Muhammad Kanta founded the city state of Kebbi in the early sixteenth century. The son of a Katsina princess, he had an extraordinary career. A brilliant soldier, his army was the only one to withstand the hegemony of Songhai. Some accounts, accepted by historians such as Trimingham, and Stride and Ifeka, claim he overthrew Songhai imperial power in Hausaland and imposed tribute on these captured territories himself. Less controversially, he founded imposing cities, the ruins of which are still in existence. Surame, the capital of Kebbi, proved almost impregnable. Surrounded by a moat, it had seven concentric stone and clay walls. Philip Koslow, a modern historian, suggests that the wall construction involved a work force of 10,000 people. Gungu, another of Kanta's constructions, was a garrison town. Finally, Leka was the holiday residence for the royal family.
Surame, the great city founded by Kanta, even in ruin, was an impressive sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. Mr E. J. Arnett, a modern scholar, describes it thus: "The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a little north of the eastern gate … The main city walls here appear to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide, approached from left and right by a passage deepening to the point of entrance and sloping up from there into the town. The entrance, however, is filled in with a solid masonry wall in remarkable preservation. It stands from 25 to 30 feet high … From its name, sirati, or bridge … [it is probable that] the entrance gateway of the town was surmounted by an archway, or bridge … Surame is said to have been abandoned by the successors of Kanta about 1715 A.D."
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