I am a native of Kagara
Away back (began Shaihu Umar) I was a native of this country, but even so, I did not grow up and pass my boyhood here. It was far away in the country of the Arabs that I grew up. Long long ago I was a native of a certain country near Bida, and the name of our town was Kagara. My father was a tall light-skinned man whose craft was leather-working. My mother was a native of Fatika. Now when my mother was carrying me, my father died and left me an inheritance of six cows, three sheep, and his riding mare. At this time the mare was in foal. All these things were handed over to my mother, who was told to keep them until in God’s good time she should give birth, for they were the property of her son, since this husband of hers had no other relatives to claim the inheritance.
So things went on until one day I was born, and I turned out to be a boy. Now when the naming day came round, my mother had one of my rams caught and slaughtered, and the name of ‘Umar’ was whispered in my ear. Time passed until, when I was two years old (that is, the time for weaning), my grandmother on my father’s side took me to wean me. I lived with her until the time came when my mother wanted to marry again. Then my mother said to my grandmother, ‘You know that apart from you, I have no relations in this town besides this boy, and now I want to marry. What is more, many suitors have come forward to press their suit, saying that I must marry the one that I like best. I have come to you for advice. So-and-so and so-and-so seek my hand, but up to now I have not made up my mind which one I like best. I want first to hear what you have to say. Among them is a certain courtier, especially close to the Chief, called Makau.’
When my grandmother heard the name of Makau among the suitors, she said, ‘My daughter, indeed God has brought you great good fortune! When there is one with good eyesight, would you marry a blind man? If you ask my advice, you should marry none save Makau. I know that he is a modest man, who is in no way mean-minded, and certainly if you marry him your home will be a happy one.’
My mother accepted this advice. The next day the marriage ceremony was performed, and a day was appointed upon which she was to move into her husband’s compound. When the time came my mother went to live in her own hut, and I remained with my grandmother. I lived happily with my grandmother, and then one day a fatal illness came upon her. When she realised that she was not to recover, she sent for my mother to warn her, saying: ‘See now, I do not think that I shall rise again from this illness, so I want you to take this boy home with you, because I do not want to see him cry even a single tear. It would make me very unhappy to see that.’ My mother replied, ‘Very well.’
Shortly after we had left, my grandmother died. Many people assembled, prayers were said over her, and she was laid in her grave.
When this was all over, I was living comfortably with my mother in Makau’s compound, when one day the Chief had all his courtiers summoned. When they had assembled he said to them, ‘The reason I have summoned you is this. I want you to make ready, and set out on a raid on my behalf to Gwari country. I am in dire need, and therefore I want you to make haste to set out, in the hope that you will return quickly.’
When the courtiers heard what the Chief had to say, they all went mad with joy. They were delighted, saying, ‘Just give us half a chance, and we’ll be off!‘The reason for their delight was because, as you know, on a raid they would gain many cattle, and slaves as well, And then when they returned, the Chief would give them a part of everything which they had won. Thus if a man were to capture three slaves, the Chief would take two of them, and he would be allowed to keep one.
The reason for this raid that the Chief was planning, was that he wanted to obtain some slaves. Some he would put with his own, and send to Kano so that clothes and saddlery might be bought and sent back to him, while others he would send to Bida in order to procure muskets.
Among the horsemen whom the Chief had appointed as raiders was Makau. When the time came for their departure, after the Chief had sought an auspicious hour from a certain malam , Makau came into his compound and gathered his family together. He said to them, ‘Now you know that I am going on a raid to Gwari country, and I do not know when I shall return. Whether I shall be killed there, God knows best. For this reason I want to bid you all farewell, and I want you to forgive me for all that I have done to you, for any man in this world, if you live with him, some day you are bound to cause him unhappiness.’
His family all spoke up together. ‘By God, you have never done anything to make us unhappy. We wish you a safe journey, and a safe return.’ Thereupon all of us burst out crying, so that none of us could hear the other!
The raiders all began to make ready, and in the early dawn they set out and made for the interior of Gwari country. They continued until they reached a small pagan village on a rocky stronghold in the forest. On their arrival in this place, they all dismounted from their horses, and lay down at the foot of some thick shady trees, where no-one could see them. At this season the rains had begun to set in, and all the farmers were about to clear their farms. Now there was no way that these pagans could sow a crop sufficient to feed them for a whole year, so they had to come out of their towns and come down to the low ground to lay out their farms in the plain. Despite this however, they were not able to tend their farms properly, for fear of raiders.
When the raiders reached the village they hid on the edge of the farms. Early in the morning, just before the time of prayer, the pagans began to come out from their villages, making for their farms. The raiders crouched silently, watching everything that they were doing. They held back until all the people had come out, Then, after they had settled down to work, thinking that nothing would happen to them, the raiders fell upon them all at once, and seized men and women, and even small children. Before the pagans had realised what was happening, the raiders had already done the damage. At once other pagans began to sally forth, preparing to fight to wrest back their brothers who had been captured. Af! Before they were ready, the raiders were far away. They started to follow them, but they had no chance of catching them. Those in front got clean away, leaving their pursuers far behind.