Amina Queen of Zazzau

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Queen Amina of Zazzau

Queen Amina was said to be born around the year 1533, in the Zazzau province of modern day Nigeria. She was the daughter of Queen Bakwa the Habe (Ruler) of the Zazzau kingdom, after the reign of Amina’s Grandfather Habe Zazzau Nohir.  She would begin learning how to rule a kingdom as a toddler attending state meetings with her grandfather learning all she could. By the time Amina was sixteen her mother became the Queen of Zazzau and she began learning the responsibilities of a queen from her mother. Many people expected Amina to become her mother’s successor. She would participate in the daily governmental affairs with the kingdom’s seasoned luminaries; in addition to honing her political skills she also mastered military science.

In 1566 Queen Bakwa died and Amina’s younger brother Karama became the new Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom. During the reign of Karama Amina was becoming a legend in the Zazzau military, she became a wealthy warrior and the leader of the Zazzau Calvary. In 1576, Habe Karama died and Amina would become the 24th Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom. During her reign one of her goals was to expand the trade routes of the Zazzau Kingdom to ensure safe trading grounds for her people.  She was able to strengthen and expand the borders of the Zazzau Kingdom down to the Atlantic coast. As a military leader she would lead armies of 20,000 soldiers and more into battle against her enemies to expand the trade routes. The results of her victories would often be the founding of new cities that became a part of her kingdom. It is even said that after battles Amina would take a lover for the night from the nation she defeated. After her night with the solider she would have him killed. It is also said that she never married for fear of losing power.

Amina was able to expand her kingdom and her legend by soundly defeating her enemies and establishing new cities and territories for her people. She was able to acquire the largest amount of territory of any ruler in that area, before or after her reign. Amina ruled for 34 years, during that time she became one of history’s greatest military commanders. As she captured new territories during her campaigns she would build walls around the encampments to help protect her territories; some of the “Walls of Amina” can still be seen today in areas of Nigeria. In 1610 Amina died but she was never forgotten, she is remembered today in Nigeria as Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man. The Zazzau Kingdom came to power after the fall of the Songhai Empire; although Amina was the 24th Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom she is the one who helped the kingdom reached its apex. Queen Amina of Zazzau, we proudly stand on your Shoulders.

J.A. Ward.

Amina of Zazzau Quiz:

  1. What was Queen Amina’s main purpose for expanding the Zazzau trade routes?
  2. What was the name of the empire that ruled the area of Nigeria prior to the Zazzau Kingdom?
  3. At what age did Queen Amina began learning to become a queen?
  4. True or False: Queen Amina would attend state meeting with her uncle as a toddler?
  5. True or False: Amina could not become the leader of the Calvary because she was a woman?

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