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The Northern States : Norms of the North!


Northern Nigeria was an autonomous division within Nigeria, distinctly different from the southern part of the country, with independent customs, foreign relations and security structures. In 1962 it acquired the territory of the British Northern Cameroons, which voted to become a province within Northern Nigeria.

The Nok culture, an ancient culture dominated most of what is now Northern Nigeria in pre historic times, its legacy in the form of terracotta statues and megaliths have been discovered in Sokoto, Kano, Birinin Kudu, Nok and Zaria. The Kwatarkwashi culture, a variant of the Nok culture centred mostly around Zamfara in Sokoto Province is thought by some to be the same or an offshoot of the Nok.

The Fourteen Kingdoms

The Fourteen Kingdoms unified the diverse lore and heritage of Northern Nigeria into a cohesive ethno-historical system. Seven of these Kingdoms developed from the Kabara legacy of the Hausa people. In the 9th century as vibrant trading centers competing with Kanem-Bornu and Mali slowly developed in the Central Sudan, a set Kingdoms merged dominating the great savannah plains of Hausaland, their primary exports were leather, gold, cloth, salt, kola nuts, animal hides, and henna.

The Seven Hausa states included:

Daura, ? – 1806
Kano, 998 – 1807
Katsina, c. 1400 – 1805
Zazzau (Zaria), c. 1200 – 1808
Gobir, ? – 1808
Biram, c. 1100 – 1805

The growth and conquest of the Hausa Bakwai resulted in the founding of additional states with rulers tracing their lineage to a concubine of the Hausa founding father, Bayajidda. Thus they are called the Banza Bakwai, meaning Bastard Seven. The Banza Bakwai adopted many of the customs and institutions of the Hausa Bakwai but were considered unsanctioned or copy-cat kingdoms by non-Hausa people. These states include:

Yauri (also called Yawuri)
Gwari (also called Gwariland)
Kwararafa (a Jukun state)
Nupe (of the Nupe people)
Ilorin (a conglomeration of Yoruba, Hausa, Nupe, Fulani, Kanuri, Barba.
Hausa States

Main article: Hausa States
Between 500 CE and 700 CE Hausa people, who are thought to have slowly moved from Nubia and mixing in with the local Northern and Middle Belt population, established a number of strong states in what is now Northern Nigeria and Eastern Niger. With the decline of the Nok and Sokoto, who had previously controlled Central and Northern Nigeria between 800 BCE and 200 CE, the Hausa were able to emerge as the new power in the region. They are closely linked with the Kanuri people of Kanem-Bornu (Lake Chad), the Birom, Gwari, Nupe and Jukun. The Hausa aristocracy, under influence from the Mali Empire adopted Islam in the 11th century CE. By the 12th century CE the Hausa were becoming one of Africa’s major powers. The architecture of the Hausa is perhaps one of the least known but most beautiful of the medieval age. Many of their early mosques and palaces are bright and colourful and often include intricate engraving or elaborate symbols designed into the facade. By 1500 CE the Hausa utilized a modified Arabic script known as Ajami to record their own language; the Hausa compiled several written histories, the most popular being the Kano Chronicle.

Fulani Empire and Bornu Empire

Usuman dan Fodio led a jihad against the Hausa States and finally united them into the Sokoto Caliphate. The Sokoto Caliphate was under the overall authority of the Commander of the Faithful. Under Dan Fodio, the Empire was bicephalous and divided into two territories each controlled by an appointed vizier. Each of the territories was further divided into autonomous Emirates under mainly hereditary local Emirs. The Bornu Empire was initially absorbed into the Sokoto Caliphate of Usman dan Fodio, but broke away after a few years later.


Initially the British involvement in Northern Nigeria was predominantly trade-related, and revolved around the expansion of the Royal Niger Company, whose interior territories spread north from about where the Niger River and Benue River joined at Lokoja. The Royal Niger Company’s territory did not represent a direct threat to much the Sokoto Caliphate or the numerous states of Northern Nigeria. This changed, when Fredrick Lugard and Taubman Goldie laid down an ambitious plan to pacify the Niger interior and unite it with the rest of the British Empire.

History of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria

Main article: Northern Nigeria Protectorate
The protectorate of Northern Nigeria was proclaimed at Ida by Fredrick Lugard on January 1, 1897. The basis of the colony was the 1885 Treaty of Berlin which broadly granted Northern Nigeria to Britain, on the basis of their protectorates in Southern Nigeria. Hostilities with the powerful Sokoto Caliphate soon followed. the Emirates of Kotogora and Illorin were the first to be conquered by the British. In February 1903, the great fort of Kano, seat of the Kano Emirate was captured, Sokoto and much of the rest of its Caliphate soon catapulted.

On March 13, 1903, the Grand Shura of Caliphate finally conceded to Lugards demands and proclaimed Queen Victoria, Queen and sovereign of the Caliphate and all its lands.

The Governor, Frederick Lugard, with limited resources, ruled with the consent of local rulers through a policy of indirect rule which he developed into a sophisticated political theory. Lugard left the protectorate after some years, serving in Hong Kong, but was eventually returned to work in Nigeria where he decided on the merger of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate with Southern Nigeria in 1914.

Agitation for independence from the radically different Southern Protectorate however led to a formidable split on the 1940s. The Richards constitution proclaimed in 1945 gave overwhelming autonomy to the North including eventually in the areas of foreign relations and customs policy.


Northern Nigeria gained self-government on 15 March 1957 with Sir Ahmadu Bello as its first premier. the Northern Peoples Congress under Bello dominated parliament while the Northern Elements Progressive Union became the main opposition party.

Main article: Provinces of Northern Nigeria
Northern Nigeria is divided into 18 provinces:


Kano, the largest of the provinces in terms of population and economy is in the North-Central part of the country. The Kano Native Authority an offshoot of the fula Kano Emirate inherited the ancient trade industries that fuelled the trans saharan trade with North Africa. The Province of Zaria is home to the City of Kaduna, an autonomous capital city that serves as the nation’s capital and home to its national institutions.



Adesina Ebenezer A

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