Queen Amina

Imisioluwa Ogunsunlade
January 7, 2023

Rise now, the griots from your forty winks.

Inspire, respire these long forgotten inks.

Ensure that this tale imps to the wings of time

to flutter and flit into a Legend of verses sublime.

Rise now, the griots from your cultural slumber.

All time blocks to the Legend of Queen Amina, I pray thee encumber.

Cause us now a journey back to the 16th century Turunku:

little Amina is at the helm of her father, King Nikatau, and her mother, Queen Bakwa Turunku.

Her family was wealthy, trading cloths, kola nuts, horses and metals.

Amina watched her father, the king, run state affairs while other little girls sought roses and petals.

Amina grew up in her grandfather’s court and found favour in his eyes.

He carried her around court and taught her politics and the stuff of military device,

that at sixteen Amina became heir apparent and inherited forty slaves.

Her courage, strength, bravery, grit and wit made her a people’s fave.

Wise men in twos and threes came like in the Bible

with a daily offer of ten slaves, together with their disciples.

They wanted her hand in marriage for she was a beauty.

A paragon. Her hair was a lion’s mane and her skin: dark and sooty.

But she cast her eyes elsewhere and the dies were cast.

She was determined, nay, destined to be a hero. A woman in her own class.

Unfortunately, King Nikatau died at about 1566.

And his son, Karami, Amina’s brother, who took the throne died too at about 1576.

During the latter’s reign, Amina had been training with swords and spears,

sauntering the torturous journey of killing all her doubts and fears.

She had trained hard and so became a ruthless warrior in her brothers cavalry.

Over military skills and the tactics of war she had gained mastery.

On Karami’s death, she ascended the throne to the position of queen.

And the expansion of the Zazzau territory became none other than her doing.

She had an army consisting of 20,000 soldiers and a thousand troops,

conquering every land she faced. From Kwarafa to Nupe, she led her fearsome group.

At a particular battle when hope appeared lost,

the male-dominated military begged to retreat, to stay safe at all cost.

Amina drew her staff with her right hand and her dagger with the left.

In that frenzy, she made sure that among her adversaries, not one was left.

Swords clashed like lightning bolts but this lady dodge blows and lunges,

she blocked each attack with her staff and rebounded with her dagger in firm plunges.

The men were wowed and there and then,

they accepted that Queen Amina was a woman as capable as men.

The legends have it that the queen took a man as a war bounty

from every town she and her horde swept through, and from every county.

Each of these men met the same fate in the morning after the romp

so that none ever lived to tell the tale, they were decapitated. Their necks left in a stump.

Under Queen Amina the Zazzau territory gained innumerable prominence.

She had her cities and annexations surrounded by Ganuwar Amina, to mark her eminence.

The walls exist today, though many fell during the British conquests.

And the tales exist today about this Heroine’s exploits and peerless quests.

Queen Amina was so influential that from Kaduna to Kano, men brought tributes.

She extended her reach from the North to the West and the South, where seas formed a tribute.

As of now, this lady hero still has contradictions concerning her death

but the tale stands that at the present day Kogi, she had submerged herself into the hearth.

Today, her legacies are profuse and she lives in pop culture

that at the fore of the Nigerian National Arts Theatre stands her sculpture.

Queen Amina will always be known as “Amina, woman as capable as a man”

and she represents the strength and spirit of the African woman.


Queen Amina is a heroine known in and outside Africa. More than a myth, Queen Amina’s legend is a replica of history and it lays claims to historical places, faces and figures. Her story has at its core a moral and inspiring dimension and also imbues a sense of self-worth among the people. As such, retelling her story and preserving the legend does not only educate the African reader and give him confidence in his cultural heritage, but also enlightens the foreign reader about Africa, putting an end to years of cultural misrepresentation.

  • Turunku: Turunku is the present-day Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Zazzau emirate did not originally start from its present location but from Turunku.
  • Zazzau: Zazzau is the present day Zaria. Amina's sister, Amamatu, was known to settle here after leaving Turunku due to water scarcity.
  • Ganuwar Amina: These are Earthen walls that protect households. They are also known as Amina's walls.

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