Inter-State Royal Marriages Between Gobir And Sokoto Sultanate: A Study In Social Diplomacy

Being a paper presented at the First International Conference on Gobir Kingdom, Past And Present: Transformation And Change, held at The Usmanu Danfodiyo University Auditorium, from 9th – 13th July, 2018

Inter-State Royal Marriages Between Gobir And Sokoto Sultanate: A Study In Social Diplomacy 


Attahiru Ahmad Sifawa, PhD.

Department of History,

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,

Sokoto State University, Sokoto.




Murtala Marafa

Department of History,

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,

Sokoto State University, Sokoto




This paper examines the role played by inter-state royal marriage as a tool of social diplomacy between Gobir and Sokoto Sultanate from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. It has been observed in the paper, that although the history of Gobir-Sokoto relations has largely been assumed or pictured to be that of warfare and animosity, there were as much social diplomacy as there was military. There were many instances of inter-state royal marriages between the Gobirawa and the Sokoto Sultanate. Those marriages played a critical role in bringing the two rival states together, that towards the end of the 19th century the level and intensity of conflicts and warfare drastically reduced. The paper strongly argued that the Sokoto-Gobir Royal marriages had, at some instances proved more effective in fetching for either parties, more fruitful results than the supposedly military options. The paper represent the Sokoto-Gobir version of social diplomacy.


Studies in international relations, and in particular, Diplomatic and inter-state history is largely dominated by military and economic activities and dialogue between the affected states. In fact, beyond the spheres of international diplomacy, the “king and battle” accounts, as Augi, rightly observe, have been the dominant themes in African historical scholarship. But prominent as it is, warfare has been much more associated with some societies and states than the others. In Central Sudan, the Gobirawa seem to be arguably associated with wars compared with other communities and states, particularly along the Rima Basin,[1] to the extent that the warlikeness of the Gobirawa has been exaggerated by scholars such as Hogben and Kirk-Green as being characterized by “nomadic restlessness” and as having “pugnacity in their blood”.[2]


Strikingly, the kingdom of Gobir had been the centre of gravity during the Islamic Reform Movement in Hausaland that was led by Sheikh Usman bn. Fodiyo in the 19th century. Both the Actors and Factors, as well as the course and consequences of the Islamic Reform activities (otherwise called the Sokoto Jihad by some historians) have attracted considerable treatment and discussions, thus relieving us the task of repeating them here.[3] What is however worth restating here, is that, both during and after the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, its relation with the Gobirawa has been depicted to be that of protracted warfare in the form of attacks, counter attacks, and the total investment of energies and resources to launch aggression or in defence of either communities.[4] Important as they were, the military approaches, in the establishment, consolidation and defence of the caliphate on one hand, as well as the survival of Gobirawa on the other, there were other equally important factors responsible for these. This paper seeks to examine the role played by royal marriages, as tools of social diplomacy, in facilitating the Jihad and counter-Jihad wars, the security, survival and inter-group relations between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Gobir Kingdom, since the nineteenth century.



Diplomatic Marriages in Pre-Jihad Rima Basin

Both in Africa and elsewhere around the world, royal marriages serve very powerful diplomatic roles in inter-state relations. Nowhere in the Central Sudan, have the royal marriages contributed to the emergence and survival of a kingdom, than in Kanem Borno Empire. The Seifuwa rulers extensively exploited it, thus leading, not only to the unification of those warring tribes, but the emergence of the longest ruling dynasty in Africa.[5]


In the Rima Basin, long before the Sokoto Jihad and the establishment of the Caliphate, royal marriages have served important diplomatic functions towards the development of pre-jihad state and societies. This was particularly true of the Gobirawa, who have realized the importance of marriages in promoting relations with others. It is noteworthy to mention that at a certain period in their history, probably the period before the mid fifteen century c.1450 A.D, the Gobirawa were believed to be living around the Azbin region in the Sahara. However, as a result of combined environmental and political factors, the Gobirawa were forced to migrate further southward, as far as Gobir Tudu (Tarka-kaba region), sometimes in the mid-15th century where they established their capital at Birnin Lalle.[6]


After spending about two hundred years at Birnin Lalle, the Gobirawa were forced to move further southward, as a result of drought and other related ecological problems, as well as the consequential pressure and conflicts with the Tuareg, who suffered from harsher environment further north.[7] While at Gobir Tudu, before their final migration to the central Rima Basin, the Gobirawa have had to adopt some strategies which facilitated their peaceful migration and settlement in the central Rima Basin. From the mid seventeen century up to the beginning of the eighteenth century, during the process of Gobirawa migration in the central Rima Valley, the Gobirawa have had to employ certain military and social diplomatic strategies, thus neutralizing the hostility of the powerful states within the Rima Basin, namely; Zamfara, Katsina and Kebbi. In particular, they enged in military alliance with Gobir, and other diplomatic relations with the other Kingdoms[8]. The adoption of social diplomatic and military strategies in facilitating the easy migration and settlement of Gobirawa into the central Rima Basin, was upon realization that forceful incursion into the region was to likely attract harsh military responses from the dominant powers in the region, thus not only repulsing, but perhaps making the migration into the region difficult. Therefore, the military and social diplomacies employed by the Gobirawa, particularly in their relations with the Zamfarawa, prior to their migration to Alkalawa, were strategic techniques which secure for them,  very fertile territory at the centre of the Rima valley region.


At the beginning, the Gobirawa employed military diplomacy, by entering into military alliances with the states of Maradi and Zamfara, who were determined to wrestle and seized the north-western trade routes and the central Rima Valley areas from Kebbi. The Zamfara kingdom was to particularly require the military support of their neighbours, including the newly arrived Gobirawa, who made Gwaranrame their capital. On their part, the Gobirawa swiftly exploited the opportunity by making themselves available in militarily supporting Zamfara against Kebbi. By so doing, they made themselves not only harmless to the Zamfarawa, but reliable allies and partners.[9]


On the other hand, the Gobirawa had at the very early stage realized that their desire for moving into the vast marshland along the valley of the confluence of Rivers Gargare and Bunsuru, could hardly be achieved easily, using the military option alone, at that critical moment. Hence, they opted for friendly social relations. In achieving that, royal marriages were regarded as important practical steps. Nadama records that on arrival in the Central Rima Basin, the Gobirawa encourage iner-marriages with their Zamfarawa host communities/neighbours. He further argued that the legend of origin that gave the Zamfarawa a Gobir mother, was an interpretation of those earlier marriages between the Gobirawa and Zamfarawa.[10] We shall be resuming to the significance of those inter-communal marriages between the Gobirawa and Zamfarawa, later.


A significant milestone in the history of the Gobir-Zamfara social diplomacy was during the reign of Muhammadu Mai Ginchi at Gwaranrame and that of Sarkin Zamfara Abarshi. Although some Gobir sources depicted the marriage between Sarkin Zamfara Abarshi and Hadiza Fara, daughter of Sarkin Gobir (perhaps Muhammadu Mai-ginchi) to be at the instance of Sarkin Zamfara, it was rather at the instance of Gobirawa. This was more so when it is realized that when the two parties agreed to the marriage, the Sarkin Gobir accompanied Hadiza with her prince brother, Ibrahim Babari, to the palace of Sarkin Zamfara.[11] Far beyond giving traditional company to his sister, available information suggests that, Ibrahim Babari was sent to the palace of Sarkin Zamfara on a mission. The intention was not only to give him opportunity of knowing the in and out of the Zamfara polity, but as much as possible, develop friends and possible collaborators among the members of Zamfara aristocracy. It is worthy to note that, the fact that Babari was more or less brought up at the palace of Sarkin Zamfara means that he grew up and was seen by the Zamfarawa princes as one of them, or at best, a friendly ally. More so, Babari grew up as a warrior prince at Zamfara, not only acquiring his military training together with Zamfara army, but perhaps developing strong ties with Zamfara warriors and Sarakunan Yaki, another critical segment of the aristocracy. These and other related circumstances made the children of his sister and other close royal associates always sympathetic and willing to pursue or protect the interest of Babari. This partly explains why after his ascension to power in Gobir, Babari facilitated the smooth movement of his Gobirawa community into the marshland of Alkalawa, courtesy of social diplomacy. Available sources record that after the appointment of Ibrahim Babari as Sarkin Gobir, he went to Sarkin Zamfara, with the help of his sister Hadiza Fara, seeking for a land to settle in the central Rima Valley region. At the instance of Sarkin Zamfara, Ibrahim Babari was directed to Alkalin Zamfara, Hammadu Mai Babban Burgame, to secure a fertile marshland in order to settle with his people. Accordingly, Babari was given leave to settle at what came to be known as Alkalawa by Alkali Hammadu.[12] Oral tradition has it that after the migration and settlement of Gobirawa at Alkalawa, Babari murdered Alkali, thus emerging as the sole ruler of Alkalawa, where he was declared Sarki. On receiving the news of the murder of Alkali, Sarkin Zamfara directed Babari and his people to leave Alkalawa immediately, thus marking the beginning of the crises and series of conflicts that led to Gobir – Zamfara wars and eventual fall of Birnin Zamfara in 1762[13]


The point being made in the foregoing, is that the royal diplomatic marriage between the Gobirawa and Zamfara had in no small measure, facilitated the friendly relations between the two states, thus paving way for the smooth migration of Gobirawa under Ibrahim Babari to Alkalawa. The subsequent crises leading to the fall of Birnin Zamfara, thereafter, is out of the scope of this paper.


The Era of the Sokoto Caliphate

Less than two decades after the fall of Birnin Zamfara in 1762 and the emergence of Alkalawa as the new power in the central Rima Valley, Islamic reform activities led of Sheikh Usman bn. Fodiyo have also begun.[14] Details of his birth, education and reform activities, culminating in the establishment of Sokoto Caliphate, is no longer an obscure theme in African history.[15]


However, it is noteworthy to mention that much of the history of the caliphate and her relations with her neighbours, not the least, the Gobir kingdom, is portrayed to be characterized by protracted warfare. The Jihad wars; rebellions and counter expeditions; wars of consolidation and territorial expansion, as well as frontier defense and overall security of the caliphate, were variously discussed  to be the major pre-occupation between the caliphate and her neighbours.[16]


It was no doubt that wars and other military factors were critical in the success of the Jihad and the consolidation and security of the caliphate on one hand, as well as the survival of Gobirawa, particularly in the central Rima Valley area around fadamar kanwa (Sabon Birni) on the other. However, social diplomacy played equally a very important role in that direction. Since during the critical stage of the Jihad campaigns, social diplomacy could be seen playing important role in the politics of the Rima valley region. One of the earliest and perhaps the most important diplomatic marriage between the Sokoto Caliphate and Gobir Kingdom, was that between Sultan Muhammadu Bello and Hadiza Katambale, daughter of Sarkin Gobir Yakuba and wife of Sarkin Gobir Yunfa.[17] It is not yet adequately clear to us, when the marriage between the two princes was consummated, either during the earlier encounters after the battle of Tabkin Kwatto, or after the fall of Alkalama in 1808. What is however clear was that by 1808 the marriage was consummated considering the fact that by 1836, Fodiyo her second child was according to Murray Last, 26 years old.[18]


Oral and written sources maintained that, after the fall of Alkalawa, many Gobirawa were captured by the Jihadists, including women. Among them was Hadiza Katambale. After the return of the Jihadists in the course of the distribution of war spoils, Bello chose to take Hadiza as his concubine. However, the oral Gobir informant reports that there was disagreement between the two, with Katambale arguing that Bello was not her match as a very young man. Rather, she wanted to be with a more senior Jihad leader. While the debate between Bello and Katambale was raging, Sheikh Usman bn. Fodiyo’s attention was drawn to the matter. Upon his intervention, he came to know that Hadiza Katambale was the daughter of late Sarkin Gobir Yakuba, therein he remarked that she was his daughter. On that note, he directed Bello to pay dowry, if at all he wanted her as a wife, no longer concubine. Accordingly, Bello paid the dowry and the marriage took place between himself and Hadiza Katambale. It should equally be noted that Katambale was wife to the slain Sarkin Gobir Yunfa.[19] The accuracy of the Gobir version of the process and nature of Bello’s relation with Katambale or otherwise does not matter. So much so that it was a general consensus that Katambale had a marital relation with Bello and had bore him many children.


The significance of Bello’s marriage with Katambale lies in the fact that it was the first known royal marriage between Gobir and Sokoto Caliphate. Moreover, Shehu’s courtesy in setting free, and treating Katambale as his daughter apart, the choice of the union between the Gobir princess and ex-king’s wife with the brave warrior and son of commander of the faithful, Muhammadu Bello, was not without any diplomatic underpinning. No sooner had the caliphate been established, amidst the hostility of Gobirawa, the rationale and significance of the marriage started manifesting itself.


Although after the fall of Alakalawa there were several attempts by Gobirawa to re-assert themselves under Salihu Dan Yakuba and their successive Gobir kings, Muhammadu Bello had successfully crushed their insurrections, leading to the execution of Salihu and later Sarkin Gobir Gomki in 1821. After the murder of Gomki,[20] he was succeeded by Sarkin Gobir Jibon Ta Uba, as suggested in Gubbaru[21]. It was after Jibon Ta Uba, that Ali Dan Yakuba ascended the throne as the next Sarkin Gobir. Despite what Murray Last reported as the series of attacks, by Bello, against the rebellious Gobirawa, the ascension of Ali bn. Yakubu as Sarkin Gobir was an important watershed in the history of Sokoto-Gobir relations. Ali bn. Yakuba, was a full brother of Hadiza Katambale, wife of Sultan Muhammadu Bello. Gobir sources reports that Ali bn Yakuba concluded a truce with Muhammad Bello when he ascended the throne as Sarkin Gobir. It was reported that, either at the instance of Bello,[22] or upon the initiative of Ali,[23] there was peace settlement at Birnin Jirwa between Gobir and the Sokoto Caliphate (1821 – 1822). The two leaders met and agreed on cessation of hostility, recognizing each other’s domain as sovereign entity. Among the terms of the treaty, was that the two leaders agreed that the caliphate would take control over the north-western trade routes, while the Gobirawa would control the south-eastern trade routes passing through their domain. These and other related issues were discussed, agreed upon, which led to a peace settlement.[24] Consequently, Sultan Muhammad Bello agreed that Ali should relocate his capital from Kadaye to Gawon Gazau (Gwongazo), near the old Gobir capital of Alkalawa.[25]


However, not long after the conclusion of the Treaty, the Gobirawa rejected the treaty and insisted on war, mounting pressure through Inna Gwamma, thus leading to eventual violation of the peace terms by Sarkin Gobir Ali bn. Yakub.[26] Consequently, war resumed between Sultan Muhammad Bello and Sarkin Gobir Ali who was killed in the process.[27] Before the resumption of war and his eventual death, Ali directed his brother (Dangaladima) Mayaki, to move further north, and established a new centre of power around Maradi, which he did, after staying at Maradi for a while, thus founding Tsibiri as the new capital of Gobirawa, where he was crowned as Sarkin Gobir[28].


It has been clear from the foregoing, that the accession of Ali bn. Yakub, brother-in-law and a childhood friend of Bello, as the king of Gobir, contributed to temporary peace and understanding between the caliphate and the Gobir kingdom.


Another interesting and significant dimension of the social diplomacy manifested itself after the defeat of the Gobirawa at the battle of Gawakuke in 1835/36.[29] After this battle and decisive victory over the combined Gobir, Katsina and Tuareg forces, it brought a relative peace and temporary elimination of hostility to the caliphate. To further consolidate the successes recorded in securing the caliphate, Bello established a Ribat Town at Lajinge and placed it under his son through Katambale, Fodio to take charge of the ribat town.[30]


The significance of ribat (frontier fortress garrison) in the security system of the caliphate apart, the establishment of Lajinge as a Ribat town north of Sokoto, sharing boundary with the Gobirawa settlements and capital, was far beyond combatant military strategy.[31] The choice of the son of Gobir princess to take charge of the fortress of Lajinge was a strategy by the Caliphate authorities to weaken the restiveness of Gobirawa[32]. Similarly, when another Ribat was established at Shinaka, another town located on a very strategic location along Gobir-Sokoto route, Ali, another son of Bello though Katambale, was placed in-charge of the Ribat. The strategy was meant to at least weaken the Gobirawa zeal of launching an attack against their cousin, i.e., the son of a notable princes, Katambale.

Similarly, when later, the ribat town of Tsohon Birni, later Sansanen (‘camp’) Isa, were established, they were placed under the two sons of Katambale, Fodio and Mualledi. Even after the death of Fodio, his brother Aliyu Karami was posted to take charge of the ribat, while still, Mu’alledi continued to serve as Dangaladima. ‘Isa thus became the major outpost against the Gobirawa, and a key staging point on the road to Katsina’.[33] Therefore, the presence of Sokoto princes by Gobir mothers, at the major Ribat towns located at the eastern Caliphate’s frontier with Gobir, was a deliberate diplomatic policy,and it partly accounts for the relative peace between the Sokoto Caliphate and Gobir after the first three decades of the establishment of the Caliphate.


Another significant diplomatic marriage between the Gobir and Sokoto Caliphate, was that of Sultan Ahmad bn. Abubakar Atiku with the sister of Dan Halima, who was the Dangaladima at Tsibiri.[34] Although the date of the marriage between Ahmad bn. Atiku and Mamma, the sister of Dan Halima is not yet clear at the present stage of our research, there are reasons to believe that the marriage probably took place during the cessation of hostility between Gobir and the Caliphate, during the reign of Ali bn. Yakub. This was more so when it was recollected that, Mamma was a junior sister to both Ali bn. Yakub and Dan Halima[35].


Another example of the role played by the Sokoto- Gobir royal marriages was during the reign of Sultan Atiku. It was reported that initially there was peace truce between Sokoto and Gobir at the beginning of Atiku’s reign. But however, hostility later resumed between the two states. Upon resumption of hostility, Sultan Atiku led a battle against Gobir with their new seat of power at Tsibiri. During the encounter, Sultan Atiku received an arrow wound which led to his death. He was reported to have been taken on the back of cattle, either using a driven cart or other alternative means, with the intention of taking him back to Sokoto. He however died at Katuru where he was burried.[36]


On their part, the Gobirawa pursued the Caliphate forces with the aim of taking away the body of Sultan Atiku. Earlier, Dan Halima, a warrior prince and brother-in-law to Ahmad bn. Atiku and by extension son-in-law to the late Sultan Atiku, escorted the Sokoto people in order to save the body of the Sultan. On his way back, he met with the Gobirawa army pursuing the Sultan. However, in a planned trick, Dan Halima re-directed the Gobirawa army to an entirely different route from the one followed by the Sokoto people, thus, he frustrated their attempt at taking away, the body of the Sultan.[37]It has been clear that the marital relation between the eldest son of Sultan Atiku and the sister of Dan Halima was responsible for the sympathy which made Dan Halima, heir apparent to the Gobir throne, to act in the manner he did. No doubt, his action save the Caliphate from embarrassment of losing the body of the whole Commander of the faithful to the enemy forces, though it was against the interest of his Kingdom.


Overtime, the Gobirawa came to know of the trick and conspiracy played by Dan Halima, against their collective interest. In order to punish him for betraying the state, the Gobirawa collectively turned against Dan Halima, and life became so much unbearable at Tsibiri. Finally, there was a set-up between Sarkin Gobir and Bunu Ibrahim, a junior brother of Dan Halima in order to take Dan Halima out of Tsibiri. Ibrahim took over task of conspiring to encourage Dan Halima to leave the town, so that in return, he would be appointed the next Dangaladima. That was the reason why Ibrahim convinced Dan Halima that since the king and the people were no longer interested in them, the best thing for them was to leave and found a new settlement. But immediately when the two of them went out of the city, Ibrahim returned, under the guise of bringing out something he forget. Immediately he entered, the gates were shut against Dan Halima, leading to Dan Halima’s exile out of Tsibiri. Thereafter, Bunu Ibrahim was immediately appointed as Dangaladima of Gobir. Dan Halima’s intention after the exile was to set up a new town where he could live in peace and happiness, devoid of antagonism and dodged social exclusion he suffered at Tsibiri.[38]


When Dangaladima Dan Halima set out for adventure exile from Tsibiri, as a result of the rejection/ persecution he suppered from his people, his mind was solely attracted by the Gobir Fadama region. The fertile marshland of central Rima Basin region. Thus, his first point of call, according to some sources, was at Isa, where he was warmly received by his cousin, Ali bn. Bello. He took the permission of Sarkin Gobir Ali bn Bello, in order to have a place to settle with his people. On the instruction of Ali bn Bello, upon clearance from the Sultanate, Dan Halima was allowed to occupy the Fadama area, around the old Alkalawa.[39] At Fadamar Kanwa, the first settlement he founded was called Adamawa, thereafter Tara, before finally establishing what is today called ‘Sabon Birnin Dan Halima’ Fadamar Kanwa, marking the emergence of a new additional ruling house for the Gobirawa at Sabon Birni.[40]


Another version of the establishment of the second Gobir ruling house maintained that, when Dan Halima set to establish the settlement of Sabon Birni, he first started by founding a settlement called Adamawa. Immediately after the establishment of the settlement, the Gobirawa in their numbers moved to the new settlement. While that was on, Sultan Ahmad Atiku (his brother-in-law) quickly mobilized his men and met Dan Halima, at Gobir Fadama (Adamawa area). According to the local source, Sultan Ahmad Atiku (1859 – 1866) lamented for the impatience of Dan Halima for not awaiting his arrival. The Sultan informed Dan Halima that his intention was to reciprocate his gesture, when he saved the corps of his father from the hands of Gobirawa. Thus, his initial offer was to assist Dan Halima in taking over the throne of Tsibiri. However, Dan Halima declined, and instead opted for a settlement within the marshy lowland of the Bunsuru-Gagare confluence (Fadamar Kanwa) some kilometres away from Alkalawa.[41] The Sultan accepted his request and in addition directed Ardo Geza, a Fulani chief living in the area to ensure the security of Dan Halima and his men, as well as adequate supplies of food to them. In addition, Sultan Ahmadu Atiku gave Dan Halima large quantity of food-stuff which assisted them in finding a new settlement. Not long after establishing the initial settlement at Adamawa, he moved further afield to establish a fortified town of Tara, before finally moving to the heartland of Fadamar Kanwa, near the old Alkalawa and founded Sabon-Birni in 1866. The city is commonly called (Sabon Birnin Dan Halima) and it eventually became the new centre/capital of Gobirawa within the caliphate’s territory.[42] According to Last, the decision by Sultan Ahmad Atiku to allow the establishment of Sabon Birni, near the valley of Alkalawa, between the hitherto Ribats of Lajinge and Isa, was very critical in the history of both Gobir and Sokoto Sultanate. But despite the attendant risk of allowing the return of Gobirawa to the long craved and much disputed valley of Alkalawa area, Sultan Ahmad bn. Atiku granted such to the Gobirawa, courtesy of his marital relation with the Dan Halima’s sister. Sultan Ahmad acted the way he did, in ordernto reward the gesture of Dan Halima in saving the body of his father, Sultan Atiku. In any case, Dan Halima was the senior brother to the wife of Sultan Ahmad bn Atiku, he was therefore his brother in-law. There was no much surprise therefore that Sultan Ahmad bn Atiku granted Dan Halima, such a very important fertile marshland of Fadamar Kanwa, almost the same area they were driven out, after their defeat and the fall of Alkalawa.[43]


The peaceful return of Gobirawa into Alkalawa Valley at Fadamar Kanwa in 1866 was a finest example of how social diplomacy was able to achieve for the Gobirawa, what sixty years warfare could not achieve. Strikingly, amidst supposedly enemies, the Ribat towns of Lajinge and Isa, Sabon Birnin Dan Halima continued to flourish throughout the remaining part of the 19th century, thereby emerging as the most important metropolis for the Gobirawa.


Rather than decline and ineffectiveness, what we saw in the remaining part of the 19th century was further consolidation of social diplomacy between the Sokoto Sultanate and the Gobir kingdom. For instance, the Sultanates of Ali bn. Bello (1866 – 1867) son of Katambale, as well as the two successive Sultans; Abdulrahman bn. Atiku (1891 – 1902) and Attahiru bn. Ahmad bn. Atiku (1902 – 1903) the former being a junior brother, while the later, son of Ahmad by his Gobir princess Mamma, ushered in a period of peaceful co-existence between the two states. That despite the much popularized temperament and aggressiveness of Sultan Abdulrahman (1891 – 1902), his energies and attacks were rather directed towards Kebbi and Zanfara, more than Gobir. More also, even when towards the end of his reign, the Gobirawa attempted hostility, no immediate drastic action was taken against them. But there was generally mutual harmony between Gobir and Sokoto during the period under review.[44]


In a similar vein, the activities of Muhammadu Maiturare bn. Ahmad bn. Atiku, another son of Gobir princess, Mamma, and how he was able to establish himself at Gwadabawa and his relations in the north-western part of the Sultanate, deeping much into Gobir’s alleged territories beyond Gada, was not equally achieved on pure military terms.[45]


After the British conquest and establishment of colonial administration, there emerged a new power relations, and eventual cessation of inter-state warfare. However, despite the change in circumstances and power relations between the Sokoto Sultanate and Gobir kingdom, social diplomacy continued to be relevant in defining the relationship between the two states. For instance, during the Sultanate of Muhammadu Tambari (1924 – 1931), son of Muhammadu Maiturare, son of Sultan Ahmad Atiku by princess Mamma, sister of Sarkin Gobir Dan Halima, there was a fracas between the Sultanate administration under Tambari and Gobirawa under Sarkin Gobir Ummaru Shawai, son of Jari Kada, son of Hussaini Acha, son of Masari Maikai, son of Ali, son of Yakuba (1917 – 1947). But Sultan Tambari responded by seeking the hands of another Gobir Princes, Maimuna, daughter of Sarkin Gobir Shwai, in marriage to one of his sons, Bunu, later Sarkin Gobir Adiya.[46] By so doing, the problem was eventually addressed.


The problem got its root since the beginning of colonial administration. After settling with the French and establishment of British control over Sabon Birni, there was boundary adjustment between the two European powers, subsequent upon which the British administration was established. Conversely, after the abdication of Sarkin Gobir Jari Kada (1896 – 1916), upon his request, his junior brother Mamman Jadi (1916 – 1917) was appointed Sarkin Gobir.[47] However, Jadi not only refused bringing his tax to Sokoto, but fell into the trap of embezzling the tax generated revenue in his District. More so, when attempt was made by the Sultanate Council to collect the tax from Jadi, he resisted and the ensuring conflict led to severe wound on one of the men of the Native Police (Dogari). The British authority responded by arresting Jadi who was deposed at Sokoto and Ummaru Shawai, son of Jari Kada, was appointed the next Sarkin Gobir (1917 – 1945).[48]


After his accession to office, Ummaru Shawai found it difficult to fully submit to the Sokoto Sultanate, by accepting and submitting his annual tax to Sokoto. But in the end, Shawai was made to understand the new administrative arrangements and thus submitted to the Sultanate. In fact, the Sultan even made attempt to reconcile Shawai with Jadi, which further solidify the Gobir-Sokoto relations, under the British administration.[49]


The process of the arbitration between the Gobirawa and the Sokoto Sultanate, leading to the former’s submission to the latter, was not an easy one. Apparently, the overwhelming military might of the British was not without role, but equally, the usual social diplomacy was deployed to ensure the total submission of the Gobirawa to the Sultanate. Thus, in a usual diplomatic way, Sultan Muhammadu Tambari took the hands of Maimuna, daughter of Sarkin Gobir Shawai, in marriage, for his son, Bunu Adiya, later Sarkin Gobir. The marriage was consummated between the two, and Maimuna (popularly called Yar’ Sokoto) was brought within the Sokoto Royal family.[50] The marriage between Maimuna and Sarkin Gobir Adiya was no doubt a significant attempt to bring Gobir and Sokoto Sultanate together, thus ensuring social fraternity between the two kingdoms.


Though, for reasons not yet clear at the present stage of our research, the marriage between Maimuna Yar’ Sokoto and Sarkin Gobir Adiya collapsed, the Sokoto Sultanate was smart enough, not to neglect that aspect of diplomacy. Thus, on accession to the throne, upon the advice of Waziri Abbas, Sultan Hassan Dan Mua’azu (1931 – 1938) married Maimuna (Yar’ Sokoto) daughter of Sarkin Gobir Shawai, thus, sustaining that strong social relation with the Gobirawa.[51]


It is interesting to note that even in the post-independence period, Royal marriages were sustained between the Sakkwatawa and Gobirawa. One such example was the marriage between Sarkin Gobir Ummaru Na’Allah son of Salihu, son of Ummaru Shawai (1960 – 1969/70)[52] and A’ishatu, daughter of Sarkin Gobir of Isa, Ahmadu, cousin of Sultan Abubakar III (1938 – 1988). A’ishatu, was the daughter of Tamodi, the eldest daughter of Sultan Abubakar III. Therefore, A’ishatu, was as much daughter of Sultan Abubakar’s cousin, as she was his granddaughter. A’ishatu was said to be the mother of Garka who married Sarkin Zamfara Sule Zurmi, thus extending the bounds of the social diplomacy.[53]


In addition, Sarkin Gobir Abdulhamid Salihu (2004 – 2015), who grew up more or less as a son to Sultan Abubakar III, and ex-clerk at the Sokoto Emsirate council, married Hajiya Nasara, daughter of the Sultan. Nasara bore eleven children, including Alhaji Nasiru who is among the key contenders to the District Headship of Gatawa, after the death of his father who was deployed there in 2015, before his death in 2017.[54] Therefore, Royal diplomatic marriages have been part and parcel of the history of Sokoto-Gobir relations, from inception to date.



Although, the history of Gobir-Sokoto relations has largely been pictured, and, or, assumed to be that of protracted warfare and animosity, particularly during the era of the Caliphate, it is evident that there were as much social, as there were military diplomacy. The leadership of the Sokoto Sultanate in particular employed carrot and stick approach, in dealing with both the contending powers and their reluctant subjects, throughout their history. It is striking to note that marriage diplomacy neutralized Gobirawa in their efforts to regain their lost territories at the formative stage of the caliphate, when the children of their daughter(s) were made charge of the ribat towns of Lajinge, Shinaka and Isa. However, the same weapon (diplomatic marriages) secured for them the much craved Fadamar Kanwa region, few kilometres away from their old capital of Alkalawa, without striking a single arrow.


Ironically, however, although the Jihad brought in what was perceived to be the Fulani overrule in Hausaland, social diplomacy and other related factors proved the openness and universalistic philosophy and outlook of the Sokoto caliphate. Paradoxically, some of the Sultans were as much Fulani as they were Gobirawa, courtesy of marriage diplomacy, a situation which made protracted war between Sokoto and Gobir a bit intermittent, compared with the Sokoto – Kebbi, for example. Interestingly, whereas such was true about some personalities in the Sultanate, the same result is coming to fruition in Gobir. For instance, one of the key contenders for the District Headship of Gatawa, presently, was a product of such diplomatic marriage. How his possible accession to the throne, and other similar developments in the future would go a long way in solidifying social fraternity and understanding between the two states, would be another ground for the erudite.

[1]. A.R. Augi, ‘An Explanation of the Military Factor in the History of Gobir’, Farfaru Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Studies, Vol. 2.No.1 & 2 (combined Edition), June and December 1988, p.117.

[2]. Ibid. See also: S.J. Hogben and A.H.M. Kirk-Grene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria, London, 1966. P149.

[3]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, London, Longman, 1977. See also: Y.B. Usman (ed). ‘Studies in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate: Yakubu (ed). The Sokoto Caliphate: History and Legacies: 1804 – 2004, Vol.I and II, Kaduna, Arewa House, ABU, 2006; T.L. Hodkin, ‘Uthman dan Fodiyo’, The Nigerian Magazine, (Special Independence Issue), October, 1960; and Muhammad Bello B. Uthman Fudi, Infa al-maisur, published in 1964 (Cairo) Abubaka Gummi.

[4]. E. J. Arnett, Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, London, waterlow & Sons Ltd, 1920, pp.23 – 29. See also: M. Junaid, Tarhin Fulani, Zaria, Northern Nigeria Publishing Company, 1956.

[5]. A. Smith, “The Early States of the Central Sudan”, in J.F. Ajayi and M. Crowder, History of West Africa Vol.I, London, Longman, 1971, pp??

[6]. A.R. Augi, ‘The Gobir Factor in the Social and Political History of the Rima Basin, c.1650 – 1808 A.D.’ Ph.D. Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1984. pp.105 – 165.

[7]. Ibid. pp.300 – 335. See also: Augi, ‘Migration of the Gobirawa: A Reconsideration’, paper presented for History post-graduate seminar, Department of History, Ahmadus Bello University, Zaria, 31st March, 1979, pp.21 – 27.

[8] M. B. Alkali, ‘A Hausa Community in Crisis: Kebbi in the Nineteen Century’, M.A. Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1968, pp. 76-77. See also G. Nadama, ‘The Rise and Collapse of a Hausa State: A Social and PoliticalHistory of Zamfara’, PhD. Thesis, , Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1977, 387; and A. R. Augi, ‘Gobir Factir in the Social and …’, pp. 380-392.

[9]. Ibid. See also: G. Nadama, “The Rise and Collapse of a Hausa State: A Social and Political History of Zamfara”. Ph.D. Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1977, pp. 265 -295. 

[10]. Ibid. p.288.

[11]. Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarhin Gobirawa, A book containing the history of Gobirawa from the earliest time to the reign of the last Sarkin Gobir of Sabon Birni – Abdulhamid Salihu, compiled by eight man committee with the help of the palace of Sarkin Gobir Tsibiri and that dof Sabon Birni. We obtained a copy of the book from ‘Bango Abubakar’ one of the committee members on 7th July, 2018 at Sabon Birni.pp. 3 – 4.

[12]. Ibid. pp. 4 – 5.

[13]. G. Nadama, “The Rise and Collapse of a Hausa State…”, p. 298. Also; Abubakar Bango, Sabon Birni, 72 years old, oral interview, Sabon Birni, 07-07-2018.

[14]. G. Nadama, “The Rise and Collapse of a Hausa State…”, pp. 384 – 408.

[15]. See footnote no:3. See also: M. Last, “Reform in West Africa: The Jihad Movements sof the Nineteenth Century”, History of West Africa, Volume two, J.F. Ajayi and M. Crowder (ed), London, Longman, 1974; and A. M. Kani and K. A. Gandi (ed), State and Society in the Sokoto Caliphate.

[16]. J.P. Smaldone, Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate: Historical and Sociological Perspective, London, Cambridge University Press, 1977. See also: A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, Gazetteers of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, Vol.1, London, Frankcass and Company Ltd, 1972. Also; Amadu Bala Ubandawakin Gobir, more than 100years, Sabon Birni, oral interview, 07-07-2018; and Sulaiman Salihu, 72 years old, Sabon Birni, Oral interview, 07-07-2018.

[17]. Abubakar Bango, 72 years, Sabon Birni, oral interview, 07-07-2018.

[18]. Ibid. See also: M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, pp.76 – 77.

[19]. Ibid.

[20]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, pp.70 -71.

[21]. Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp.27 – 28.

[22]. Ibid. p.29

[23]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, p.71.

[24]. Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, p.29.

[25]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, p.71.

[26]. Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, p.29.

[27]. Ibid. pp.29 – 31.

[28] Ibid.pp. 28-32.

[29]. E.J. Arnett, Gazetteer of Sokoto Province, p.31. See also: M. Las, The Sokoto Caliphate, p.71.

[30]. M. Last, ibid.

[31]. J. P. Smaldone, Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate…, pp. 61 – 68.

[32]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, pp.76 – 77.

[33]. Ibid. pp.78 – 79.

[34]. Ibid. p.125.

[35] Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp. 30-36. Also; Abubakar Bango, 72 years, Sabon Birni, oral interview, 07-07-2018.

[36]. Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp.32 – 34.

[37]Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp. 29 -34. Also; Abubakar Bango, 72 years, Sabon Birni, oral interview, 07-07-2018.

[38]. Ibid. pp.31 – 36.

[39]. Sulaiman S/GobirSalihu, ‘Tarihin Kafuwar Daular Gobir Fadamar Kanwa a Garin Sabon-Birn’, a shekara ta 1870 – date’. Pp.3 – 4.

[40]. Ibid. pp. 4 – 5.

[41]Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa, pp.36 – 37.

[42]. A. R. Augi, ‘The Gobir Factor in the Social and Political History of the Rima Basin, c. 1650-1806’, PhD. Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, 1984, pp. 390. See also; Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp. 36 – 38.

[43]. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate…, p.116.

[44]. Ibid. pp.119 – 134.

[45]. Ibid. p.127. See also: R.A. Adeleye, Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria: The Sokoto Caliphate and its Enemies.

[46]. Sulaiman S/GobirSalihu, ‘Tarihin Kafuwar Daular Gobir Fadamar Kanwa…’, p.20.

[47]. Ibid. pp. 13 and 19.

[48]. Ibid. pp. 19 – 20.

[49]. Ibid. p.20. See also: ‘Gubbaru: Kammalallehn Tarihin Gobirawa…, pp. 45 – 46.

[50]. Abubakar Bango, 72 years, Sabon Birnin, oral interview, 07-07-2018. Also: Amadu (Bala) Ubandawakin Gobir, more than 100 syears, Sabon Birnin, oral interview, 07-07-2018.

[51]. Amadu (Bala) Ubadanwakin Gobir, more than 100 years, Sabon Birnin, oral interview, 0n 07-07-2018.

[52]. Abubakar Bango, 72 years, Sabon Birnin,oral intervsiew, 07-07-2018. See also: Gubbaru: Kammalallen Tarihin Gobirawa…, p.46; and Sulaiman S/Gobir Salihu, Tarihin Kafuwar Daular Gobir Fadamar Kanwa…, p.22.

[53]. Ahmadu (Bala) Ubandawakin Gobir, more than 100 year’s old, oral interview, Sabon Birnin, 07-07-2018.

[54]. Alhaji Nasiru Abdulhamid Salihu, 48 years old, oral interview, Sabon Birnin on 07-07-2018. Also: oral interview with Amadu (Bala) Ubandawaki, more than 100 ayears old; and Sulaiman Salihu, 72 years old, at Sabon Birnin on 07-07-2018. 

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