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The Hausa-Fulani of Nigeria

This section addresses mainly the Fulani of Nigeria. Nigeria, which is Africa's most populous country, is composed of more than 300 ethnic groups, many divided into subgroups of considerable social and political importance. Most important ethnolinguistic categories: Hausa and Fulani in north, Yoruba in southwest, and Igbo in southeast, all internally subdivided. Next major groups: Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, and Ijaw.

Languages in Nigeria are estimated at more than 350, many with dialects. The most importantare: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. English is the official language used in government, large-scale business, mass media, and education beyond primary school. Several other languages also recognized for primary education.

The following are the most populous and politically influential:
Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%,
Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%.

The religions in Nigeria are as follows:
Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%.


The Hausa-Fulani, are a great model of an ethnic group fusion, as they are actually made up of two groups, not surprisingly called the Hausa and the Fulani.

The Hausa are themselves a fusion, a collection of West-African peoples that were assimilated, long ago, into the population inhabiting what is now considered Hausaland. Once they arrived in Hausaland they became known for setting up seven small states centered around Birni, or walled cities. In these states the Hausa developed techniques of efficient government, including a carefully organized fiscal system and a highly learned judiciary, which gave them a reputation of integrity and ability in administering Islamic law.

The Fulani are also Muslims, and, like the Hausa.

Fulve pastoralists, known in Nigeria as Fulani, began to enter the Hausa country in the thirteenth century, and by the fifteenth century they were tending cattle, sheep, and goats in Borno as well. The Fulani came from the Senegal River valley, where their ancestors had developed a method of livestock management and specialization based on transhumance. The movement of cattle along north/south corridors in pursuit of grazing and water followed the climatic pattern of the rainy and dry seasons. Gradually, the pastoralists moved eastward, first into the centers of the Mali and Songhai empires and eventually into Hausaland and Borno. Some Fulve converted to Islam in the Senegal region as early as the eleventh century, and one group of Muslim Fulani settled in the cities and mingled freely with the Hausa, from whom they became racially indistinguishable.


A turning point in Nigerian history came in 1804 when a Fulani preacher, Othman dan Fodio, began a holy war that resulted in the subjugation of the old Hausa city states of northern Nigeria. Having conquered the Hausa, the Fulani adopted their language and merged with their ruling classes to create a Hausa-Fulani ethnic group under the rule of what was now the Sokoto Caliphate.

They have intermarried with the Hausa, and have mostly adopted the latter's customs and language, although some Fulani decided to stay pure by retaining a nomadic life.

The Hausa-Fulani ruling coalition is still dominant in northern Nigeria. This coalition had its beginnings much earlier, because the Fulani governed by simply assuming the highest hereditary positions in the well-organized Hausa political system. Many of the ruling Fulani have become culturally and linguistically Hausa.

At the top of the political hierarchy the Fulani are organized into states, or emirates, ruled by the emir. Emirs are selected from the ruling lineages by a council of clerics (Mallamai). After British intervention, the selection of an emir had to be approved by the British government. Emirs have the ultimate power in administrative and judicial functions of the state, and delegate lesser officials to carry out these functions. Emirs had somewhat more power in the past than they do today.

The purely Fulani-speaking groups are made up of the Muslim population of Northern Nigeria and the adjacent areas of Niger, which have traditionally been organized into large, centralized states. Fulani of Nigeria speak a number of dialects, they can be grouped into four basic language groups:

Adamawa ( on the east of Nigeria, extending into Cameroon ),

Sokoto (most of whom speak Hausa, in the northern part of Nigeria, extending into Niger),  Sokoto (was once a major Fulve geo-political state, a center for famous Pullo (singular for Fulve) Usman dan Fodio )  Now the Fulve of the Sokoto area speak mostly Hausa

Borgu: on Nageria western border, spilling over from Benin and Togo.

North Central Nigerian Fulani, with estimate population figures of 12-15 million, have many names and variations in speech, but basically the Kano-Katsina, Mbororo, Western Fulani, Bauchi Fulani, Toroove, etc. speak dialects closely related to each other, readily understood by other Fulani people of the region.

The modern Fulani of Nigeria are mainly concentrated in the provinces

of Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, and Zaria.