Historical Facts around Migration and the Origins of Katsinawa


By Dr Yusufu Bala Usman (R.I.P)

Clearly, there are serious weaknesses and major omissions in the published accounts of Katsina’s relations before 1804 which form an important part of the international relations of the Hausa States. The need for a complete reconstruction of these relationships is obvious. Such a reconstruction will have to be based on primary sources and especially more detailed oral traditions. It also has to reject preconceived ideas about the significance of the Trans-saharan trade, the exchange of tribute and all those concepts and underlying assumptions of international relations which are taken from the historical experience of Europe and assumed to be of universal validity.

Warfare in Hausa land needs to be re-examined, diplomatic changes and armed conflicts between governments took place against a background of more basic and regular forms of external relationships which linked up the communities over which these governments ruled. An attempt will now be made to reconstruct some of these aspects of the internal relations of Katsina.

This was important in determining the foreign policy of the Katsina government, the process which produced the people known today as Katsinawa, and the influence they exercised over other communities and states. The composition of the earliest communities in the present day Hausaland known today as Katsinawa, Gobirawa, Kanawa, Zazzagawa, Zamfarawa, Kabawa and other members of the ethnic group was achieved in large measure through the absorption of migrants of Hausa or non-Hausa origin. One of the most important consequences of the Jihad for example was the formation of the Sakkwatawa and Maradawa as distinct sections of the Hausa speaking people.

The study of this process has been hindered partly by the unhistorical assumption that the peoples of Africa might subjugate, enslave or push each other out of territories but remained fixed immutable units. Where the evidence of this process of transformation and absorption is too obvious to be neglected, it may be said to produce bastard people of ill-defined racial type, or the groups produced are not proper ethnic groups but linguistic units or culture clusters, as has often been said and is still repeated about the Hausa-speaking peoples.

Migration into kasar Katsina has been going on for a long period, and has produced a community of people known to themselves and others as Katsinawa, identifying themselves with a specific territory, Kasar Katsina. The major streams of immigration on which we have information come from Borno, the west, and neighboring Hausa States.

The earliest definite indication of migration into kasar Katsina from Borno is with the birth of Waliy Danmasani in 1595 by Bornuan parents in Katsina. His descendants are found to this day in the Masanawa quarters of the birni. It seems likely that the parents or grandparents of Danmasani were part of a wave of scholars coming into Katsina in the early part of the 16th Century, which included the jurist, Muhammad bin Ahmed Muhammad Altazakhti, who is probably the same person as the third of the patron saints of Katsina, the waliy Dan Takum, who was given the post of Qadi and died there around 1529, and the scholar Makhluf bin Ali bin Salih al-Bilbali (1532).

Other immigrants from the region of Bornu included a group led by one Tamma, who settled at Tamma in Katsina and then moved to Go’diya in Kano during the reign of Sarkin Kano Abubakar Kado (1565-1573), forming part of what seems to have been a significant wave of migration into Kano in that reign.

Also, a group from Machina, in western Bornu, founded the town of Dutsi and the village of Machinawa near the border with Daura. There is

some likelihood that Barebari migrants moved into Maradi area as early as the seventeenth century, when what seems to have been a staging post was established in the area under a Bornuan official. The

Sarkin Naya, who was responsible for maintaining this as a facility for travelers from Bornu to Zaria.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a group of migrants from Bornu moved into the area to the

north-east of the Gulbin Maradi and established the town of Kanambakashe. From the considerable number of people in Katsina today who have the Barebari facial marks on their foreheads and who claim

Bornu origin, it seems very likely that we know only a small part of the Bornuan immigration into


The major Fulani groups who have a tradition of migrating from Borno to Katsina were the Yerimawa. The Yerimawa settlements spread from Yamel to Danbatta in Kano. The Galawa settled north of Yamel at Sirika and Gallu, and are sometimes known as the Sirikawa. The Dabawa, who are perhaps the same as the Tintimawa, first settled in the border region near Kantche and then dispersed, some of them coming south to settle at Daba near Kaita and others moving north into the Kanambakashe region.

The major Dallazawa settlement is at Dallaji, sightly west of thế northern Yerima concentrations. This was where Abdulmumini, the father of Umaru Dallaji, the first Fulani Emir of Katsina settled. The dates of these migrations arę uncertain, but judging from the genealogies, it is likely that

half of the 18th Century migration from Borno have gone on for millenia, and the fact that the

chronicles refer to wars between some of the kings on the Katsina king-lists and people in the area suggests that relations between the two areas might have been closer in the period before Korau than has hitherto been assumed.

The major groups about whom we have definite evidence are the Tazarawa, the Agadasawa and the Rumawa. The Tazarawa, a section of the ancient Hausa-speaking people of Air, moved from Birnin Tazar, near Ourefane, to the bank of the Gulbin Kaba, where they founded the town of Tassawa, under rulers known as the Tazar. This probably occurred sometime before the 18th century.

The Rumawa moved into the north-west part of Katsina in the eighteenth century and by middle of the century they had established centres such as Ruma, Tsarakka and Fototuwa. They claim to have migrated from Ruma via the Air, but it is possible that they might have had some associations with the Arma or Ruma of the upper Niger region around Timbuktu, whose society underwent upheavals from the mid-seventeenth century and who could therefore have thrown off migrant groups.

The Agadasawa were settled around the Makitawa, the Iza’azaren and the pastoral Kel Geres in the region north of Birnin Katsina. Records of immigration into Katsina from the west go as far back as the fifteenth century. Two of the groups moving in from this direction, the Wangarawa and the Sullubawa were related to the Mande-speaking peoples.

The Wangarawa were in fact a Dyula branch of the Mande while the association of the Sullubawa with the Mande is not clear. The Wangarawa began moving into Kasar Katsina from the mid-fifteenth century; they settled in the Birni and then, or later, established settlements at various places some of which came to be known as Wangarawa, such as one near the confluence or Bunsuru and Karaduwa rivers and another near the border with Zazzau, north-east of Tsiga. The Sullubawa who have been associated with the Mande, but also with Fulani, formed one of the early waves of Fulani migration into Hausaland from the west and were probably in Katsina by the sixteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century they had settlements at Kanwa, Kusa, Zandam Bugaje and Shinkafi, all in the vicinity of Birnin Katsina.

From the west also came the ancestors of the clans that came to be known as Alibawa, Hambalawa and Yerobbawa. The Alibawa came into the Zamfara-Katsina border region from the Dosso area and took their names from the two

Ali brothers who according to one tradition founded the town of Zurmi. The Hambalawa trace their

descent from Muhammadu Choro who immigrated into Katsina from the west and settled at Makurdi,

Muhammadu Choro who was an alkali in Birnin Katsina in the first half of the nineteenth century,

The origin of the name Yerobawa is not clear, but applies to descerdants of Muhammadu Na-Alhaji, one of the leading mujahidun (participants in a jihad) of Katsina. It was his father Malam Usman Bakaduha who move into Katsina, sometime in the eighteenth century, setting with the Mallamai of Kwomi who brought up Na-Alhaji after his father had passed on to Mecca.

The largest and the most regular streams of immigrants into Katsina were from the neigbouring Hausa-

states; but for various reasons they have not been so well documented. There are traditions of immigration into the Gozaki area of a group from Kano known as the Katukawa, whose movement has been associated with the invasion of Gozaki from Bebeji, in Kano.

This immigration may have had important cultural or political consequences, about which we know nothing, because the name Katuka is now applied to the area of present-day Katsina, south of the Gulbin Karaduwa, to distinguish it from the areas north of the Gulbi. Others from Kano established themselves at the town of Dan Aunai near Yamel, under their leader Aunai, after they were driven out of Sankara in Kano, by Sarkin Sankara.

The town of Mashi on the border with Daura was founded by a group from Daura under one Bako. The settlement of the Gobirawa at Majen Gobir was associated with the exile of Sarkin Gobir Dan Ashsha. The evidence of Katsinawa emigration into other areas is more

fragmentary. The earliest instances are of people from Katsina Laka moving into the areas of the Gulbin Kebbi and into the middle Niger Region. There are traditions in Kebbi that Kanta Muhammadu and his followers were from Kuyambana.

Two important figures in the early history of Yawuri were also from this part of Katsina, and there

were settlements of Katsinawa at Shambo, Chuhu, Yungu and Chibadi in Yawuri from an early period.

We have, however, more details on the eighteenth century. One of the warriors that Sarkin Kano

Kumbari (1731-1745) sent against the rebellion of Sarkin Ringim Ada was one Bako Na-Mashi from

Takiawa in eastern Katsina. A leading mallam in Kano during the reign of Babba Zaki (1768-1776)

was Abubakar Dan Malam Buhari, from the town of Yandoto in Western Katsina. A section of the

Sullubawa from Kanwa moved into Kano in the eighteenth century.

Another section of the Sullubawa of Katsina moved westward to settle at Rikina, near present-day Sokoto. A Fulani herdsman from Katsina, known as Umaru, was with the Gobir rulers when Birnin Alkalawa was founded; his son Mujakka obtained the sarauta of Sarkin Fadan Gari of Gobir

and his grandson Galadima Doshero became one of the leading companions of the Shehu Usman

Dan Fodio. When Galadima Doshero was appointed as the official responsible for supervising the emirate of Katsina, one of the reasons was likely to have been his family’s Katsina connections.

There is some likelihood that the emir of Zazzau, Abdulsalami bin Abbas, who lived in Birnin Zaria before the Jihad, came from among the Rumawa of north-western Katsina. Katsina emigrants settled at Kuriga and were involved in the establishment of Birnin Gwari. The town of Abaji and River Port of Eggan in southern Nupeland received some emigrants from Katsina in the eighteenth century. The Hausa settlers in the region of the Volta basin (Gwanja) before the Jihad were also largely from Katsina.


This write-up was culled from the  book ‘The Historian and Society, selected Historical writings of Yusuf Bala Usman’ published by Yusufu Bala Usman Institute, 2023.

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Tajudeen A Tijjani

Some of late Dr.Yusuf Bala Usman books are not on the bookshelf. He gave me few when he became the SSG of the defunct old Kaduna States, which unfortunately, were burnt during an inferno.