Historical background: The Fulani took over the political leadership of the Habe (Hausa) states in the early 19th century. The Jihad that preceded this occupation was seen as a religious one as well as political.

Othman Dan Fodio led the Fulani Jihad and took over the political leadership of the Hausa and established the Sokoto caliphate with outstanding centralised political system of government. He introduced a new system of selecting and appointing rulers described as Emirs to rule the caliphate. Each of the Emirs owed allegiance to Dan Fodio and his two representatives at Gwandu and Sokoto.



1) The Emirate: The Caliphate was divided into emirates and each was headed by an Emir. He had the responsibility of making laws, enforcing them and maintaining peace and order in his emirate. He was expected to administer the emirate in accordance with the provisions of the islamic and sharia laws. Infact, he was believed to have the divine right to rule. However,each emir was assisted in the administration of the emirate by a number of advisers. These were:

  • The Waziri – He was the head of all the officials.
  • The Galadima – He was incharge of the capital.
  • The Madaki (Madawaki) – He was the commander of the army.
  • Dogari – He was the head of the police.
  • Maaji – He was incharge of treasury.
  • Sarkin Ruwa – The river fishing official.
  • Sarkin Fada – The head of the palace workers.
  • Sarkin-pawa – The head of all butchers.


Note: Waziri was a very senior adviser and administrator. He was the prime minister.



2) Supreme headquarters: Sokoto and Gwandu were the seats of the Emirs. The Emir of Gwandu controlled the western empire while the Emir of Sokoto controlled the eastern empire. They appointed Emirs in each of the emirates under their jurisdiction.


3) District administration: Each emirate was divided into districts for administrative convenience. An official known as Hakimi was usually appointed by the Emir to administer the district.


4) Village heads: Village heads were appointed by Hakimi to help in the collection of taxes e.g. cattle tax (Jangali) and maintenance of law and order in the villages.


5) Legislative functions: Islamic laws were the supreme laws of the emirate. The emir had the capacity of making laws on matters which were not covered by islamic laws.


6) Executive functions: The emir was authoritarian and had absolute powers, even though he had a body of advisers, yet he can ignore or accept their advise.


7) Judicial functions: The judicial administration was based on sharia laws. These laws were administered by Alkali judges. At times, minor cases may be passed to the village heads to be settled by them. Criminal and land cases were usually refered to the Emirs because Sharia laws dealt mainly with civil cases.


8) Centralised administration: The emirate system was a highly centralised one, with the emirs possessing almost all the powers. He was an authoritarian ruler.



  1. Appointment: The Emir appointment of officials e.g. Madawaki/Waziri/Galadima and Hakimi to assist him in administering the emirate.
  2. Social services: He provided social services for the people.
  3. Communal work: The Emir organized his people for communal work e.g. roads and emir’s palace.
  4. Defence: He organized his people for defense of the emirate against external attacks
  5. Islamic law: He enforced the sharia (Islamic law) throughout the emirate.
  6. Spiritual head: He was the spiritual head of the emirate.
  7. He presided over the Emir’s Court as a judge: Only few cases went to the Sultan on appeal.
  8. Law and order: The Emir maintained law and order in the emirate.
  9. Taxation: He imposed and collected taxes e.g. Haraji, Jangali (cattle tax) and tributes. Supreme ruler: The emir was the supreme ruler of his subjects.
  10. Making of laws: He made laws over the area under his jurisdiction
  11. Allocation of farmland: He allocated farmland to the people.
  12. Ceremonial functions: He performed ceremonial functions e.g.Dubar.
  13. Traditional titles: The Emir honoured brave warriors and conferred traditional titles on worthy citizens.

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