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Usman Dan Fodio, a great reformer

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Usman dan Fodio was an Islamic preacher, reformer, scholar and statesman.

Born December 15, 1754 in Maratta, Gobir in today’s northern Nigeria, Dan Fodio devoted his youth in pursuit of Islamic education, preaching, teaching and writing.  

He lived in Gobir until 1802, when his reformist ideas ran counter with local authorities, which made him and his followers to go into exile. From exile he planned a political and social revolution (Jihad), which later spread from Gobir to Cameroon and across the West African sub-region.

He established a theocratic state called the Sokoto Caliphate with Sokoto as capital. Through the Caliphate, he brought all the Hausa city-states under one ruler. 

Dan Fodio encouraged literacy and scholarship for men and women. He wrote more than 100 books on religion, government, culture and society. His daughters emerged as scholars and writers.

He lived a very simple lifestyle and declined the pomp of rulership. He divided his conquered areas between his brother, Abdullahi, who ruled the western part of the kingdom, and his son, Muhammad Bello, who ruled the eastern part, including the Hausa city-states. 

He retired from battle in 1811 and returned to teaching and writing, while his armies continued their conquests until 1815. 

Dan Fodio, who began life as an idealistic scholar and theologian, eventually became a force and commanding leader of a formidable military empire.  He died, April 20, 1817 in Sokoto.

Compiled By Omiko Awa


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