Pre-Colonial Administration: Political Organization of Hausa-Fulani Empire

The Hausa-Fulani Empire had its origin from the Holy war (Jihad) of 1804 which Uthman Dan Fodio, a Fulani Muslim launched against the Hausa rulers of the period with a view of making Islam devotedly practised as the only religion in the land.

Prior to this period, the Fulani people were under the domination of the Hausa. The dethronement of the then Hausa leadership made room for the establishment of an empire under the leadership of Uthman Dan Fodio.

Based on two main groups, the new empire became the Hausa-Fulani Empire, though the leadership became dominated by the Fulani. The newly established empire was divided into eastern end western sections, namely the Sokoto and Gwandu emirates respectively. Each emirate was headed by an emir who was both spiritual and political leader.

The Emirs of Gwandu and Sokoto appointed emirs for the subordinate emirates; and wherever the local people appointed emirs, such appointment was subject to the approval of the emirs of Sokoto and Gwandu.

All other emirs paid annual tributes and allegiance to those of Sokoto and Gwandu with the Sultan of Sokoto being the overall head.

Political Organization of The Hausa-Fulani Empire

Sequel to the previous post which gave an account of the Hausa-Fulani Empire, this post will guide you on the political organization of the Hausa-Fulani Empire, how the Empire was run before the coming of the colonialists and what unique features there were in the politics of the Hausa-Fulani Empire.

Below is how the Hausa-Fulani Empire was organized politically.

1. The Executive

The Emir was the spiritual, political and administrative head of the emirate. The government was based on the Islamic religion, culture and tradition.

The combination of the functions of head of state, government and religious leader made the Emir an absolute ruler in the administration of the emirate. He was assisted in the administration of the emirate by a number of officers whom he appointed.

The officers were responsible and accountable to the Emir only. Some of them were in advisory position to him, but he was not bound by such service. The autocratic powers of the Emirs were limited by the provisions of the Sharia, which is a guiding principle comprising the body of laws of the Islamic religion.

2. Administrative Structure

The administrative functions of the emirate were carried out by a number of officers appointed by the Emir to assist him. For instance:

Waziri: performed the function of adviser to the Emir and acted as prime minister of the emirate.

Galadima: administered the capital city of the empire.

Sarkin Fada: headed the palace workers.

Madawaki: commanded the army.

Maaji: took charge of the treasury.

Sarkin Ruwa: was the officer in charge of fishing and river-related activities or festivals, for example, Argungu fishing festival.

The emirate was divided into districts while districts were further sub-divided into villages which again had wards. The districts were administered by district heads while the village heads controlled the machinery of government at the village levels as the ward heads did in their wards.

The flow of authority originated from the Emir to the district heads, the village heads and finally to the ward heads. Appointments (and removal) were made in that order too, with village heads appointing ward heads.

The village heads collected taxes on land and cattle, part of which went to the Emirs and the district heads.

3. The Legislature

The entire legislative processes were based on the Islamic religion through the Sharia, and any contrary law was illegal. In areas where the Sharia was silent, the Emirs made pronouncements which had the force of law.

The Emir also delegated powers of making such laws to the district and village heads who were answerable and loyal to him, even though such laws could be revoked. All extra-sharia laws must not contradict any part of the Sharia.

The Legislature therefore comprised the Emir, the Sharia law and the council of officers (elders) who were appointed and responsible to the Emir.

4. Judiciary

The judiciary was established in accordance with the Islamic religion. It was therefore based on the Sharia. The Sharia law deals with issues like marriage, divorce, debt, inheritance, slander, stealing, murder and custody of children.

The Emir was the overall head of the judiciary and presided over the court of appeal in his palace. The court handled serious cases and land disputes. Generally however, justice was administered by alkalis who were well trained in the interpretation and application of the Sharia laws and performed those functions in the villages, districts and capital city, presiding over alkali courts.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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