The Igbo in the Post-Colonial Katsina Book Trade Culture, 1980-2010

This article is published in Sokoto Journal of History, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2021. Check below to download a PDF of the complete article.

DOI: 10.36349/sokotojh.2021.v10i01.011


Abdullahi Rabiu Baba-Bala
Department of History & Strategic Studies
Federal University Dutsin-Ma, Katsina

Mohammed Ibrahim Kofar Soro
Isa Kaita College of Education, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina



Igbo as a business group have been identified as the dominant book dealers in Katsina metropolis. They specialised in supply of western school-based textbooks and other writing materials. Their emergence on the scene was not accidental. It followed a historical trend in the history of book economy in Katsina. Katsina metropolis in pre-colonial period consolidated its position as a centre of trade and scholarship which is the reason for thriving Islamic book culture. Colonial conquest ushered in a new system of education, writing and publishing. Hence, a new book culture, along western model, was created alongside the existing one. The history of Igbo participation in Katsina book economy therefore emerged from this context. For this, the paper is set to discuss the history of Igbo in the post-colonial book economy of Katsina from 1980 to 2005. It identifies the historical circumstances leading to their emergence and dominance in the market. This is because, prior to the period under review, the Hausa book dealers dominated the market in both Arabic and Roma scripts‟ print materials. Subsequently, Igbo played a major role in the development and expansion of book market in Katsina. The paper examines how Igbo become part of the forces that shaped the book history in Katsina during the post-colonial period. The study utilizes both primary and secondary sources of historical reconstruction to study the phenomenon of book economy of Kasina.

Keywords: Igbo, Katsina, Book Market, post-colonial history



The history of book tradition in Katsina dates back to pre-colonial period. During this time, Katsina was both a centre of trade and scholarship, and these two factors made it possible for Islamic book culture to flourish in the area. As a centre of scholarship, Katsina produced scholars, established learning centres and thus attracted students and visiting scholars from different parts of Africa, especially from West and North Africa. Hence, book preservation and consumption became part of the Islamic scholarly endeavours. As a centre of trade, it attracted traders from across Africa, especially from North Africa, who brought different merchandise including books, writing materials and other tools needed in book making. With these developments, Islamic book culture became full circle in Katsina (Tsiga & Adamu, 1997). This is why during colonial conquest the Colonialists acknowledged Katsina‘s reputation as a seat of learning and Lugard therefore resolved to build on the tradition. (Colonial Report, 1902)

Though when colonial rule was finally established, it rather brought an entirely new system of education that created a new book culture in the fashion of western model, colonialism alir, expanded the existing culture. Native Authority system of administration was created and a new writing system, Roman script as against Arabic, was introduced to serve as the official means of school instruction and formal communication. Schools, famous of which was the Katsina College, were established, and other educational institutions like libraries and Literature Bureau had been set up to consolidate the gains of the new culture. This development provided enabling environment for the production of first-generation Hausa writers who wrote many Hausa books of different genres. Furthermore, publishing companies such as Gaskiya Corporation and Northern Nigerian Publishing Company gave impetus to book production in order to meet the literature need of the newly raised reading communities. In addition, Christian Missionaries and international book donors played critical roles in promoting book culture in Katsina. It was during this time that Gaskiya Corporation and Sudan Interior Mission, after opening a school, a dispensary and church, set up bookshops in Katsina.

After independence, from 1960 to 1980, Hausa traders dominated trade in roman script print materials including books. Ammani, Ziyara, and United Bookshops were some of the prominent places for these kinds of books. From colonial rule all through to 1960s, Igbo were in Katsina working with the colonial government and companies, and also engaging in different trading activities, but had not ventured into the book market of Katsina. This underscores the reason behind choosing 1980 as the starting period for this paper because that is the time when the Igbo began to invest in the sector. On the other hand, 2010 was chosen as the terminating period because it marks the time when information and communication technology began to have impact on the market. The period studied showcased their role in the promotion and sustenance of the market in Katsina.

Contextual Explanation

This study is curved out from the broader area of Book History. Scholars described Book History as the history of the creation, dissemination and reception of script and printed materials (Book History Journal, 1998). This means that, Book History has social, economic and cultural dimensions. Hence, it encompasses authorship, editing, printing, book arts, publishing, book trade, periodicals, newspapers, copyright, censorship, libraries, literacy, literary education, reading culture, and reader response (Book History Journal, 1998). This description has captured the wide range of areas book history is expected to cover, and it is also why the area draws professionals from different disciplines, which makes it to be a multidisciplinary area of research. One of the pioneer researchers and thus distinguished authority on the subject matter indicates what Book History mainly aimed achieve. It is to find out how books come into being, how they reach readers, and what readers make of them (Darnton, 2007). This further shows that book history is an end-to-end communication between authors who develop the idea and compose the text, the printing press which manufacture it into book form, the book trade through which reading communities receive the text, and the impact of the text on the people and the state.

According to Feather, the history of books is made up of many elements, hence the book historian has to analyse the size and composition of the reading public, the availability of books, the technical history of book production, the economic history of the book trade, and the legal and political aspects of publishing (Feather, 1986). This study should therefore be seen within the context of broader Book History, with emphasis on the economic history aspect of it which seeks to serve as the intermediary between producers of texts and reading communities.

Developments Leading Igbo into the Katsina Book Market

Igbo migration to Northern Nigeria and to Katsina in particular during the time under review was categorized into two; pre-civil war, 1903 to 1966, and post-civil war, 1966 to 1990s. The first wave of the migration marked a period when Igbo came to northern Nigeria as a result of railway construction and subsequent establishment of Sabon Gari and Tudun Wada areas in most of the Northern Nigerian cities. But Katsina metropolis was not connected to railway line nor Sabon Gari or Tudun Wada was created as the settlements of migrant communities including the Igbo (Wycliff, 2016). What therefore brought Igbo to Katsina metropolis during the time was colonial administration and business potential of the area. They served as clerks, typists, clerical assistants and managers in colonial government and imperial firms such as Uniliver, Royal Niger Company, United African Company, Pz Nigeria. On the other hand, they engaged in such businesses as construction work, carpentry, photographing, trading in textile materials, timber, and second-hand clothes among. In this period, they did not engage in bookshop business. Oral sources revealed that it has to do with the dominance of Hausa in the business, because the Igbo either came with their skills which hardly existed in the community, or engaged in the less competitive business (Fieldwork). The political cases that led to 1966 coup and subsequent outbreak of civil war made great majority of Igbos to abandon their businesses and properties, and migrated back to the Eastern part of Nigeria (Wycliff, 2016).

During this period, Hausa book dealers dominated the trade in western style textbooks. Alhaji Sani Store bought Gaskiya Book Depot from Gaskiya Corporation in 1950s and continued with the business in Katsina. In the1960, Ilimi Bookshop, located at Gidan Waya (Post Office area) and owned by Alhaji Ammani was set up. Ziayara Bookshop was established by Alhaji Masa‘udu Batagarawa in 1970s (Fieldwork). Another set of bookshops that emerged during the time are United Bookshop owned by Senator Audu Yandoma, Alhaji Iro Trader bookshop, Hamdala Bookshop, Lawal Dankama and Alhaji Barau Yaro‘s shops. But the last two were not exclusively bookshops, they also sold grocery (Fieldwork).

The second wave of Igbo migration to Katsina took place in post-civil war period, 1970 to1999, and it was solely associated with quest for business and employment opportunities as new states were created and the Federal Government had created schemes such as National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which would require Nigerian graduates of high institutions to serve for one year in any state other than theirs. During this time, other developments that occurred made Katsina book market viable. State creation, influx of migrant communities, and establishment of private schools made the Igbo to venture into the book market in Katsina. These two factors played leading role in creating a new wave in the history of book economy. This is why the period witnessed the influx of the Igbo who came purposely to engage in book business or later discovered it to be a profitable venture (Fieldwork).

A point worth illustrating is the state creation which served as the major catalyst for the Igbo book settlers to come to Katsina. Agitation for the creation of Katsina state was started since 1967, but was finally granted by the military administration of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in 1987 and Katsina was chosen as the capital of the state. The president directed in a nationwide broadcast marking the creation of the state that all the necessary arrangement to ensure immediate take off of the state had been put in place (Katsina, 2021, pp. 32-54). Major administrative organs of civil service were created in five days after the presidential announcement. This set-in motion the movement of civil servants both of Katsina origin and non. This development created a kind of need for more educational institutions to meet the new civil servants. Other infrastructural development sprung up. Part of this development was the creation of private schools in Katsina to meet the taste of the new civil servants among whom were Yoruba, Igbo, Nupe, Kanuri, Ibira etcetera (Wycliff, 2017).

This period witnessed increase in the number of educational institutions. More schools were established including private ones schools that started way back since colonial period with establishment of Christian mission primary school in Babbar Ruga in 1936 and later St. John‘s primary school in 1943 (Wycliff, 2017). Subsequently, Auntie Ramatu College was established in 1980. Subsequently, other popular private schools sprang up during the period. They comprised Kiddies International School (1987) located along Sarki Mukhtar Road, Katsina Capital School at Government Reservation Area, Aishatu Memorial at Layout area (Maikudi, 2019), Tarbiya primary school (1986) along Dutsin-Ma road, Riyadhul-Qur‘an Kofar Kaura in (1984), which combined religious and western education and received students from neighbouring West African countries (Fieldwork). The number of newspaper stands also increased at Sabon Layi and GRA (Fieldwork).

The Igbo in the Katsina Book Market

With these opportunities opening up, many Igbo joined the book market and literally dominated it. Kanti Goma, a popular bookshop plaza opposite Katsina Post Office on Ibrahim Babangida Way, is still a bustling book market in Katsina. The first Igbo bookshops that had been set up between 1980- 1985 were KC Bookshop, AC Bookshop, Alamsco Bookshop, Wazobia Bookshop, Jimmy Bookshop, and Lobi Bookshop. Alamsco was first owned by Innocent who was initially doing metal works at Kofar Bai, but later decided to venture into book and stationery business. Later, the bookshop was auctioned to his apprentice who maintained the name of the shop. KC Bookshop had also been closed down in the early 1980s, and was replaced by Wazobia Bookshop which also closed down in 1989 at the wake of Shia-military clash in Katsina and relocated to Kano. Subsequently, Chief Nwafor came to establish Bright Bookshop Nigeria Limited at the same shop.

The second-generation (1986-1994) Igbo bookshop owners that came after state creation are Precious Bookshop, Samco Bookshop, and Saaco Bookshop. Others are Siva Bookshop Located at Republic, Sabon Layi, Spaaco Bookshop, Paulson Bookshop located on IBB Way opposite Oando Filling Station, Mexico and Gaskiya Bookshops located along Nagogo Road (Fieldwork).

All the bookshops engaged in selling textbooks, fiction and non-fiction books by both local and international authors. Other items being sold are school instructional materials such as pen, pencil, slate, black board, and chalk. But Siva added to his stock some Christian religion books and other items like season greeting cards, wrapping paper rolls, and different types of sport wears (Fieldwork). Their major sources of books were the popular publishing companies such as Longman, McMillan, Northern Nigerian Publishing Company, and from Onitsha and Lagos markets. Their customers also came from all the strata of the society: academic institutions, individuals, government and organisations. The quantity of books they supplied was measured proportionate to market demand. In the event of change of curriculum and old books were generated, the second hand books were sold at discounted prices to some Onitsha businessmen (Fieldwork).

In spite of difficulty in getting the Igbo bookshop owners to talk about how they prospered in the business, through other oral sources, some factors have been identified to be the cause. The factors

are capital, marketing strategy, and involvement in local politics. But this study has identified capital as the principal factor. Most of the bookshop owners started the business with a capital base large enough to enable them to compete in the market. On another account, traditionally, in Katsina, Igbos can start business with little capital but with time, they could build it into a viable venture. Here, the case of Chief Innocent Alamsco can be cited. When he came to Katsina, he engaged in metal works, but after acquiring enough capital, he ventured into bookshop business and established Almasco Bookshop on IBB Way. The Igbo also got capital through loans given out by an Igbo cooperative in Katsina, the Katsina Igbo Community Association (Waycliff, 2016). More so, Igbo bookshop owners had good relationship with government officials and politicians who give them contract to supply stationery, textbooks and other school instructional materials to ministries, local governments and public schools. SIVA Bookshop Sabon Layi for example, still supplies books and stationery to Katsina Educational Resources Centre and also did same during government promotional examination (Fieldwork).

When the business is not profitable, they relocated to another town as in the case of Wazobia Bookshop who moved to Kano in the mid-1980s. This is realised because most of them at the take- off had well stocked shops, therefore they appeared ready to compete with the existing bookshops. The second factor is the Igbo tradition of endurance and patience in business enterprise. This manifested in how in spite of technology threat, almost all the bookshops are still existing and doing well in Katsina book market, whereas most of the existing Hausa bookshops had either been closed down or now struggling to survive in the market (Fieldwork).

Igbo bookshop owners especially those at Kanti Goma who had to compete with other Hausa bookshops, adopted a marketing strategy of price discount. Their books and writing materials cost less than others. They were able to do that through a supply chain system. They coordinated the order from Lagos and Onitsha. While other bookshop owners ordered books from companies and major dealers in Zaria, Kano and Kaduna individually, Igbos placed a collective order thereby reducing the cost of transportation which they reflect on the price of the books. This strategy of price discount worked for them because with that they were able to build a huge customer based. Even government contractors preferred to buy from Igbos. For example, Alhaji Audu Mai-goro preferred to buy from Saaco Bookshop than Ziyara or Haruna Kaita Bookshops.

Apart from government, there were corporate bodies and elites who bought books in bulks from Igbo bookshops. Such bodies are Gidauniyar Jahar Katsina, Katsina Education Trust Fund (ETF), and private schools. The elites include Justice Musa Danladi, Sa‘idu Barda, Amadi Kurfi, Ibrahim Ida and Alhaji Lawal Kaita (Fieldwork).

Book agents also played critical role in the book economy of Katsina, and had good business relations with Igbo bookshop dealers. Alhaji Mohammad Shu‘aibu Lawal served as the major regional agent for Mcmillan and Longman. Alhaji Shitu Tudun Wada was the agent for Northern Nigerian Publishing Company (NNPC), Malam Bello for University Press Limited (UPL), Mr. Shola for West African Publishing Company (WAP), Mr Felix Topeye for Spectrum, and Alhaji Hamisu was for Gaskiya Corporation (Fieldwork). These agents of the major publishing companies that supplied books to Katsina dealers would go round and survey the shops with the list of old and newly published books and their price tag for the bookshop dealers to choose and thus order for the number of copies they would want.

Igbos and Founding of Katsina Bookshop Dealers Association (BDA)

The circumstances that led to the formation of the Association are issues that affected the progress of the business entirely in Katsina. Firstly, it was the issue of buying pirated copies of books. Sales Agents in their interactions with the book dealers often discovered that some pirated copies of their companies‘ products are being sold in the market. Secondly, bookshop owners sold their goods at different prices, and that also led to having issues with customers who often accused the bookshops of extorting them. Thirdly, supply of goods from southern Nigeria and even from Kaduna took longer time to arrive than necessary. These developments became a serious challenge as they would sometimes run out of stock while demand for their goods was high.

For the above problems, the bookshop owners came together in 1994 and founded an association to address the challenges affecting their business (Fieldwork). The main aim of the Association is promotion of bookshop business in Katsina state, while its objectives are as follows:

a.              To unite the bookshop dealers in Katsina

b.              To have price control in bookshop business in Katsina

c.              To assist and admit new comers in the business

d.              To settle dispute among members and identify with a member in time of crisis so long it does not involve criminal case (BDA Constitution, 1994).

The union meet last Saturday of every month, and members pay a monthly due of N1,000. The constitution stipulates that election should be held in every 3 years and an incumbent could only be elected twice. More so, two people are nominated for a position and election is won by simple majority (BDA Constitution, 1994). Late Chief Isaac Aboafor owner of Saaco bookshop was the Association‘s pioneer Chairman (in 1994 after the formation of the Association) while the pioneer Secretary and Financial Secretary were Mr Ogochukwu (Ultimate Bookshop) and Mr Eugine Alaegbu (Alamsco Bookshop) respectively.


Katsina established itself as a centre of scholarship where different types of educational activities, since pre-colonial period, have been taking place. Part of the educational activities was book culture, which comprised book making, book selling and book preservation. Later in the 20th century, colonial rule led to the introduction or expansion of a new book culture that was fashioned in the mode of western modernity. This time too, schools had been established and books were imported from the West. Later, publishing companies had been set up in Zaria and Kaduna to help raise generation of local writers in Roman script. This development boosted book economy in Katsina and people began to deal in books and other Roman script printed materials. During this period, the business was dominated by government and Christian Missionaries, but towards the end of colonial rule up to 1980 Hausa businessmen became involved in the business, and from 1980, the Igbos joined a segment (supply western based textbooks and stationary) of the market and dominated it. They adopted different strategies to survive and keep the market moving in spite of the incursion of modern information and communication technology. This made them to be one of the major forces that played central role in the history of book tradition in post-colonial Katsina.


Book Dealers Association Constitution,1994

Book History Journal (1998), Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, John Hopkins University Press

Feather, J.P. (1986), The Book in History and History of the Book. The Journal of Library History,

21(1), pp. 12-26

Katsina, H.S. (2021), The Creation of Katsina State and Establishment of Civil Service in 1987.

Lapai Journal of Humanities, 12(1), January-March, pp. 32-54

Last, M. (2008), The Book in Sokoto Caliphate. In S. Jeppie & S.B, Diagne (Eds.), The Meanings of Timbuktu (PP. 135-164). Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Last, M. (2011), The Book and Nature of Knowledge in Muslim Northern Nigeria 1457-2007. In G. Kratli & C. Lydon (Eds.), The Trans-Saharan Book Trade (pp. 175-211). Boston: IDC Publishers

Maikudi, A. (2019), Ijarah (hiring) in Islam and Its Practice Among the Private Schools in Katsina Senatorial Zone: An Examination of Some Ethical Issues (Unpublished master‘s dissertation). Umaru Musa Yar‘adua University, Kasina

Northern Nigeria, Colonial Annual Reports, No. 409, 1902, p. 42

Sani, A.B.   (2004),   The   Mercantile   Landscape   of   Northern   Katsina   Emirate:   1805-1954

(Unpublished doctoral thesis). Bayero University, Kano.

Shehu, J. (2012). A Social and Political History of Katsina Metropolis 1960-2007 (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto

Tsiga, I.A. & Adamu, A.U. (Eds). (1997), Islam and History of Learning in Katsina. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited

Wycliff, S. (2016), A History of Igbo-Migrant Community in Katsina Metropolis, 1903-2011

(Unpublished master‘s dissertation). Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Wycliff, S. (2017), Private Schools in Katsina Metropolis: Profit Making or Social Service (1980- 2017). International Journal of Development and Sustainability, 6(12), Pp. 2058-2067

Oral Interviews:

Interview Alhajin Ziyara, Present owner of Ziyara Bookshop who was an apprentice of the late Masa‘udu Batagarawa, 15th October 2021

Interview with Alhaji Bashir, Son of Alhaji Iliya Isa the owner of Hamdala Bookshop, Katsina Central Market, 20th January, 2022

Interview with Alhaji Bello Esha, Manager of Barau Yaro Bookshop, Kofar Soro, 18th November, 2021

Interview with Alhaji Iro Trader, Manager, Iro Trader Bookshop, Katsina, 20th December, 2021 Interview with Chief Emeka, Chairman, Mexico Bookshop, Yar‘adua, Katsina, 13th February, 2022

Interview with Chief Samuel Nwafor, Managing Director, Bright Bookshop Company Katsina, 25th October, 2021

Interview with Dr. Muhammad Kofar Soro, Chief Lecturer, ISah Kaita College of Education, Dutsin-Ma, 10th October, 2021

Interview with Lawal Dan Barno, a Driver at Katsina Post Office, Katsina, 29th October 2021 Interview with Malam Hashimu Kofar Bai, former Headmaster, Tarbiya Primary school, 8th

August, 2021

Interview with Malam Yakubu Musa, the leader of Izala Organization and proprietor of Riyadhul Quran, 2nd March 2009

Interview with Mallam Muhammadu Sani, the first apprentice at Ziyara Bookshop and owner of Nasiha Bookshop, 15th October 2021

Interview with Nura Sani Dankwari, Sabon Layi, Katsina, 12th November, 2021 Interview with Siva Sylvester, Sabon Layi, 16th January, 2022

Interview with Spaaco Bookshop, Katsina, 24th January, 2022

Interview with Usman Masa‘udu Bagatarawa, Son of Masa‘udu Batagarawa, Inwala, 20th October, 2021


This table shows the number and distribution of Igbo Bookshops in Katsina, 1980-2005


Name of Bookshop

Name of the Owner



Chimtex Bookshop

Mr. Samuel Oguego

Nagogo Road


Innocent Bookshop

Mr Innocent Nweke

IBB Way, Kanti Goma


Saaco Bookshop

Chief Christian Ibeh

IBB WAY, Kanti Goma


Wazobia Bookshop

Ibe Christian

Nagogo Road


Ultimate Bookshop

Mr. Ogochukwu

IBB Way, Kofar Kaura


Paulson Bookshop

Mr. Paul

IBB Way, Opp. Oando


Zubeco Bookshop

Mr Innocent Ezzo

Nagogo Road, Gwangwan


Chikason Bookshop

Mr. Chika

Nagogo Road, Kerau


Siva Bookshop

Chief Sylvester Ayogu

Republic, Sabon Layi


Samco Bookshop

Mr. Samuel

IBB Way, Mobil


Bright Bookshop Company

Chief Nwafor

IBB way, Kanti Goma


Enesco Bookshop

Mr Earnest

Ahmadu Bello Way, Inwala


Gaskiya Bookshop


Nagogo Road, Yar‘adua


Mexico Bookshop

Chief Emeka Ohanwe

Nagogo Road, Yar‘adua


Uche Bookshop

Mr Uche




Mr Paul



Eddyson Bookshop

Mr Edwin Uzeoma



K.C Bookshop




Oasis Bookshop

Chief Fabian Azubike

Nagogo Road, Kerau



Chudy Bookshop

Mr Innocent Obinwa

Nagogo Road


Spaaco Bookshop

Mr Kelvin

IBB Way, Abbas Plaza



Mr Eugine Alaegbu

IBB Way, Kanti Goma


Isambaco Bookshop

Samuel Ibafor

IBB Way, Kanti Goma

Source: This data was gotten from fieldwork

First-generation bookshops in Katsina, 1950-1980



Name of Bookshop

Name of Owner



Katsina Provincial Book Depot

Gaskiya Corporation

Katsina Native Authority


Challenge Bookshop

Sudan Interior Mission

GRA, Nagogo Road


Ilimi Bookshop

Alh. Ammani

IBB Way, Gidan Waya


Ziyara Bookshop

Alh. Masa‘udu Batagarawa

IBB Way, Kanti Goma


Hamdala Bookshop

Alh. Iliyasu Isa

Old Katsina Central Market


Barau Yaro Shop

Alh. Barau Yaro

Bakin Kasuwa


Iro Trader Bookshop

Alh. Iro Trader

Muhammad Dikko Way


United Bookshop

Senator Audu Yandoma

Muhammad Dikko Way


Lawal Dankama Shop

Alh. Lwal Dankama

Katsina Old Central Market


Second Book Market

Mal. Sani Safana, Mal. Yahaya littafi

IBB Way, Kofar Kaura, Masallaci Sarki, Yarkutungu

Source: Fieldwork

Common Items Sold at Katsina bookshops between 1980-1999


Common Items

Price Range (1980-1995)



5 – 10 Naira


Exercise Books

50 Kobo (20 leaves), 1 Naira (40 leaves)


Pencil, Ruler and Sharpener

50 Kobo each


Biro (Big), Slate

1 Naira each


Dictionary (Oxford)

10 Naira


Mathematical Set

3-5 Naira


A4 paper size



Foolscap sheet

50 Kobo

Source: Fieldwork

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