- Spoken Reminiscences of Political Agents in Northern Nigeria II1
Alkali Alhaji Ali Waziri2
Q. Sir, I would like to know something about messengers and interpreters like Adamu Jakada.
A. Adamu Jakada was the messenger between Emir Abbas and the Europeans. 3 Some of the messengers and interpreters were employed by the emir, and they were royal slaves. Whenever they did something wrong they were replaced by others. Adamu was a slave of the emir.4 [End Page 25]
Q. Where and when was he born?
A. He was born in Kano, and he came from the family of slaves.
Q. Is there any story about him?
A. All we know is that he was chosen by the District Officer (D.O.) He would take messages from the emir to the white men and return with the white man’s reply to the emir.
Q. Were messengers and interpreters powerful?
A. Yes, indeed.
Q. Were they nice people?
A. It is when they became powerful that issues of misunderstanding occurred. You know when somebody becomes powerful the person would demonstrate good and bad qualities. Some of the messengers and interpreters were like that.
Q. Were they wealthy?
A. They were slaves of the emir. Everything that they owned, they took them from the servants of the emir. Also, they were paid by government.
Q. What did people think of their work?
A. People respected and feared them because of their closeness to the emir and the Europeans.
Q. Did they speak or write in English?
A. Before they learnt English they used to work as servants to the Europeans. So they learned English from them.
Q. Do you know about Tanko Tafida?
A. There was one Tanko messenger.
Q. Who was he?
A. He was an interpreter and he worked for a long time with the Europeans.
Q. Was he born here in Kano?
A. I don’t know. Maybe the Europeans brought him with them.
Q. Is there any story specifically about him?
A. I only know him as Tanko messenger. He was not a native of Kano.
Q. Do you know something about someone called Kiari?
A. I don’t know about him. He may be one of those brought by the Europeans.
Q. Did the emirs fear the interpreters?
A. No. The emirs only took their interpretations. Some of the interpreters were brought here by the Europeans.
Q. So what did the ordinary people think of them?
A. Most people didn’t trust them because of their association with the Europeans. Tanko, for example, was brought here by the Europeans.
Q. What do you think personally about the coming of the Europeans? [End Page 26]
A. They have laid the foundation for many good things. They brought peace. Before their arrival people were fighting each other.
Q. Did the interpreters have servants who used to help them?
A. They had many people who helped them to get information.
Q. Did some of them speak Arabic?
A. Some of them could read and write Arabic but most of them were illiterate. Some, brought by Europeans, could read and write a little English. Some were good in Arabic. Some of them were mallams, and when they close from work they taught people in their homes.
Q. What of western education?
A. Some of them could write a little in Hausa but some were good in Arabic. I know some of them like Mallam Nuhu Iddris. When he closed from work he taught children at home. He was a messenger, a religious leader here in Kano, and he was a brother to Sarkin Fulani of Dan Zumo District Head in Gumel. He became district head through the influence of his brother.
Q. Is there any story about this Nuhu?
A. I only knew him as a messenger.
Q. What means of transport did messengers and interpreters use in the course of their work?
A. They rode horses.
Q. How did they transmit information?
A. They were given a letter; when they reached the white men, there were mallams who read for the white men. As they read the letters in Hausa the interpreters translated. The emir...