[Documents menu] Documents menu

Katsina And the Symbols of Power

By Kazeem Adeleke, This Day (Lagos), 18 February 2001

Lagos—Among many tribes in Nigeria, it is imperative for king and titled men to carry one form of insignia or the other to distinguish them from the ordinary people.

Among the Katsina people who live in present day Katsina, this also hold true. One of the insignia used by the Emir of Katsina, which first dynasty was founded by Kumaya, a grand son of Bayajida of Daura is Gajere, a short sword used by king Karau of Katsina in the 13th said century to have murder one Sanau. Though there is no adequate account on the origin of the sward, it is however a general believe that it has some connection with the famous swords reputedly captured from the Koreish at the battle of Badr near Medina in about 624 Ad and was said to have been given to the prophet. On both side of the sword are two Arab inscriptions. On one side is Help commeth from God and victory is nigh, so announce glad tidings to the faithful, O Muhammad. On the other side There is sword save Dhu al Faquar and no hero save Ali. Though these inscriptions in a way confirms that the sword may have come from Mecca it was however not unusual for people to engrave text from the Koran or Hadith on their weapons. It was an art and sometimes, the inscriptions serve as charms.

Perhaps that was the reason for the generally believed that Gajere helped Karamu win so many wars.

Whenever the king was addressing the people after returning from Idi prayers, he carried the Gajere. So precious was this sward that the king never allowed it out of the out of Katsina and his hand. But in 1959, Usman Nagogo was allowed to time carry it for the very first in his hand during the royal Durbar.

But Gojere was not the only insignia that gave the king unparalleled prestige. Another was Bebe. Also known as the deaf drum, it was removed from the tent of Sarkin Gabir Yacoub after he was defeated in the middle of the 18th century by Emir Agwaraji then Emir of Katsina. But perhaps the most important of all these insignia is a bronze pot over lapping plates riveted together. This is a momentous from Karuna.

In the pre Islamic time, there was always outbreak of war which most times motivated by expansionist ambition. To win during these wars, warriors found different ways to fortify themselves including charms. For the Katsina people the powers came from the bronze pot. The pot was used to prepare charms for the kings officers on the eve of their battle. To prepare the charm a gnome was sought. When found, he was killed and his body chopped up and boiled in the bronze pot with other charms. After that the pot was then ceremoniously carried to the council chambers were the kings warriors drank from it. This was to give them the strength of an elephant and the courage of a lion. But more importantly make them invincible before their enemies.

At times of war drums play very significant role. Apart from announcing to people an impending invasion, it was also used to incite warriors at the war front. The drum, which performed this function, was called Gwauron Tambari. For a better out reach, the drum was often placed on the tower of Saron Bawada, a story building at the entrance of Kangiwa.

With changing times, other functions have however been found for the drum.

These days, it is mainly played during ceremonies. Kept in the custody of Tambura, the drum is beaten three times by the Tambura during the turbanning of senior district heads and during Ramadan celebrations