Ahmadu Bello: The sage of northern Nigeria
Earlier, we had discussed Usman Danfodio as being a revolutionary and in his honour, the University of Sokoto was named after him. One of his descendants, rightfully his great great-grandson, and a great-grandson of Sultan Muhammad Bello – Ahmadu Bello, was able to carry on his legacy. He was a great asset to the development of the country, especially the north.
Bello was a man who believed in the equality of all human beings whether by race or by culture. This was obvious in all facets of his life as he was a selfless leader with honour and integrity. Throughout his life, he was an exemplification of high moral values and intellectual virtues and he was one who practiced and preached religious tolerance. Of his greatest legacy was the fact that he valued his tradition and religious values. He strove towards the modernization and unification of Northern Nigeria. His aim was to make sure that the north was at par politically and economically with the western and eastern regions. This became his drive towards a successful Northern region and Nigeria as a whole.
Life and times of Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello was born 12th June, 1910 in Rabah, Sokoto. He received his Islamic education at home and was able to learn Islamic sciences such as Qur’an, Fiqh, Seerah, and Hadith. Afterward, he attended Sokoto Provincial school. Then the now Barewa College. After school, he became the English master teacher in Sokoto Middle School. He was made the chief political adviser to the sultan after he made attempts to become the Sultan of Sokoto at the age of 28. This marked the beginning of his political career.
He joined the Northern People’s Congress NPC in 1940. Later became its president. In a bid to develop his knowledge on governance, Ahmadu acquired a scholarship to study local government administration in England in 1948. After he returned from England, he was nominated and elected to represent the Northern region in the house of assembly. In 1954, he became the first and only(as the position was abolished after his death) Premier of Northern Nigeria till 1966.
In 1959, he formed an alliance with the NCNC in order to get Nigeria the first indigenous federal government since he was an advocate of federalism – the best way to gain Nigeria its independence from the British Government. After the elections, Bello chose the Vice President of the NPC. Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister of the Federation in Lagos. Although he was an influential politician, he chose to remain the Premier of the North. This showed his desire for progress and servitude and not for power.
His leadership positions gave rise to a lot of positive establishments. Such as the Bank of the North, the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria, the Nigeria Citizen Newspapers, the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation – all of these ensured to open up the north to modernization and assisted industrial development in Nigeria. He served as the first chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University in 1962. Religiously, he was a practicing Muslim. He performed the Hajj in 1955, and the umrah annually until his death. He walked every day to the local mosque for prayers and he even made the slogan for the north work and worship. Also, he set up a commission that gave recognition to traditional Qur’anic schools.
The demise of Ahmadu Bello
Some days after he returned from performing the lesser hajj, prior to the military coup de etat by its plotters to overthrow the government, Ahmadu journeyed to receive his western friend at the airport. His friend, Samuel Akintola, warned him of the impending coup. He encouraged him to run away with him. But Ahmadu was able to convince his friend that it will be cowardly to run away. Instead, he will remain and die for his people. He performed the Jum’ah prayer and went for his usual shopping.
At about midnight, after the evening prayer and dinner, Ahmadu was with his family when they all heard sudden gunshots and the electricity went out, putting them all in total darkness. A commotion arose and the guards on duty were killed. The first shot aimed to kill Ahmadu hit his first wife instead and the second shot hit Ahmadu on his forehead. Thereafter, the house was set ablaze. This unfortunate incident occurred on the 15th of January, 1966.
In his honour, the Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna, Nigeria, the stadium in Kaduna, and several roads were named after him and his portrait beautifies and enhances the 200 Nigerian Naira Bank note.