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The legendary Ali

The unexpected shot-on-target knocked the King down from his gallant horse and ultimately ended the battle that lasted for sixteen days under the hot April…

The unexpected shot-on-target knocked the King down from his gallant horse and ultimately ended the battle that lasted for sixteen days under the hot April sun. That day, the warriors of Kwararrafa went home dancing and singing victory songs while the defeated people of Jama’a, left with an arrow buried in the chest of their ruler, were desperately gasping for breath.

Back at Jama’a Kingdom on the night preceding the 16th day of the battle, the city was quiet. None of the kingdom’s musicians or trumpeters was seen around the palace. Even though the chief priest, Boka Makau, and his team, the Bori cult, predicted a sad turnout for the people of Jama’a, and specifically cautioned Karama not to participate in the battle, the King, who happened to be a warrior never happier than when he was on the saddle, damned the consequences and led his men to Gandobi field, in the battle that handed Ali the crown.  

When he was presented the Madau-Jama’a, a symbolic royal sword that signified control over the affairs of the kingdom and people of Jama’a, King Ali swore to conquer all the Hausa states and other towns of the south and of the west, so that his possessions stretched down to the shores of the sea. The objective of his conquests was twofold: the extension of Jama’a beyond its primary borders and reducing the conquered cities to vassal status.

To realise this dream, he set up a special squad of 888 warriors. These men, led by Dan Yarima Gajeren Damisa, were the best warriors of Jama’a and each one of them had outstanding records of heroism. The sight of the men alone was terrifying, not to talk of what they were capable of doing.

Four months after the burial of Karama, King Ali sent messages to his men across the Kingdom. Shortly thereafter, on a Saturday night, thousands of Jama’a’s warriors gathered at the palace. At about midnight, Jakadiya informed the King that his gallant horsemen and bold footmen were assembled as he instructed. On hearing the readiness of his men, King Ali wore his armour and went out of the room.

As he stood before the men, all of them bowed in salute. Under Ali’s suit of armour was a tight long sleeved shirt and a pair of trousers made of cotton and dyed deep blue. There was a silver helmet on his head. His shoes were made of hide—what the Arabs called khuffu—which covered his feet to about three inches above his ankle. His sword dangled from a belt that ran over his right shoulder and ended under his left arm. There was a shield in his left hand and a long spear in the right. From his appearance, one needed not be told that the legendary Ali was fearless. He honed his military skills and became famous for his bravery and military exploits, as he was celebrated in song as: ‘Ali the warrior, a man as strong as seven horses.’

He mounted the saddle of a giant horse, and held out the spear in his hand in response to the salute of his men. And with a voice that sounded like the roar of an angry lion, he said, “Great men of Jama’a Kingdom, I salute you in the name of patriotism. The people of Kwararrafa had committed an unforgivable sin compared to none in our history. They took away our king, a leader who devoted his life to building what we all are proud of today. History will not forgive us if they have the luxury of sleeping in peace. Our honour is to die in the battlefield; to die fighting for our dear Kingdom. Our honour is in our sword, for it shall spill the blood of our enemies. I want every one of you to remember these honours as we march towards Kwararrafa Kingdom, for the day has come when we shall show our commitment to Jama’a. Let the judgment of ‘an eye for an eye’ be applied to them with all the fury of our grief and mourning. They shall be made to pay with their lives and all that belongs to them. Jama’a Kingdom must and will continue to expand against all odds. We shall do our kingdom proud so that our names will have the honour of seeing the priceless pen of history, and ours shall be written in gold.”

At about midnight, King Ali and his men marched out of Jama’a city and headed for Kwararrafa. They came to a forest lying between two mountains. The forest looked forbidding yet they had to cross it. The King ordered his Bori cult to investigate the ills of the forest while the army settled at the foot of the valley.

After a display of skills, the cult informed the King that the forest was the valley of death where Digna the great had an encounter with powerful Jinn. They told him that when Digna came to the valley, he sent his men to draw water from a well and the Jinn prevented them. Digna screamed and the Jinn became blind. The Jinn also screamed and Digna became blind and dumb. Digna then summoned his chief magician who rendered the Jinn dumb and impotent. Finally, Digna made a pact with the Jinn and married three of the daughters of the Jinn by whom he had numerous offspring, including a serpent called Wagadu Bida. They told King Ali that in the forest still exist Digna’s offspring and amongst them a very big python with seven heads which has demanded for a young girl to be sacrificed before the army would be allowed to cross the valley.

King Ali refused to grant the demand and entered the forest with three hundred and thirteen warriors. He cut down a large tree. From the branches of the tree fell a magical drum and the python suddenly appeared in the well. Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine horsemen suddenly appeared. Ali and his men slew the python and destroyed the horsemen.

Later, when the Jama’a army emerged from the forest, the people of Kwararrafa, anxiously waiting on the other side to see what would happen to the men of Jama’a, dispersed in disarray, saying that Ali’s men were also descendants of the Jinn.

The war between the men of Jama’a and those of Kwararrafa started on June 19 and, by the end of August, the warriors of Jama’a were singing victory songs as they marched to Kwararrafa city.

The battle of archers, as the war was later nicknamed, was a battle that was second to none in the history of Habe kingdoms. So many warriors were laid to rest and thousands of men were sent six feet under the ground. It was a moment of grief and sorrow.

However, the King of Kwararrafa, Dan Zaki, and some of his chiefs mysteriously disappeared in the winds. When the war was over, many of the dead could not be recognised, because arrows had covered every inch of their bodies.

The battle of archers witnessed rains of arrows and bloodbath. From the ugly experience of the battle, soldiers articulated a prayer: “O God, save us from the venom of the cobra, the teeth of the tiger and a repeat of the battle of archers in our time and the generation of our children and their children”.  

The legendary Ali, who has, by this time, become more powerful than any other ruler in North-West Sahara and South-East Sudan, defeated the Jukons, who were experts in witchcraft and sorcery, and burnt down the evil forest of the valley of death. Ali was a hero that has no match among warlords. God gave him so much strength that even his enemies praise him saying: “Ali dan Karama, sai ba kanan maza ka amsa kira” (i.e. Ali the son of Karama; men take up the gauntlet only in your absence).

Muazu can be reached through sadiqmuazu@yahoo.com