DABO: THE NUPE FOUNDER OF KANO
The first people to establish Kano as a settlement were, according to the Kano Chronicle, the Gaya people. These Gaya people were also referred to as the Abagayawa by the Hausa traditions.
The Gaya people were said to have been attracted to the Kano area by the iron ore they came to mine at the Dala hills. They originally settled or sojourned at the place that was to become the village of Gaya in historical times. And it was from Gaya that they used to go to the Dala hills until they came to build the permanent settlement of Kano around the Dala rock.
Whatever the case might have been the point to note here is that the Gaya people were also known as the Gana or Gara people. In fact one of the most popular eponymous founders of Kano was known as Garagaje which is a name constructed on the ancient national name Gara. In those days the whole of today’s Hausaland was inhabited and dominated by the Gara people. As recent as the 16th century Leo Africanus was still reporting the fact that the whole of today’s Hausaland was dominated only by the Gara people whose Gara language, Leo Africanus reported, was the Lingua Franca over the whole today’s Northern Nigeria as recent as the 16th century.
But the Gara were a Nupe people. The Gara initially flourished on the banks of the River Niger here in Central KinNupe before they spread out in an expansionist manner over the whole of ancient Northern Nigeria and even beyond. And to this very day a major population of the Nupe people is still known as the Gara. In fact Gara is, to this very day, a very common personal name and royal title among the Nupe people.
The Ganagana Nupe people were originally known as the Gana or Gara. They are obviously remnants of that of that great Nupe stock that originally spread out and ruled over the whole of Northern Nigeria and beyond and the same that were documented by Leo Africanus in the 16th century as being the inhabitants of Northern Nigeria.
The Dibo people, one of the oldest and a major subtribe of the Nupe people, were also originally known as the Gara and are known as the Bajingala or Bajingara in the FCT to this very day. In the beginning the Nupe people were known as the Gara people and that is why we see the Dibo or Zhitako (actually Zhitakoro or Zhitagara) are still known as the Bajingara or Zhitagara to this very day.
In any case the Kano Chronicle made it very clear that the Gaya or Gara people came from outside the Kano general area. The Gaya or Gara people came from the south, from the River Niger place which is the same place we refer to as KinNupe.
The very name Gara is the name of the River Niger in ancient times. Gara is the same that is pronounced as Gwara, Kwara or Koro today all of which are the names of the River Niger today. The Gara people derived their national name from the River Niger because they came from the River Niger which is located in Central KinNupe.
It was the Nupe people who were known as the Gara or Igara people in former times.
That the Gaya people who established Kano were a Gara Nupe people is partly corroborated by the fact that one of the most famous of these ancient Gaya founders of Kano was known as Garagaje. This very name Garagaje conspicuously show the Gara Nupe origin of its bearer as only the Nupe people from the River Niger area bear the name Gara in those days.
So, the Gaya or Gara people came from the KinNupe area and eventually establish Kano as a settlement among the Jankara pool worshipping indigenes who have been there for a long time.
And, of course, KinNupe used to be known as KaGara or, as we write it today, Kagara, or the ‘Land of Gara’, in prehistoric times. In fact the Western half of KinNupe continued to be known as Kagara right unto historical times.
In those days KinNupe was also known as Katagara or Ka-AtaGara which is a national name meaning ‘The Land of AtaGara’. The ancient Nupe national name Katagara is what Umaru Nagamatse and his Hausa mercenaries came to wrongly pronounce as ‘Kontagora’ which is the way we wrongly pronounce it to this very day.
This AtaGara was a powerful Nupe kingdom that grew into an empire whose territories eventually spread all over the whole of ancient Nigeria in prehistoric times.
The capital city of AtaGara as located somewhere around the place we have today’s Zungeru. In fact the original, and Nupe, name of Zungeru was Dunguru which, of course, is morphologically the same as Tagara or AtaGara.
The AtaGara empire was also known, for short, as Gara and the people of AtaGara, and AtaGara citizens and subjects throughout ancient Nigeria, were also known as the Gara. That was why Leo Africanus saw the whole of today’s Hausaland being referred to as Gara as late as the 16th century.
Interestingly enough the Kano traditions, on the authorities of peoples like Captain J.M. Freemantle, W.F. Gowers and Sir H.R. Palmer, narrated that these Gara Nupe founders of Kano were headed by a Gara Nupe leader of king called Kano. They said it was the royal title of their king or leader that the Gara Nupe founders of Kano named their new settlement at the Dala rocks after.
But then the name we pronounce and write as Kano today was, in more ancient times, also pronounced as Gano or Gana. In fact today’s ‘Kano’ is actually the Colonial scribes’ Latinization of the original ‘Gano’ or ‘Gana’. But then this Gana is the same as Gara, that is considering the fact that the phonemes ‘l’ and ‘r’ are linguistically synonymous and phonetically interchangeable.
This means that Kano was originally known variously as Gano, Gana or Gara. Albeit all these ancient names – Gano, Gana and Gara – are actually ancient national names of the Nupe peoples. As a matter of fact the names ‘Gana’ and ‘Gara’ are still common and familiar ones among the Nupe peoples to this very day while we don’t see them any more among the people of Kano today.
One of these Gara people who came to settle at Kano is known to history today as Dala. In fact Kano was originally knon as Dala and that it as still bearing that name as late as the beginning of the 16th century. It as only somewhere around the latter half of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century that its name gradually changed from Kano to Dala due to the fact that it was gradually overwhelmed by the Gara culture of both the AtaGara and successor Nupeko or Kororofa empires of KinNupe back here in Central KinNupe.
This Dala was obviously a Gara man for one of his children was named Garagaje or, simply, Gara. We shall discuss Garagaje later.
Dala, the father of Garagaje, was obviously a very important figure in the early history of Kano otherwise the all-too-important rock at the centre of ancient Kano sociology wouldn’t have been named after him to this very day. The residual hill of Dala was named after this very important historical figure of Kano.
The most remarkable thing about Dala is that he was the first to establish an ancient form of Black Goddess worship among the people of Kano. Now, a Black Goddess worship isn’t something that should attract that much attention since all throughout ancient Nigeria and the Black Negro Africa the worship of the Madona and prehistoric matriarchates were the order. What made the Dala Black Goddess worship so remarkable is the fact that it was strikingly similar, in its religious rituals, to the Jahiliyya Black Godess worship religion of the ancient Arabians on the eve of the emergence of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
Dala was said to be the first to establish the worship of the Black Goddess among the people of Kano. This Dala worship was so strikingly similar to the Jahiliyyah rituals of the Quraish in Mecca, today’s Saudi Arabia, that all investigators and research workers have invariably noticed the striking similarity.
Dr. Muhammadu Uba Adamu (Kantoma), for instance, wrote in this regard that, Dala, “The arrival of Dala Kano brought about not only some innovations in the entire religious activities of the community, but also an organized method of pagan rites, in line with those which used to be made in Makkah in the pre-Islamic period (jahiliyya).
“In the first instance, Dala introduced a building, a four cornered room for his idol at the bottom of Dala in which nobody could enter except the chief priest. He also introduced a yearly religious congregation in which all the followers of Tsumburbura idol from the four regions would attend. This ceremony, which was sustained long after his death, was conducted every year in the month of al-Muharram or Id-el-Adha which coincided with the same religious congregation held in Makkah for hajj in the same year and month.”
Dala obviously brought an ancient form of goddess worship to Kano. It was said that he built his house on the Dala hills where he resides as a prophet. It was at the bottom of the Dala hills that he built the four cornered Ka’aba-like temple in which he kept his Tsumburbura idol.
They said Dala had seven children and that the name of the eldest one was Garagaje. Obviously Dala gave his eldest child a glaringly Nupe name after the Nupeland from which his Gara or Abagayawa people originally came.
A latter descendant of Dala was known as Barbushe. This Barbushe was actually a great grandson to Dala. The father of Barbushe was Busame who was one of the sons of Garagaje. And, as we have mentioned previously, Garagaje was the son to Dala.
This Barbushe was said to be a great and maximum ruler of Kano. He was the one who most took after his grandfather Dala’s religious propensities. He is most especially remembered for his prophecies and his remarkable ritual worships at the Dala hill.
Barbushe was certainly a Black African Negro man for even Sultan Bello corroborated this when he insisted that Barbushe was a ‘slave’ from the south, from the KinNupe general area.
Whatever the case might have been, Lady Flora Shaw demonstrated the fact that the name Barbushe is actually a compound of ‘Ba’ and ‘Bushe’ with the article ‘ba’ indicating a ‘person’ and ‘Bushe’, basing her authority on Sultan Bello’s writings, as referring to ‘The Land of the Slaves’.
Lady Flora Shaw said that the name Barbushe is actually a title and that it is a compound that can be broken into ‘Bar’ abd ‘Bushe’. She said bar or ba is an article used by the Hausa to refer to a person so that ‘Bar-Bushe’ will mean ‘A Person from Bushe’.
Then Lady Flora Shaw tried to trace the etymology of the name Bushe by noting that it means ‘the land of the slaves’ but in a sense not meaning a slave as we know it today. She actually concluded that it doesn’t really means the land of the slaves. In her own word: “A man from the land of slaves is far from being necessarily a slave, but the coincidence may be taken to justify, in part at least, the statement of [Sultan] Bello.”
The fact is that Bushe is a corruption of the original Basa. Well, Basa, or Banza as the Hausa city chronicles pronounce it, was the name of KinNupe in former times. So, Barbushe simply means ‘The Person from Basa’ or the ‘The Man from KinNupe’ and Barbushe, actually, Ba-Basa, was from the KinNupe area.
The Kano Chronicle categorically wrote that Barbushe was a Black African Negro. Barbushe was such a great man that the Kano Chronicle also referred to him as a giant who kills elephants with his stick and carries them on his head homewards for nine solid miles.
Bushe is actually an Hausa corruption of Basa or, as we write it today, Bassa which was an ancient national name of the Nupe Nation. It is this same word that another lect of the Hausa tongue pronounce as ‘Banza’ and whence the origin of the rather spurious theory of the Hausa Bakwai-Banza Bakwai foundations.
It was the Nupe people who were known in former times as the Basa or Banza and it is this ancient Nupe national name Basa that was also pronounced as Bushe. So, Barbushe, whom the Kano Chronicle categorically identified as the founder of Kano, was a Nupe man. The very name Barbushe, or more pristinely Ba-Basa, unmistakably points to the fact that the founder of Kano was a Nupe man.
What we are saying here is that workers, including Lady Flora Shaw, have noted long ago that the very name Barbushe simply means ‘The Person from the Land of the Nupes’.
That Barbushe was Nupe is also corroborated, in part, by Captain Hugh Clapperton’s narrative of an ancient Nupe annual ritual that was practiced by Barbushe.
The Kano Chronicle narrated, in some details, the sacrifice of black animals at a black rock to a black goddess annually performed by Barbushe at the Dala hills. But this very ritual was witnessed and documented by Captian Hugh Clapperton as being still prcatised among the Nupe people at the black Kitsa rock-hill on the Jebba island.
The Akanda and Bagauda
The Akanda people are a very ancient Nupe people. They have been in KinNupe since time immemorial and Nupe history have witnessed the rise and fall of these people on several occasions. They are the ones who are also variously known as the Kanda, Kakanda, Nda, Ata, Kyadya, Batati, Edati and so on and on Nupe subtribes.
At a time these ancient Akanda Nupe people merged with the equally ancient Gara Nupe people to produce the Nupe United Kingdom of AtaGara. Later on they were the same as the Kyadya people who were pursued out of AtaGara as the refugees including Tsoede himself and who on exodus moved into and conquered Biniland the motherland of Tsoede. It was the Kyadya people who helped Tsoede fought his endless Tsoede Wars that brought him to national prominence. It was said that Tsoede rewarded them by making them the Kuta or Kyadya kings of various fiefs and principalities throughout the length and breadth of KinNupe.
When the Akanda people became very powerful throughout KinNupe through the rise of Tsoede and his United Kingdom of Nupkeo therwise known as Kororofa, the Akanda Nupe people began to expand their territorial sovereignty out of KinNupe unto all other parts of the Central Sudan. That was how the Akanda people came to conquer Kano.
The Kano traditions still remember the story of the mass movement of the Akanda Nupe people into the Kano general lead by their leader still known in the Kano narrations as Bagauda.
Bagauda was the head of a mass migration of Nupe conquerors from the south, from KinNupe, unto the North and the Kano general area in particular. Colonal historians have dated this mass migration of Nupe conquerors unto the Kano area to the crca 999 AD period.
It was this Bagauda, a Nupe man, who first organized the various Kano villages into a city and an urban centre. They said Bagauda brought sanity and civilization to Kano. Bagauda reigned until his death in 1063.
Baguda was succeeded by a series of his descendants as the various kings of Kano including famous Nupe dynasts like Gijimasu, Tsaraki, Ali Yaji who was the first Kano king to become a Muslim, and Muhammad Rumfa.
In 1805 the Fulani Jihadists defeated and conquered Kano and brought the Nupe ruling dynasty of Bagauda to an end after the Nupe Bagauda dynasty have reigned supreme over Kano for some eight hundred years.
The Fulani Jihadists converted the Kano kingdom into an Emirate and Sulemanu, a Fulani man, became the first Emir of Kano. Emir Sulemanu reigned for some fifteen years until his death in 1819. Interestingly enough a Nupe man succeeded Sulemanu as the next Emir of Kano thereby, and in deed, effectively returning Kano back to Nupe rule. This Nupe man who became the second Emir of Kano, after Emir Sulemanu the first Emir of Kano, was known as Dabo.
The Nupe or Dabo dynasty has continued to rule Kano to this very days some 195 years later right unto the days of Emir Bayero and today’s Emir Sanusi Lamido who are themselves descendants of Dabo the Nupe man.
In retrospect we can see that Kano was founded and established by Nupe people and that Kano has always been ruled by Nupe people and different Nupe dynasties right from the beginning to this very day except for the Fulani Jihad interregnum of the fifteen years rule by Emir Sulemanu the first and and only Fulani ruler of Kano.
First it was the Abagayawa or Gaya or Gara Nupe people with the Dala Nupe dynasty. Then it was the Akanda people with the Baguada Nupe dynasty. And now it is the Dabo dynasty.
The story of Emir Dabo the Nupe man whose dynasty have ruled Kano for close to two hundred years now is a very interesting one and we narrate it below.
The Story of Emir Dabo the Nupe man.
In ancient times a part of KinNupe was known as Batati or Edati. That was the homeland of the Ata or Nda or Kakanda or Kiadia people who were one of the earliest of the Nupe people. These ancient Nupe people were collectively or generically known as the Akanda or Dabo or Tabo people within and outside KinNupe. People coming from KinNupe were referred to as the Ndabo, Dabo, or ‘Tabo’. To this very day we still have Nupe towns and villages bearing the names Tyabo, Tatabu or Tabo, etc, etc, all of which are simply variants of the ancient Nupe national name ‘Dabo.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was this great Nupe Islamic scholar, known as Shehu Ibrahim, who became very famous in KinNupe. He was known as Shehu Dabo to the outside world for the simple reason that he was a Nupe man and the Nupe peple were generally referred to as the Dabo people in those days.
Some Nupe traditions narrate that Shehu Dabo was originally a Kakanda man from the village of Bina not far away from Muye. In those days Kakandaland was a centre of Nupe Islamic missionary and proselytization activities.
At a time Shehu Dabo was settled among the Nupe people of Gulu and the surrounding Dibo Ganagana people of the Vatsa general area.
This Shehu Ibrahim Dabo became popular as a devout Muslim missionary and began to gain some converts and followers among the Dibo and Gbagyi people of the Gulu and Vatsa general area in those days. He eventually built the famous Gulu Mosque that came to be known as the Dabo Mosque in Gulu. This was the first mosque in the whole of that area.
This Nupe Shehu Ibrahim, who is known to history today as Dabo, became so popular among the people of the Gulu-Vatsa area that the indigenous people began to see him as threat to their traditional cultures. They were also afraid that he was trying to establish an Islamic emirate through which he will eventually become a maximum-ruler emir over them.
All these opposition finally chased Shehu Ibrahim Dabo out of Gulu. In fact Ibrahim Dabo left KinNupe for good and went on to Hausaland to carry on with his Islamic missionary activities.
Shehu Dabo settled outside Kano where many Islamic disciples flocked to his compound and that settlement immediately grew into a village which is known as Gulu to this very day. This Gulu is now part of the modern city of Kano since Kano metropolis has grown over the ages to engulf all its formerly outlaying villages.
But in those days Gulu was still a village outside Kano. And it was in that village that Shehu Dabo the great Nupe Islamic scholar resided. The village of Gulu immediately became popular due to the unprecedented fame of Dabo the Nupe man as a great Islamic scholar with unparalleled spiritual capabilities.
It so happened that the Fulani Jihadists from Sokoto who have been fighting Kano for decades without success eventually came to Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man for assistance. The Fulani Jihadists came to meet Shehu Ibrahim Dabo at his Gulu village not far from Kano and asked him to help lead their Jihad attacks against Kano.
Shehu Ibrahim Dabo, who is also a gifted military strategist, then organized his many disciples, Jihad mercenaries and the Sokoto Jihadists into a powerful military machinery that after a series of battles eventually defeated and conquered Kano.
After the conquest of Kano by Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man he was unanimously asked to be the first Emir of Kano. But he refused and said he prefer his life of a Mallam Islamic scholar. In the end his second in command during the battles, a certain Sulemanu from among the Sokoto Jihadists, was turbaned as the first Emir of the new Kano Emirate established by Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man. That was in 1805.
After all these Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man became extremely famous and exceedingly popular. Throughout Hausaland and beyond the fame of Shehu Dabo as the ultimate spiritualist and Islamic scholar reigned supreme. People from far and close trooped to the Gulu village to receive spiritual healing and Islamic training from Dabo the great Islamic scholar and metaphysical spiritualist.
The rulers of the nearby city of Kano came to sought spiritual and otherwise assistance from Shehu Dabo. The entire ruling class of the Kano city-state eventually became patrons of Shehu Dabo the spiritualist. And with time all the members of the Kano ruling family fall under the powerful influence, and in fact spell, of Dabo the Nupe man. That was how Shehu Dabo became initiated into the royal family of Kano. Dabo became such a close confidant of Emir Sulemanu the king of the Kano kingdom. In fact Emir Sulemanu continued to bow down before Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man as his mentor and master.
It so happened that Dabo became such a master of the Kano royal family that he unwillingly became the de facto ruler of Kano even though he remained at his village of Gulu outside Kano. In fact when Emir Sulemanu, the first Emir of Kano died in 1819, Shehu Dabo the Nupe man, automatically became the second Emir of Kano because it was observed and agreed by all and sundry that there is nobody as great and capable as him fit for the throne of the Emir of Kano among his contemporaries.
So, Shehu Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man became the second Emir of Kano and his descendants have continued to rule Kano to this very day. The present Emir Ado Bayero is a great grandchild of Dabo the Nupe man.
Kano was a small city when Ibrahim Dabo became the Emir of Kano. But the moment he became the Emir of Kano Emir Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man immediately transformed Kano into the greatest city-state power over the whole of Hausaland.
Emir Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man became the greatest warrior-ruler Kano have had to date. From being an Islamic missionary Emir Dabo became a great philosopher-ruler. As the second Emir of Kano Emir Ibrahim Dabo was the one who built Kano into the great city-state that it was renowned among historians.
Emir Ibrahim Dabo did not only build Kano into a great city, he also conquered virtually the whole of Hausaland under Kano sovereignty. He fought so many victorious wars of conquests and was known, according to Professor Robert Collins, as ‘The Sacker of Towns’. He conquered and sacked Hausa city-states including Birnin Rano, Birnin Sankara, Yasko, etc, etc.
The reign of Emir Ibrahim Dabo, the Nupe man, was one of the most prosperous in the history of the Kano kingdom. People had plenty of food to eat and Kano became the commercial headquarters of Hausaland ever since the days of Emir Ibrahim Dabo.
Emir Ibrahim Dabo, the Nupe man, died in 1846.
Postscript: Claims by Hausa-Fulani revisionist and hegemonist historians to the effect that Emir Ibrahim was a Sullubawa Fulani and not a Nupe man are not only unfounded but can not be historically substantiated irrefutably.
Picture: His Royal Highness Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of Kano. Emir Sanusi Lamido is a descendant of Emir Ibrahim Dabo the Nupe man.