Abdullah Burja, the eighteenth ruler of the Hausa city-state of Kano, was the architect of great prosperity in the northern Nigeria region. In 1438 AD he was crowned Sarki (i.e. King) of Kano. Within a few years, he became the most powerful sarkuna (i.e. king-but plural) within in the Hausa Confederation. His general led military campaigns for seven years in the regions to the south. The campaigns attempted to open the trade route to Gwanja on the edge of the forest belt. The Kano cavalry, typical of the time, were equipped with plumed iron helmets and chainmail. Their horses were protected with lifidi - a thick quilted armour made of cloth. Burja's raids proved successful. Twenty one thousand prisoners were captured. The General dispatched the captives to twenty-one settlements in Kano City. From Gwanja, through this newly opened trade route, kola nuts and gold dust flowed into Kano.
Meanwhile, serious diplomatic problems had emerged with the neighbouring state of Borno to the east (roughly modern Chad and Niger). The Kano Chronicle, the chief Hausa history, attempts to put a brave face on it but admits that after the conflict "many towns were given to Borno." This indicates that Burja was defeated in whatever-it-was the authors of the Chronicle were trying to conceal. The city of Kano remained independent and surprisingly, direct trade was established with Borno despite the conflict. Moreover, the Sarki sent gifts to the ruler of Borno, acknowledging the Bono King's supremacy as an Islamic leader. This started a tradition that continued late into the eighteenth century.
Of the Hausa rulers, Abdullah Burja was the first to encourage the use of camels as beasts of burden. Previously, Kano businessmen and traders waited on camel caravans controlled by the Tuaregs to arrive from the north. Under Burja's new policy, Kano merchants could transport their own goods across the desert. In the footsteps of these merchants followed the Hausa language and culture. Hausa became the biggest indigenous language spoken in Africa after Swahili. In reputation, Hausa merchants came to rival the legendary Wangaran merchants of Guinea, the economic powerhouse behind Mali. It is worth remembering that the BBC in the Millennium series described Mali as the richest empire in the fourteenth century world. In Kano Burja established the Kurmi Market. A veritable magnet, it attracted goods from all over the world.
|All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE |