Ancient Leaders: Amina the Queen of Zaria

The warrior queen, Amina the queen of Zaria ruled Zazzau (now known as Zaria) for 34 years — from 1533 to 1610. This was 200 years before the Jihad that founded the Sokoto-Caliphate federation that governed the region before the arrival of the British in 1903.

 Although there are many conflicting facts about her life, but the fact that she existed has a lot of oral and written facts to support. A good example is the Kano Chronicles, an anonymous Hausa writing translated by Muhammed Bellow. There were also other details sourced from the oral traditions of the Nigerian people. Though her military capabilities remain unclear to date, the document made her a legendary figure in Nigeria and beyond.


Amina was the granddaughter of King Zazzau nohir and the first born in the family of Bakwa of Turunku. Her exact time of birth is not well documented, but she is believed to have been born sometimes during her grandfather’s reign.

Bakwa of Turunk) took over as the ruler of Zazzau when she was 16 years old. History is not clear whether the Bakwa of Turunku was male or female. Bakwa’s reign was peaceful, but military camping was still necessary to promote commerce. Since the Hausa experienced a lot of military aggression from Mali, Fulani and Bornu, The teenage Amina joined the Zazzau military to improve her battle skills.

When Bakwa died in 1566, Karama, Amina’s younger brother, took over the throne since it was the region’s custom that the male heir would ascended to the throne first when a ruler died. However, Amina later ascended to the throne after her brother’s death. Her other sibling, Zaria, is believed to have fled the region.

Military Engagements

Amina’s Reign was when the city of Zazzau was at the centre of the leading trade corridors in Northern Africa, which connected the Sahara to Western Sudan and the forest lands to the South. Most wars during Amina’s reign were fuelled by the competition for the control of the trade routes.

Amina started her military engagements three months after inheriting the throne and continued with lifestyle up to her last day on earth. She was the head of a large military band where she always led the cavalry waging battles to promote Hausa and Zazzau traders’ safe passage through the Sahara. This approach’s success enabled her to expand her territory by conquering and controlling all towns along the trade routes.

According to the Nano Chronicles P.J.M McEwan, she conquered all towns as far as Nupe to the South and Kwararafa to the North. All indications suggest that she eventually dominated large parts of the Hausaland region and beyond. She also controlled the entire area along the trade routes that connected Sudan with Mali in the North and Egypt to the North..

Another unique aspect of Amina’s reign is that she created military camps for the territories she had conquered and built walls around them. Some of these walls are still standing strong up to date. For example, the city of Zaria is surrounded by a 15-kilometre wall built during Amina’s reign surrounds. Though not all walls were built during Amina’s reign, Most of the former city-states of Hausaland have some distinctive remains of such walls.

You can check out the below list of references for further details:

The Conqueror Queen Of West Africa: A Brief History

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