The British colonial occupation and the christian missionary activities in Katsina Emirate C. 1903 - 1936

Essay, 2011

31 Pages




One of the neglected themes of the history of Katsina emirate, was the contribution of the Christian Missionaries to the socio-economic development of the emirate. This is true because early attempts by Christian missionaries to introduce Christianity into Katsina emirate were not accorded serious attention. Likewise in the colonial period, when the Missionaries succeeded in establishing their stations in various parts of the emirate their activities were almost overlooked by researchers and writers. This paper appreciates the nature and the significance of the Christian Missionary activities in Katsina emirate in the pre-colonial and colonial periods.


Katsina emirate is one of the emirates of the Sokoto Caliphate that had been in existence from 1806 to 1903, when the British colonialist subjugated the caliphate and replaced it with another type of emirate system based on the principles of ‘Indirect Rule’ system of administration.[1] Katsina emirate is located on the northern boarders of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It lies between longitude 060 57’ and 080 11’ E, and between latitude 110 15’ N and 130 20’ N.[2] During colonial period, the boundaries of Katsina are contiguous with the territories in the Republic of Niger to the north, Zaria emirate to the south, Kano emirate to the sourth east, Sokoto in the west and kazaure and Daura emirates to the east. But presently, Katsina State which comprises of Katsina and Daura emirates is bounded by the territories in the Republic of Niger to the north, Kaduna State in the south, Kano and Jigawa States in the east and Zamfara State in the West.[3] The estimated size of Katsina emirate is 8,106 square Miles. It also lies about one thousand four hundred feet (1,400ft) above sea level.[4]


The conquest and occupation of northern Nigeria by the British imperial forces began in 1900. By the beginning of the era of “new imperialism”, in the last quarter of the 19th century, there was negligible colonial presence on African continent. Colonial influence was restricted to Algiers, north Africa and Cape Colony, South Africa. However, by 1914, only Ethiopia and Liberia remained unaffected by direct colonial control.[5] The British occupation of Katsina emirate was among the prevailing revolutionary socio-economic and political changes that affected the emirates of the defunct Sokoto caliphate in the opening years of 20th century. In Katsina, the resultant effect of these major socio-economic and political changes was the dynastic change where the Dallazawa Fulani clan that governed Katsina emirate for almost a century 1806 – 1906 were dramatically removed and replaced with Sullubawa Fulani clan. Although before 1900 A.D. the Royal Niger Company (RNC) had maintained its claims over what was described as Niger territories under the British dominion, the company failed to establish effective control over these vast territories. This failure brought about two disturbing consequences: one, the areas remained vulnerable to penetration by other European powers, such as France and Germany. Secondly the local chiefs and their people were free to exercise their independent practices even if it was contrary to the British interest.[6] This led to the revocation of the charter of the Company (RNC) and a ‘protectorate’ was declared on 1st January, 1900 by Capt. F.D. Lugard at Lokoja. Lugard was then appointed the High Commissioner of this vast protectorate. Henceforward, the High Commissioner embarked on military campaigns to subdue the existing authorities. By March 1903, the major polities in the present northern Nigerian areas had been subjugated by the British colonial army.[7]

The way the katsinawa approached this important episode was unique and extraordinary. Unlike the Zazzagawa, the Kanawa and the Sakkwatawa, the Katsinawa surrendered without any serious opposition to the British after series of discussion and debate among the ruling group. At the end, it was resolved that there should be no fighting with the British forces. The reason advanced for the reluctance of the katsinawa to confront the British was that, it was planned that the British forces should be attacked when they settled down in Katsina. It was after the British entry that Katsinawa realized that attacking the British in Katsina city was not possible. Thereafter the rulers resorted to passive opposition to the British occupation.[8] However, what the Katsinawa did at that time, whether deliberately or by accident, was the most appropriate and wise response to a situation of that magnitude. This is because ever since the appearance of colonial threats to Katsina, some of the powerful chiefs had rejected the idea of submitting to the British peacefully and opted for either staying and fight or migrate.[9]

What is apparent was that when the British took over Kano, Captain Morland, the commandant of the Kano expedition, sent a letter to Emir Abubakar of Katsina notifying him on the gravity of the situation and casualties in Kano, he asked the Emir to submit to the British forces to avoid similar consequences.[10] At the same time the activities of the French forces in Damagaram which shared boarders with Katsina emirate aggravated the situation for the Katsinawa. By the end of 1899, the French forces had already subdued all the territories north of Katsina emirate. For example, during the subjugation of Tessawa, a territory in the present Republic of Niger, between November and December 1899 by Lamy, a French commandant, the emir of Katsina was seriously alerted. He reacted on hearing the news by sending gift of 10 horses and 300 goatskins to the Lamy. This shows that at least the Emir was uncomfortable with the situation.[11] Therefore, it could be assumed that the Europeans approached Katsina from two directions, and the Emir was wise enough to realize what he was facing and decided to take that wise decision.

The decision to avoid fighting could also be explained as the realistic vision of the Emir. Being a military man himself, he knew quite well what military defeat meant. Its impact could result to anything, ranging from loss of his power to the loss of his life. Moreover, the Katsina emirate had suffered a prolonged conflict with ‘Yan tawaye’ from Maradi who remained a constant source of threat to the government of the emirate throughout the 19th century. Katsinawa were about to put down such rebellion to an end when the Europeans invaders appeared on the scene.

Following the British occupation of Katsina the attitude of the Emir and some of his loyalists confirmed that heir surrender to the British was necessitated by the realities of the circumstance of the imperial ambitions of the Europeans in the early 20th century Northern Nigeria. Therefore, when they realized the intent of the British occupation of their territory they started exhibiting passive reaction towards the invaders. The British however responded with highhanded reactions because in less than four years of colonial rule in Katsina emirate, two Dallazawa Emirs (A bubakar and Malam Yero) were deposed and exiled to Ilorin and Lokoja respectively.

The removal of Emirs Abubakar and Malam Yero, both from Dallazawa Fulani stock, between 1903 and 1906, and the ascension of Durbi Muhammadu Dikko as the Emir of Katsina from the Sullubawa Fulani clan in 1907, marked the end of one and the beginning of another era in the history of Katsina emirate. After about 100 years (1806 – 1906) of Dallazawa rule. Katsina emirate of the 20th century with its Native Authority infrastructure was a radical departure from the emirate system of the 19th century.


Before the British conquest and occupation of the bigger emirates of Hausaland, the activities of Christian Missionaries were very sporadic and in some areas completely absent. But with the establishment of Pax Britannica, Christian missionary activities in Hausaland started taking new dimension..

Contrary to the dominant view that Christianity came to northern Nigeria through southern Nigeria, there is evidence which points to the possibilities of the presence of Christian missions in Hausaland, particularly Katsina, long before the 20th century. Since the time of the Byzantine re-conquest of North Africa in 533 – 35 A.D., the people of Hausaland had established regular contact with the outside world especially North Africa.[12] The famous trans – Saharan trade flourished with the rise of Arab to power in almost all parts of North Africa in the seventh century and connected Hausaland with North African people. Despite the fact that Christianity was well established in North Africa in the first century of its establishment,[13] Christian missionaries found it very difficult or even impossible, at the said time to reach Hausaland through the trans – Saharan trade routes probably due to the predominance of Muslim caravan along these routes until the 16th Century. This created a situation whereby the Christian missionaries at the time could not extend their activities like the way the Muslim traders and preachers did.

In the areas east of Hausaland, there were accounts that testified to the presence of Christians in Borno. According to some written documents that were discovered in the French Embassy in Tripoli, Libya in 1812:

Some traders, who retuned from Borno during one of their trade missions, brought in slaves. These slaves gave evidence of the Christian presence in Borno, the sign of cross in particular”.[14]

When this report was communicated to “Propaganda Fide”, a department of the Vatican responsible for missionary activities, they responded with the zeal of ascertaining the reality of the information. Thus, in 1700, a meeting was convened where it was arranged for the immediate missionary departure to Borno. In 1700, ‘Propaganda Fide’, considered a proposal to send a mission to Borno. Therefore, two Franciscan Fathers, Fr. Damiano da Rivoli, and an Arabist Fr. Servarino da Silesia were to facilitate the mission to Borno. However, in 1703, Fr. Damiano returned to Tripoli, and was replaced by Fr Carlo Maria di Genova. The latter remained in Cairo for sometime where he met the two grandsons of Mai Ali b. Umar (1639 – 1677) on their way to Hajj. He later moved to Tripoli where he was joined by Fr. Servarino da Silesia. The two left Tripoli for Borno in early 1710.[15]


[1] For detailed discussion of Indirect Rule system see; Yahaya, D. Ali, Traditional Leadership and Institutions: The Colonial Transformation of the Emirate System, in A. M. Yakubu et al (eds), Northern Nigeria: A century of Transformation, 1903 – 2003, Kaduna; Arewa House, 2005., Simon, E. Majuk, Islam and Colonialism in Northern Nigeria: A Study in the use of Relgion for Political Domination in Sokoto and its Emirates, 1900 – 1960. (M. A. Thesis A.B.U. May 1988) and Kirk-Greene, A.H.M., Ed. The Principle of Administration in Nigeria: Selected Documents: 1900 – 1947. (London: Oxford University Press 1965) P. 43.

[2] NAK/KATPROF/3813 – Katsina Province General Information.

[3] See, current Nigerian map on Encarta Premium 2009 computer software programme.

[4] NAK/KATPROF/3813, op cit.

[5] Mohammed, B., “British Colonial Administration and the Emergence of the Nigerian Elite 1900 – 1945”, A Seminar paper presented at the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. March 2009.

[6] Sa’ad, A. “The Northern Provinces Under Colonial Rule: 1900 – 1959”, in Ikime, O. (Ed.) Groundwork of Nigerian History. (Ibadan: Heinemann. 1980). (pp. 447 – 483). P. 449.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Interview with Malam Lawal Yahaya Kofar Sauri, 51, Civil Servant, Katsina, 27th March 2008, 9:30 a.m.

[9] Hull, R. W. “The Development of Administration in Katsina Emirate, Northern Nigeria 1887 – 1944” (Ph.D Thesis, Columbia, 1968) p. 99

[10] Ibid.

[11] Dutsi, A.G. “A History of Dutsi to 1960” ( B.A. History, B.U.K. 1984). p. 54

[12] Hopkins, A. The Economic History of West Africa.

[13] Vishigh, I. R. “Christianity and Islam In Dialogue: Northwest Nigeria, 1960-1990” (Ph.D University of Jos, 1997). Retrieved from 20th June, 2007

[14] Vishigh, opcit. p. 7

[15] Ibid p.20

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The British colonial occupation and the christian missionary activities in Katsina Emirate C. 1903 - 1936
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Dahiru Rabe (Author), 2011, The British colonial occupation and the christian missionary activities in Katsina Emirate C. 1903 - 1936, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 6/29/2015

    The colonialists came to Karsina from Sokoto through Ruma and not Kano according to Oral traditon. It was Danwaire who broke the news of the coming of the colonialists to Katsina. The Emir didn't fight them because he was so advised by the Rulers of Sokoto Caliphate. You need to do more research please.

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