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Pomp as Turbanning holds in Sifawa

Sifawa came alive on January 14 when a number of deserving persons were given titles by Muhammad Tambari, the Sarkin Kudu Sifawa. The venue was…

Sifawa came alive on January 14 when a number of deserving persons were given titles by Muhammad Tambari, the Sarkin Kudu Sifawa. The venue was the brand-new palace of Sarkin Kudu, which seemed to glow that morning, and when sunshine fell upon its walls, they were a wonder to behold. 

Men in turbans and large gowns in different shades of white and other colours, moved from one corner of the palace to the other. The nearby mosque is also brand new, and the 200-year-old Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio Mosque, also in Sifawa, has been renovated.

All roads lead to Sifawa

A huge crowd was present and included titled men from Sifawa, as well as from neighbouring communities and local governments. Quite a number of persons made the journey from Abuja and other parts of the country. The governors of Sokoto and Borno states were represented. The former was represented by the Commissioner for Local Government, Alhaji Abdullahi MaiGwandu, while the latter was represented by Dr Mohammed Kyari Dikwa, former Accountant General, Borno State. Also present was the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya, and numerous District Heads. It was a gathering of who is who in Sifawa. 

History was made as it was the first time a woman, Kulu Abdullahi Sifawa, commissioner for Women Affairs, Sokoto State, was given a title in the community.

Festive atmosphere

On the eve of the event, Sifawa wore a new look, and painters and other artisans were seen putting finishing touches to parts of the palace. The hall, where the turbanning proper was to take place, was already arranged and all the carpets and chairs were already positioned. A red carpet ran from one end of the hall to the other, and a festive atmosphere hung over the community.

Flutes, drums

Then there were numerous musicians with trumpets and flutes and drums, who either performed or danced within or around the palace. Whenever a titled man or royal left the palace which has beautiful lofty art and illustrations on its walls, a musician with a long trumpet drew close to the official, and began to produce such unforgettable music from his tireless instrument. At such moments, the local raconteurs will suddenly begin to chant.


Long history

Not many people know that Sifawa has a long history, as well as gates, a dead river named Bela, and an extensive city wall, or the remains of what was once an extensive city wall. Usman Dan Fodio lived in the community for six years, he gave out many flags at Sifawa to his disciples, and wrote many of his great works in the community.

City walls

According to Attahiru Sifawa, a professor of History at the Sokoto State University, its walls are two kilometre long as well as two kilometre wide. They were initially made of rock and sand, and in many places, have vanished or are significantly diminished in size. In a number of areas, the walls have been encroached upon, and in a few places such as at Yar Kofar, parts of the wall are still standing, providing a clear impression of what it looked like a long time ago.

Memories of Gwonja

There are parts of Sifawa which give clear hints of its trading connections with other parts of West Africa. One of such is the area named Shiyar Fatake, which used to host long distance traders who were involved in the trade in Kolanuts, and travelled to Kano, Katsina, as well as Gwonja in Ghana, while trading in Kolanuts. Another part named Yar Marna, suggests that dye pits existed there, and that the dyeing of cloth was an activity in the area sometime ago.


Those given titles have distinguished themselves in different fields of endeavour, and include Samaila Sifawa (Magajin Gari), Abubakar Yahaya (Magajin Rafin), Haliru Sifawa (Sadaukin Sifawa), Kulu Sifawa (Gimbiya Sifawa), Abubakar Sarkin Kudu, (Bunun Sifawa), Zayyanu Bello (Tafarkin Sifawa) and Nasiru Shehu (Dan Iyan Sifawa). The event was also an opportunity to understand the history and meaning behind the titles that were given out, as well as know more about aspects of Hausa culture. After the turbanning, huge crowds followed each of the recipients to their various houses where festivities continued. A caravan of camels and a large happy crowd escorted Magajin Gari to his family house in the Yar Kofar part of Sifawa where prayers were offered for him. The large crowd finally arrived at his personal house.

Magajin Gari

According to professor Sifawa, “Magajin Gari is one of the titles indigenous to Hausa land, particularly in this very part of Hausa land, the northwest. If you look at the process through which states evolved, before the emergence of states in Hausa land, the earliest stage of political development was from the era of the Magajis. Urbanisation started at the family and clan levels where we used to have Maigida, head of the household. Gradually, it developed to Magaji.”

He continues “When it now went beyond the household, the extended family, it became a clan, a group of extended families now coming together to form a community. Now, the head will be referred to as Magaji. He is the custodian of their traditions, and he is the head of the family and the community.”

Kanta Kebbi

He explains how the title of Magaji emerged, using the example of Kanta of Kebbi. “Eventually, Kanta became a commander of the Songhai army, a commander under the authority of Songhai. All the various community heads were called Magajis by then, including his father. That was at a particular stage of political development. When large kingdoms had not emerged, settlements were not like large cities. These titles given out at Sifawa recall the glorious old days. That era was called the era of the Magajis because paramount chiefs, that is Sarakunan Kasar, had not emerged.”

New titles

Sifawa points out that “Sadauki is a new title in Sifawa, and it is not as old as Magajin Gari and Magajin Rafi. Magajin Rafi is very ancient and indigenous to Hausa land. From the available records, this is the first Magajin Rafi and the logic here is simple. Two to three hundred years ago, there was a seasonal river passing by Sifawa named Bela, but it ended up as a dead river. So there is no water resource to maintain, like areas around Kebbi, Silame and other parts of Sokoto. Because of the existence of year round waterways in those areas, there was the need for someone to oversee the affairs of the river. Sadauki is not indigenous. It signifies somebody that is brave and hardworking. It does not belong to the traditional titles known to Sifawa. Gimbiya is a title given to a princess from the community, and it is a title known in Hausa land. Bunu is a chieftaincy title also given to Princes. Tafarki is in charge of road construction, like an engineer.”

In sum Sifawa says, “Dan Iya, Tafarki, Sadauki, Magajin Rafi, perform very important functions and don’t have to be members of royal families. In the case of Magaji, it alternates. Sometimes, they appoint somebody from outside. The last Magaji before this one, was not from the royal family.”

Askin Sarauta

Another aspect of the day’s event was the ceremony known locally as Askin Sarautar, translated as ‘traditional shaving ceremony’. This refers to a tradition in Sifawa, as well as in other communities in Hausa land, where freshly turbaned individuals go through a ceremonial public shaving of the head. According to Sifawa “In those days, they will shave the head of the turbaned, and then the individual will be dressed. Traditional barbers will come and shave the head of the turbanned individual. It is done to mark the appointment and it’s a very important activity. The last time this happened was about 15 years ago. It was not done this time because of the nature of the celebrants who are not so traditional. If they were people rooted in the traditions, they would have done the public shaving. Its purely traditional.”


Askin Sarautar took place in the evening. This ceremony featured a public talk on the history of Sifawa, and various forms of entertainment by performers and musicians, men on camels, horses and dancers who formed part of a durbar celebration.

Magajin Gari speaks

Samaila Sifawa, the newly turbanned Magajin Gari, who is a career banker and member of the Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, opens up on his plans for his people. “We will concentrate on education; nothing is as important as education. Education is enlightenment and brings about the beauty of life itself. We will begin with the primary schools, which is the backbone for any sound educational system. We will examine what we can do to uplift the structure, to make the environment conducive for learning,”

Plans for Agriculture

He also has plans for agriculture in the community. His words “Our community is agrarian. Farmers depend on rainfall farming, and there is no dam nearby. The farmers only go to the farm when it rains. Some of us devised a method by digging wells. If you dig 50 metres you get water. We will dig wells for them. We will do things that will impact on the people positively.”

It was a powerful culturally rich event in Sifawa, whose impact will last for many years.

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