Sokoto Jihad (holy war) was organised and led by Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio which in or around 1804 wedged war against Hausa states whose government had been corrupt, oppressive, exploitative and unislamic. Uthman Dan Fodio was born in 1754 at Maratha and was well learned in Islamic knowledge, Law and Rhetorics. He began his teaching and preaching in 1774 at the age of twenty. In the course of his teaching and preaching, he travelled wide in Rima basin covering Gobir, Zamfara and Kebbi, winning to his side a great number of followers who when the time was ripe, were to become the mujahiddun (the jihadists) who confronted, defeated and overthrew the rulers in the Rima basin.
CAUSES OF THE WAR
In the first place, there had been high degree of oppression and exploitation of the talakawa (commoners) by the Masu sarauta (rulers). This oppression and exploitation is perpetuated through the collection of numerous taxes and levies, occassional confiscation of peasant property, forced labour, compulsory military service and enslavement. The Ulamas (court judges) made matter worse as they were so perverted in their judgements that it was impossible for the commoners to obtain redress anywhere.
The Sarakunan yaki (war chiefs) were not left out in the victimization, torture and exploitation of the commoners both in peace and war time. During war, their lawless acts would create terror and in peace time, they turned to banditory and looting of the commoners property. Furthermore, the emergence of Gobir as a dominant state in the region in the 18th century with its ruthless and destructive military tactics as it sought to build its power throguh military activities created tension and worsened the deplorable condition in which the commoners found themselves.
These untoward conditions, coupled with the corrupt life style of the rulers and the unislamic practices of the kings and malamais who even though they professed to be muslims and acknowledged their communities as islamic, are deeply sunk in pagan practices like the rites of the installation of kings and the worship of iskoki (spirits), this created a high level of disatisfaction in Hausaland which would lead to an open revolt and of which Uthman dan Fodio who had all along preached against these evils, provided leadership.
OUTBREAK OF WAR
Uthman dan Fodio having earlier contacted the king of Gobir, Bawa Jan Gwarzo concerning these evil activities and the social decadence prevailant in the area, had become more popular as a result. But as his popularity and actvities increased, king Nafata the successor of Bawa Jan Gwarzo became so worried that he sanctioned the islamic community of Uthman dan Fodio. Several other activities and events led to the asking of dan fodio by Yunfa the successor of Nafata to leave Degel where dan fodio's islamic community was situated. Dan Fodio performed his Hijra at Gudu where he became the Amir al-muminin (commander of the faithful).
The confrontation which ensued as Gobir's army attempted in 1804 at wiping out the islamic community at Gudu, led to the defeat of Gobir's army by the mujahhidun led by Abdullah the brother of Uthman dan Fodio who was the Amir al-Jaish (commander of the armed forces).
FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SUCCESS OF SOKOTO JIHAD
Excellent leadership ability provided by Uthman dan Fodio in addition to his accurate calculations and strategies contributed immensely to the success of Sokoto Jihad. First, he acted and composed himself in such a way that did not give away his plans to the kings of Gobir who if they knew in time would have nipped his plans in the bud. Secondly, he involved the the community by seeking their understanding and support whenever crucial decisions are to be taken.
The grievance of Zamfara against Gobir who had been a terror to the entire Rima basin coupled with their sympathy for Uthman dan Fodio whom they see as symbolising the ideals of Islam made them give support in the form of security, base and also access to food especially when Gobir placed a trade embargo on the Islamic community strategically in order to starve them to death.
Again, the success of the Jihad can be attributed to the ripe condition for revolution which made both muslims and non-muslims alike to quickly respond favourably toward the Jihad as to crush the oppressive condition in which they live.
Furthermore, the entire states of Hausaland was in a state of decay resulting from the conflicts and divisions among the ruling houses so that the states were either militarily weak to confront the Jihadists or factions among them openly or secretly collaborated with the Jihadists.
History seems to be repeating itself. The conditions which necessitated a revolution which Uthman dan Fodio exploitated to bring about the Sokoto Jihad are fully present again. The corruption is here, the injustce, the exploitatation of the commoners who cannot find redress anywhere and most importantly the general discontentment with the scheme of things. These tell-tale signs of a society ripe for a revolution are fully present in today's Nigeria waiting for a leader to exploit. Who in our time would bail the cat to become the historical individual through whom God would answer all our prayers and desire for a positive change which in 1804 in his time, Uthman dan Fodio braced without hesitation.
Uthman dan Fodio's revolutionary change was geared towards islamizing the North essentially to rid it of socio-political immorality, much the same for today's Nigeria greatly in need of an Uthman dan Fodio though not an islamizing one.