Zik: “Let us forget our differences….”
Ahmadu Bello~ "No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a Northerner. You are a Christian, an Easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.”
SIR AHMADU BELLO, The Sardauna of Sokoto
Sir Ahmadu Bello, first president of Northern Nigeria and a celebrated educationist

Sir Ahmadu Bello (June 12, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was a celebrated Nigerian politician, the first premier of the Northern Nigeria region from 1954-1966 and an astute educationist who founded the famous and the largest university in West Africa and the second in Africa, Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria.
Sardauna of Sokoto (Warlord of Sokoto), Sir Ahmadu Bello

 He was the Sardauna of Sokoto (Warlord of Sokoto) and one of the prominent leaders in Northern Nigeria alongside Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, both of whom were prominent in negotiations about the region's place in an independent Nigeria. As leader of the Northern People's Congress, he dominated Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic.

                       Sir Ahmadu Bello in a car

He was also the direct descendant of  Fulani Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio, the much-venerated scholar, teacher and warrior  in Nigeria who is famed for spreading Islam through conquest and also founder of  the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809 and its first Sultan.. At age fifty-six, just as he would be entering late adulthood, he dies. He was brutally murdered at his home during a 1966 coup d'état, one in a series of events characterizing Nigeria’s chequered  history of political instability.

Bello was born in Rabbah, Sokoto State. The son of a district head and heir to the Sokoto Caliphate, his great-grandfather was Sultan Bello, the founder of Sokoto and son of the revered Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio. Ahmadu Bello received his education first at the Sokoto Provincial School, the only modern school at the time in the Sokoto province. "The childhood of Ahmadu Bello, in Rabah, is framed within a context of Sokoto caliphate values, at a juncture when the British Empire is being established in Northern Nigeria, and providing an alternative set of values and career options.
Ahmadu Bello

 As the grandson of a Sultan of Sokoto, Ahmadu is raised with the hope that he will have some significant leadership role in store for him. But the emergence to leadership is not automatic. As a precondition, it is based on hard work, training, and the inculcation of appropriate values. The values learned by Ahmadu Bello include the full range of local cultural relationships regulating family and personal behaviour. He is raised in a large family context with multiple generations and many half-siblings and cousins. He is the son of a concubine. His father dies when he is young, but his uncle and later his brother, continue to raise him. Part of the training he receives is Islamic education, notably Qur’anic studies, and later, studies of Hadith, traditions, and law. His “clock” is the set of daily prayers. The discipline of this early training will stay with him throughout his life."
With the Queen of England.
                          Sir Ahmadu Bello with Queen of England

After formative experience in childhood he was sent away from “home” to a Western school in Sokoto. He was later be “sent away” from what seems his community to Katsina Teacher's Training College where he trained as a teacher. He spent five years at Katsina. At various points in his career, he was “sent away” to Gusau, to Kaduna, to Lagos, to London and elsewhere. There is a sense in which, compared to his early peers, he will spend his entire life “in exile.” Yet Sokoto remains “home” and he will always regard it as such. In addition, “home” was the legacy of his ancestors, and the relatives, living and dead, form a circle of kinship including Wurno, Gwandu, Sokoto town and other caliphate nodes, which constitute the center of gravity of his life. His religious upbringing is part of the family tradition, and his identification with it is total. It is a simple set of obligations which mark the parameters of meaning in his life.

 It is in part the legacy of the rural herdsman, and nomadic scholar on the edges of the desert, looking over the city lights and judging standards of human behaviour by reference to “The Book.” Later, it includes the courtly urban life, with its complex rules. His experience at Sokoto Middle School and later Katsina College will shape his life in several respects. They provide access to the world of western skills and values which will prove essential to the formulation of a northern, and later, Nigerian identity. Also, the classmates and school mates at these schools become his peers for life. These are the colleagues with whom he can joke, confide, trust, and call on in moments of need. He will live his life primarily in a man’s world, and the young men who are among the first to receive western education in Northern Nigeria will form the inner core of that world. The strict discipline of his early training is continued in the western schools.

This statue represents images of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr.Nnamdi Azikwe. They are foremost nationalists that fought for the independence of Nigeria. This commemorative statue is located at the beautiful Freedom park, broad street, Lagos, Nigeria.

His sense of “time” becomes oriented not only to the prayer schedule, the seasons and the cycles of the moon, but also to the watch. Punctuality, and getting things done “on time,” becomes top priorities. His self-confidence is enhanced within the Katsina College context, as he finds he is respected not only for who he is, but for what he is. His competitive drive is sharpened at the fives court. He is a team player, but also a strong individualist, with a will to succeed.
Ahmadu bello

 The second phase of his life, early career, begins with his teaching assignment to his old school in Sokoto. This gives him a basic occupational identity as “teacher,” and allows him to work closely with young boys who will be following in his footsteps in terms of western education. He serves as their counsel or inspiration, and teacher. He is rigid in his discipline because he expects the best from every student. He is fastidious in getting back student papers immediately. Also, during this period, he is living in the heart of the Sokoto system, and becomes a close observer and neophyte participant in the circle activities surrounding the Sultan’s court. He is seen as a link between the family of the Sultan and the “white men,” with their strange language and customs, who have come to rule. His value as a “gateway” will increase as it becomes apparent that the Europeans are making fundamental changes in the administrative system of the Caliphate. He is appointed a rural administrator (District Head) at the age of twenty- five in 1934.  He is being groomed and tested.
His appointment as District Head creates another major identity. From the British point of view, he is an “administrator.” From the local point of view he is “Sarkin Rabah,” i.e. Chief of Rahah. It becomes appropriate, indeed, required that he should marry, and become “head of household” as well. This is arranged. Other marriages are also arranged, some of which link him to important families in Sokoto, Gwandu and Kano. He produces a son, who later dies. Also, his mother dies. He will eventually produce three daughters (one posthumously).
With the death of the Sultan in 1938, Ahmadu Bello becomes a candidate for the succession at the age of twenty-nine. He is passed over in favour of a “cousin” ( Sir Siddiq Abubakar III who reigned for 50 years until his death in 1988) who is a few years his senior, but who will remain the incumbent through and beyond Ahmadu Bello’s lifetime. There will never be another chance for Ahmadu to compete for the succession. In the 1940s, he established the Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa which would later become the NPC in 1951.
The new Sultan designates Ahmadu Bello to be his representative in administering the District Heads of the eastern districts, i.e. those in close proximity to the railway, and the produce evacuation/commercial center in Gusau. This “exile” affords new opportunities to experience the cross currents of social and economic change occurring in Nigeria. “Southerners” have begun to migrate to Gusau for jobs. As ‘successor-in-waiting’ to the throne of the Sultan, he wore the turban. Yet the central drama is still with the newly appointed Sultan, and Ahmadu, now designated “Sardauna” enters into a period of chilly relations with the Sultan, which culminates in the arrest and trial of Ahmadu Bello on charges of diverting cattle-tax (Jangali) revenue. He was sentenced to one year in prison.He put up a spirited challenge in the appeals court in Zaria, outside of the jurisdiction of the Sultan. Ahmadu learns that “justice” can be tempered with politics in the local Alkali’s courts, and that the new regional appeal system is a useful counterbalance to emirate power. His popularity with the generation of western-educated young men creates a notoriety which allows him to emerge as a symbol of “the new north.”  With the aid of the other ‘Barewa guys’ like Shehu Shagari, Aminu Kano and Ibrahim Dasuki, he filed for an acquittal after he had already spent three months in jail. But that would only boost his popularity and many felt he was just a victim of unfair political tussle. The British apparently intervene in the feud between the Sultan and the Sardauna, and a truce is called. Yet the factionalism and competition will continue for years to come.
The return of Ahmadu to Sokoto in 1944 marks his acceptance as a major councillor in the Sokoto local government system. He gains experience in many fields of administration, and manages the increasingly complex and technical departments which are emerging, often associated with “development.” The stage is set for his emergence into a regional political career. In 1948, he was offered a scholarship to study local government administration in England. Ahmadu Bello took the scholarship sensing he needed to shore up his knowledge about the process of governance. In 1949, at the age of forty, he is nominated for a seat in the Regional House of Assembly.
The period of middle adulthood, beginning in 1949, is characterized by the emergence of Ahmadu Bello as the pre-eminent political leader in Northern Nigeria, and perhaps in Nigeria as a whole. The rigors of this task demand a sense of discipline, dedication, competitiveness, collegiality, and sacrifice of many personal preferences. During this period, Ahmadu allows the needs for a “united front” in the north and his hoped-for succession to the sultanship to occasion some serious curtailment of personal choice (including foregoing a possible marriage to a non-secluded wife).
Yet, the predominant characteristic of Ahmadu during this period is the “integral” nature of his character. He is willing to act as a catalyst in forming consensus, but he is always blunt and frank in his own views, and he sees no need to pretend he is other than he is. He is a descendant of the Shehu, Usman dan Fodio, and sees no point in wearing a coat and tie like the English. He speaks impeccable English, and respects many European values, but he is who he is: a Muslim and a northerner. If some people don’t like that is too bad.
The period of middle adulthood sees Ahmadu Bello stepping into leadership roles for which he has been conditioned since childhood but at a new and broader level of community. His sense of destiny is tied up with service to the community. It is a broadly based sense of service, ranging from material welfare, to law and order and “justice,” to spiritual enhancement. He does not view humans as merely animals to be fed and sheltered, with “basic needs.” He lives within a belief system in which “this world” is a preparation for the next. This belief permeates his sense of responsibility and purpose.
Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello keenly encouraging female education in the late 1950s
More Vintage Nigerian photos
Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello keenly encouraging female education in the late 1950s

As his political battles to build a strong political party and to set the north on the road to development seem to be within grasp, Ahmadu is stimulated by his regular pilgrimages to the holy places to concentrate more on his own personal transition to the next phase of his life. Whether this next phase is to retire to his farm in Bakura and try to produce a son, or to take a more active role in religious activities, or to prepare for his own mortality, may be part of the “confusion” noticed by many of his close associates. Outward confusion, however, may reflect an inner reassessment of priorities. Whatever he may have been thinking or feeling, he was still functioning as the effective leader of the most populous political unit in sub-Saharan Africa. His schedule of travel, administration and politics was excruciating. He was exhausted and suffering from mild diabetes.
Sir Ahmadu Bello with his  Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa members

Under these pressures, he resigns his future to “the will of God” He has always believed in individual effort. He has believed in hard work and setting priorities and goals. But underlying the efforts and intentions of man, is the will of God. He believes he will not die a minute before or after his allotted time. This gives him the courage to undertake what he believes he must do in his remaining time.

Front; Fred Fuller, James Greenwood, Joe Williams, The Sardauna, Clifford Whitaker, Nigerian official.
Middle row; James Beresford, Harry Presst, unidentifiable man, Fred Pease, Elizabeth Whitaker (JCW’s youngest daughter), unidentifiable young lady, Whitham Slater.
Back; Gordon Hartley, Nigerian official, unidentifiable man.

 He is not one to linger in philosophical reflection. He is a man of action, and often moves from a gut-level reaction to events. He believes he should set an example of how a Muslim should live, and die. The legacy of the Shehu and Bello has caught up with him. He wants to be one with them. He wants to recapture the simplicity of his early life. He wants to give away his worldly possessions. He wants to make his peace. It is from these values that he has drawn.
             Sir Ahmadu Bello in onion farm

Upon arriving from the United Kingdom, he was nominated to represent the Sokoto Province at the regional House of Assembly. He was also one of the three selected to represent the north at the drafting committee for the new Macpherson constitution in 1951. While in the assembly, he became a veritable voice for the northerners and in consultations with his colleagues from the other emirates of Bornu and Kano, he formed a solid platform to promote northern interests.
At a public function: Sir Ahmadu Bello & Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Picture Credit: "Studio 24", Kaduna/NNP.
At a public function: Sir Ahmadu Bello & Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Picture Credit: “Studio 24″, Kaduna/NNP

Therefore, it was no surprise that when the first elections were held in 1952, he won a seat in the Northern House of Assembly and was appointed a Minister of Works in the Regional Executive Council, of which he was now a Member. He would later become the Minister of Local Government and Community Development for the Northern Region of Nigeria. With time, he was also a Member of the Nigerian Forest Board, Nigerian Coal Board, Inspection Board and Northern Regional Development and Production Board. He was also made the Business Leader of the Government of the Northern Region. In all these roles, he distinguished himself as a hardworking civil servant.
Sir Ahmadu Bello raiding with Sir Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa, prime minister of Nigeria

In 1954, Sir Ahmadu Bello became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria and in 1955, he made his first pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1953 and 1957, he was the leader of the Northern delegation to constitutional conferences in London (my good friend still wonders why we had to go all the way to London to write our own constitution) The ‘Work and Worship’ motto on the Northern Nigerian crest was adopted by him.
With Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and the Sardauna during the Nigerian Independence Day Celebrations.
Sir Ahmadu Bello with Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Obafemi Awolowo during the Nigerian Independence Day Celebrations.

Five years late in 1959 federal elections, he led the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to victory in the parliament. Later, his party formed an alliance with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) headed by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and they came up with the very first indigenous federal government in 1960 which eventually secured Nigerian independence from the British colonial masters.
Since he was the President General of the NPC (later the largest political party in the country), he chose to remain the Premier of Northern Nigeria and gave the position of Prime Minister to his hand-picked candidate, the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was then the Deputy President of the NPC. Sir Ahmadu Bello who stayed back in Sokoto with Balewa in Lagos, never sought the leadership of Nigeria, once stated that he would rather be the Sultan of Sokoto than to be the leader of Nigeria:
SIR-AHMADU-BELLO4                                         Sir Ahmadu Bello with a visitor in his house

Lists of people who held various positions in the Government of Northern Nigeria in the years 1958-62, and of those who served on various committees related to the Settlement of 1960.
                                                 Who held what positions
1. The Governor:
Sir Gawain Westray Bell* served as Governor of the Northern Region beginning in 1957. He was asked by Government to stay on in this position for some time after Independence, finally retiring in mid-1962, when he was replaced by Sir Kashim Ibrahim*.

The Sardauna of Sokoto and premier of Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Emir of Katsina and members of the High court of Justice of the Northern Region of Nigeria, Kaduna, Nigeria. People in the photo include Chief Justice, Governor and Ian Lewis are attending the new Law Courts building dedication. The building houses the Chief Justice's Court, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Sharia Court of Appeal. Circa 1959. courtesy Elliot Elifoson

2. The Premier:
Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto*, was elected president of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in April 1954 and, following general elections later that year, became Premier of Northern Region, a position he still held when he was assassinated in the coup of 15 January 1966.
3. The Executive Council:
(Designations as in the sources cited, omitting “The Honourable”):
1958                                                                  1962
Ministers with portfolio
Agriculture: Mustafa Monguno                            Agriculture: Alhaji Mustapha Munguno
Animal Health and Forestry, and                         Animal and Forest Resources: Malam Mu’azu Lamido
Northern Cameroons Affairs:                              Attorney-General: Hedley H. Marshall*
Abdullahi Danburam Jada

It is an open secret that his relationship with the Ibos was a very turbulent one even if he had worked hand-in-hand with an Ibo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to ensure Nigerian gained independence in 1960. At various times, he made inflammatory statements about the Ibos and as you must have expected, the Ibos too did not take such statements laughing. He once referred to the Ibos as the ‘Jews of Nigeria’ whose sole purpose is to dominate wherever they find themselves. He said: ‘The Ibos are more or less a type of people whose desire is mainly to dominate everybody. If they go to a village, or town, they want to monopolize everything in that area. If you put them in a labour camp as a labourer, within a year, they will try to emerge as the headman of that camp.’

                            Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe

He also said that he would rather have a non-Nigerian do a job than give it to a non-northerner. You can therefore understand the carnage and massacre that was to follow his assassination on the 15th of January 1966 by an Ibo major, Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. All the tensions would gradually accumulate and result in a full-blown civil war the following year, with millions of Nigerian lives sacrificed to the senseless orgy of violence. Bello’s critics pointed out that he was more preoccupied with the agenda of a more united North than a stronger Nigeria. Some critics even felt he felt the pulse of his people who feared a domination by the southerners and accused him of footdragging on the independence of the nation. However, this does not diminish his contributions in ensuring Nigeria became free from British imperialism.

-In 1959, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Knight of the British Empire (KBE), and that explains the ‘Sir’ in his title.
-Pioneer Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, 11th October, 1962.
-March 1959: President, Northern Regional Executive Council.
-Vice President, World Muslim League.

-In ensuring that the North would not be sidelined in the scheme of things, he sponsored the Bank of the North (now Unity Bank), the Northern Nigerian Development Company and capped it all by establishing the 16,000-seater Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. The institution was established on the 4th of October, 1962 as the University of Northern Nigeria.
Sir Ahmadu Bello. the first chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria

By the beginning of 1966, it was quite clear that the Sardauna was one of the most powerful figures in the country, and many believed that he was actually the most powerful, even much more powerful than the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, his party held sway over 29 million out of 55 million Nigerians. Some soldiers who harboured this belief, led by Major Nzeogwu, stormed his residence in Kaduna on the fateful evening of 14th January, 1966. Nigeria would never remain the same.
To the right of the Sardauna standing at attention is the former Inspector-General of Police, MD Yussuf.
Previously, on his way to Umrah (the Muslim lesser pilgrimage), he received a letter with threats to kill him. The letter was said to have stated: ”We have arranged to kill you and the Prime Minister (Alhaji Tafawa Balewa). The Sardauna was concerned and felt that the tip was from someone who wanted to save them. He directed that the letter be given to the Private Secretary who would then transfer it to the Security Unit for the appropriate action, but that was not to be. The security provided was not water-proof. A devout Muslim, the Sardauna believed that giving his life in the service of Northern Nigeria was worth the sacrifice and that death was a certain end. He later said of the threat: ‘Don’t worry, continue to get useful information. I know what to do.‘
And so it was on the evening of 15th January, 1966. Armed soldiers mentioned above arrived at his residence at Lugard House, Kaduna. They were not to have tea with the late Premier. They came with the gloomiest message ever, the message of death. By the next day, the soldiers in Nigerian Army uniform had turned assassins. As the gun-toting soldiers scattered the peace of the house searching for him, the Sardauna went into his quarters and announced to his family the coming of the unwanted guests. He told his family to stay away in safety but they would have none of that. They all trooped behind him as he came out of the family quarters and in a matter of seconds, he was surrounded by the soldiers led by Nzeogwu who fired at Ahmadu Bello’s babanriga and immediately, blood sputtered from the point of impact through the beard on his face. Brave till the very end, he had faced the soldiers and introduced himself as the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region.
Ruins of the home of Sir Ahmadu Bello, onetime leader of Northern People's Congress Party (NPC), in Kaduna, Nigeria, where he and his wife were murdered by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu during the Jan. 15, 1966, coup attempt. Photo taken on Jan, 19, 1966. Source: Historic Images.
Ruins of the home of Sir Ahmadu Bello, onetime leader of Northern People’s Congress Party (NPC), in Kaduna, Nigeria, where he and his wife were murdered by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu during the Jan. 15, 1966, coup attempt. Photo taken on Jan, 19, 1966. Source: Historic Images.

At that point, his first and eldest wife threw herself at him in a final embrace. They were both shot. The soldiers opened fire and by the time the claps of thunder emanating from the bullets died down, the Sardauna and his wife, Hafsatu, were dead. He was believed to have been killed instantly when a bullet penetrated his spinal cord. Family members tried to move his corpse from the site of impact but were not able to do so, and left it there till the next morning for proper arrangements. The soldiers did not leave until about the next morning. A bodyguard was also killed. Two women later carried Hafsatu’s body from where she was killed to a bathroom, and very few people know of her story as till today. The mighty Gamji tree was cut down in his prime. The chaos of that day is yet to disappear till this day as the ghosts of those killed in that coup still loom large over the Nigerian nation.

                                 Ahmadu Bello University,Zaria

Before his death, he saw Major Nzeogwu at his residence and inquired to know his mission to which Nzeogwu reported he was doing his duty checking the security facilities and installations. The Sardauna told him: ‘You must do your duty but my safety is in the hands of God.’ Later, Sardauna’s personal security detail, Sani One Minute became disturbed after he reported seeing Major Nzeogwu surveilling the residence on three different occasions.
On the N200 naira note.

-He once referred to Nigeria as the ‘mistake of 1914′ but he later worked for and gave his best for the new nation of Nigeria.
Sardauna with the Sarkin Aminu (Zazzau).
                       Sir Ahmadu Bello with Sarkin Aminu (zazzau)

“I have never sought the Political Limelight or a leading position in my country. But I could not avoid the obligation of my birth and destiny. My great-great-grandfather built an Empire in the Western Sudan. It has fallen my lot to play a not inconsiderable part in building a new nation. My ancestor was chosen to lead the holy war which set up his Empire. I have been chosen by a Free electrorate to help build a modern state. -Preface, My Life
“Our Customs and institutions are not artificial creations, nor have they been borrowed ready-made from others. On the contrary, with their roots deep in the Past, Yet changing to meets the needs of the future, they are living, growing things. We are proud to our way of life and are honoured that we have the priviledge of displaying a few of its many aspects”. -While responding to the Queen’s Goodwill message in 1959.

“I am impatient, and who would not be with all that lies before me and the responsibilities that have been placed upon me? I have a thousands causes for impatience, but I am not impatient for myself or my family. All my time I give to my work: my life has been in the service of the state even from the time that I went to school. For there I was learning for the future and that future had caught up with me. A new future lies ahead into which I go, trusting in God’s eternal mercy. ”
-“You are unique in that we stand at the meeting Point of two of the major cultural system of the world. Islamic culture from the East and Christian culture from the West, and meeting in the Presence of a third culture, that of the ancient state and empires of African itself. Our task is to bring about a dialogue between these two cultures and fit them to Africa, Interpreting one of the other to the Mutual benefit of all. We should introduce Western ideas and technologies where necessary but it must be without disrupting our existing Spiritual, cultural and social Values”.-From his speech while being made the Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on 23rd November 1963.
Sardauna's daughter, Hajia A'ishatu.

                                     Sardauna’s daughter, Hajia A’ishatu.
“They say that I am proud and impatient. I am certainly proud, for I have much to be proud of, and not the least the trust that God has given me to lift up our People from their Primitive conditions into the light of life and the happiness of contentment. But I am not proud in the arrogant sense, for I know that I am merely an instrument carrying out God’s will and pleasure. -My Life


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