Born in 1533 in the province of Zazzau, Queen Amina (also known as Queen Aminatu), was the eldest daughter of the Amir of Zakzak and Queen Bakwa Turunku, who established the Zazzau (A.K.A. Zakzak) Kingdom in 1536.
This ancient African kingdom was located in the region now known Zaria, Kaduna in north-central Nigeria. Zazzau was one of the seven Hausa city-states which dominated the sub-Saharan trade after the collapse of the Songhai Empire at the end of the 16th century. It owes its affluence to the trade of vital commodities like leather, textile, horses, salt, kola, cloth, and imported metal from the East.
Little Amina was quite close to her mother, even though they had different personalities. She was schooled in the art of being a queen by her mother, even taking part in daily meetings with important notables of the kingdom. She also learnt military warfare and strategy from the warriors.
After her mother’s death in 1566, Amina’s younger brother, Karama became king. During his reign, Amina became the chief warrior of the kingdom’s cavalry and gained a lot of wealth and power because of her military prowess. But her brother died after ten years of reign, and in 1576 Amina took over the throne and was crowned queen of Zazzau.
Her first military expedition took place three months after she came to power. Her goal in fighting was to control the trade routes in her region. Her exploits saw the expansion of Zazzau/ Zakzak Kingdom. Under her leadership, the region became the most extensive among all the Hausa kingdoms. She controlled the trade routes in the region, instituting comprehensive networks of commerce and bringing a lot of wealth prosperity to it.
During her reign, she ordered the construction of magnificent stone walls around each military camp that she established which eventually evolved into prosperous cities within those walls, and some can still be seen today in northern Nigeria. Those cities became known as ‘ganuwar of Amina’ or ‘Amina’s walls ‘.
Some of these walls still exist, and are still affectionately referred to as “Amina’s walls.”
The cavalry-trained Queen was revered for her military prowess and is a legend among the Hausa people of Nigeria, West Africa. she expanded her kingdom’s boundaries down to the Atlantic coast, founded several cities, and personally led an army of20,000 soldiers to numerous battles.
Because her people were talented metal workers – and because the Kingdom traded in a great deal of imported metal — Amina introduced metal armours, including helmets and chain mail, to her army Amina introduced metal armour, including helmets and chain mail, to her army. The introduction of kola nuts into the region is also attributed to Amina.
Amina refused to marry and never had any children.It is believed that Amina died in the town of Altagara in 1610.
She ruled for 34 years and was greatly loved and respected. She is celebrated across the Hausaland as a great warrior queen who was born to rule, and is remembered in Northern Nigeria as ‘Amina, rana de YarBakwa ta San’ (Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man).