Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Waziri and the Thief: Hausa Islamic Law in a Yoruba City, A Case Study from Ibadan, Nigeria

  • Frank A. Salamone


It is from that perspective that I wish to examine a case study of Hausa law in the Yoruba city of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. I argue that the Sarkin Sabo and his representatives, including the Waziri, in dispensing justice and governing Sabo provide just such a ritual manifestation of a “symbolic intercom between the level of cultural thought and complex cultural meanings, on the one hand, and that of social action and immediate event, on the other” to which Munn refers. Following Kiernan (1981, 6), moreover, I hold that a concept is needed to tie the sacred and secular together without slighting either one. In an article that aids in that task, Lubeck (1981, 70) reminds us that:

Colonial rule did not interfere with Islamic practice in the Sokoto Caliphate. In fact, indirect rule created an alliance between a faction of the Muslim aristocracy and the colonial state in which foreign trading firms, acting through layers of agents, linked the pre-existing peasant household and market sectors to the capitalist world economy.

In his classic study of the Hausa Sabon Gari (new town) in Ibadan, Abner Cohen (1969; 1974) described a logical consequence of the amalgam of sacred and secular in an African society, the Hausa, as well as the manner in which Sabo was linked through the Hausa-British alliance with the capitalist world economy. Moreover, this study seeks to extend Cohen's work to the post-colonial period and note some ways in which that Hausa alliance to the colonial state served to establish an affiliation with the post-colonial state in Nigeria. It does so by focusing on a court case involving the Waziri of Sabo. A brief presentation of the history of Sabo further clarifies the case and enables contextual examination of the relevant social and cultural factors involved. Sabo, after all, must be understood as a consequence of the extension of British colonial power in Nigeria. The extension of that power enabled the Hausa to found dispersed trading centers throughout Nigeria and, indeed, British West Africa. Their power, however, rested on their ability to control those in their constituency. Appropriate analysis of the nexus of historical, political, social and cultural factors in this process will further the understanding of that unifying concept for interpenetration of the sacred and secular which Kiernan seeks.



Hide All
Adamu, M. 1978. The Hausa Factor in West African History. Zana, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press.
Barkow, J. 1974. “On Hausa Character and Social Control,” Ethos 2:114.
Cohen, A. 1965. “The Social Organization of Credit in a West African Cattle Market,” Africa 35: 820.
Cohen, A. 1969. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Cohen, A. (ed.) 1974. Urban Ethnicity. London: Tavistock Publishers.
Durkheim, E. 1938. The Rules of the Sociological Method. New York: The Free Press.
Durkheim, E. 1951. Suicide. New York: The Free Press.
Durkheim, E. 1964. The Division of Labor in Society. New York: Collier Books.
Kiernan, J. 1981. “Worldview in Perspective: Towards the Reclamation of a Disused Concept,” African Studies 40: 322.
Kirk-Greene, A. H. M. 1966. Hausa Ba Dabo Ba Ne: A Collection of 500 Proverbs. Ibadan: Oxford University Press.
Lubeck, P. M. 1981. “Islamic Networks and Urban Capitalism: An Instance of Articulation from Northern Nigeria,” Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 81: 6778.
Miangu, J. N. 1990. “The History of Sabo.” Unpublished manuscript based on interviews with the Waziri of Sabo. 22 03 1990.
Munn, N. 1975. “Symbolism in a Ritual Context: Aspects of Symbolic Action,” in Honigmann, John (ed.) Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Chicago: Rand McNally, pp. 579612.
Pellow, D. 1991. “The Power of space in the Evolution of an Accra Zongo,” Ethnohistory 38: 414–50.
Raybeck, D. 1991. “Hard versus Soft Deviance: Anthropology and Labeling Theory,” in Freilich, Morris (ed.) Deviance: Anthropological Perspectives. New York: Bergin & Garvey, pp. 5172.
Salamone, F. A. 1983. “The Clash between Indigenous, Islamic, Colonial and Post-Colonial Law in Nigeria,” Journal of Legal Pluralism 4: 1560.
Salamone, F. A. 1995. “He Sang Away My Blues,” in Grindal, Bruce and Salamone, Frank A. (eds.) Bridges to Humanity. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, pp. 147–69.
Salamone, F. A. and Salamone, V. A. 1993. “Kirki: A Core Value of Hausa Culture,” Africa (Italy) 48: 359381.
Salamone, V. 1991. “Kirki: A Developmental Perspective on Hausa Ethos,” in Zamora, Mario and Hive, Vinson Su (eds.) Studies in Third World Societies. Williamsburg: William & Mary, pp. 115–24.

The Waziri and the Thief: Hausa Islamic Law in a Yoruba City, A Case Study from Ibadan, Nigeria

  • Frank A. Salamone


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed