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Fall of the Sokoto Caliphate : Alternative narrative

    SOME THOUGHTS When people reflect on the fall of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1903, they often conjure up images of British soldiers armed with the formidable Maxim gun on the left, juxtaposed with local inhabitants wielding swords, bows, and arrows on the right, fervently chanting "Allahu akbar."
    Unfortunately, this portrayal does not align with historical reality. The foot soldiers were mainly Africans, while Europeans primarily served as commanders and strategists rather than frontline combatants. The bulk of the invading forces were drawn from previously subjugated regions, frequently comprising individuals from the target community itself.
    As demonstrated by Philip Afaedie's PhD thesis,The Hidden Hand of Overrule: Political Agents and the Establishment of British Colonial Rule in Northern Nigeria, 1886–1914, individuals such as Adamu Jakada established their reputations and livelihoods by providing valuable intelligence to European forces.
    In the case of Kano, for instance, Ciroman Kano Abdu Lele, the son of Emir Kano Tukur (reigned 1893–1895), supported the British invasion in exchange for their promise to restore him to the Kano throne, which his family had lost after the Kano Civil War (1893–1895), known as the Basasa (of course they didn’t honour the agreement after the war!). Others, driven by diverse motivations, also aligned themselves with the British cause. As recounted by Baba of Karo to Mary Smith (see Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Hausa Muslim), people in rural areas, fed up with pervasive political and social corruption, celebrated colonial conquest with a popular song, "Nasara kun dade ba ku zo ba". The Resident of Kano also noted in an intelligence report to the British acting High Commissioner on July 9th, 1903, that the peasantry embraced British conquest due to their deep-seated resentment towards their rulers. "Nasara kun dade ba ku zo ba" carries more profound implications than its composers may have intended.
    Scholars like Murray Last (1967), Rudolph Ware (2014) and Paul Lovejoy (2016), along with others, have shown us how and why the Sokoto Jihad was one of the most important political and social revolutions of the 19th century thanks to the egalitarian nature of its goals. However, Nasara kun dade ba ku zo ba demonstrates how such ideals were lost by the closing decade of the century, prompting common people to seek refuge in the hands of Christians Nevertheless, the intellectual class remained committed to their quest for an egalitarian society through the Islamic ideological vehicle.
    M.S. Umar’s seminal work, Islam and Colonialism: Intellectual Responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British Colonial Rule, has powerfully shown us how such intellectuals reacted to British colonial conquest and the various strategies they adopted to challenge it. They saw it as temporary—God’s wrath upon an erring community. Defining the conquest as a temporary setback, the grand vizier of the Sokoto Caliphate equated it to the shaving of a beard. In his poems titled Nuzhah and Intisaf, Sheikh Yahya an-Naffakh (b. 1898 and known as Malam) described the British conquest as the ‘triumph of absurdity’ caused by scholars who have replaced ‘the humility of Knowledge with the stupidity of ignorance’ and rulers who have exchanged ‘the wisdom of governance with the arrogance of past glory’. Malam himself came from a family that was a victim of such crass anarchy. The winning side of the Kano Civil War imprisoned his father, who was a legitimist. A young Malam secured his release by writing a petition to the Resident of Kano, Mr. Palmer, advocating against the unjust imprisonment. Although oral traditions suggest that Dan Fodio prophesied the fall of the Caliphate to European Christians, it is more plausible that news of their encroachment reached Sokoto through traders and pilgrims travelling the trans-Saharan trade routes, ultimately reaching Mecca.
    For instance, in the early 19th century, the influential Lagos trader Madam Tinubu sent a letter to the Caliph of Sokoto, Bello dan Fodio, informing him of European activities along the coast. Furthermore, Paul Lovejoy's research on Umar el-Fellati reveals that Fellati witnessed the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 and even acted as a double agent, providing the British with information about the Caliphate while simultaneously reporting on British activities in Northern Africa.
    While I welcome alternative perspectives and even corrections as usual, I strongly advise against anyone turning my tweets into a space where they can vent hate and showcase their lack of home training. I expect respectful and evidence-based engagements, please. DO NOT INSULT ANYONE UNDER MY TWEET.
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