Linguistic Superiority between Kano and Sakkwato Hausa Varieties: The Case of Great 1958 Poetic Debate between Yusuf Kantu Isa and Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa


Linguistic Superiority between Kano and Sakkwato Hausa Varieties:
(The Case of Great 1958 Poetic Debate between Yusuf Kantu Isa and Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa)


Aliyu Muhammadu Bunza
Professor of Hausa Cultural Studies
Department of Languages and Cultures
Federal University Gusau


 Kano, Sokoto and Katsina dialects are the popular Hausa varieties in Hausaland and beyond. Kano variety named Kananci occupies the territories of the ancient Kano Kingdom[1].  The Katsinanci dialect of Katsina is the common variety in the whole of Katsina province, including Maraxi region in the Niger republic[2]. In contrast, Sakkwatanci variety of Hausa is of seven categories: Sakkwatanci, Gobarci, Zamfarci, Kabanci, Gimbananci; Arabci, and Yawuranci[3]. The alleged superiority between Kano and other Hausa varieties is an inconclusive debate even among elites, and scholars of Hausa studies[4]. Notwithstanding however, the feeling of who-is-who in the linguistic supremacy between the Kanawa and the other Hausa dialects groups is a linguistic battle of numerical varieties of vocabularies, which is more of naming names, as I critically observed[5]. The intention of this write-up, is to contest the alleged superiority of Kano over the others through the great poetic debate of 1958 between Yusuf Kantu of Kano variety and Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa of Sokoto variety. The performance was the first one-on-one linguistic drill in poetic devices, on the subject under review[6].

Yusuf Kantu and Bawa Sha’iri

 The great confrontation under review was a contest between Yusuf Kantun Waqa and Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa[7]. Yusuf Kantu was a great NEPU poet, and a Nationalist of the leftist learning. He was among the leading Hausa poets in Kano, and beyond. Kantu is a gifted poet, well versed in Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence[8]. He hailed from Isa town, the headquarters of Isa Local Government, Sokoto State. A clever Bagobiri with typical Gobarci facial marks, and excellent grammar in Gobir dialect[9]. Yusuf left Isa to Kano at his early age. He was wrongly assumed to be a Kano man (Bakano) due to his long stay in Kano and his popularity in Islamic scholarship, and NEPU politics. Thus, he was among the well-known figures in Kano poetry circle. He was therefore representing Kano, in the contest.

 Bawa Sha’iri, is a clever blind poet who hailed from Durbawa District of Kware Local Government of Sokoto State. He was nick-named Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa[10].  Sha’iri is an Arabic word denoting “Literary Poet” as against “mawaqi” (a singer). Bawa was a gentle, blind popular poet in Sokoto province. During my field work, I discovered that Bawa was very popular in Tambuwal, Sanyinna, Boxinga, Sokoto, Dogon Daji, Jega, Birnin Kabi, Kano and Sakkwato[11]. Unfortunately, none of his poems (if any) has survived in any form. All we were told was that Bawa speaks in poetic devices[12]. He died around 1990; his life history and his last destination are still under the cloud.

Historical Background of the Inferiority Complex between Kano and the other Hausa Kingdoms

 Kano the industrialized city of Hausaland is the home of West African commerce, international businesses, religious centre, and also a home for many international communities. These among others, give Kano the credit of being the leading city in the West African region; and hence the title of “Jalla Babbar Hausa” (the big city of Hausaland). The three popular praise epithet of Kano that gave birth to series of debate include:

ü Kano ba gari ba dajin Allah

ü Gari ba Kano ba dajin Allah

ü Yaro ko da me, ko da wace ka zo, an fi ka


English Rendition:

ü Kano a big city beyond imagination

ü Kano city is incomparable to all in Hausaland

ü In whatever capacity, Kano is above all;

Katsinawa, Kabawa, Zagezagi, and Sakkwatawa consider these statements as egotistic. In their opinion, all these assertions are contestable. This is the beginning of the linguistic and cultural contest between Kano and the rest of the Hausa world. Attempts were made by many Katsinawa, Sakkwatawa, and Kabawa to subdue the hyperbolic feeling in many instances and occasions. The most widely known challenge is the confrontation between a Kano Kolanut seller and his Katsina customer:

A Kano kolanut seller displays his kolanuts on a tray around 1:00-1:30pm when the sun was at its peak. He placed his bush-lamp on the tray, reciting Kano’s praise epithet: “Yaro ko da me ka zo an fi ka” “Boy, mind your business, we are above you at all cost”. A Katsina man quickly brought his torch-light, and point to the kolanuts trying to bargain, saying: “Nawa nawa”? How much is each”. They all contested that, day and night are same[13]. One is at liberty to use his lamp at any time of the day or night. Kano Kolanuts seller was shocked only to see that, his efforts to elevate Kano above all, fails thoroughly, hence Katsina contestant makes a good defense. In this context, Kano was forced to accept defeat unceremoniously.

 Buda Xantanoma[14] a war singer of Kebbi Kingdom made an attempt to challenge Kano superiority in Hausaland. Buda Xantanoma accompanied Sarkin Kabi Muhammadu Sama (1920-1934) to Kano to witness the reception of Prince Edward in 1925. It was during the reign of Sarkin Kano Shehu, when Buda performed at this occasion, he sang in protest of Kano supremacy, proudly in support of Kebbi Kingdom:

  : An ce ba a wa Kano takakka

  : Mamman ya tattake ta

  : An ce ba a wa Kano takakka

  : Amma Mamman ya yi

  : An ce ba a wa Kano takakka

  : Sama ya tattaka ta

  : Don mun zo Kano da dambun masu

  : Ba mu samo gaba ba[15]

  : Taron Kano da an ka yi

  : Sama shi Allah Yas so

  : Shi Sarkin Kano da yas san daidai

  : Tarbon bahago yay yi

  : Ko Sarkin Kano da yas san daidai

  : Tarbon manya yay yi

  : Sarkin Kano da shi da gari nai

  : Ran nan daji yak kwana

  : Malamman gari ka cewa Sarki

  : Taso ka shige birni

  : Gyara takubba na Yari, tallabi masu,

  : Shiga birni ba kowa[16]


 There are very few instances to portray the feeling of the other natives of Hausa kingdoms against Kano dialectal over-lordship. Xantanoma invited Kano people to his mentor:

  : Ce ma mutanen Kano su zo su ga Sarki,

  : Ba Sarkin qage ba[17].

Bawa’s Encounter with Kantu

 I was opportune to meet Yusuf Kantu in person on several occasions. During our meeting, I was curious to know about his encounter with Bawa. Kantu’s narration was made open during the First Hausa International Poetry Competition, Argungu 1982[18].  He said, Bawa was in Kano purposely to challenge Kanawa on Hausa linguistic drill. He was so proud to be Basakkwace (Sokoto dialect speaker) and dare to challenge any Bakano (Kano dialect speaker) in the art of poetry. According to Kantu (Yakawada, 1983:199):

Bawa was so eager to meet them in Kano for the debate. When he got to one of the Kano gates (the name was not mentioned). He met one person by the gate, he asked him: “Please is this (the town) called Kano” He said: “Yes it is”. His further quest: Is this the place (town) they claimed that its inhabitants are above all in whatever capacity?” Bawa repeated the question, and the man gave him same answer, “Yes it is.” He (Bawa) told him: “I came here as a poet, and I’m confident I will defeat any Kano challenger”. 

 Many Kanawa could not believe that, Bawa was up to the task, as he went on to defeat Malam Lawal Mai Turare, Malam Mudi Sipikin and Alhaji Aqilu Aliyu (Yakawada: 1983:99) Yusuf Kantu was therefore the fourth contestant/challenger, and it is very unlikely for him to break the records. However, the duo agree to stage the debate the day. It was arranged to be staged at Plaza Cinema for the occasion to receive good number of audience. There were speculations that Kantu was summoned by his Kano professional colleagues on how to handle Bawa appropriately. He knew that, three of his professional friends were defeated at a go, and he remained their only hope, as it is the final one-on-one challenge. After a prolong discussion, and thorough study of the style to be adopted, as a rule of engagement, the running rhyme /ye/ was suggested for Kantu secretly.

The Rules of the Game

   The game was not officially under the auspices of any government or non-governmental organization. It was an ad-hoc arrangement only to know, who is who between Kano and Sokoto Hausa varieties. However, on the debate day, the following agreements were reached:  

(i)               The debate is one on one (ga ni, ga ka) oral presentation but with running rhyme.

(ii)             Yusuf Kantu, the Kano representative, is to lead the debate.

(iii)          The audience would be the judges.

(iv)           The opening doxology of the lead presenter (as per rhyme) must be retained by all.

(v)             In confronting the challenges, all must avoid lifting ideas from one another.

(vi)           You must all reply by using same stanzas (tagwai).

(vii)        The melody of the opening doxology to be retained.

(viii)      Bawa was given only a minute to respond to each question.

(ix)           Any delay from the agreed time (one minute) is a defeat.

(x)             Bawa must never borrow, or use Kantu’s vocabularies, under any guise.


The Battle Front

 Having agreed on all the terms of reference, duo set out for the contest. No doubt, Yusuf Kantu was at an advantage for starting/opening the contest. He has all the opportunities to trap Bawa in a difficult position being the first to open up the contest. Careful study of the terms of reference revealed the secret of advanced knowledge from Kano circle. In addition, Yusuf Kantu had all his questions ready for Bawa, while Bawa was unaware. Should Bawa fail to respond to the questions of Kantu to the satisfaction of both Kantu and the audience (who are the judges), he stands defeated. Right from the laid down rules, Bawa was technically ruled out, and Kano was certain of getting the prize.


Opening Doxology

 The opening doxologies of oral and written songs are far apart in context and style. Yusuf used this opportunity to open up the game in a tricky style as it entails:


1  Kai Bawa as Sha’ir inai maka tambaya,

   Don na gane ka aboki kanka a waye.


Trans:  Hey you Bawa the poet, my question goes to you,

   Indeed I see in you, a friendly mood for the entertainment.


 You can see that the first stanza proposes a question for Bawa. In contrast, the second stanza moves to praise Bawa for his courage to stand for the contest. What a tricky opening doxology indeed! However, Bawa managed to reply in the most eloquent manner:


2  To ga ni nan ko tambaye ni abin da duk,

   Kaka yin nufi, don yanzu ga ni a shirye.


Trans:  Yes here I stand to attend to your quiz,

   And very ready am I for the engagement.

The opening is well composed and squarely addressed all. The alleged advanced arrangement from the Kano circle did not make any impact at disarming Bawa, the challenger. The running rhyme /ye/, the stanza, melody and input of Kantu’s opening address, were correctly captured in Bawa’s reply. This makes a good beginning of the debate.

Kananci Feelings in the Tricks of the Quiz

 Bawa was all out to defeat Kano once and for all. He knew it very well that, Kantu had privilege information about the substance of the quiz. The opening doxology is a pointer to that, and Kano is all ready to fight to the last. It is important to note that Bawa was in Kano for the first time. He knew nothing about Kano city, let alone the immediate towns and villages around Kano city. With this in mind, Kantu was curtained to silence Bawa on any important issue about Kano. He summoned Bawa on the following:


3  Ko ka faxa mini dag ga nan birnin Kano,

   Shin mil guda nawa ne zuwa Qaarwaaye.


Trans:  Can you tell me the distance (mile),

   From Kano city to Qaraye the town of enjoyment.

 Qaraye’s name was dubiously pronounced only to confuse the contestant. Even if the distance miles are known to Bawa, the melody and running rhyme of the quiz would likely be abused. To avoid the risk, Bawa employed same style of pronouncing the name of Qaraye as “Qaarwaaye” and quit out right away:


4  Mil xin zuwa Qaarwaayee ni ban san su ba,

   Bisa wagga amsa sai na ce: “Na janye”.


Trans:  Certainly, I don’t know the number of miles to Qaraye

   As to this challenge, I hereby declined my commitment.


 The question was answered in the tricky style it was asked. The question was very personal and elusive to a first-time visitor to Kano, like Bawa Durbawa. The use of the name “Qaraye” in Bawas’s reply is unavoidable for the reply to be conveyed correctly.

General Question

 General questions are part of the general issues that are very familiar to all native speakers of Hausa. To buttress his general knowledge on the sociology of human behavior, Kantu raised question on rowa/marowaci “stinginess” and “niggardliness”. They are in two phrases as presented in the quiz:


5  Shin mi yas sa in anka ce wa marowaci,

   Kawo tuwo mu ci sai ya ce: “Na cinye”?


Trans:  Tell me why stingy person never honour request to sharing his food,

(Instead) He retort: “I have eaten all” nothing left neither in the kitchen nor in the apartment.


 Marowaci is a Hausa word for a stingy person. In reply, Bawa borrowed “bahili” in Arabic, same meaning in Hausa only to avoid tautology. He therefore replied:


6  Ka san bahili wanda ba ya ravuwa

   Matarsa ma zai ba ya ce: “Tafi voye”


Trans:  You know the niggardly is undependable, on sighting visitors

He hands over the food to his wife, to hide, in the hidden apartment.


 Bawa’s reply was philosophical, it is yet to address the basic ingredients of Kantu’s query, as “why the stingy refuses sharing food”. Reasons are not provided in Bawa’s reply, instead the unwanted habit of the stingy was explained. The second general question is between the people of Kano city and the rest of the Hausa world. Kanawa (Kano people) assumed Kano to be the only city in Hausaland, all other cities of Hausa kingdoms, are mere settlements or hamlets of uncivilized personalities. This was clearly demonstrated in Kantu’s fourth question:


7  Shin me ya sa jama’ar da ke babban gari,

   Suka xauki wai, ‘yan qauye duk wawaye?


Trans:  Why do the people of big cities

   Make mockery of the inhabitants of remote villages?

 Be informed, Kano youth were the first to bear the nick-name of “’Yanbirni” (people of big city/city guys) in Hausaland[19].  Kantu is indirectly referring to his humble self as (xan birni of Kano city) and Bawa as (baqauye/wawa) of remote environment (from Sokoto). Bawa a clever gentle man, pays no heed to the innuendo, and went ahead to checkmate the statement in a gentle manner:


8  Wannan irin abu tun azal haka nan shi ke,

   Tun zamanin da kakanni da iyaye.


Trans:  The superiority complex went back to time immemorial,

   From the ancestors to forefathers, and so the embarrassment.

 Bawa’a concentration, and promptness, in handing the quiz gave Kantu no room to maneuver. Kantu, a courageous and intelligent poet, decided to open a new topic for the quiz to continue.

Cultural Drills

 The topic of this sub-theme included durbar and witchcraft. In Hausaland, horses, donkeys, and camels are used for durbar during festivals and ceremonies. However, in some other parts of the world, elephants were domesticated to serve the same purpose. This is a very strange culture to a Hausa man and therefore unaware of its happening. Witchcraft is a popular cultural belief/practice in many societies across the human world. Kantu, peeped through these cultures to carry on the quiz:


9  To mi ya sa mu nan dawaki za mu hau,

   Su Indiyawa ko su hau giwaye?


Trans:  Why do we ride here horses as our pride,

But in India, elephants are the pride in beautiful adornment?


 Kantu’s trap is in the pronoun “su” (they), instead of “can” to point at far place for India. By using “su”, Bawa as a blind man, may be deceived to consider India as part of us in the Hausaland. Bawa got the trap and skip it wisely:      


10  Bisa gaskiya dajinsu giwa ag garai,

   Mu namu ko, duk babu sai zomaye.


Trans:  Infact, elephants are the common species in India

In Hausaland rabbits infest our forest what a deserted environment?


 On the issue of witchcraft Kantu was very soft in the deliberation as he asked:


11  Shin mi ya sa mata idan suka haifi xa,

   Kafin shi girma suke ta tsoron maye?


Trans:  Why are the nursing mothers,

   Always scared of witch’s threat (to their baby)?


12  Ai ka sani dai xai shiga rai ne da shi,

   Har shi ka sa wasu ma, su sa lawaye.


Trans:  We very much love children, our beloved gift,This makes mothers to seek protection of traditional medicament.


 At this point, Yusuf told me that, Kano audience protested the word “lawaye” as plural of “layu” charms. In Kano dialect “laya” is singular “layu” plural. In Sokoto variety “laya” (charm) is singular, “layu” and “lawaye” are the plurals. This was quickly resolved, and accepted by all, and the quiz continued.


Professional Questions

 After the dialectical differences were settled, Yusuf Kantu decided to employ professional questions, with the hope to close up the game in his favour, or to adjourn the sitting until further notice. He therefore, opened up a new topic in fisheries, hunting, and commerce. Kantu leads as usual:


13  Shin mai kiyon kifi yana a cikin ruwa,

   Shi ya fi wauta koko mai tsuntsaye?


Trans:  A fisher, raising fish, in a river, or a hunter, rearing birds in the forest,

   Amongst the duo who is the most foolish in your assessment?


10  To! Mai kiyon kifi yana a cikin ruwa,

   Bisa gaskiya dai gara mai tsuntsaye.


Trans:  Ah! Very amazing, raising fish in the river,

 In my opinion, the birds’ raiser is better as per risk management.


 After the above questions, Kano and its client Yusuf Kantu Isa, were almost penned down with no hope of defeating the visiting contestant. The noisy crowd was put to calm for the quiz to advance. As usual, it is very difficult to control such a huge crowd of agitators as the game seemed to be likely out of their hands. Yusuf Kantu was asked to carry on to the bitter end. He staged a strange question:


15  Xankasuwa ya samu riba mai yawa,

   Shin sun fi murna koko dai angwaye?


Trans:  Look between a trader in profit and bride and bridegroom,

   Who is the most happiest? I await your judgment?


 What I had from Yusuf Kantu Isa, as regards to this very question was that, Bawa could not respond to the question promptly. Alas! It took him more than one minute to the voice out his reply to the hearing of the noisy audience. The rules of the engagement gave no room for such a delay (as alleged) and Bawa stood to be defeated right away. He was trying to get their attention but Kano supporters were shouting: “You are done”! You are finished! You are defeated![20]


 Hausa has triple advantages over the rest of the Chadic language family. In its linguistics history, there are evidence that, it has a traditional writing before it contact with outside world[21]. Hausa ethnic identify by facial tribal marks is an evidence of the idea of Hausa ancient writing system. In addition, Ajami writing system borrowed from Arabic was at its peak from the 16th-19th century[22]. Letters, memos, treaties, records, commercial transactions, judicial matters, religious books, poems, and translations were all done in Ajami. The colonial officers brought with them, the so-called Western education. This gave birth to Hausar boko and Karatun boko, writing Hausa in roman letters.[23] Hausa literate verses (written songs) developed from the early days of the penetration of Islam and Islamic scholarship in Hausaland[24]. Hausa Muslim scholars wrote their sermons, preaching, history and Marsiyya in verse. These poetries were the first source of language documentation in Hausaland. The classical Hausa and its major dialects were all preserved in poetic documentation of early Hausa Muslim scholars, clerics, and their students in verse (poetry).  


 During my field work, I did all the best to authenticate the verses received from my informants. Though I was opportune to meet Yusuf Kantu in person on many occasions, I also met Professor Magaji Tsoho Yakawada who wrote his BA project, 1983 at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on the subject. The version of Prof. Yakawada’s collection is the most authentic collection (manuscript). However, I got two additional stanzas from some audiences of the quiz which are quite similar to the authenticated versions provided here in the paper. The first stanza is assumed to be answer to the last question of Yusuf Kantu which Bawa was penalized for delay. It says:


16  Murnar kuxi na can wajen ‘yan kasuwa,

   Amma ta dahir na ga mai mangaye.

Trans:  Merchants who sold in cash are in their happiest moment,

But the bridegroom is the most happier in my opinion.


 This stanza can be acceptable based on what Kantu narrated to me on the mood of the debate conclusion. In addition, I got two additional stanzas which I cast doubt on their how and why?

  Mis sa farar mace kyaunta ko ya kai ina,

   Ba ta fice matuqar akwai jajaye?


  Ka san farar mace kyaunta jan fuska yake,

   Wane mutum in ta sako kandaye?

 I got many additional versions from many individuals during the field work, and through social media. The one in circulation in the social media is not authenticated. The versions and its historical sources are very doubtful. I met with Malam Sanyinna[25] who presented the programme on several occasions on social media, Rima Television, and Rima Radio Sokoto. It is of no doubt that he knows about Bawa and his art. In a cross examinations, I confirmed that Bawa was a popular poet, but the alleged song in the social media is not the very one conducted in Kano.

The Running Rhymes /yee/

 The choice of running rhyme /yee/ was deliberate by Yusuf Kantu and his associates. It was assumed to be the difficult running rhyme in Hausa literate verse. The duo’s words with running rhyme /yee/ are:

Yusuf Kantu    Bawa Sha’iri

1.     Waye – clever    1. Shirye – ready

2.     Qaraye – Towns name   2. Janye – decline

3.     Canye – eaten    3. Voye – hide

4.     Wawaye – foolish/idiots   4. Iyaye – parents

5.     Giwaye – elephants   5. Zomaye – rabbits

6.     Maye – wizard    6. Lawaye – charms/amulets

7.     Tsuntsaye – birds    7. Tsuntsaye – birds

8.     Angwaye – bridegroom  8. Mangaye – coiffure

From the analysis above, the running rhymes /yee/ was throughout the contest maintained. It is also noted that, the words bearing the running rhyme ends with high tone. In the challenge/contest, all the participants used Sokoto Hausa variety to bridge the gap in the choice of running the rhyme. The word canye in Kantu’s stanza (3) was in Sokoto dialect as against cinye in Kano standard. Bawa’s lawaye is a typical Sokoto dialect which stands for layu in Kano dialect. In addition, janye and iyaye in Bawa’s reply are of Kano standard. The Sokoto equivalent to janye is jaye and iyaye is uwaye in Sokoto variety. In a nutshell, all the contestants are of Sokoto origin which is difficult for them to avoid using Sokoto variety completely.

The Judgment

 It was unfortunate that there was no score, or points awarded to the contestants, nor the presiding judge to give the final ruling. Based on what happened between Bawa and Lawal Maiturare, Mudi Sipikin and Aqilu Aliyu, Bawa’s presence in Kano and his activities was known to all Kano potential poets. In this view, observations and comments as per the credibility of the judgment were raised here and there by many groups. Points to question the outcome of the quiz include:  

(i)               Terms of reference were made by Kantu, the contestant. It is unfair to be a judge and the prosecutor of your own case.

(ii)             Kantu as a Chief-judge and the Team Leader was also the principal contestant.

(iii)          The running rhyme /yee/ was chosen by Kantu and Bawa was forced to abide by it. This is enough evidence to nullify the result.

(iv)           The timing is another ground of appeal to contest the result. Kantu single handedly fixed one minute for Bawa to respond to his question, same timing was used to disqualify Bawa.

(v)             Bawa the special guest to Kanawa, deserved special treatment, at least to lead the debate through, and Kantu to follow suit.

(vi)           From the mood of the congregation there was no Sokoto representative on the side of Bawa. This makes the debate to be a one man affair and hence the problem.

(vii)        Disqualifying Bawa on his failure to beat the time at the tail end of the game, is a pre-plan trap to terminate the quiz in favour of Kantu.

The Findings

1.     Kano kingdom, with particular reference to Kano city is a great figure in the history of Hausaland. Its strategic position and economic prosperity, contributes to its rapid development. These special qualities gave Kano and its Hausa variety the advantage of linguistic overload on the remaining Hausa varieties.

2.     The superiority of Kano Hausa variety was an organized hand-work of the colonial language policy through the imposition of Boko (Western education) system of education. The media and the so-called official documents championed the propaganda.

3.     The great debate unveiled the secret behind linguistic aggressiveness between Kano and the other Hausa varieties. The contestants, Bawa and Kantu held from Sokoto varieties region, by implication Kano is out of the race. Majority of the Kano potential poets past and present by origin were from Sokoto region. Thus, Kano Hausa variety is a concoction of all the Hausa varieties to the credit of Kano being the umbilical code of Hausa linguistic dispensation.   

4.     Linguistic borrowing in another factor of the Kano linguistic imperialism over the rest of Hausa varieties. Being the centre of international communities through commerce and religious activities its contact with different ethnic groups and languages within and outside Africa is an added advantage to its linguistic strength.  



 The great 1958 challenge/contest between Yusuf Kantu Isa and Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa was the first of its kind in the literary history of Hausa written poetry. Though, the debate was one-on-one, and delivered instantly to the audience, it was presented in form of Literate Verse. It was a good beginning in the documentation, preservation, and creative art in African languages. The linguistic politics between Kano and the rest of Hausa varieties is yet to be buried. The great debate of 1958 is now in propaganda through social media in different context. At this era of linguistic imperialism and language endangerment such as a debate is highly needed to save our linguistic cultural heritage.


[1] Abdullahi Uba Adamu, Confluence and Influence: The Emergence of genre of Kano as a City State. Munawara Books Foundation, Kano, 1999; and Smith, M. G. Government in Kano.

[2] Yusuf Bala Usman, The Transformation of Katsina 1400-1883. Ahmadu Bello University Press, Zaria, 1981.

[3] This is the opinion of Mahdi Adamu Ngaski, for details, you may wish to see Mahdi Adamu, “Yawuri in the 19th Century”, MA Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,

[4] This was the reason behind the great debate, 1958. The linguistic risk in standardizing the language is the fear of endangerment. As at moment, Kano variety is officially adapted in media and academia. However, it is impossible to avoid the other varieties completely.

[5] In Kano standard, “groundnut” is “gyaxa”. In Sokoto variety it is “gyara”, “gujiya”, :qwaras-qwaras”, “qwaruru”, “kwalamshe” are used for different varieties of groundnuts, while in Kano, one name is retained (gyaxa)

[6] This was explained by Yusuf Kantu Isa during the Hausa Poetry International Competition held in Argungu, 1981, organized by Qungiyar Manazarta da Marubuta Waqoqin Hausa, under the support of Council for Arts and Culture, Sokoto, and National Council for Arts and Culture, Iganmu, Lagos. During the occasion the second one on one (ga ni ga ka) competition took place. The author of this paper emerged the winner.

[7] Yusuf Kantu was popularly known as Kantun Waqa “a potential Hausa poet”. Bawa Sha’iri Durbawa was named “Sha’iri” (a poet) for his popularity on the subject across Hausaland.

[8] Kantu was a renowned Islamic scholar in Isa town and the Local Government as a whole. He established Islamic school in Isa on his own. He taught Jurisprudence, Arabic Grammar and Hadith.

[9] In the year 1981, Qungiyar Marubuta da Manazarta Waqoqin Hausa under the leadership of Alqali Bello Gixaxawa (Xangaladiman Wazirin Sokoto) and Professor Xalhatu Muhammad Zariya proposed to compile a standard Hausa Dictionary. Yusuf Kantu was mandated to compile Agricultural terms in Gobirci dialect. He was first to present his report with hundreds of vocabularies. It was suggested that his submission alone can be improved to a Standard Hausa Agricultural Vocabulary. This was announced during the second annual meeting, Argungu, 1982.

[10] Bawa was the only poet named “Sha’iri” in Hausaland during his era.

[11] This was compiled during my field work, March, 2019.

[12] Interview with Malam Abubukar Xanhassan, Sardaunan Sanyinna a lecturer at Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto, March, 2019.

[13] Interview with Dr. Bello Bala Usman, Associate Professor, Department of Nigerian Languages, UDUS, 2000.

[14] Aliyu Muhammadu Bunza, “Tsakanin Kabi da Sakkwato, Kar ta san Kar Aljani ya taka Wuta: Daular Kabi a Ma’aunin Bakandamiyar Buda Xantanoma” in Journal of Humanities and Education, Federal University Gusau, Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2015, pp. 264-285.

[15] They say no warrior is capable to step in Kano,

Mamman stepped in Kano in confidence

The saying that Kano is above all

Was contested by Mamman

They say no one is capable to attack Kano

Sama has done it

We entered Kano with bundles of spears

There was no one capable to confront us

[16] The Durbar of Kano

Was a God gift to Sama

The Emir of Kano knows he

Received the lefty honourably

Even the Emir of Kano knows the right decision

Received the great men in honour

The Emir of Kano left his city unceremoniously

And seek refuge in the bush for dear life

Kano clerics advised the Emir

Hurry up and move into the city, it is safer

Get your swards ready and hold your spears the man of Yari

Move into the city it is empty, they ran away

[17] Let the people of Kano came and see the right King,

Not the so-called pretender with fake personality

[18] The 16 stanzas stated here in this presentation were recited by Kantu before the audience of the Argungu Conference, 1982

[19] This was the opinion of Alhaji Mamman Shata Katsina when he was interviewed on his song of Hajiya Maituwo:

Wayyo! Ni Allah ‎‎’yan birni

Kun iza ni kun gaza fid da ni



Oh! My dear the city guys

You invited me and you abandon me helpless

[20] The tail end of the debate was rowdy and disorderly.

[21] Aliyu Muhammadu Bunza, Rubutun Hausa: Yadda Yake da Yadda Ake Yin Sa. IBRASH Publishers Lagos, 2002, Chapter 1.

[22] Sani Yusuf Birnin-Tudu, Rubutun Ajami a Qasar Hausa. Tetfund Sponsored Publication, University Press, Sokoto, 2015.

[23] Ibrahim Yaro Yahaya, Hausa A Rubuce: Tarihin Rubuce-rubuce Cikin Harshen Hausa. NNPC, Zaria.

[24] Mervyn Hiskett, History of Hausa Islamic Verse, SOAS, London, 1975.

[25] I got the version in social media, Prof. Sanusi, Biology Dept., UDUS and Prof. Mayanci, Faculty of Education, FUGUS, sent me same versions through WhatsApp. All the versions I received through the media from different sources were also received by Malam Abubakar Xanhassan Sanyinna (Sardaunan Sanyinna), a Lecturer at Department of Hausa, Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto. Thus, I met with him about four occasions for authenticity. Certainly, both are not the same versions of Kano debate of 195. However, I heard that the said version around 1987 from one late Alhaji Isma’ila Kware of Hausa Department, Sokoto Polytechnic. Sama’ila taught Sardaunan Sanyinna Hausa at State Polytechnic around the said period. Sama’ila Kware was a poet and so the Sardaunan Sanyinna. It is most likely that the duo attempted to contribute to the debate or create new version of the debate for their students. The Yusuf Kantu’s version is same with the version of Prof. Magaji Tsoho Yakawada in his BA Project, 1983, ABU, Zaria. Same version was recited by Yusuf Kantu, Argungu, 1981 and 1982. Certainly, same version I heard from Prof. Haruna Abdullahi Birniwa around 1980s at Departmental Seminar, Department of Nigerian Languages, University of Sokoto. I stand to be corrected, but certainly the version in circulation alleged to be from Sardaunan Sanyinna is not the version of the great Kano debate of 1958.

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