Hausa riders

Bayajidda HAUSA Historical Legend Myth or Reality

Abba Gana Wakil Mahamadou

Centre for the study and Promotion of Cultural Sustainability University of Maiduguri, Borno State


The Bayajidda legend is one of the most potent and famous Hausa legend which generated scholarly controversy over the veracity of the Hausa people History. The Hausas have a growing population and language in contemporary Africa. The Hausa history of Bayyajida  still remain a myth for sizeable number of historians as all available evidence on the legend are based on unreliable and fabulous narrations provided either by palace informant or  sketchy oral tradition. Researchers on History until recent time clinged on to the version of the Daura royal palace narrated by Alhasan Abdurrahman son of the Emir of Daura Abdrahaman dan Musa (1812-1966). It therefore appears that the travesty of biblical descent scheme may have been influenced the original Israelite source for a reengineered version having major historical impact on developments in the central Sudan.

Obviously the Bayajidda legend despite the uncertainty beclouding the credibility on the origin of Hausas, some Historians dwelt on the fact that the long Borno’s dynasty suzerainty over the Hausa land substantiated by the annual tributes of slaves indexes until the beginning of nineteenth century could explain their authentic origin from the Kanem-Borno Empire rather than the oriental version held by the Palace informants who aimed at couching relevance on establishing their proximity to the Arabic peninsular to  justify their religious belonging as highlighted by previous scholars. This study examines through available existing facts the Hausa history and envisages to  spring up the classical debate over the Hausa origin as myth or reality so as to leave for the upcoming new breed of academic generations a more realistic, reliable  and cogent version of the Hausa historical origin worthy of inspiration.

keynotes: Bayyajida, Hausa, Legend Myth, Reality


The history of mankind is entangled with the history of migration and exodus as a result of  voluntarily displacement, coercive invasion or cataclysmic natural disasters throughout centuries. Generally, origin of people is difficult to discern due to various oral and unwritten  historical literatures on the people and the one in existence  rely on narrative source given by informants who lacks credible and reliable facts unsusceptible to lay down solid Historical background.  In many community the oral tradition is the basis of origin of people lending credence to some Historians who doubt on the validity of the empirical historicity  evidenced by lack of documented and recorded  materials.

Despite the long term academic research on Hausa history, the first full oral version of the Bayajidda legend of Daura by Alhasan Abdurrahman  son of the Emir of Daura  Abdurahaman  dan Musa remained the most authentic source tracing the origin of Hausa to the biephaly oriental source before spreading their establishment in Hausa land across current Daura in Nigeria.( Lange 2012).

Despite the long term academic research on Hausa history, the first full oral version of the Bayajidda legend of Daura by Alhasan Abdurrahman  son of the Emir of Daura  Abdurahaman  dan Musa remained the most authentic source on Hausa History till date despite its mythological nature.

Mythology on the origin of the Hausa People

According to the available oral source which I came across the Bayajidda legend traced the origin of Hausa to Bagdad and then moved to Palestine before migrating to Egypt. Najib, the grandson of Canaan led the migratory flux and landed in Egypt. The Bayajidda legend is certainly the most important unique origin of Hausa History. It refers to the founding of Daura, traditionally the ancient city of Hausa land, and by extension also with the establishment of other Hausa states by foreign immigrants.

The legend describes the arrival of two groups in Hausa land: the bulk of the people are said to have come from Canaan and the founding prince is believed to have fled from Bagdad. The Hausa legend claims that the hero, Bayajidda married the Canaanite queen of Daura and that his descendants founded the different Hausa states. It is couched in terms of what may appear to be a biblical descent scheme, claiming as it does that the seven authentic Hausa originated from the sons of Bayajidda and his legitimate wife Magajiya (Sarah) and the seven inauthentic states originated from the sons of Bayjidda and his wife’s slave -maid Bagwariya (Hagar).. To  Biram (Abraham), the  first  son of Bayajidda it attributes the role of having  founded the eponymous  small town of Biram at the western  margins of Hausa land.

It  therefore appears that the biblical descent scheme may have been diverted from its original Israelite meaning by being given a new dimension, reflecting major historical developments in the near and in the central Sudan.

The origin of the people of Daura was that they migrated from Palestine. The person who led the migration was Najib the  grandson of Canaan. They came to Egypt some of his relations stayed in Ethiopia while others proceeded to Libya. From Libya  they split up some went toward the  Sudan.  After they arrived to Timbuktu  in the desert close current Mali Republic and then came to the town of Daara . When they left Daara  they came to Kufai then to Rafa situated  in present Niger Republic before landing at Daura

According to the book of Girgam the founder of Hausa settled a place where  their ancestors  had  settled as promise land. In the mythology she went southward up to a place where she saw a snake in a well and dwelt. When they got used to fetch water in the well they made the snake like a king and used to dedicate a song before the snake agree to allow fetching water for once in a week. In the process the snake accustomed to the practice and became a weekly ritual as narrated in the legend.

Then came Abuyazidu called also Bayajidda the son of the king of Bagdad who led one group among forty group of people who got separated after Bagdad was conquered by queen Zidan. Abuyazid entered in to Borno the then Birni  Gazargamu from the direction of lake Chad  with his three hundred  people through the town of Ngala and met people staying with their King. When Abuyazidu discovered that the King of Borno were few and his own people were stronger and numerically superior he made up his mind to overthrow the King in order to take over the mantle of power. However the news reached immediately the King of Borno that the stranger plan to kill him. The King called an emergency meeting with his senior officials and came out with the decision to give in marriage the King daughter called  Magaram.

Consequently  when there was an outbreak of war  the King borrowed the slaves of Abuyazidu and ordered the slaves to keep the town when conquered. The strategy continued until Abuyazidu was deprived  from  all his slaves, and left with her wife and one slave. After realizing the danger of what he initially planned against the King was now hunting him back  Abuyazidu decided to leave Borno overnight with her wife and one slave  in westward direction.

They arrived at a town called Gabas ta Biram the east of Biram located at present Hadeja and now called Grun Gabas eastern wall. At Grun Gabas , he presumed that he can be easily hunted down  by the King of Borno he sneaked out in the night, leaving wife and slave in further west until reaching Gaya the present Abajiyawa  where people of Kano originated. Abuyazidu  found blacksmiths and drew out his knife and requested to produce one similar as he lost one in his journey way. Then he continued heading to northward into wilderness aimlessly until God ordained him to camp in a place Daura. He reached the town in the night opened the eastern gate and got access into the town.. When he entered in  the first house belonged to an old woman called Ayana. Abuzayidu needed water persistently but the old woman handed over a bucket to go to fetch water in the well at his peril. Bravely Abuyazidu went straight at the well dismembered the monster, put the snake head  in his bag  and announced  to the aged woman that he succeeded in killing the snake and brought her water in the bucket.

The following day when people of the town realized that the snake was out of the well as unusual day it was believed that the snake will wreaked havoc to the  community. Finally the Daurama was informed and ordered to beat the drum called Dajinjin at the palace to alert people to move to the well and beg as usual the snake to douse its anger. When people converge with Daurama to the well they stopped at distance since nobody can dare to come closer to the rim to report back what happened to the dreaded monster.

However Audi Indi was the one who imperturbably moved forward until he reached the rim of the well in a deafening silence of the gathering. He looked closely inside the well and came back to whisper in the ear of Daurama that the killer passed away. As reward of his  act of bravery to ascertain the snake’s death Audi Indi was elevated as the first  Kaura of Hausa land which is well spread in the current Hausa royal tradition.

Daurama made announcement that whoever killed the snake will share half of his land and rule over together. After hearing the announcement the old age lady Ayana went to inform Daurama that his outstanding visitor was the one who actually killed the snake and even brought back him water from the well. Abuyazidu was summoned and confirmed that he was the one that cut down the snake. He was requested to exhibit  the evidence of his claim and he brought out from his bag the head of the snake that matched exactly with the killed one. Surprisingly Abuyazidu declined to share rulership instead he desired to marry Daurama who accepted the offer and the wedding was tied. The marriage can’t be consumed until some mystical obstacles were removed.

Meanwhile a slave Bawariya was offered to him until ritual were performed. Bagwariya got pregnant and get birth to male child named Karapta Gari wich  means snatcher. Daurama became anxious  because of the child name. Finally she also got birth and named his son after authorization of his husband as Bawo  meaning  give back to the rightful  owner.

When Daurama  and Abuyazidu  died  Bawo the son of Mgagiya  Daura  succeeded to his mother becoming in the historical record the first male King on the throne in the Hausa historical  genealogy of Daura. Bawo on assuming Kingship  made the  slave son of Bagwariya as errand magician to performed all the superstitions and rituals achieved by predecessors.

Later on, Bawo gave birth to six sons : Daura, Kano, katsina, Gobir,Rano,(Zazzau- Zaria) the seventh being Gabas ta Biram. In other hand  Bagwariya son  Karapta da  Gari established Jakanawa  people,  the people  of Kebbi,Igala. All the people around the region are called Banza Bakwai  » seven Banza » and Hausa  Bakwai » seven Hausa ».

Criticism of Bayajidda legend and Hausa mythology

Historical evidence of the Bayajidda legend can’t be established through exclusive medium of subjective oral tradition laid down by  palace people from word to mouth which can easily altered through generational evolution. Historians are reluctant to consider out rightly, the version of transcontinental migrations of the Bayajidda. The claims of near eastern origins accredited hypothesis of seeking noble, but fictitious origins to the Hausa and more so all the arguments architecture is built  from the recent biblical  feedback either Christians or Islamic sources seeking self aggrandizement.

The legend transmitted from word to mouth in a restrictive milieu could have been modified  from one generation to another.

Though apparently meanly based on the general critical approach toward oral sources. such skepticism reflects in fact the post colonial historiography stressing local origins local development and local achievement.

In fact Hausa palace version of the Bayagidda legend derived from two different migrations from near east making difficult to discern the authentic versions.

Also the non palace version throw new light on the mythology background of Bayajidda legend. The fist concern the formation of seven heaps after the killing of the snake by the side of the well at Daura  informants  in Gobir and Maradi six due the dethrone doc of the Hausa Kings of Kano claiming that hero cut the snake into pieces and piled up in to two or seven  heaps. In Zean it is believed that the hero called , Kalkalu killed the snake in Daura and cut it into twelve pieces. This details remind the Babylonian myth of creation having slain the primordial monster Tamat, the hero split open its body ,different parts of which are used to create causes of the world. The Babylonian myth of creation was related ,and according to many scholars re-enacted during the Mesopotamian Akilu or new year festival. Similarly , the Bayajidda legend followed the same pattern of telling and re-enacted  during the Gani Islamic festival of Daura. The seven or twelve heap snake from the body of the snake seem to correspond firstly to seven or twelve tribes of the chosen people . The duplication of tribes may have resulted  from the two halves of the primordial monster and their subsequent subdivisions.  

The second details concerns the  name of the snake slayer. Most version of the legend indicate that the snake was slayed by Byajidda alternatively called Abuyazidu. However the descendants of the former Hausa Kings of Kano claim that Bawo was the hero who slew the snake and subsequently married  Magajiya and fathered with the slave-maid Bagwariya Karbagari and with Magajiya the progenitors of Hausa states. One might have thought  that this was an error of transmission but similarly the early nineteen century, Fulani scholars  Muhammad Bello and Abd al -qadir bin. al -Mustafa consider Bawo as the ruler of the Hausa states, who has been appointed by the Sultan of Bornu and the Kano chronicles describes him as the conqueror of Hausa land.

The Azna version of the legend differ from the Hausa versions attributed to Bagwariya’s son Karbagari the function of Sarkin  Azna king of Azna , ruling over the Azna population. The palace person  consider Karbagari first and foremost as the ancestor of the indigenous  Azna  population and ignores the existence of the seven banza states. Thus the Bayajidda legend not only distinguishes between the two groups of states, the seven Hausa and the seven banza but also between two layers of society , the foreign Hausa descend from the immigrated queen Magajiya and local Azna or Maguzawa  descending from the indigenous  slave-maid Bagwariya living mainly in the central town as birni of the city states as subjects of a  king  sarki , the foreign Hausa constitute what has been called a dynastic society . The local Azna are by contrast  mostly farmers organized in clan  and living in the countryside.

Another significant detail of the Azna versions concern  the animosity between Bawo and Karbagari ,the sons of Magajiya and Bagwariya  while the dominant Hausa version this detail is only indicated by naming Karapta- gari  son seizer and Bawo give the town back the Azna versions  are more explicit on the antagonism.

With respect to origins the palace versions of Bayajidda legend clearly states that the mass of immigrants deported from Canaan and Palestine and that only the dragon slaying has himself came from Bagdad. All the local Azna and also some Hausa versions ignore long- distance connections but according, to  a  dynastic version from Katsina a caravan led by Namoudou /Nimrod came from Birnin Kissera near Mecca and its members settled at Daura . According to a  Zamfara chronicle, the snake of Daura was killed by kalkalu the son of Bawo who descended from  pharaoh. Moreover the people who came with Magajiya and settled in Hausaland are considered in some Hausa versions to have been Larabawa/Arabs .

Significance of Bayajidda Legend and Reality on the Hausa History

The Bayajidda legend exhumed the foundation of Hausa source and supremacy of its transcontinental myth surrounding the dual existence of the Hausa society as the indigenous Azna and invaders Bawo. Despite the dichotomous nature of the legend and its striking similarity with the Israelite biblical mythology the Bayajidda legend remained the relevant source till date of the  Hausa origin. The legend uprooted the noble and religious source of near east or Israelite origin. It is revealed the immigrant and exodus nature of the Hausa foundation which is characteristic of all civilizations. The legend widely encapsulated in the Hausa land illustrate the insertion of mythology in social gamut and the acceptance of social oral  tradition of the History.

The transcontinental origin of  Hausa carries the notion of state building which is the core value of foreign Hausa and the indigenous  one claiming the same Historical background and also sharing similar legend of their existence.  Bayajidda legend despite the divergent opinions on the Hausa History across states  give complementary and well encapsulated legend  in the Hausa social and geographical milieu.

Nevertheless some scholars believed that the Hausa are merely tax list payers  of Bornu give credence  to those who posit that Bawo is founder of Hausa land and was the King enthroned by the Bornu empire. 

Also Bayajidda coming heralded a new era which ended the dark period of idol or  snake worshippers who waited  a week  long before fetching water in the well


Bayajidda legend is the most important history of Hausa people till date despite the lack academic  scientific research to establish the veracity of the mythology. The different versions narrated by various scholars  have proven that the legend is similar to the biblical allegory  of the ancient time. Also it was established  based on the current versions that the Hausa are two groups the Hausa bakwai who are from foreign ascendance and the banza bakwai who are supposed to be the indigenous Hausa spread all over Hausa land.

The sources of their origin also became a real puzzle to Historians who presume as a juxtaposition of the Babylonian mythology because of its oral transmission which could have been altered from generation to generation. Despite its skeptical nature the Bayajidda legend remained valid until proven otherwise by new wave of researchers who will decipher the myth surrounding the origin Hausa history that will be trustworthy for the generation yet unborn.

Even though  the challenges continued to hunt the legend it is the most potent reference of the Hausa and impeccable source of their civilization. The fact that human history is inseparable from migration and Bayajidda settled in the Daura as immigrant give supplementary solid evidence to the originality of the legend.


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Abba Gana Wakil Mahamadou
Religious Extremism Expert
Abba Gana is a Master Degree in Arts in Cultural Sustainability of University of Maiduguri. He is a writer an active member of civil society organization in Niger and author of many publications on social and political issues in National dailies and academic journals.

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