The History of Zuru


Zuru emirate is divided into five administrative chiefdoms: Dabai, Danko, Fakai, Sakaba, and Wasagu. The third class chief who is also member of the Zuru town in Dabi chiefdom, where the emirate headquarters also is located, heads each. Zuru Emirate is located in the southern part of Kebbi State Nigeria, occupying an area of about 9000sq km. it is boarded by Gummi in Zamfara State in the North. To the south is Niger State, this borderline extends also arbitrarily on land to the west to a point where it ends a few kilometers to the west of large tributary of the Dan Zari River. Here a northwest ward protrusion of Yauri Emirate of Kebbi.

In fact, going by history, Zuru people being multi-ethic are grouped into categories. First category is of those that claim long term settlement and the second category is of the much more recent settlers who in fact regard themselves – and are also regarded by the others as recent immigrants or even as temporary strangers.

In the first category are the Achifawa, Kambari, Dukkawa Fakkawa, Kambari, Katsinawa and Lelna(Dakarkari). It is characteristic to find that some of them lay some claim to origin from Hausa. Zuru as was said, was as a result of upheaval resulting from events such as Kanta’s breakaway from Songhai and Nupe-Kororofa control. Moreover, the Katsinawa, who in fact see themselves as immigrants from the old state of Katsina which had made political in road Zuru region, especially from the 16th century A.D. onwards, and had enabled them to settle and to area’s indigenous population.

In the second category which includes those who consider themselves strangers and lay no claims to having Traditional rights of descent in the Zuru Emirate except for property they recently acquired, are the Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, and several others from various part of Nigeria.

It has been noted that human settlement in Zuru human widespread, distances between compounds and between villages ranges from a few meters to several kilometers, such that gives rise to a settlement pattern that is generally sparse in density. From this general characteristic, however, it is observable that hills are more intensely settled than the plains.

Rivers, springs and humans, as already stated, are numerous and fairly widespread in the region. They appear to have been supported by a high water level, which may in turn be related in part, to high rainfall amount up till the middle 1970s.

Apart from providing fresh water, some of those watercourses provide site for religious and other functions. Domo Gomo, Germache, and Tarubaba in the central area, for instance are among the inmost renowned religious, medicinal and magical sites and are associated with natural phenomena such as forest remnants, which appear to have been deliberately spared in other to maintain the required image for those sites.

It is a fact that Agriculture must have developed here at a very early time and it is believed that the first farmers of Zuru were people of Stone Age culture.

For all the people in the area, land is shared out among the partrilineages that had some relative degree of usufruct rights over them. Settlement like Danko, Kele, Fakai, Birnin, Tudu, Chnoko, Tsohon Birni (Sakaba), Karishen, etc. and for the small communities, rights over land seem less defined. In all these Societies, Elders and Chiefs, exercised some supervisory role on the distribution of land and agriculture generally.

The labor process involved in agriculture production involves all members of the lineages or the family working as a unit. Like in similar societies, women have the function of producing the labour force and taking charge of the domestic chores. In some places, they also have their plots on which they grow crops like accha, beniseed and beans.

As for the males, from about the age of six, they learn how to farm using miniature hoes, working from morning to afternoon. They also learn the important skill of hunting by practicing at an early age. By the time they reach the age of fifteen they are ready to join the various organizations and groups that took over heir preparation for the society.

During rainfall, they stay there on the farm for most of the farming season. The labour force on the farm is provided by all the members of the family under the head of the family. Family members provide communal labour and learn the skills of hunting and wresting. It is after about seven years in the groups that the members of the eldest age set began their Golmo. Among the Lelna, this is ushered in by a special farewell dance to c’gamba (adolescence) for the yakenpana.

They work as a unit on the farms of their various prospective fathers-in-law, working on each farm in turn during the farming season. At the end of the service, which is normally seven years for the Lelna, and could be less for the other people like the Fakkawa, Kelawa, Dukkawa and Bangawa. This marriega takes place with bride moving to join her husband.

Golmo is considered as very vital and important amongst these people. Not only was it considered as the final initiation into life, it was also the institution through which the patience, perseverance and manliness of young men are not only tested but also exhausted in the attempt to test their readiness to stand a life. Those not having done Golmo are not considered manly enough and are so derided.

Other religions and cultural institutions and festivals that come to be closely embedded to the economy especially agriculture, were those involved in the propitiation of the earth spirits and thanksgiving. The most important of these in Zuru were the Uhola and Dibiti. These two ceremonies were normally celebrated at different times and in connection with the harvest of the two most important crops in the land.

Dibiti is held traditionally on the first day of the New Year of the Lelna calendar and falls towards the end of August, that is, when the rain is its peak and people are about to harvest accha (hungry rice).
Uhola on the other hand, is a similar festival that is usually held at a time guinea-corn is ripe for harvest.

Hunting is the second important economic activity after crop cultivation in Zuru. Hunting is regarded as a supplementary occupation and is carried on throughout the year, because it provides a means of getting meat for consumption.

It also serve as a source of obtaining animal skins for making shoes, robes of war, and sash for carrying children and for making local drums.

The inhabitants of Zuru area believe that there is a supreme ‘God’ and in whose name blessings are invoked. God’s name is called in the peoples’ daily activities and God is believed to be masculine. In general terms, the inhabitants of Zuru Emirate before the coming of Islam and Christianity practiced traditional religion.

Transition from traditional religion to Islam and Christianity in Zuru region was the result of the disintegration of the older values due to increasing class differentiation, occupational sophistication and grouping, concentration of wealth in the hands of private groups, external migration and colonial conquest (the coming of the missionary).

The earliest influence of Islam in Zuru Emirate could be traced back to the 15th century as a result of the migration of Southern Katsina people to Wasagu and other places.

The Katsinawa were attracted to Zuru region because of ecological as well as socio-economic activities of Zuru region, which linked the trading centres of Kano, Katsina and Zamfara areas in the North with Yauri, Jega and Nupe in the south.

Undoubtedly, the migration of the Katsina people to Zuru region brought not only commerce but also the religion of Islam.

From about the second and third decades of the 20th century, the missionary endeavours progressed at a slow but successful pace. The people of Zuru accepted Christianity because traditional forms of worships, which so many people are still attached to, could not fit into the new society that the colonial capitalism created. Because of these changes, the traditional religions failed to create new ideas.

Missionary activities therefore, became necessary, and today missions are established throughout Zuru Emirate, with churches such as United Missionary Society (UMS), Roman Catholic Mission (RCM), Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), Apostolic Church (AC), etc flourishing.

Administratively, the restructuring which transferred Zuru land from one geo-political province to the other, continued throughout the period from 1901 to 1950. The frequency counter transfers was undoubtedly counter – productive to any political and administrative development.

Colonial restricting of Zuru land started at about 1903 when the Emirate of Sakaba was created, with a second-class chief. This brought together people who hitherto were autonomous to be administered and governed under one political or administrative umbrella. The Chief was Brama (Ibrahim) who was a Nupe man and a slave in the house of the Emir of Yauri.

The Dakarkari and Dukkawa of the newly created emirate refused to recognize their new ruler because of his slave background. Generally dissatisfied with the administration, the government had to review its policy and so the Emirate was, in September 1911, divided into eight administrative areas to ensure administrative efficiency. Consequently, Sarkin Sakaba was removed from office in 1913. After this, the five districts which comprised the Emirate – Kumbashi, Dabai, Danko, Sakaba, Fakai and wasagu were made independent confederate units under their own ethnic chiefs with a central treasury controlled by the District Officer (D.O).

In 1919, the division was once more organized under a paramount chief with its headquarters in Zuru. This time, instead of imposing an ‘alien’ on the people of Zuru land, they were allowed to select their own leader in the person of Andi Gomo, the chief of Dabai, who himself was a Dakarkari man.

Andi Gomo died in 1926 and was succeeded by his fourteen year old son Bahago who ruled with a council of regency. In 1928, a member of the council Sani Daudu was appointed second class chief in charge of the Emirate.

From this period, until the 1930s, the political history of the Emirate was one of frequent transfers from one province to the present day of the first class Emir in the person of Major General (Dr) Muhammadu Sani Sami fsc, mni, Lid, Sami Gomo II.


What  was  known as the first sitting of the British forces around these clusters of settlement happened in 1890 in the state of Fakai. Sarkin Fakai met for the first time his match. The British forces, which had been steadily pushing up the Niger from Jebba and Yelwa, arrived at Illo. They were pushing up north when the fugitive Sarkin Kele who was fatally subdued by Fakai and its allied forces before this time, appealed to the officer, commanding troops to come to his aid. A small punitive troop was sent to Fakai to restore him (Sarkin Kele) to his former position.

The expedition marched through Duku District and arrived at dawn in sight of Fakai. Sarkin Fakai fought with the British troops and was woefully defeated. The expedition returned to Illo. But what was known as fierceful Fakai was reduced to the barast level of power and importance in the years that followed. During these two years of interregnum, until the British administration came properly into being, a period of chaos ensued and it would appear to have been a case of every village for itself.

In 1901 the British subdued Ibrahim Nagwamatse, the Sarkin of Kontagora and that brought to an end the furious attacks that usually came from this angle. The real British occupation started in 1903. An artificial Emirate of Sakaba was created and Maiyaki Ibrahim was installed as an independent second class chief. He was one time Emir of Kontagora, a Nupe by tribe, and this was the year the town of Sakaba was built. After several years of chaos, this artificial Emirate was never recognized or revered by the Dakarkari.

From the very first, that part of the emirate lying to the South of Sakaba only obeyed the Sarkin sakaba with great reluctance, while the more or less unsettled Dakarkari and Duku tribes inhabiting the northern part of the Emirate entirely refused to recognize this authority. So that by 1904, during the absence of the political officer, certain Dakarkari villagers from IBO and RIBA burnt down Sakaba town. Between 1904 and 1905 various patrols were sent out against the Dakarkari, but they were not entirely reduced until later, when Zuru was occupied after some fighting, on the Rafm Yaki.

It was said that Maiyaki Ibrahim’s administration was characterized by continuous extortion and oppression. His underlyings were a heterogeneous collection of aliens from Nupe and Yoruba, who were employed as tax gathers and who lacked all ideas of administration in any shape or form., they were out to enrich themselves, and changed his workers  who did not buy his idea of self-enrichment and plunder and this created problems for him. In Dec. 1908, the administrative  headquarters  was removed from Sakaba to Zuru and in 1911, the Sarkin Sakaba took up his residence in Zuru.

In September, 1911, some improvement was effected by dividing the Emirate into eight administrative areas each in charge of one of these office holders, but owing to their malpractices, the Sarkin Sakaba gradually, but most willingly removed them.

In September 1913, the arrest of a well-known  highway robber brought to light the dubious administration of Sarkin Sakaba. It was discovered that Wazirin Sakaba (Sarkin Sakaba’s adviser) was behind the hoodlum.
There and then, Sarkin Sakaba was forced to resign. The six districts which then comprised this Emirate – Fakai, Kumbashi, Dabai, Donko, Sakaba and Wasagu, were made independent and put under their chiefs with a central treasury controlled by a district officer. In 1916, Kumbashi district was transferred to Kontagora Emirate (Niger Province).

In 1915, Audi, the Chief of Dabai district retired on account of old age and his nephew Gombo, was installed in his position. This was a happy selection as he was not only young but had shown administrative ability. By 1919, the remaining districts – DABAI FAKAI and SAKABA were oragnised once more into the Emirate under paramount chiefs of the third class order. Gumbo was selected by unanimous decision of the other chiefs as the emir of the Emirate. From thence, the district known as Dabai Emirate went through formations and reformations to what is today known as the Zuru Emirate.


After the British conquest of the Emirate in 1900, alien reformations unknown in the annals of history of these people started its majestic strides in the land. From 1919, the new Zuru Emirate from the old Dabai Emirate under Gombo started witnessing tremendous developments. In 1924, Dabai and Yelwa divisions were transferred from Kontagora province to Sokoto province.

Sokoto province then comprised the four Emirates of Sokoto, Gwandu, Argungu and Yauri, the Dabai (Zuru) native administration and the independent districts of 1110. These units were grouped into divisions, each in charge of an administrative officer. In 1930, there were three such divisions with the headquarters at Sokoto, Birnin Kebbi and Argungu. In 1931, however, the Dabai native administration and the Yauri Emirate were detached from Gwandu division to form a new administrative group called the Southern division. But in 1933, it became imperative to jettison this scheme owing to lack of staff and the Southern division came to an end. The division was then reduced to three divisions – that of Sokoto which embraced Sokot Emirate, Gwandu that included the Dabai native administration, Yauri Emirate and Illo besides Gwandu Emirate; and of Argungu, which is co-terminus with Argungu Emirate.

Meanwhile in December 1926, Gombo Sarkin Dabai (Zuru) died and Bahago succeed but he did not stay for long before he was deposed and Sami Daudu was installed two years later.

Each Emirate was divided into districts presided over by a resident district head. Each district was divided into villages and headed by village heads. The district heads were on salaries, or were paid a share of the taxes they collected. The lowest unit of all is the hamlet under its head, which was not under salary because of its household composition. The income tax was however introduced in Zuru Emirate in 1927.

The native treasuries of Yauri and Dabai were started in 1911. The direct taxes so collected were shared between the colonial administration (central) and native administration. Zuru native administration, as it was then called, was a federation of five districts each with its own chief. The Chief of Dabai was the President over the Council and was then a second-class chief. There was a common native treasury. The colonialists by 1939, felt Zuru would have been better administered under Kontagora  province  than Sokoto province, because of  the following  reasons: That the people of Zuru Native Administration looked Southwards to Niger province rather than Northwards to Sokoto. Secondly, that the economic centre of the area was Rijau, which had good communications both with the River Niger and with the railway.

Thirdly, that Zuru, the Native Administrative headquarters was approximately 120 miles by road from Birnin Kebbi the headquarters of Gwandu Divisions, whereas, only 20 miles from Rijau and 80 miles from Kontagora. Because of the foregoing reasons Zuru was again removed from Sokoto Province under Gwandu Division to Kontagora Province under Kontagora Division.

The Native administration was carried out in this form: Council meetings had the sarkin Dabai, a second class chiefs as the President. The council had the head of the six districts – Donko, Dabai, Wasagu, Sakaba, Fakai and Zuru as subordinates and members to the President and Council respectively. Council meetings were held at regular intervals at which all important matters come up for discussion and decision.

 The interval between meetings was not expected to be longer than two months. The minute book was usually signed by the council members at the end of the meeting and the minutes forwarded to the divisional officer. Council meetings were usually attended by the Ma’aji and Galadima, both of who were members of the central native court. The Galadima and Ma’aji assisted the chief (Sarkin) in his administration of Zuru town. The Majidadi was regarded as an authority on Dakarkai customs.
The judiciary system had the Native Courts as follows:

*        Zuru Native Court (Limited)
*        Zuru Native Court of (Appeal)
*        Dabai District Court (Limited)
*        Fakai District Court (Limited)
*        Donko District Court (Limited)
*        Sakaba District Court (Limited)
*        Wasagu District Court (Limited)

The quorum for the Zuru Native Court whether acting as a court of fisrt instance or in its appellate capacity was three. It was therefore seen that the court sitting with the chief of Dabai, Galadima and Ma’aji could legally exercise the functions of the Federal Court and hear appeals from the district courts. But it was later, amended that the chief (Sarkin) with his Galadima and Ma’aji plus two districts head formed a quorum for the Court of Appeals. All courts were given warrant authority.

The Native Treasury was manned by the Ma’aji, who enjoyed a great deal of the confidence of the Sarki. He held the key to the safe ,and someone employed by the Sarki himself assisted him. Money was taken from this treasury to finance the feeding of prisoners and payment of officials. The general running of the administration’s central stores of the Emirate (division) was kept. The revenue was mainly from taxes of people and items in the division.

The educational development in the colonial era in Zuru Emirate was fruitful. Early setting up of schools had helped in producing wel-educated sons and daughters of Zuru Emirate. As early as late 1903s there were elementary schools in Zuru. The missionary societies were the architect of the educational set up. Though they found problems initially from getting pupils for these schools but after the Second World War when those who participated in the ‘Hitler’ war returned home, there arose a different change of attitude to the western ways of the life.

The ex-service men who had a good experience of the western life encouraged their people to send children and wards to schools.

The colonial administrators established one native administrative dispensary at Zuru and Mahuta  each. The Medical work in Zuru was then under the supervision of the medical officer at Sokoto. Sokoto hospital served Zuru people. The Gwandu Native Administration ambulance collected patients especially those suffering from hydrocele to Sokoto hospital. Zuru native treasury usually contributed  sizeable  sum of money to Gwandu Native Treasury for this service.

But by 1927, Zuru was opened as a medical station when the medical officer was transferred from Kontagora to Zuru. This change became imperative in view of the presence of the troops in Zuru and the large native population of the surrounding districts. A small bush type hospital was opened, consisting of one long building partitioned into a ward for eight beds, dispensary, medicine store and an office. But the hospital once again became a dispensary by 1933 when the troops were withdrawn.
In the public works, a number of roads radiated from Zuru to other nearby villages and small towns. But a few, numbers of them were maintained, for example, Barangi-Zuru-Fakka road. However, these roads were not classified as ‘all season’ roads. During the rainy season some of them were impassible. During these years, the colonial masters were only interest in the construction of roads in areas where their economic interest rested. For example, the Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi-Argungu road which was an “all season” road and Zuru to Yelwa, which could be used then by car for the greater part of the year, was a pointer to this allegation.

The interior villages only enjoyed farm parts and in some places where cash crops were cultivated, the colonial masters tried to improve the road communication. Part of the public works also included the construction of the District Officer’s houses and rest houses. There was effort also in the construction of Native Administration’s buildings. All these were done to give little comfort to the instruments of colonialism.

In the field of agriculture, the colonialists encouraged very much cultivation of cash crops, cotton, groundnut etc. But however, the natives also increase their production in the familiar crops. Such crops like maize, millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams etc. The colonialist though had their evil side; the angelic sides in them were not withheld when the need arose.

The 1930 locust invasion caused a semi-famine in Zuru Emirate and a great force of relief was put to use by flooding  Zuru  Emirate with grains from Sokoto and Gwandu. The United African Company also supplied a large quantity. This experience of locust gave room for innovations such as the introduction of the storage system.

Animal husbandry gradually grew in Zuru Emirate mostly by alien Hausa-Fulanis. The colonial administrators encouraged it to the extent that they stationed a veterinary inspector of livestock at Mahuta during the months of June, July and August for immunization of cattle. The decennial census of 1931 had the following figures, the number of cattle was put a 22,623, horses and mares 418, donkeys 2,525, sheep 6,386 and goats 12,636. Forest reserve was situated partly in Wasagu and partly in Sakaba districts.

Apart from the major developments enumerated above, there were some minor developments in the Emirate which owe credence to the colonial administration. It was not that the communities were living in filthy and bushy environment  before  the advert of the colonialists, but during this period of their interruption  into the lives of the Zuru people, what was known as sanitation and town planning manifested vividly.

A number of pit latrines and incinerators were dug and created respectively. It was even the general belief then that if a family made no effort to dig its own latrine the sanitation officials enforced penalties upon such a defaulter which was usually the payment of some levy.

It was reported of Zuru to be the best town in its province, “Zuru the headquarters of Dabai, is generally regarded as the best station in the province. It is always cool, there are hardly any mosquitoes and it is attractively laid out with flowering trees and shrubs”. These were the exact words of E.J. Douglas, District officer, Gwandu division.

The activities of the colonial administrators had carved a niche for itself in the history of Zuru Emirate. The military men that were drafted for the “Hitler” war served as “eye openers” to the citizens of Zuru Emirate with regards to the development of the modern world. Zuru town was once a recruiting centre during this period. Today Zuru is blessed with fine military gentlemen in both retired and serving regiments.


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