Political System of Kanem Borno Empire

Between the 9th and 13th centuries A.C, Kanuri State was transformed from tribal state to an enviable empire. Some of the institutions and political pratices which subsequently came to characterise the Kanem Borno empire could be traced to the period of its territorial expansion.

Among these institutions was the institution of delegated military command. With the neccessity to undertake activities over long distances, it became increasingly impossible for Mais or Kings to command the expeditions themselves and in the event ,they had to delagate such duties to their trusted subjects. This had far reaching consequences for the political development of the Kanuri. For one thing, the Mais of this period started using their sons as military commanders. This period gave rise to the emergence of the Maina class whose influence later came to threaten the foundations and stability of the Kanuri empire.

Secondly, it brought about Kanuri feudalism. When these commanders conquered territories, they were conpensated with grants territory in areas they conquered. This was a way of paying them for their military service. This is the system of fief-holding in Kanuri political system and society. The military commanders who were not of the royal family were called Kogene.

By the 13th century A.C,the administration of the state was clearly assuming an Islamic character. Islamic names were used to described state functionaries . Thus, at the we began to hear of Waziri or vizier (chief minister) ,Khazier (treasury) ,talib ( secretary) ,Kaigama ( army general) and so on.

Another development of this period was interest groups within the ruling Muguni clan. By 9th generation, the Saifawa had engaged in unlimited polygamy and this brought into existence many blood related branches of the royal family. The existence of these royal family branches threatened the stability of the state through competition for political offices including succession.The most important of these groups was Bulala who claimed descent from daughter one of the early kings. Because their claims were through female line they were excluded from succession. Succession to Maiship was partrineal -through the father.

The fourth Institution which came into existence was the Bulama were district or local chiefs appointed from conquered rule over their areas. They were imperial agents and watch-dogs in their respective areas .Between Mai and Bulama stood provincial governors. These governors were selected from members of the royal family. The most important of these governors are the Yerima and Galadima who control the lands to the North and South respectively.

Eluwa,G.I.C , Ukagwu  M.O , Nwachukwu J.UN and Nwaubani, A.C.N. (2009). A History of Nigeria. Onistha : Africana Publishers 


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