The Hausa are one of the most populous communities in Nigeria and Niger, and the Sahelian area of West Africa. The Hausa city-states emerged in the 11th century, marking the beginning of their pre-colonial history. Each of these city-states operated under its own distinct kind of governance. Through an examination of its organization, administration, and the responsibilities played by various institutions and individuals, this article seeks to get a better understanding of the Hausa system of government in the pre-colonial era.

Governmental System adopted by the Hausa 

The Hausa city-states were organized into a hierarchical structure, with the king, known as the Sarkin, at the top. The Sarkin was the supreme ruler of the city-state and was responsible for making key decisions on behalf of the people. The Sarkin was assisted by a council of advisors, known as the Galadima, who were responsible for providing counsel and guidance on various matters.

Below the Sarkin and the Galadima were the district heads, known as the Hakimi. The Hakimi were responsible for overseeing the administration of their respective districts and ensuring that the Sarkin’s directives were implemented. Each district was further divided into smaller units called wards, which were overseen by ward heads, known as the Mai Unguwa.

The Hausa system of government was characterized by a system of checks and balances, with various institutions and individuals playing specific roles in the governance process. This ensured that power was not concentrated in the hands of a single individual or institution, promoting accountability and transparency in the administration of the city-states.

Administration of the Hausa System of Government

There was a sophisticated bureaucratic structure in place to oversee the administration of the Hausa city-states. The Sarkin had ultimate control over these officers because he was the one who appointed them. In the Hausa political system, some of the most prominent figures were:

Waziri: The Sarkin relied on the Waziri for advice on everything from the law to matters of faith to problems of administration. The Waziri also oversaw the city-state’s judicial system to ensure that the rule of law was adhered to.

Madawaki: The Madawaki was the head of the city-state’s military and was tasked with protecting its citizens. The Madawaki also made sure the Sarkin’s orders were followed and kept law and order in the city-state.

Sarkin Fada: The Sarkin Fada was the head steward of the palace and was in charge of making sure the Sarkin and his family had all they needed to live comfortably.

Sarkin Ruwa: The Sarkin Ruwa oversaw the city-state’s water management, ensuring that residents had access to potable water and ensuring that wells and other water sources were properly maintained.

Sarkin Pawa: The Sarkin Pawa was in charge of the city-state’s marketplaces, making sure that all business was done fairly and lawfully.

The Hausa Governance Method

Multiple groups and people participated in decision-making under the Hausa form of government. The Hausa city-states were governed by a number of important organizations and people, such as:

The Hakimi:The Hakimi were in charge of enforcing the Sarkin’s orders and maintaining order in their particular areas. The Hakimi was crucial in making sure the city-state’s government was well-run and attentive to its citizens’ concerns.

 The Mai Unguwa: The Mai Unguwa were accountable to their constituents for seeing that their wards were properly administered and that their needs were addressed. The Mai Unguwa were instrumental in making sure that the city-state’s government was decentralized and able to meet the needs of its citizens on a more micro level.

The Talakawa: The Talakawa were the ordinary citizens of the Hausa city-states, and their input was invaluable in making decisions and enforcing laws.

The Sarkin: The Sarkin, as head of the city-state, had last say on all matters affecting its citizens. Appointing officials to posts inside the city-state and overseeing their performance was also the Sarkin’s responsibility.

The Galadima: The Galadima was a group of counselors who gave the Sarkin advice and recommendations. The Galadima’s contributions were crucial in making sure the Sarkin made choices based on solid information and in the benefit of the people.

Prior to colonial rule, the Hausa political system was hierarchical, with different groups and individuals fulfilling different functions. By preventing any one person or group from holding sway over the city-states, this form of governance encouraged openness and transparency in policymaking. The decentralized administration that the Hausa form of government relied upon was able to meet the demands of the people at the grass-roots level.