Queen Amina of Zaria, also known as the warrior queen, was the first woman who ruled an African kingdom for over 30 years in the sixteenth century. She was the first Sarauniya (queen) in the area.
Amina was born around 1533 in Zazzau, now called Zaria in the northern of Nigeria. She was the daughter of the 22nd ruler and founder of the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536, Bakwa Turunku. She was the oldest of three kids. Her younger sister was called Zaria and her younger brother was Karama. The Zazzau Kingdom was a peaceful one and her family obtained their wealth through trade of leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, different metals and horses.
At a very young age her grandfather discovered her talent and skills for leadership. He allowed her to attend state meetings and gave her all the necessary knowledge she needs to have in order to become a great leader. A few years later, at the age of sixteen, she became the heir apparent to her mother. After the death of her parents in 1566 her brother Karama became the ruling king. At that time Amina had excellent military skills that allowed her to be the leading warrior of Zazzau cavalry. She accumulated several military accolades and managed to assure respect from the Zazzau military. So, it was no surprise that she became the queen of Zazzau after her brother died 10 years after he became the king.
Three months after becoming the queen of Zazzau she set off on her first military expedition. She continued to expand the domain of Zazzau to its largest size ever. This way she could remove all obstacles that hindered the direct access to the Atlantic Coast which was an important element for the local trade. She ensured safe passage for the Hausa traders throughout the Sahara region.
It is also believed that she introduced the metal armour and helmet to the Zazzau military. Amina was also the one who build these walls around the city. These walls were not only a political statement of wealth and power but a military strategic. It was her idea to build military encampments behind the 15-kilometre wall, now known as ganuwar Amina, Amina’s wall. Ever since then more walls have been built and have been used as a protective shield for small villages and cities. They all are called Amina’s walls even though some of them were established after she passed away.
Queen Amina of Zaria died 34 years later and became the first woman to rule an African Kingdom. She is still remembered as the brave, smart and talented leader. In honour of her accomplishments a statue of her was built and placed in the National Arts Theatre in Nigeria and many educational institutions bear her name.