The most important source for the early history of Zazzau is composed from an oral tradition. According to this chronology, the original Hausa or Habe kingdom is said to date from the 11th century, founded by King Gunguma.
Queen Amina is said to have been warrior and ruler of Zazzau, a Hausa city-state which dominated the trans-Saharan trade after the collapse of the Songhai empire in what is now Northern Nigeria. Zaria’s wealth was due to trade of leather, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals.
Her existence has been questioned by some historians, and I’m left wondering if maybe instead her identify should be that of her mother’s, Queen Bakwa Turunku who ruled from 1536-1539.
According to my research, Queen Amina lived approximately 200 years prior to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate federation that governed Nigeria during the period of British colonial rule.
Zazzau was one of the original seven Hausa States, alongside Daura, Kano, Gobir, Katsina, Rano, and Garun Gabas. The Hausa City States were independent political entities in Nigeria until they were conquered by the Sultanate of Sokoto between 1804 and 1815.
Her grandfather was King Sarkin of Nohir. Her father was King Nikatau of Zazzau, and her mother was Queen Bakwa Turunku. Amina is said to have been the eldest of three children. She had a brother named Karama and a sister named Zaria.
In 1576, Amina was crowned Queen of Zaria after her brother’s death. Her reign was to have lasted 34 years from 1576 until she died in 1610. Queen Bakwa Turunku reign lasted from 1536-1539.
Queen Amina reportedly led an army of 20,000 soldiers, conquering towns to the north and south in the Nupe and Jukun kingdoms, and through Kasashen Bauchi. During her reign, Zazzau dominated trade routes connecting western Sudan with Egypt to the northeast and Mali to the north.
She’s reported to have died in battle in Altagara, near Bida, in 1610 at the age of 77. In contemporary Nigeria, she is known as ‘Amina, rana de Yar Bakwa ta San,’ meaning Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man.
She is credited with introducing metal armor, including iron helmets and chain mail, to her army. She built walled forts as area garrisons to consolidate the territory conquered after each campaign. Zazzau is the present-day city of Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria.
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