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African Diaspora Newsletter No.10 - Conferences

MARCH 27-29, 2003

Jennifer Lofkrantz and Bashir Salau

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We attended the conference on 'Transformation of Northern Nigeria' held on March 27-29 in Kaduna, Nigeria. The conference, organized to mark the centenary of the conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate, sought to explore the changes that took place in Northern Nigeria from the British take-over in 1903. The major subjects discussed in the conference included conquest and resistance, establishment of colonial rule, decolonisation and independence, transformation of the economy, language and language policy, religion and the legal system, inter-group relations, and structural changes and globalization. The conference was jointly organized by the Usumanu dan Fodiyo University Sokoto, Bayero University Kano, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and was held at Arewa House in Kaduna. The Secretary of the Organizing Committee, Dr. Ibrahim Jumare, currently a lecturer at the Usumanu dan Fodiyo University obtained his PhD in History from York University. Some of the notable participants in the conference included Murray Last, Yusuf Bala Usman, Philip Shea, Enoch Oyedele, Abdullahi Yerima, and Abu Manga.

Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman who delivered the keynote address presented various arguments on the issue of sovereignty in Northern Nigeria. Among other points he suggests that British colonialists destroyed the sovereignty of Northern Nigeria but that this sovereignty was regained, through struggle, by the 1960s. He also argues that recent activities on the part of the British and Americans, seek to undermine these gains. Consequently he proposes that for Nigerians, and Northern Nigerians in particular, to defend their sovereignty in the present, they must, among other things, have a solid understanding of their history and of the issue of sovereignty in the precolonial, colonial and post-colonial periods.

Other important presentations included Murray Last's paper which focused on the transition from the "Sokoto Caliphate" to the "colonial caliphate" and in which he also discussed, among other things, what may have happened if the Caliphate had never been conquered and had been allowed to develop and modernize on its own terms. M. Nur Akali, on the other hand, argued that prior to British colonial rule there was a progressive Islamic value system in the Sokoto Caliphate, and in Northern Nigeria in general, and that colonialism subsequently undermined this progressive system.

Jennifer Lofkrantz presented a paper on Archives National du Senegal documents on the Sokoto Caliphate, the digitization process and the opportunities and problems digitization presents to historians, while drawing attention to the rich resources currently available at the Harriet Tubman Resource Centre on the Africa Diaspora at York University. Bashir Salau discussed the socio-economic changes which took place around modern Kaduna from the period of British conquest in 1903 to its emergence as the colonial capital of Northern Nigeria in 1913. He argued, among other things, that the period was characterized by an increase in agricultural production and the erosion of Gbagyi authority and culture in the region.

All said, we wish to thank the Harriet Tubman Centre on the African Diaspora for providing funding to attend this conference and the Organizing Committee of the conference for providing accommodation in Kaduna.

Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173