A History of the Sokoto Empire
On March 15, 1903 the armies of the Sokoto Caliphate were defeated at the hands of the British Imperialists. The Caliph (or ruler) of the Sokoto Caliphate at that time was Muhammad Attahiru, the twelfth ruler after Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye’. After the ‘defeat’, Attahiru led a mass exodus (hijra) of his loyal supporters and officials on the famous ‘hijra to the east’, which had been foretold a century earlier by the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye’. This large movement of Muslims from Hausaland, Segu, Massina and Adamawa journeyed east until they arrived at a military garrison called Burmi on the far-eastern border of the Empire.
There, Attahiru and his jama`at (community), along with a host of other confederated communities, put up a valiant fight against the British before he and many of his supporters were martyred on July 27, 1903.
Prior to his slaying, he appointed Muhammad Bello Mai Wurno as Caliph to lead the mass hijra to the banks of the Blue Nile as foretold by their grandfather, Uthman Dan Fuduye’.
The legal motives behind the hijra of Attahiru is masked in controversy and ambiguity, due to the fact that scholars, both Nigerian and British who were contemporary with the period in question, maintained that the Caliph Attahiru fled his responsibilities as leader of the Empire and failed to generate any clear policy regarding the British invasion.
These erroneous opinions were the basis used by Gen. Lugard in appointing his new Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad ibn Ali, on March 21, 1903. This image of political irresponsibility on the part of Attahiru has continued to be echoed by many historians since that time, until a very controversial Arabic manuscript was discovered in 1986 in the town of Maiurno, Sudan on the Blue Nile.