A Hausa praise poem (see also Rano), Bawa Jangwarzo was ruler (1777-1795) of Gobir, one of the seven original Hausa kingdoms. He is chiefly remembered today for sponsoring Usman dan Fodio (1754-1817), the Islamic reformer, who encouraged literacy and scholarship for both men and women, and who, after his expulsion from Gobir by Bawa’s successor, founded the city-state of Sokoto.
Causer of terror, chief of iron ore, (1)
Son of Alasan, owner of the drum,
Causer of terror, iron gate of the town,
Bawa, you kinsman of Magajin Gari,
His name if ‘Hate Flight’,
His name is ‘Put to Flight’,
As for me, I do not decline to follow Bawa,
Here is my saddle all laid out, (2)
My bridle is here, laid out,
My spur is here, laid out,
My tethering peg is here, planted in the ground,
I lack only a horse,
It is not to talk of war that we came,
It is to console you in bereavement that we came,
Had we come to talk of war,
Wirno would not have lasted the day, let along the night,
Shiki and Dole, the rebellious towns, (3)
Are our little chicks,
Galadi yonder and Tubali,
Are your full grown hens,
Do not wake them up until the feast day!
Dan Taka’ida, leader of the town, (4)
Uban Dawaki Salami, (5)
He clashed with the younger warriors of Jitau,
They unhorsed him at the foot of the mimosa tree
And to this day he has not risen up!
O men of Badarawa, stop beating your drums,
It is not on your account that Bawa comes.
Come, let us follow the leader of the town
so that we may obtain horses to mount.
When we sallied forth, we went by way of Gaya,
No single thorn so much as pricked us.
Bawa, son of Babari, the son of Alasan, (6)
The forked pole that supports the roof,
Dan Taka’ida, fence of the town,
Bawa, it is you I follow, there is no nonsense about this,
Come, follow him you gives you personal adornments,
That you may obtain glory from him.
As for me, that which I desire from you is that
Wherever you go, you take me with you,
As for me, I am your foster-child,
That I may obtain happiness.
Bawa, it is you who begins to conquer the town,
Son of Alasan, wealthy none.
My brethren, let us follow the wealthy one
That we may obtain horses to mount.
from A History of Islamic Verse
(London School of Oriental and African Studies, 1975), 3-4.
- Usman dan Fodio would not have approved of these praises, which focus entirely on Bawa’s military exploits.
- The praise-poet, who is not named, has his own agenda. Three times he asks Bawa for horses, for himself and his companions. He has everything else needed for campaigning (saddle, spurs, bridle, tent pegs).
- Shiki and Dole, like Galadi, Tubali, Jitau and Badarawa later in the poem, are towns in northern Nigeria, subject in those days to Gobir.
- Dan Taka’ida: one of Bawa’s praise names.
- Uban Dawaki Salami: A sub-chief.
- Apart from his conquests, Bawa has also been praised as the town’s “iron gate”, its “forked pole” (the central pillar holding up the roof), and its “fence”.