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Zamfara

Brief History

 Zamfara State is a Nigerian state, located in the northwest region of the country with 14 local government areas. Zamfara state was carved out from the old Sokoto State in October 1st, 1996. The capital of Zamfara State is Gusau (The word ‘Gusau’ means “To Get Better”; the city is the traditional city of Gusau Emirate, the town was founded during the Fulani Jihad under the Sokoto Caliphate by Mallam Muhammadu Sambo, (Dan Ashafa) a disciple of the Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. Gusau Emirate Council is the current traditional institution inside the city boundaries of Gusau, and under the authority of the Government of Zamfara State. The area today called Zamfara state was one of the old states like Kano, Katsina, Biram (Hadejia), Gobir, Kabi and Zazzau. The earliest inhabitants of Zamfara were said to have been hunters and giants. Zamfara Kingdom was established in the 11th century and flourished up to 16th century as a city-state. Its capital has shifted with the fortunes of the kingdom from place to place like Dutsi and Birnin Zamfara. In the first half of the 18th century, its then capital Birnin Zamfara was destroyed by the Gobir Kingdom and a new capital was established in Anka by the second half of the 19th century. It became part of the Sokoto Caliphate after the 1804 Jihad by Usman dan Fodio. At the wake of British colonialism, the emerging town of Gusau became an important commercial and administrative center with road and rail networks passing through it. With the creation of states during the Gowon Administration, Zamfara Kingdom became part of the then North West state and later the Sokoto State. The people of Zamfara have over the years struggled for autonomy, but it was not until 1996 that the then military administration of the late General Sani Abacha detached the Zamfara State from Sokoto State. Of the 36 states, Zamfara is the 7th largest in area and 20th most populous with an estimated population of 9,278,873 as of 2006 census. Zamfara state is named after Zamfara Kingdom, one of the old Hausa states, and nicknamed as “Farming Is Our Pride”.

The major ethnic groups living in Zamfara State are the Hausa and Fulani, while other ethnic communities include Gwari, Kamuku, Kambari, Dukawa, Bussawa and Zabarma. Others include the Igbo, Yoruba, Kanuri, Nupe and Tiv. Agriculture and gold mining are the state’s main occupations and the central source of income. Irrigation is required for cereals and legumes, hence the slogan “Farming Is Our Pride“.

Festivals and Traditions

There are different festivals in Zamfara state, aimed at celebrating their culture and heritage. These include;

  • Durbar Festival: The Durbar Festival dates back hundreds of years to the time when the Emirate (state) in the North used horses in warfare. During this period, each town, district, and nobility household was expected to contribute a regiment to the defense of the Emirate. The Durbar provides illuminating perspective to the display of horses, regalia and spectacular horseman ship to bring about colour, pump and pageantry to the joy of spectators. Durbar is a spectacular horse procession festival organized by traditional rulers, especially the Emirs in Northern Nigeria. The Royal Parade take place when the Emirs honor distinguished guests with a special treat or during Eid Sallah celebration and these cuts across ethnic barriers being a period of celebration for all Muslims all over the world.
  • Sharo Festival: The Fulani people’s Sharo celebration, also known as the Shadi festival, serves as a gateway for Fulani boys to reach manhood and marry up to four wives. The Sharo festival is held twice a year among Fulani communities, once during the dry season when guinea corn is ready to harvest and once during the Muslim Eid-el-Kabir feast. The flogging festival is mainly held in open areas such as markets, fields, and village squares and lasts for a week. Dignitaries from both within and beyond the Fulani country, as well as Nigeria, are in attendance. The festival begins with a gallant show of acrobatics, magic, dances, and songs performed by lovely maidens with sweet vocals. The flogging session, where young yet powerful guys demonstrate bravery by refusing to be whipped, is the most anticipated part of the Sharo festival. Beautiful girls lead a bunch of bare-chested unmarried boys to the center of the arena at the start of the flogging session. Each contender’s family prays and recites mantras during the flogging so that their representative will not be shamed. Though the severe whipping often leaves marks on the contenders, it is part of their cultural heritage that such a practice is a sign and display of courage. The crowd’s loud cheers and beautiful drumbeats increase hopes as contestants assess their opponents. The families of the contenders watch and pray that their sons will not be disgraced, for a son who cannot withstand the flogging brings shame to the family. If a contestant surrenders, he will be perceived as not being manly enough. However, if he survives the flogging, he will be welcomed and celebrated by his family and supporters. During the festival, to prevent major damage such as blindness, there is always a provision for a referee to oversee the floggings. The challenger raises the cane in the referee’s direction and’ lands it on the back of the contender, who is intended to be dancing, singing, laughing, and yelling for more in a parody of his opponent. History has it that once the contenders survive the flogging, they are seen as men and are eyed by beautiful ladies. They would also be able to marry up to four wives, as stipulated in the Islamic religion, if they have the capability of managing them.
  • Kokowa Wrestling Festival: The Kokowa Wrestling Festival is one of the major festivals in Zamfara State, it is a cultural festival where young men try to show their supremacy over other young men in a wrestling match. This festival is usually celebrated during the dry season in the village square. The young men who will compete will come out in the middle of the square where they will be commanded to show their strength. The wrestler that first falls the opponent wins the match and is rewarded accordingly. The winner of the wrestling match command high degree of respect among his peers and also among women. Spectators hang around the square, chanting songs to cheer the wrestler they like up to victory.
  • Bikin Daukan Mikiya: This one of the old festival celebrated by the Kwatarkwashi’s people. According to Alhaji Mohammed, the Secretary of Kwatarkwashi Emirate; “the festival used to be an annual event and we call it ‘Bikin Daukan Mikiya’, meaning, the eagle ceremony. It was a ceremony where only healthy and strong youths took part. They would be beating drums for them and they would be dancing. They would climb to the peak of the rock and go straight to the biggest cave where several eagles lived then. Those eagles that lived in the cave were very big and fearful. When the crowd gets there, the strong youths using jazz would enter the cave and catch one of the eagles and tie it up. The eagles are too big. When you open wide the two feathers, it towers you. They will then gather and carry it down the rock to the palace where they will dance round with it before killing it”.

Tourists Attractions and Locations

  • Kwartarkwashi Rock
  • Ruwan Kura Natural Spring Water
  • Kanoma Hills and Rock Formations
  • Kuyambana Game Reserve
  • Ruins of Yargoje’s Court Kuyambana
  • Kiyawa City Walls
  • Namoda’s Tomb, Kaura Namodaria.
  • Sambo Dan Ashafa’s Tomb, Wonaka

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