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Queen Amina

Queen Amina

1533?-1610

Ruler of zazzau

Sources

A Fearless Warrior. Amina is the best known of the legendary Hausa queens who ruled kingdoms in the savanna region of West Africa. Probably born in 1533, she was the eldest daughter of a high-ranking government official of the king of Kufena, Bakwa Turunku, who in 1536 seized political power and made herself ruler of Zazzau (later known as Zaria) Much is known of Amina because of an anonymous book, Amina, Sarauniya Zazzau (Amina, Queen of Zazzau), written shortly after her death. Unlike other women of her time in Zazzau, Amina took a great interest in warfare and received extensive military training. Her reputation as a woman who was as capable as a man was derived largely from her prowess as a fearless warrior.

Political Skills. At an early age Amina developed an intense interest in politics and public affairs, acquiring political skills not only from her mother but from her grandfather, who was also a Hausa ruler. When Amina was sixteen years old, her mother named her Magajiya (heir apparent) of Zazzau, thus making her a member of the ruler’s cabinet.

Military Prowess. After her mother’s death around 1566, Amina’s brother Karama, ascended the throne. Unlike Bakwa, Karama liked warfare and was interested in expanding the Zazzau empire. Within two years of becoming king, he had organized four major military campaigns. Amina fought in all four. It is said that she took delight in warfare and showed no interest in marrying any of her many suitors. Her bravery and skill as a fighter quickly established her as the leading warrior of Zazzau.

Queen Amina. When Karama died in 1576, the kingmakers did not hesitate to appoint Amina as their next ruler. After only three months on the throne, Amina returned to the battlefield and fought in one military campaign after another until her death at Atagara in 1610. Amina expanded the territorial limits of Zazzau in both the south and the west. On the southwest, she invaded Nupeland and compelled its ruler to pay a tribute of eunuchs and kola nuts to Zazzau. Conquered territories were either incorporated into Zazzau or became its tributary states. Amina is remembered not only for her pioneering efforts as a woman warrior but also for her military innovations, including building fortified walls around Zazzau cities. She had a long reign as queen of Zazzau, ruling for thirty-four years.

Sources

Bolanle Awe, ed., Nigerian Women in Historical Perspectives (Lagos: Sankore / Ibadan, Nigeria: Bookcraft, 1992).

Wale Ogunyemi, Queen Amina of Zazzau (Ibadan, Nigeria: University Press, 1999).

Hilary Rouse-Amadi, Amina (Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 1994).

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