by Sep 20, 2019Educative0 comments

A great many battle was fought in the Savannah State. Some disputes were over ideology, some over theology and some claims over boundaries and kingdoms had to be decided through the sword. At least two of the battles were fought against the British army during colonial times.

It is really exciting delving into history and digging into the bravery of the people of Gombe and the great cultural heritage we have as a people. Here are the top four ancient battles I find interesting:


On July 27, 1903, the Mbormi battle took place in Mbormi village in present day Nafada Local Government Area of Gombe state. The battle took place between the colonialist and Shiek Attahiru, the 12th Sultan of Sokoto who was fleeing eastwards to Madina, Saudi Arabia from Sokoto and was caught up in the Mbormi village.

In 1902, Attahiru succeeded his elder brother known as Sultan Hassan. “During the reign of his elder brother, the colonial masters signed a pact with him that granted their company the right to conduct ‘legitimate’ business within and around the Sokoto Caliphate under the auspices of the Royal Niger Company (RNC).”[1]

Colonial masters

The Colonial masters didn’t have any problem with the sultanate until in 1903 when Attahiru came to the throne. He immediately revoked their operational licence and asked them to wind up business and leave his land. Business was good for the RNC so leaving was not an option. “When all efforts to broker peace failed, the colonial masters threatened the Sultan to follow the path of his elder brother or risk an invasion. Instead of the Sultan to cave in, he remained firm and wrote back to the colonial masters that he was ready to go to war against them.” [1] 

As the British advanced the city of Sokoto, “Attahiru 1, organised a quick defence of the city and decided to fight the Advancing British army outside of the city of Sokoto. This battle ended quickly in favour of the British with superior firepower causing high casualties on the side of Attahiru.” [2]

“Our grandfather, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, dreamt of a time that the caliphate would be invaded by some people from a foreign land and ordained that at whatever dispensation the foreigners surfaced, he should migrate eastwards.”[1]

Attahiru fled eastwards on foot with his followers through Zamfara, Kano and eventually Mbormi. They stopped over for a day or so at villages on their path to rest. “The Sultan’s migration became a serious issue of concern to the colonialist as at every stopover, the people in his entourage increased. “ [1] The colonials were scared of Sultan Attahiru’s growing number and felt he was going to attack and possibly defeat them so they pursued and caught up with him at Mbormi.

For a period of a month, the sultan and the colonial masters were communicating, asking that Attahiru surrenders and promising to restore him to his throne in Sokoto but Sultan Attahiru refused to give up. On July 26, 1903, Attahiru got his last warning letter that they would be attacked the next day. “In the early hours of July 27, 1903, the colonial military troops under the command of Major Prince Charles Mash waged a war against the Sultan and his people. It ended in not less than 12 hours, but claimed the lives of about 20,000 people.” [1]

Both Sultan Attahiru and Major Prince Charles died that day and were both buried at Mbormi. Attahiru’s son, “Muhammad Bello bin Attahiru or Mai Wurno continued leading the remaining survivors and eventually settled in Sudan, where many of the descendants still live today.” [3]


A year after the Mbormi battle, the Jihad was fought in Gombe and the year, 1904. The founder of the Emirate was Buba Yero who was a follower of Usman dan Fodio.  The Jukun’s were the settlers in Pindiga and Kalam and he fought them. Buba Yero conquered towns as far as, Adamawa on the other side of the Benue River.

“Yero was born to a family of mixed heritage. His mother was of Kanakuru heritage while his father, Usman was a kitije Fulani. His paternal grandfather, Aliyu Ukuba was an Islamic scholar. Yero’s father was also a mallam or Islamic scholar and preached Islam in Lakumna, Shellen.”[4]

In his teenage years, “his father sent him to Kukawa to study, but he was captured by the Keri-Keri on the way thither, and spent three years as a slave at Potiskum. On obtaining his liberty he journeyed to Sokoto and spent his early years in study under Othman dan Fodio.” [4]

The Jihad was fought in the 19th century by Usman dan Fodio who founded the Fulani Empire in Nigeria on the basis of Muslim theocracy. He was “(born December 1774, Maratta, Gobir, Hausaland [now in Nigeria]- died 1817 (62 years), Sokoto, Fulani empire), Fulani mystic, philosopher, and revolutionary reformer who, in a jihad (holy war) between 1804 and 1808, created a new Muslim state, the Fulani empire, in what is now northern Nigeria.” [5]

“The Fulani, a people of obscure origins, expanded eastward from Futa Toro in Lower Senegal in the 14th century. By the 16th century they had established themselves at Macina (upstream from the Niger Bend) and were proceeding eastward into Hausaland, gave up their nomadic pursuits, settled into existing urban communities, and were converted to Islam.” [6]

The Fulani were the “first group of people in West Africa to convert to Islam through jihads, or holy wars, and were able to take over much of West Africa and establish themselves not only as a religious group but also as a political and economic force.”[7]

The Jihad began when Usman dan Fodio quarrelled the Gobir rulers, “accusing the Hausa kings of being little more than pagans, he encouraged the Hausa people to revolt. Joined both by Hausa commoners and by Fulani pastoralists alike, the jihad, or holy war, swept through Hausaland and, repulsed only by the eastern empire of Kanem-Bornu, engulfed Adamawa, Nupe, and Yorubaland to the south.” [6]

Buba Yero had joined in the Jihad when it started. He took part in the war in Zamfara and it was after then that he was given a flag to go into pagan territory and fight the holy war to convert conquered territories to Islam. “He was given precedence over Bauchi, Katagum, Katsina, Zau-Zau, Zanfara and Hadeija.” [8]

He first conquered the people of Gulanio, the Babur, Kanakuru and Tera of Gwani and Deba Habe, on the left of the Gongola. Then crossing the river he came to Ribadu, where Bole welcomed him. He made this the base of his operation during the next sixteen years. ” [8]

Tula Warriors


The Tula people are great warriors. They pride themselves as never been defeated in pre-colonial and inter tribal wars hence the quip, “Tula Maza Ba Tsoro,” which means Tula men are not afraid. The Usman dan Fodio’s army never defeated them. However as we shall reveal shortly, the Tula men have been defeated by the British in 1808. History has proven that they are a courageous and militarily strategic bunch.

During the reign of the Tula king, Mai Baule Wumne, the Emir of Misau in the present day Bauchi State brought the jihad to the people of Tula in a bid to conquer the territory. “A jihad led by the Emir of Misau Mai Sale who was not only defeated but had his head decapitated. His remain was buried at Sukube.” [9]

To win the war against the Emir of Misau, “the Tula warriors came with a war strategy by blocking the water source of the invading Misau warriors and with the aid of the power of Tula soothsayer, named Kwalleri the battle was won with ease.” [10] Another reason attributed to their victory was the presence of a diabolic powerful woman who “attacked the Misau enemies by expelling bees and fire from her womanhood that killed all the enemies at the battlefield.” [9]

The Tula forefathers had dug a cave from within a hill where they kept the women, children and the elderly before embarking on a war. “The cave is large enough to contain hundreds of people and has a well inside to provide water.” [11]


In 1908, the ethnic minority groups neighbouring with the Tula commuinity reported them to the colonial masters under the office of the Resident Officer in Bauchi for fomenting trouble and warring with them. To resolve the issue, a delegation was sent led by Captain Calyle to settle the dispute between Tula and its neighbours.

The people of Tula were not conciliatory and apart from that, Captain Calyle’s gun got stolen during the meeting he delegated to try and broker peace. “Therefore, the colonial masters left with a promise to come back for war.

True to their words, Captain Calyle led the colonial army that fought and conquered Tula, for their rudeness and despising the authorities of the British colonial masters.” [10] Even though the colonials defeated the Tula warriors, we no doubt have to give it to the Tula people of being courageous, gallant and daring.


[1] Aliyu M. Hamagam (2010); Quiet village with a history that thunders. Media Trust Limited Retrieved from:

[2] ABCD Falola, Toyin (2009); Colonial and violence in Nigeria. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press

 [3] Sikanga, Ahmed Alawad (1995); Slaves into workers: Emancipation and labour in colonial Sudan. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press

[4] Buba Yero (2008); Buba Yero, NigerianWiki

[5] Thomas, Hodgkin (2019); Usman dan Fodio, Fulani Leader. Encyclopaedia Britannica

 [6][7]Tarig Anter (2011); Who are the Fulani people and their origin? Blog at

[8] The Dadiya, Tera, Waja, Tangale People of Gombe (2018); NSASA EXCOS

 [9] Wikipedia (2018); Tula Chiefdom. Wikipedia

[10] Aliyu M. Hamagam (2010); A trip to Tula cave; Media Trust Limited. Retrieved from:

 [11] Tula Battlefield Gombe State (2017); Galleria Media Limited.


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