Biography of the Great Queen Amina of Zazzau

Updated: Dec 9, 2021
By Abdulganiyu Ibrahim

It all began in the middle of the 16th century when a  young, fearful, puissant and skilful woman was born into the royal family of King Nikatau, the 22nd ruler of Zazzau, and Queen Bakwa Turunku. Her name was Amina, also known as Queen Amina of Zazzau. Her younger sister was Zaria ( which was later named after the modern city of Zaria)  and an older brother named Karama.

Early Life of Queen Amina

Amina grew to be loved and adored by everyone, both within and outside the palace because of her courage and boldness. As the favourite of her grandfather, she was thought the ways of kings of Zazzau and was allowed to train her battle skills under the deadly cavalry soldiers of Zazzau which enabled her to acquire military skills and made her the first woman to lead the kingdom of Zazzau to war.

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How Amina triumphed quickly from a lady into a warrior was not much of a surprise to her parents as was believed she was born to be one. As a child, her grandmother Marka, the favourite wife of her grandfather Sarkin Gobir, once caught her holding a dagger. Amina holding the dagger was not the main bowl of contention to Marka, rather it was how she held it exactly as a warrior would. Seeing that, they had no iota of doubt that she would eventually be a soldier.

At the age of 16, Amina already had numbers of suitors dying to have her hand in marriage, which among was Makama who promised to give 10 slaves and the emir of Kano who couldn’t resist having her as a wife and proposed 50 males slaves as well as 50 bags of white and blue clothes.

After the death of her parent around 1556, Amina’s brother; Karama has crowned the king of Zazzau. During this time, this young female warrior had gained a leading role in her brother’s cavalry and was then a megastar in her military prowess.

Amina the Warrior

After 10 years in her brother’s calvary, she had already gained a large number of well-trained and deadly soldiers with 20,000-footmen and 1,000 cavalry warriors. Shortly after she rose to the position of a queen after the death of her brother; Karama, she launched a 34-year battle against her neighbours to increase Zazzau territory.  

As a commander, one of her first messages to her people was a request that they “resharpen their weapons” which no doubt helped her in gaining control over vast swaths of country stretching to Kwararafa and Nupe. This paved the way for her in creating trade routes throughout northern Africa.

However, in other to protect her new land, Amina built walls around every territory she conquered. These walls became common across the nation until the British conquest of Zazzau in 1904. Fortunately, many of them survive today known as Amina’s wall.  

How Queen Amina of Zazzau Died

There are many contradictions concerning Amina’s death. Many authors cited she died in VOM Jos, while other historians said she died in ATAGARA (present-day Idah in Kogi state).

It is disheartening for this courageous warrior who lived approximately 200 years and ruled for about 34 years but never had a child because she refused to get married. Legends have it that in every battle, she takes man from the conquered kingdom, spends the night with him, and behead him in the morning.

She is so much celebrated today among the Hausa in traditional Hausa praise songs as Amina, the daughter of Nikatau, A woman as capable as a man.

In conclusion, be a woman to lead men to victory, so they could fall on the battlefield of greatness because being a hero like Amina is the term named #slay queen.

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