporal position to the British in 1903. On the death of Fodio (c. 1819) the empire was divided between a son and a brother, the son, famous under the name of Sultan Bello, ruling at Sokoto, the brother at Gando. All the other Fula emirs were dependent on these two sultanates. The Fula power proved, before many years had gone by, in many respects harmful to the country. This was especially the case in those districts where there was a large pagan population. Slave-raiding was practised on a scale which devastated and almost depopulated vast regions and greatly hampered the commercial activity of the large cities, of which Zaria and Kano were the most important. The purity of the ancient administration was abandoned. The courts of justice became corrupt, administrative power was abused and degenerated into a despotism controlled only by personal considerations, oppressive taxes destroyed industry and gradually desolated the country. Soon after the Fula had established themselves Europeans began to visit the country. Hugh Clapperton, an Englishman, was at Sokoto in 1823 and again in 1827, dying there on the 13th of April of that year. Heinrich Barth made a prolonged stay in various Hausa cities at dates between 1851 and 1855. To Barth is due a great deal of our knowledge of the country. In Barth’s time American merchants were established on the Niger, bartering goods in exchange for slaves. This traffic was carried on through Niipe “to the great damage,” says Barth, “of the commerce and the most unqualified scandal of the Arabs, who think that the English, if they would, could easily prevent it.” The over-seas traffic in slaves did not continue long after the date (1851) to which Barth referred, but slave-raiding by the Fula went on unchecked up to the moment of the British occupation of the country. At Sokoto the sultan ship continued in the hands of Fodio’s descendants, and the reigning sultan concluded in 1885 a treaty with the Royal Niger Company (then called the National African Company) which gave to the company certain rights of sovereignty throughout his dominions.

In 1900 the rights of the company were transferred to the Crown. In the course of the years 1900, 1901, 1902, British authority was established in the states bordering on the Niger and the Benue and in Bornu. The northern states declined Submission to British Rule. to fulfil the conditions of the treaties negotiated with the Niger Company or to submit to the abolition of the slave trade, and in 1902 Sokoto and Kano openly defied the, British power. A campaign was undertaken against them in the opening months of 1903 in which the British troops were entirely successful. Kano was taken in February 1903, and Sokoto after some resistance made formal submission on the 22nd of March following. From that day British authority was substituted for Fula authority throughout the protectorate. The emir of Sokoto took an oath of allegiance to the British Crown and Sokoto became a British province, to which at a later period Gando was added as a sub province—thus making of Sokoto one of the double provinces of the protectorate.

The double province thus constituted has an area of about 35,000 sq. m., with an estimated population of something over 500,000. It includes the ancient kingdoms of Zamfara on the east and Argunga or Kebbi on the west. The dominions of the emir of Sokoto have suffered some diminutions by reason of British agreements with France relating to the common frontier of the two European powers in the western Sudan. The emir felt deeply the loss of territory ceded to France in 1904 but accepted the settlement with much loyalty. Like the emir of Kano the new emir of Sokoto worked most loyally with the British administration. The province has been organized on the same principle as the other provinces of Northern Nigeria. A British resident of the first class has been placed at Sokoto and assistant residents at other centres. British courts of justice have been established and British governors are quartered in the province. Detachments of civil police are also placed at the principal stations. The country has been assessed under the new system for taxes and is being opened as rapidly as possible for trade. After the establishment of British rule farmers and herdsmen reoccupied districts and the inhabitants of cities flocked back to the land, rebuilding villages which had been deserted for fifty years. Horse breeding and cattle raising form the chief source of wealth in the province. There is some ostrich farming. Except in the sandy areas there is extensive agriculture, including rice and cotton. Special crops are grown in the valleys by irrigation. Weaving, dyeing and tanning are the principal native industries. Fair roads are in process of construction through the province. Trade is increasing and a cash currency has been introduced.

The emir of Gando, treated on the same terms as the emirs of Kano and Sokoto, proved less loyal to his oath of allegiance and had to be deposed. Another emir was installed in his place and in the whole double province of Sokoto-Gando prosperity has been general. In 1906 a rising attributed to religious fanaticism occurred near Sokoto in which unfortunately three white officers lost their lives. The emir heartily repudiated the leader of the rising, who claimed to be a Mahdi inspired to drive the white man out of the country. A British force marched against the rebels, who were overthrown with great loss in March 1906. The leader was condemned to death in the emir’s court and executed in the market place of Sokoto, and the incident was chiefly interesting for the display of loyalty to the British administration which it evoked on all sides from the native rulers. (See also Nigeria; Fula; and Hausa.)

See the Travels of Dr Barth (London 1857); Lady Lugard, A Tropical Dependency (London, 1905); P. L. Monteil, De Saint Louis à Tripoli par le lac Tchad (Paris, 1895); C. H. Robinson, Hausaland (London, 1896); The Annual Reports on Northern Nigeria, issued since 1900 by the Colonial Office, London; Sir F. D. Lugard, “Northern Nigeria,” in Geo. Journ. vol. xxiii., and Major J. A. Burdon, “The Fulani Emirates,” ibid. vol. xxiv. (both London, 1904). Except the last-named paper most of these authorities deal with many other subjects besides the Fula.  (F. L. L.)