The Demolition Of Kofar Na Isa And The Challenge Of Re Constructing History
Attahiru Muazu Gusau
All around the world, modernity has found a way of co existing with the historical. That way is simply called common sense, which is couched in various terms like, Sustainable Development, Conservation and Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritages etc. A drought of this basic ingredient in Nigeria led to the demolishing of the invaluable 200 years old Kofar Na Isa, in the ancient city of Kano. This unfortunate act of negligence and recklessness was perpetrated against Laws protecting historical monuments in the country i.e. The National Commission for Museums and Monuments [NCCM] Act. This action, besides undermining the Laws of the Nation also constitute a major drawback to the efforts of concerned individuals like Dr Yusuf Adamu who spent over a decade campaigning for the restoration of the dilapidating Historical Monument[ the Kano Wall]. Above all it was a fatal blow to the quest of Nigeria for the inclusion of the ancient wall in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. How could the international community under the auspices of UNESCO consider Nigeria’s bid as serious with the constant violation of the integrity of the Wall and the complete absence of state policy for its protection, which is one of the principal responsibility agreed to by signatory countries , i.e.” to adopt a general policy giving cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes “ and also “to set up services for the protection, conservation and interpretation of such heritage”.
The World Heritage Convention dedicated to the protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and was signed by over 180 countries, Nigeria inclusive. It is ironic that a nation that is signatory to this convention would be caught in outright violation of its spirit while still hopeful of enlisting its heritage which it considered to be of Outstanding Universal Value among World Heritage Sites.Is four decades not good enough for the protection and restoration of the Kano Wall? Yet for God knows why both the government and the civil society have failed to protect the Wall.
There are only two World Heritage Sites so far recognised by UNESCO in Nigeria; the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Madagali Local Government Area, Adamawa state ; a spectacular cultural landscape with fortified palace of king atop the hill overlooking the village below. The other one is the Osun Osugbo grove-the shrine of the goddess of fertility, a deity in the pantheon of Yoruba cosmogony and religion. Both sites were authenticated by the World Heritage committee, a body Saddled with the responsibility of identifying and authenticating nominated sites for World Heritage List and identifying and listing endangered Heritage sites. The Kano wall would stand out as a better qualified than most sites that managed to scale through as world Heritage Sites in terms of its antiquity, grandeur and majesty and also its spiritual and temporal significance.
The Kano Wall was said to have been built by Sarki Gijinmasu son of Warisi son of Bagauda [1097-1134] who was the third king of Kano. He was said to be a shrewd king who won his opponents through good diplomacy laced with lavish gifts. It was said that he slaughtered a hundred cattle on the first day that the wall construction began. The Kano Wall is 14km long and about 50ft thick with 15 gates all around. Governor Lugard was said to have been overawed when he first saw the wall because he had never imagined that Africans have attained such level of civilization and sophistication. In a report in 1903 Lugard wrote about the Kano wall: “I have never seen or imagined anything like it in Africa”. Reading this made Dr Yusuf ashamed of relaxing his campaign for saving the wall as he indicated in one of his many writings on the Badala. In the Black Man’s Burden, Basil Davidson describes a similar experience saying that his first real contact with Africa was when he first set eyes on the Kano Wall and that was what motivated his deep interest on the continent.
Equally interesting and awe inspiring is the story behind the construction of Kofar Na Isa as carried by Weekly Trust. A prince, Abubakar son of Sarki Suleman dan Abahama [1807-1819] the forty fourth king of Kano, was sent by his father on a mission of justice; specifically to apprehend and arrest a gang of robbers that had been terrorising the nomadic Fulani of the country side. The gallant prince came back victoriously only to be met with a rude and harsh reception from the custodian of Kofar Dogo who slammed the gate in the face of the prince and denied him entry in to the city. Furious, the prince broke through the thick wall after which he spent five days constructing a new gate entirely. This gate was to be christened Kofar Na Isa.
Why on earth would a subordinate officer deny entry into the city to a prince who could be an heir apparent to the throne? That was the first question that flashed in my mind as I read the story. Could there be some rivalry between the prince and the custodian of the gate? Was there a conspiracy somewhere along the line- say, perhaps, some rival personality within the palace bent on humiliating an obviously favoured prince? Kano historians must dig up this story of the prince and the pauper for a full appreciation of the genesis of Kofar Na Isa. My guess, however, is that the escapade was a reaction of the Habe original residents of kano who only recently Lost the throne and the town to the jihad of Usman Dan Fodio and the new Fulani overlords. Sarki Suleman was the first Caliphate King having fought and sacked Sarki Muhamma Alwali dan Yaji. By humiliating the prince the gate keeper was simply registering their opposition against the status quo. Alternatively, this incidence may have occurred at the height of the intrigue and conspiracy playing out at the palace between Sarki Sulemanu and Galadima Ibrahim. History has it that Sarki Suleiman sent Galadima Ibrahim to fight Zazzau, a mission that was very successful for the Galadima who came back with a lot of booty. This made Sarki Suleman extremely jealous and he began plotting against the Galadima. Sarki Sulemanu died before he could execute his plans. It is worth noting that Sarki Sulemanu was not succeeded by his son or brother as tradition provides, but by Ibrahim Dabo dan Muhammadu who could be the same Galadima that sacked Zaria and had problems with the king.
The very praise Na Isa- I am worth the mettle-or in Obama’s campaign slogan of change-yes, we can- challenges the resolve and determination of the individual and the people at large to overcome obstacles that impede their path to progress and development. In these difficult times in the country that is in dearth of role models and heroes the tale of Kofar Na Isa and the Hero behind,Abubakar Mai Unguwar Mundabawa, is indeed refreshing, thanks to Weekly Trust.
Edifices like the Kofar Na Isa should’nt have been demolished under any circumstance. Besides destroying the glorious legacy of our forbears we have obstructed the path of reconstructing the past by researchers and completely effaced the tourist value of the ancient city. Moreover, by demolishing a 200 years old monument we have successfully depicted ourselves to the world as a nation of fools who have no respect for their History and culture. What else that we call ours are we willing to spare? We have sacrificed our indigenous languages for the glory of exoglossic languages of colonialists; we have succumbed to the mighty force of globalization which actually means westernization without the slightest effort to improve and build on our own. And now without any colonialist or slave master directing us we are busy effacing our history. It is ironic that the only gate the colonialists demolished deliberately without any necessity in the course of their campaign against the Sokoto Caliphate was kofar Taramniya at Sokoto after the fall and subsequent flight of sultan Attahiru Ahmad in May, 1903. What happened to the entire wall and all the gates of Sokoto should be blamed on the people and the Government. It is unfortunate that all the gates and walls of the pre colonial cities of the Hausa land have either been completely eroded or are facing serious danger of encroachment and neglect.
What could have informed the resolute decision of the Italians to leave the coliseum standing in central Rome 3000 after? Don’t they construct roads in Italy? I wonder what construction work would take the place of the Stonehenge of Salisbury or the Hadrian Wall both in England. The Islamic Iran intends to construct ten more Nuclear Enrichment Facilities in defiance of America. Would they hide them beneath Pasargadae, Susa or Persepolis? Do you foresee a situation where the Forbidden City shall give way for the Beijing Metro in the near future? Or the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza to give way for the construction of a much needed Cairo thoroughfare? No, sadly it is only in Nigeria that a History of a thousand years can be mowed down in split second with impunity and complete disregard for the values and sentiments of the people.
The Kano Emirate Council must do all within its power to redress this monumental loss. Kano must re build the kofar Naisa using the traditional material that was initially used and the traditional masons across the Hausa land. Sarki Bayero should go down in history as the King that rebuilt the Kofar Na Isa and made it the greatest monument in the Hausa land. Yes, since it is Kofar Na Isa it must be seen to be Ta isa. The Physical Planning Authority of Kano must up the ante and work closely with the History Bureau and all relevant bodies to safe guard the wall from encroachment by developers and guide Government development drive in a sustainable way that sees the complete protection of this invaluable heritage. Recent visit by the Minister of Culture and Tourism and his call for restoration of the gate is a very big morale booster. The visit has paved the way for Nigeria to rebrand her image internationally. The state government need to ensure the implementation of the suggestions of the Minister and the professionals in this regard.
My commiseration goes to the great people of Kano; to Aliyu Abdu, the Curator Makama House and to Dr Yusuf Adamu whose effort and concern must be acknowledged and to all those who grieved and felt deprived by this act of irresponsibility.
Duk wanda ya rusa Kofar Naisa
Sai muce masa Allah Ya............
Attahiru Muazu Gusau,
Ministry of Housing and Town Planning, Gusau.
Secretary, Gusau Educational Development Association [GEDA]