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  Abdullahi Dan Kanajeji, known as Abdullahi Burja, was the sixteenth ruler of Kano. Through forging powerful alliances and the creation of trade routes, Burja shifted the identity of the Kano Sultanate towards trade and commerce, which Kano and the Kano people are known for today.
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He was the first Hausa King to pay tribute to Bornu and in doing so secured an agreement that allowed him to open trade routes from Gwanja to Bornu. He was also the first King to own camels in Hausaland. This shift towards trade saw an intensification of slave raids by Kano towards the south to export to Bornu. Abdullahi Burja through his Galadima created twenty-one new slave colonies, each with a thousand slaves of an equal split between male and female slaves. Slowly, trade-in Kano shifted towards other commodities and by the end of the 15th Century, Kano had emerged as one of the most vibrant trading centers in the Sahel. Through trade, the Hausa language and culture were spread throughout the region.

Ascension and Reign

Abdullahi Burja’s mother’s name was Tekidda. He was the third successive son of King Kanajeji to be made ruler of Kano. According to the Kano Chronicle, his reign coincided with the late days of the infamous Queen Amina of Zazzau. It was said that the Sultan waged war on Dutse and later took the daughter of their leader as his wife, the first mention of Dutse in recorded history. Burja established trade relations with Bornu and created trade routes from Gwanja to Bornu.
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His reign was focused on taking full advantage of these routes by collecting slaves. During this time, all the young men of Kano were enjoined to military service and only old men remained in Kano. Abdullahi was noted by the Kano Chronicle for his generosity.

Family and Marriages

Abdullahi Burja was the first sarki to marry the daughters of the Galadima, Sarkin Rano, Sarkin Dutse, and Sarkin Shirra. He is the father of Sultan Yakubu, who was the father of Muhammad Rumfa.

Death and succession

The death of Abdullahi Burja in 1452 saw a short period of instability that produced three Kings within eight days. His first successor, his son Dakauta, was dumb and the people theorized that becoming King would make him speak. He was turned out a day later when his speech wasn’t restored. Dakauta’s son then ascended the throne but abdicated 7 days later in fear of Galadima Dauda, allowing Abdullahi Burja’s son Yakubu to assume the throne of Kano.


There was no one like him for generosity. He was the first in Hausaland to give Bornu “tsare or gaisua”salutation or greeting. He opened roads from Bornu to Gwanja. He was the first to own camels in Hausaland.
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He stayed 7 years in the south. Slaves became very numerous in Kano. The Sarki sent to him to tell him to come back, so he returned. When he was returning, he stopped every 3 miles and built a town. He left at every 1,000 slaves, 500 males, and 500 females. He thus founded 21 towns, before he came to Kano. On arriving there he gave the Sarki 3,000 slaves and said to him, “I have founded 21 towns, and in each, I have left 1,000 slaves, all yours.” He ruled for 15 years. Source Movements, Borders, and Identities in Africa. Vol. 40. Boydell & Brewer. 2009. ISBN 978-1-58046-296-9.  Palmer, H. R. (1908). “The Kano Chronicle”. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 38: 58–98 Mahadi, Abdullahi (April 1985). “David Henige, Oral Historiography. London: Longman, 1982, 150  Featured Image Source: BBC
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This article was first published on 25th June 2022


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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