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KANO IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY

Llewelyn I G Morgan-Owen spent some time in the Kano area (1904-1910), maintaining law & order with the Mounted Infantry of the West African Frontier Force, and his brother Hugh Morgan Owen was a British diplomat based in Kano (1909-1931).

The West African Frontier Force had been organised and commanded by Frederick Lugard, a British soldier, mercenary and explorer who became a colonial administrator. After he had relinquished command of this force at the end of 1899, Lugard was knighted and made High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, a position he held until 1906. When he first arrived, only a small part of Northern Nigeria was under effective British control and many Fula (an ethnic group of people scattered throughout the continent but predominantly found in West Africa) princes were refusing to fulfil their treaty obligations. In order to be able to administer this vast territory Lugard had to force these native leaders to comply and in 1903 he mounted a successful campaign gainst the emir of Kano and the sultan of Sokoto, two of the most powerful protagonists. By the end of that year the British had established control over the whole protectorate but there were still occasional uprisings and these were brutally supressed by Lugard's troops; a Mahdi rebellion in 1906 at Satiru, a village near Sokoto, led to the whole town being destroyed with vast numbers of casualties.

The following year the British attempted to impose heavy taxes on the each Emir and on aspects of native life such as trading. Llewelyn I G Morgan-Owen was involved in overcoming the oppostion and non-co-operation this, not surprisingly, provoked. Traditionally taxes had been paid in cowry shell or percentage of crops harvested, a logistical problem amongst other things, so a coinage system was introduced with rates of exchange (e.g. 1,200 cowries to one shilling) but it took almost five years for the old sysem to be competely superseded by the new.

After a period as Governor of Hong Kong, Lugard returned to Nigeria as High Commissioner of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate (Sept 1912 - Dec 1913) and then as 1st Governor-General of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria (Dec 1913 – Nov 1918). As such he would have supervised the work of Hugh Morgan Owen.

These are extracts from a Brief History of Kano 999 to 2003 by Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa. It describes events from the native viewpoint and therefore illustrates the attitudes the Morgan-Owen brothers encountered and had to try to appease.

The British Conquest and Colonial Rule

The British used the pretext of the asylum Sarkin Kano Alu granted to Magaji of Keffi Dan Yamusa to attack Kano. The Magaji had killed a Captain Maloney in an encounter in Keffi [in October 1902]. Captain Maloney had intended to capture or kill the Magaji but the latter took the initiative and killed the former. The British met a stiff but uncoordinated resistance in Kano [in Jan/Feb 1903]. Many of the Kano warriors wore their funeral shrouds and went out to fight the British. There were of course people who were ready to serve as mercenaries for the British in Hausaland and many of them were recruited into the imperial army. One of the British agents later wrote a treatise in support of the British conquest. The British conquered the Sokoto Caliphate, the Borno Empire and all the independent communities of what later became the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and Fredrick Lugard was the governor. He initiated the policy of indirect rule in the region based on previous British colonial experiences and the fact that he had very few political officers to administer the vast area.

The purpose of colonial rule was to exploit the resources of the colonized people for the benefit of the colonialists and transform the colonized society into a perpetual economic and culture dependency of the colonial power. The economy was monetized by the introduction of monetary taxation and metal currency. Previously taxation was in the form of the commodities produced and most of it was in the form of the Zakat, the Islamically authorized tax, Jizya the tax paid by the bon-Muslims under the protection of the Muslim polity, the land tax and other taxes paid by merchants and craftsmen. The British introduced a modified poll tax payable in cash by adults.

Under the British indirect administrative structure the Emir was the sole Native Authority subordinate to the supervision of the British Colonial Resident. Hakimai (Chiefs) assisted the Emir in the administration of the Emirate and under a re-organization by Dr. Cargill the Resident of Kano province the Hakimai were posted out of the capital to the Districts as District Heads. During the pre-colonial area the Hakimai had fiefs scattered in the Emirate from where they collected their taxes through their Jakadu (agents) but the Cargill re-organization made each Hakimi to have a contagious territory where he resided at the headquarters and administered on behalf of the Emir and the Jakadu were eliminated. The powerful slave officials were also not given any territories and their previous possessions were given to the free born Hakimai most of whom belonged to the Sullubawa ruling clan with one each from the Yolawa, Jobawa, Danbazawa, Sullubawan Tuta who became the Kingmakers that appoint the Emir.

The British encouraged the production of commodities for export as raw materials for British industries. In Kano groundnut and cotton were encouraged. The peasant farmers had little or no choice of producing these commodities because they were compelled to pay tax in cash, which could only be generated by selling these commodities. Later Kano Province became the largest producer of groundnut in Nigeria and by the 1960s during good harvest it was producing about half million tons of the commodity. The export of cotton was not as high as groundnut because the local textile craftsmen used it until later when their products became less competitive compared to imported items. The railway was a great facilitator of colonial economic transformation. It reached Kano in 1912 and it helped the province to maintain its economic edge over other provinces. Apart from the easy of transportation it also brought many migrant laborers and semi-skilled people from other parts of Nigeria and they formed the nucleus of Sabon Gari a new district created for them outside the city of Kano. In this area they were free to enjoy their libertarian life that contravenes Islamic law. Beer parlours and brothels have since then remained in that location.

Socially the colonial society had to find a way of reproducing itself and this was possible through its educational system. Prior to the advent of the colonial rule, education in this part of the world was Islamic and life long process and not only for employment it was a religious duty. They also abolished the social welfare system that took care of the destitute and Qur’anic pupils this led to the persistence of beggary and solution is yet to found.

The colonialist transformed education into an institution for the sake of employment and secular education was introduced as the formal system. .... The progress and acceptability of western formal education in Northern Nigeria was slow largely because the majority of the people regarded it as a Christian education. Even though the Christian missionaries had their separate schools partly funded by the colonial administration from the tax of Muslim peasants. The colonialists were also more interested in producing clerical manpower for their system. Up to the 1960s there was only one secondary school in Kano Province offering science subjects ....

Another area that the colonialist set to transform was the legal system, which was based on the Shari’ah as interpreted by Maliki School. Even before the conquest of Kano and most other parts of the Sokoto Caliphate Lugard made the "The Native Court Proclamation" of 1900, to provide For the better regulation and control of the native Courts. The intention of the British despot for making the proclamation was very clear, it was to gradually phase out the Shari’ah. ... The Emirs who served under the British tried to preserve their Islamic heritage and they refused to follow the British in its attempt to abrogate the Shari’ah .....

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