In the 19th century, the Sokoto Caliphate was one of the largest empires in Africa. It was founded by Usman Dan Fodio, who became the first Sultan of the Caliphate. The empire developed as a result of the Fulani jihads (holy wars) that took place in the first decade of the 19th century, across what is now Northern part of Nigeria.
Dan Fodio was a teacher and Fulani religious leader. He was expelled from the Hausa city-state of Gobir where he lived, by "King Yunfa" of Gobir because he was seen as a threat. After he and his followers were expelled, he then initiated the jihad. They then migrated to "Gudu" where he declared a holy war against King Yunfa and his followers as he felt their way of life did not correspond with the teachings of Islam.
Many people volunteered to join his army as the declaration of the holy war spread across Hausaland in 1804. In 1808, Dan Fodio and his followers conquered Gobir, Kano, and other Hausa city-states.
The holy war led to the establishment of an empire called the Sokoto Caliphate, and united the Hausa States under Islamic law. The empire became the most powerful economic and political system of the region during the 19th century. The empire spanned across most of what is now northern Nigeria, parts of Niger as well as northern Cameroon.
His son Muhammed Bello ruled the eastern part of the empire while his brother, Abdullahi, ruled the western region after Dan Fodio died in 1817. However, Bello was recognised as the 2nd Sultan and eventually controlled the entire caliphate.
The Sokoto Caliphate became the most populous empire in West Africa by the end of Bello's rule in 1837, as it had an estimated population of over 20 million people.
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