Gobir Kingdom: Past, Present And The Road Ahead


Gobir Kingdom: Past, Present and the Road Ahead

Engr., Senator, Ibrahim Abdullahi Gobir, PhD.

Taswirar Gobir

Your Excellencies,

The Governors of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states

The Governors of Maradi,Tawa and Doso all in the republic of Niger.

His Eminance the sultan of Sokoto, His Roya higness the sultans of Gobir, Doso and Agades and other traditional rulers from republic in Niger,Your Royal Hignessess the emirs and chiefs.


Distinguished audience, assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu


This occasion presents to me a rare privilege to participate in a conference that is the first of its kind.  It, therefore, gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this unique congregation.  The congregation is unique in many ways.  First of all, it is so far the first conference convened to deliberate on the Gobir Kingdom in a space of over two hundred years.  Secondly, Gobir Kingdom represents one of the greatest ancient Hausa states, along with Daura, Katsina, Kano, Zazzau, Zamfara and Kabi. Thirdly, Gobir Kingdom and her sons and daughters are part and parcel of the social, economic and political development of this great country – Nigeria.  We will explain these issues in due course. 


It is worthy to begin this discussion with thanks and gratitude to the Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies, the Dean, Deputy Dean and the Faculty Professors, Senior lecturers and all those who deemed it worthy to remember us, the Gobir people.  I understand that the Faculty started way back to about three years by holding a conference on issues of National importance – national integration, security etc.  Then that was followed by another conference on Kabi Kingdom, last year.   This year, the Gobir Kingdom was slated for the conference.  Next year it will be another Hausa state, and I think it goes on and on till, probably we get to another round of conference on Gobir.  Let me clearly state, without any fear or doubt that we will continue to welcome any conference convened to deliberate about our lives, history and legacies, as a people.  The Gobir people cherish their heritages and History.  That is why we highly welcome the present conference.


I hope, by my estimation that the present conference will leave no stone unturned regarding the history and rich political cultural, economic and social legacies of this great kingdom.  We, therefore, expect to hear useful contributions and deliberations on the following fundamental areas:


1.                  On the Origin of the Gobirawa

I believe quite a number of experts have been invited, including from the Republic of Niger.  For example, Professor Hamman and Professor Ila Maikasuwa.  I believe Maikasuwa had even before now, done extensive research on the origins of the Gobirawa.  From their Yemenite locality of Gubur across the vast Saharan Desert down to Central Sudan, finally settling in the rich area of the Rima Basin.  It was while they were here that developments unfolded – ranging from their political organization, to agriculture and other pursuits as well as warfare and intergroup relations.  I am sure, too, that this theme will receive scholarly attention during the conference.


2.         Culture, Language and Traditions

This is another area that we expect to hear the findings of scholars.  One will like to speculate that many Hausa words from the  Gobir Kingdom seem to have historical connections and meanings.  For example, Kananan? (are you there?) seem to replicate the name of distance ancestors the Gobir people associate themselves with – that is, Canaan or Kan-ana.  Or even Naawa seem to rhyme with Noah – the Prophet of Islam, whom according to a version of the Gobir tradition of origin, was their source of line of descent.  We hope scholars will go beyond speculations and supply us with proofs to validate our state of knowledge.


3.         The Sarakunan Gobir or the Gobir Sarauta System

Here, scholars will do well to dig deep and bring out useful issues and lessons we could learn from, in the contemporary period. Researchers should be able to tell us that there were repressive regimes in the past due to taxes, corruption in government, etc.  And that whatever happened to befall the bad leaders of the past, may likely befall bad leaders of today.  However, we should not lose sight of the fact that there were a number of good sultans in the hierarchy of Gobir sarauta.  Even Bawa Jan Gwarzo appears by my understanding, to be a tolerant and accommodating king.  He also cherished dialogue and concessions.  He was a listening sultan.  We will stand to benefit if such useful information are unearthed by the conferees.


4.         Migration, settlement and Gobir in Diaspora

This sub-theme is central among the legacies in the history of the Gobirawa.  There had certainly been tremendous transformations and changes in the long history of the Gobirawa.  Beginning as an Arab stock, the factor of migration and settlement saw the Gobir people moving south ward from the North African Coast, to the Atlantic Coast of Lagos.  Along the way they  intermingled, intermarried, and settled among various peoples and cultures, including  - the Barbers and Tuaregs, the Fulbe and the Zabarma, other Hausa stocks and today, as can be attested to by the progenies of Sarkin Gobir – Balogun Salihu Masallachi of Ilorin, the Yoruba.  Thus we now have Gobir chief right in the Palace of Ilorin, Kwara state.  Scholars and researchers should help us come  up with well documented history of our people anywhere they may be. I believe, that migration will have carried the Gobirawa not only down to Lagos, but also Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and  Mali.  Findings will depend on future research.


5.         Impact of Social, Religious and Cultural Changes

I also hope that the conferees will be able to deliberate and inform us useful information on the social, and cultural impact of the Gobir people and the Gobir Kingdom. We know of the spread of Islam among the Hausa states.  Even when it came, Islam met the people of Gobir practicing Islam.  But as it were, there was widespread cultural beliefs and practices, some of which ran counter to basic Islamic tenets.  Even then, there are still certain cultural-cum-political practices and offices that are part and parcel of Gobir heritage.  For example while the office of Inna of Gobir is associated with Bori fetish, on the one hand, on the other hand, it is a political, administrative and military office that effectively demonstrated the prowess and powers of women in the traditional corridors of power.  Today in the 21st century, the world is clamouring for gender balance, female participation in politics, democracy, elections, and governance while this had happened in Gobir Kingdom about two hundred and fifty years ago!


6.         Inter-Group Relations

I also expect that the conferees will thrash this very important sub-theme.  Wherever one mentions migration and settlement, one cannot help but bring the question of inter-group relations.  We have the Gobirawa in the Diaspora beginning  from the central Nigerian area down to Lagos.  In the central  Nigerian area, especially Niger state, there are many Gobirawa villages or communities.  Many of them settled there during the last forty years.  Researchers ought to find out and inform us useful issues such as what made the Gobirawa to move into these areas?  Not only that, why and how were they amicably accommodated without any rancor in this age of ethnic and religious tensions and crises as well as mistrust?  What peculiar traits do the Gobirawa possess?  I personally believe that they have an accommodating spirit.  They also possess the spirit of hardwork and self reliance.  I think that is why a Bagobiri will never be rejected by any group.


7.         Economy, Agriculture and Commerce

These are the chief activities of the Gobir people from time immemorial.  The Gobirawa are very enterprising and hardworking.  Conferees should be able to tell us details about these very important economic activities.


8.         Gobir King and the 19th Century Sokoto Jihad

Of all the known themes of the History of the Gobir people, the 19th century Jihad as it affected the Kingdom and the people is the most controversial.  Even among scholars, various opinions have been expressed about the causes of the 19th century Sokoto jihad.  These include the European perspectives that was championed by colonial officials like Lord Lugard.  Simply put, Lugard’s perception is that the takeover of the Caliphate was quite a normal conquest.  So too, the Fulani takeover of the Gobir Kingdom was just another normal conquest similar to wars of expansion and annexations that happened so rampantly in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Others saw the jihad as a revolt of the masses against the aristocracy.  Thus injecting Marxist interpretation.  Some were realists that took into consideration physical environment, environmental changes such as drought and such collective challenges as the causes. Some saw it was a religious movement.


As Muslims – practising  Muslims for that matter, we cannot dismiss the fact that at certain points in our collective journeys in life, we may require one reform effort or another. Even if you look at contemporary governance across board, certainly we need to reform some of our lifestyles; for instance, we need to tackle corruption and corrupt practices; we need to boost Education both in quality and quantity; we need to tackle poverty level in the society, etc.  But again we can hardly dismiss the fact that the Jihad had political contents.  There is no need to argue against this because a whole set of Government was overthrown and replaced with another.  Agreed that elements of a new society were noticed soon after the Jihad, but after several decades, this spirit was lost.  By the time the Europeans came what they met was largely traditional.  Only names of personalities and a few other instances were Islamic.  In any case, we now rely on you the participants to provide us with concrete details.  I hope so.




Legacies of Gobir in the Caliphate

This is another area I envisage scholars would focus their search light.  One of the most outstanding legacies is in the political angle, in the sense that most of the Gobir political titles were used by the caliphate.  We need the details from scholars as to: why did the caliphate fall short of suitable titles from the beginning?  How could the use of such titles be justified?  Such questions are not easy to answer, but may be our scholars will try.  Next, I expect that conferees will thrash contemporary political and economic developments.  We should be able to hear such issues as colonial conquest, resistance, collaboration or compromise.  Internal developments are also necessary issues to be examined.  Activities from 1960 to the present ought to be treated, not on their face values but based on serious research.  Likewise the significance of the socio-economic activities of the Gobirawa - around Nigeria have to be examined.  Last but not the least, there is one fundamental issue that escaped the thought of the organizers of the conference.  And this is: Gobirawa and the Future in Nigeria; or the Road Ahead


It is understandable why many political thinkers including historians tend to shy away from scrutinizing and therefore daring to talk about the future.  The future is very very uncertain; it is also controversial because it is pregnant.  Will it give birth to a sound baby?  Or will it smack of a stillbirth?  In this respect, the present speaker does not think it is fair to keep mute about the future aspirations of the average Gobir man.  What are these aspirations?  Ladies and Gentlemen, the aspirations of the average Gobir man are as follows:


(i) Therefore, the average Gobir man wishes to see all the physical and   social developments occur in his location.

(ii)The average Gobir man wants to see tertiary institutions in that place, brought closer to him.

(iii)The average Gobir man wants jobs and opportunities brought closer to him.


We are hopeful that this country will listen to our cries and do something.  These represent our demands, similar to the demands of Shehu Usman Danfodiyo in the face of our ancestor, King Bawa Jan Gwarzo.


Finally, I will like this distinguished gathering to consider two important issues as we move into the future.  They will help to chart the road ahead.  First, we should form the umbrella body of GOBIR DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION; if this acceptable to us, I pledge a seed money of……………………………. to take off.  Secondly – and more immediate,       GOBIR EDUCATION TRUST FUND, if this is accepted, I also wish to donate a seed money of …………………………  Details on these can be laid down by two committees we can form; one for each respectively.


On this note I wish to declare this conference open, and to wish us peaceful and fruitful deliberations.  Once again, I warmly welcome you to the occasion.  May Allah bless you all.  Thank you.

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