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Sir Ahmadu Bello

Sardauna of Sokoto

THE PREMIER OF NORTHERN NIGERIA

Presidents & Heads of State in Nigeria since Independence

 

Arewa House Event Honors Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Martin Luther King

Genealogy of Sardauna (Gamji)
 
About Sardauna
Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909 - 1966)
 

SIR Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Nigerian political leader, was born on 12th June, 1909 in Rabbah, Sokoto State.  His father Ibrahim, the Chief of Rabbah was a grandson of Usman Dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. Sir Ahmadu Bello trained and worked as a teacher, and later became the district head of Rabbah and Secretary of the Sokoto Native Authority.

In 1949, Sir Ahmadu Bello co-founded the Northern People's Congress, and was successively regional Minister of Works, of Local Government, and of Community Development. In 1954, he became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria, a position he held until 1966. His greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria. He was killed in the   January, 1966 military coup.


“I am not unaware that I have often been a controversial figure. I have been accused of lack of nationalism and political awareness because I considered that independence must wait until a country has the resources to support and make a success of independence. I have been accused of conservatism because I believe in retaining all that is good in our old traditions and customs and refusing to copy all aspects of other alien civilizations have been accused of many things, but the views of others have never made me deviate from the path which I am certain is the one which will benefit my people and country. I have always based my actions on my inward convictions, on my conscience and on the dictates of my religion” – Sir Ahmadu Bello

Citation on Sir Ahmadu Bello,

By Professor Iya Abubakar

Former Vice-Chancellor, ABU Zaria: Chairman National Mathematical Center Abuja, Nigeria


Sir, Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto, was the son of Ibrahim Mai Rabah, grandson of Sultan Atiku, great grandson of Sultan Bello, and great grandson of that Famous Islamic Scholar and reformer Shehu  Usman  ibn Fodiyo, the Mujaddadi, the Amirul Muminin and founder of the Sokoto Caliphate.

 

According to official Records the Sardauna was born in Rabah town in Sokoto State in 1910..


Arewa House Event Honors Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Martin Luther King

 

  Sir Ahmadu Bello’s famous speeches on Nigerian unity. Speaking in the House of Representatives on August 23, 1954

 

LINKS:

Arewa-online

Arewa House

Daily Trust

Arewa Voices

Gari

Amanaonline

Khalifa

Zumunta

ANITV

NPRC

Northern States

Islam


The Legacy Continues...

The Late Sardauna lived a humble and decent life while on earth. His legacies are more enduring than any other legacies set aside in the post-independence Nigeria. He is the indeed the Greatest Nigerian and leader of this century. Allah ya jikan Gamji, Amin.

 

Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909 - 1966)

The seasons of a man’s life:

Sir Ahmadu Bello lived a short but fulfilled life. His biography is a story of courage, perseverance, diligence, honesty, patriotism and service to mankind. He was a teacher, farmer, administrator, politician, statesman and religious leader. He built edifices which survived him. He was the PREMIER of the northern region of Nigeria and the Greatest Nigerian leader.

 

To celebrate the life of Sardauna and study his legacies and assess the impact of Ahmadu Bello it is necessary to look at his life in seven major areas of Nigerian political development:

1)      Political Parties and Elections;

2)      Traditional Leadership;

3)      Civil Service;

4)      Development Strategy;

5)      Religious Issues;

6)      Consolidation of Community; and

7)      Values and Symbols of Leadership.

The assessment has been over two major time periods:

  • Pre-independence and

  • Early independence.

Some of the main aspects of his impact in these areas are summarized below:

 

The Westminster political system, which was inherited in Nigeria, is premised on a single-member constituency electoral system which tends to encourage the emergence of a two-party system. In its transfer to Nigeria, coupled with a strong federal structure, the tendency was to develop “three one-party systems,” in the respective regions. The emergence of a “united front” party in the north was not a foregone conclusion. He linking together of teachers, writers, traditional businessmen, Emirs and Chiefs, young people and old, plus linking together the diverse ethnic and religious populations into the most populous political unit in sub-Saharan Africa within a period of about a decade, was an enormous feat of organizational and political skill.

 

Likewise the attempt to translate this “united front” approach into the national arena through various coalition building approaches, in the early independence period, with all the problems and conflicts involved, was a task of great complexity. The central figure in this process was Ahmadu Bello, who, despite outward appearances, was able to work with a wide variety of constituencies, and serve as the focal point for the united front.

 

Sir Ahmadu Bello’s personal style in “winning people over” also applied to his opposition in the north, where he both blunted the edge of potential revolutionary change and also rocked the complacency of conservative status quo assumptions, by his insistence on orderly reform. He did not engage in the rhetoric of early nationalism, which he interpreted as coastal/westernized elites jockeying for position in the post-colonial era.

 

He had a profound belief in the capacity of his own inherited political culture to adapt to the needs of the future, and he was unwilling to trade this heritage for an imported western model. He accepted the “rules of the game” with regard to the electoral mechanisms of achieving political power and felt that the demographic advantage of the “interior” made him a natural ally of “the one man one vote” principle. Yet, he used political power to help shape the constitutional framework within which competition would occur. Despite his propensity for an all-inclusive “united front,” he believed in the legitimacy of “an opposition,” and was never a proponent of a single-party system.

 

His willingness and ability to use principles and tactics from the Sokoto political culture tradition meant that he had a far greater impact on the traditional political substratum of modern politics than is generally realized. His decision to remain as political leader at the regional level, rather than the national level, made good political sense, in light of his strategy of consolidating his base of support as a precondition for national power. The “monolithic north,” was hardly monolithic, and required constant tending. His reformist approach to politics allowed him to incorporate many of the ideas of the more radical reformers, such as Aminu Kanu, easing them into place without disrupting the basic fabric of northern society. During the last two years of his life (1964—65), Ahmadu Bello had set his vision on the problems of national coalitions and cohesions, although he was apparently opting for a more personal role as a grassroots religious leader, and was increasingly leaving the party mechanics and the issues of coalition building to others. He continued to feel, however, that a northern-based political party was necessary to preserve and consolidate the gains of “northernization” which he had fought for as part of his balanced growth policy.

 

The role of traditional leadership in Nigeria was complicated by its transformation during the colonial era into an instrument for local government control and administration while attempting to preserve its symbolic and ritual significance as well. The “reforms” which Ahmadu Bello led in the 1950s and 1960s were to transfer emirate and chiefly powers to a broader base within the respective local communities, and at the same time, shift powers to a regional and provincial level. This move toward “democratization” and “federalism” set the parameters for later reforms. Perhaps most important in the reforms were the removal of judicial powers from the exclusive control of the Emirs and Chiefs, and the establishment of broader-based legal principles which attempted to incorporate and accommodate the multiple jurisprudential systems in the north. The integration of Islamic and British law was never fully achieved, but important balances were affected, especially between civil and criminal law. The succession and deposition powers of the colonial government were taken over and used by Ahmadu Bello, although he was able to maintain the public impression that he was not abusing these powers. His personal ambivalence toward traditional leadership — respecting its legacy and potential, yet having suffered from various abuses of its power — and his intense desire to become the Sultan of Sokoto, created a personal symbol which could be interpreted as either pro or contra traditional leadership. The traditional leaders were wooed by Ahmadu Belbo, but he was insistent that they move with the times. He had most respect for their value as symbolic links with the past and legitimate spokespersons for the historic communities they represented. Legislative, executive and judicial powers were a different matter, and the deposition of the Emir of Kano settled once and for all the question of whether regional/provincial power or emirate power would prevail.

 

The challenges to Ahmadu Bello with regard to traditional leadership came more from the segmental societies than from the emirate or chiefly societies. The Tiv Division of Benue Province became a symbol of the problems of imposing a hierarchical structure on a fragmented community. Whether the Coomassie Commission reforms of 1964—65 would have made a difference is a moot historical question, since the real political “gateway” (J.S. Tarka) would emerge as a national spokesman during the military period. It is sometimes argued that Ahmadu Bello “saved’ the institutions of traditional leadership in Nigeria, by reforming them. There is no question that traditional leadership has continued to play a central role in Nigerian society since the time of Ahmadu Bello, despite continuing reforms. The “utility” of traditional leaders in periods of national crisis not only as “gateways” to segments of the population but as peacekeepers had been recognized early on by Ahmadu Bello. His insistence that the next generation of traditional leaders be western educated set the stage for the transition to their subsequent roles. His “love of history” stimulated a profound regard for the past in Nigeria, which has characterized even those who envision a radically transformed future.

The creation of the civil service during the period of Ahmadu Bello is one of his major achievements. He regarded the northern civil service as a meritocracy, which should be above petty political quarrels, and certainly above corruption. The civil service had a rigorous code of ethics, and came to serve as a counterbalance to both politicians and traditional leaders. The trans-ethnic nature of the civil service provided the backbone for Northern Regionalism and for northern development efforts, which were based on the principle of equal distribution of opportunities. The technical and administrative skills of the civil service were essential to a large-scale political community, and the willingness to take assignments outside of the capital city was part of the ethos. The civil service provided a smooth transition from colonial rule to Independence, and an equally smooth transition from Northern Regionalism to the creation of states and the consolidation of Nigerian federalism. Perhaps the key to the effective functioning of the civil service was its apparent balance in terms of sub-regional zones, its transcendence of sub-regional interests, and its ability to incorporate intergenerational cohorts into a cohesive whole.

 

The first generation of northern civil servants (i.e. those born in the decade from about 1910— 20) tended to be cohorts from Katsina College, and had good personal relationships with their colleagues (including Ahmadu Hello) who had gone into political life.

 

The second generation of northern civil servants (i.e. those born during the 1920s, and reaching senior status in the service during the transition to independence) were also part of the Katsina/Kaduna-Zaria educational connection, and had close working relations with their “seniors,” in the civil service and in the political realm.

 

The third generation of northern civil servants (i.e. those born in the 1930s and entering the senior service after independence) tended to have overseas educational experience, and there was often a sharp difference in perspective from those in the first and second generations.

 

The ability of Ahmadu Bello to retain the loyalty and often grudging respect of the third generation of civil servants was crucial to his efforts at orderly change and development. Indeed, the cohesion was so strong between the various generations within the civil service, partly because of their common work ethic and sense of propriety, that they were able to achieve great strides in development during a relatively short time. Ahmadu Bello had an almost blind faith in youth and education. He felt that the next generation of northern young people would not disappoint him, despite the obvious differences in political opinions on many matters. The Premier’s Office served as a catalyst for ideas and action within the civil service, and provided a strong bulwark against the increasing pressures of political encroachment.

 

As the regional judicial service began to emerge in the early independence period, providing a counterbalance to the powers and perspectives at the emirate and chiefly level, this service also came to have its own sense of cohesion and ethos. The office of Grand Kadi emerged as a key link between religious and civil service forces, and between the western-educated/English-speaking sectors and the traditional sectors.

The development strategy of the government under Ahmadu Bello may be summarized as trying to achieve regional parity through affirmative-action politics. This “northernization policy” was the basic agenda for development, and reflected a profound belief on the part of Ahmadu Bello that northerners had the capability for rapid development, if given the opportunity. Hence, education was a top priority, and the foundation of all other development efforts. Education and human resources were encouraged at all levels, and in all fields, and between 1954 and 1965 considerable progress was made. Importantly, Ahmadu Bello was able to diffuse the latent resentment and suspicion at the grassroots level among Muslims over the nature and purpose of western education. He was able to mobilize local leaders in the “war against ignorance,” and lay the educational foundations for the future. His crash programs in professional education in Kano and Zaria and Kaduna, and his insistence on the establishment of a northern university at a time when many felt it was premature, attest to his forward-looking view of development. He recognized that “catching up” would take at least a generation, and hence tried to provide the political climate wherein northern youth could be encouraged and even initially protected in their opportunities for education. The decade from the mid1 950s to the mid-1960s produced the first mass-educated efforts in the north, which in turn have produced the first broadly based generation of northern professional and educated leaders.

 

Beyond education, the top development priorities were agriculture, industry and infrastructure. Ahmadu Bello believed that agriculture was the backbone of the north. He took an active interest in farming throughout his life, and was particularly concerned with issues of water, and the introduction of new technology into grassroots-level farming. He believed that local farmers would seize the opportunities for self-Improvement if provided with resources and incentives. He also saw agriculture as providing a basis for industrialization in the north, especially in the cash-crop areas of cotton and groundnuts. His search for capital and technology in the areas of textile mills, groundnut oil mills, etc., was always accompanied by an insistence on indigenization of business opportunities, and local staff-development training schemes. He also saw the need for improved infrastructure and communications as part of the need to develop a productive agricultural economy, since without feeder roads and inter-city connections produce could not be moved to markets. His concern for infrastructure, however, was also related to strategic concerns about community consolidation, both within the north and at a national level.

 

The religious issues related to government policy in the pre-independence era were pilgrimage and education. The question of domestic religious organizations arose more in the early independence period, as did the issue of the role of the Premier in the conversion campaigns. The pilgrimage issue started out as a matter of facilitating logistics and arrangements for Nigerian pilgrims in Sudan and Saudi Arabia, and later become a central part of the symbolic and religious life of those involved. The two aspects were interrelated, since the logistical facilities were more easily arranged after rapport was established at the leadership level. The establishment of rapport was also part of the historic process whereby West African Muslims came to be recognized as a more integral part of an international world of Islam. The role of Ahmadu Bello in this process is considerable, and he becomes a visible spokesman for Islam in the various international councils. This has a dramatic effect within the Nigerian context, as he began to draw on the inspiration of both his ancestral legacy and his new international status in his efforts to persuade traditional polytheists in Nigeria to join the Muslim community. The emergent issue then became reminiscent of church-state controversies. On this issue some of his closest friends and supporters were divided. Should the Premier take such an active role in religious conversion processes, or should he have left that to the Sultan of Sokoto and/or other religious leaders? The historic conjoining of religious and political power within the Sokoto Caliphate tradition provided the paradigm for his response, although perhaps the simpler explanation was that he had reached a stage in his personal and professional life when his interest in “politics as usual” had diminished, and he felt deeply called to make an impact in the spiritual realm. This strong sense of urgency on his part was reinforced by the increasing divisions within the northern Muslim community, and the sense that he must provide leadership in religious matters in order to facilitate unity. The founding of the Jama’atul Nasril Islam was intended to provide a nongovernmental vehicle for Islamic education and preaching. Although government funds were not used in the organization, it appeared to have a parastatal status because of the public figures (politicians, civil servants and traditional leaders) who were involved. The result was to place Ahmadu Bello in the arena of those who were acknowledged as part of religious leadership, which reinforced competition and tension with Kano people, worried many from Borno, and set in motion the dynamics which would result in a brotherhood/non-brotherhood division within northern Muslim circles. At the same time, it also reinforced the fears of Christians and traditionalists in the Middle Belt, and appears to have alarmed certain Southern Nigerian elements. Yet, the integrity of Ahmadu Bello so impeccable was perhaps well illustrated by the conversion campaigns. He was aware that he was going against the advice of some of his key constituencies. Yet he felt that it was essential to his own sense of purpose to enter the path of what many of his friends call “martyrdom.’ The “tragedy” of his life’s end might well have been avoided if he had chosen a more cautious or moderate path. There is a strong sense that he knew where the religious path would lead. At another level, however. the conversion campaigns and the efforts to draw Islamic educational structures into the mainstream of Nigerian education were part of the “interior/catch-up” policy which permeated other areas as well. He felt, frankly, that Christian missionaries had for too long had a monopoly of educational and conversion privileges in the north. To redress the balance, he threw his own weight in on the side of the indigenous heritage of Islamic education and conversion. That he was able to do this without alienating his major Christian allies in politics and the civil service attests to his personal magnetism and ability to function at different levels.

 

The consolidation of the northern community was still the top priority for Sir Ahmadu Bello, even at the end. The central place of Kaduna in the northern scheme of things became established over the period of his premiership. Many of the latent centrifugal forces within the Northern Region were assuaged during the early independence period, but others (especially in Kano and Benue) took on a new urgency. His success in the hard political battle over the incorporation of Northern Cameroon into Nigeria reinforced his sense of destiny in presiding over a political community which in part approximated to that of the Sokoto Caliphate. Yet he was fully aware that the non-Muslim areas of the north, not to mention Borno, were sensitive on the issue of the Sokoto Caliphate. He countered this sensitivity through his constant touring, his use of joking relationships, his co-opting of local leaders, his respect for the integrity of all historic communities, and his ability to disarm opposition through personal relationships. At the structural level, he recognized the need to strengthen the provincial level of government, but he also recognized that the major reforms of the emirate and chiefly powers could not be done at the provincial level alone, without the support of the regional government. His insistence that “tribalism” had no place in the northern civil service or in the development priorities, gave credibility to his dual belief in the legitimacy of historic communities, yet the need to transcend them for larger political purposes.

 

It would appear that in l964—65, he was beginning to view the national community as the essential “community of destiny,” and was making personal efforts at touring in all parts of Nigeria, and trying to facilitate workable national coalitions. The prospect of a permanent “united front” led by Ahmadu Bello at the national level may have been one of the triggers for the attempted coup.

 

The example and standard of leadership set by Ahinadu Hello requires distinction to be drawn between symbolic leadership and practical everyday leadership. Symbolic leadership images reflect the values and the perceptions of the various constituencies, both proponents and opponents. There is also an important distinction between the grassroots levels and the leadership levels, within the eight (later nine) emirate provinces of the north, there was a perception of Ahmadu Bello as an heir to the Sokoto legacy, and in general this was favourably regarded, the poetic rendering of his ancestry, as well as his own feats and qualities, had widespread popular appeal. It was perhaps these sets of expectations which encouraged him, toward the end, to reinforce his populist appeal along the lines of the the Sokoto reformers. In other areas of the north — Borno and the three Middle Belt provinces — there was a widespread recognition that his “northernization policy” was very much in their interests, and development was stimulated. Those northern opposition leaders, who challenged Ahmadu Bello’s leadership, normally did so on matters of policy or principle and not on personal grounds. In the case of Aminu Kano, the principles often included a reinterpretation of the same Sokoto caliphate legacy, but in terms of social justice and simplicity, rather than the more pompous and stratified emirate system which had re-emerged.

 

In addition to northern perceptions of the leadership of Ahmadu Bello, the international perceptions were very important. He came to be regarded as a major African spokesman within the western world, the African world, and the Muslim world. He was willing to speak bluntly within the international arena, as he was within the northern, and/or Nigerian arena. Throughout, he symbolized self-respect; he was equally at home with the royalty of England and the poorest Fulani herdsman in Adamawa. He could be feted by the King of Saudi Arabia, and pray with his driver in a bush village in Sokoto. Although he did not have a university education, he could hold his own with technical and professional personnel. He had unshakeable confidence in the importance of his policies. His generosity, which was legendary, was counter- balanced by an old-fashioned sense of propriety in the use of public funds. His bluntness and quick-to-anger/quick-to-forgive qualities were counterbalanced by a basic concern about the welfare of individual people and their families. His pompous posturing and occasional gauche behaviour was counterbalanced by a basic rural simplicity. He who would be Sultan must also be prepared to accept his destiny, however it may unfold. Behind the rich symbolism of power and influence, and the drama of setting basic priorities in the early independence period, there is also a man, who is living out the seasons of his life, hopping for a son, fighting fatigue, preparing to die.

 

B. The seasons of a man’s life

The life of Ahmadu Bello may be divided, roughly, into three categories:

1) Pre-adult (childhood and education), from 1909—1931: twenty-two years;

2) Early adulthood (work and early career), from 1931—1949: eighteen years;

3) Middle adulthood (political career), from 1949—66: seventeen years.

 

At age fifty-six, just as he would be entering late adulthood, he dies. Within these periods, his own personality evolves, and he functions within a complex set of relations with family and friends. Much of the focus of his legacies has been on the period from 1949—66, i.e. during his political career. Yet the earlier periods set the stage for the later drama.

 

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. 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. Yet, what accounts for his later “maverick” behaviour?

 

A formative experience in childhood is being sent away from “home” to a Western school in Sokoto. He will later be “sent away” from what seems his community to Katsina College. At various points in his career, he will be “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” is 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. 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.

 

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. 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” 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.

 

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. 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 revenue. The challenge is met 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.” 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 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. 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.

 

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. 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 his strength to lead. Through his endeavour he helps to shape the future of Nigeria.

 

Compiled by Prof Isa Odidi and Dr. Baba J Adamu exclusively for www.ahmadubello.com

 


“Here in the Northern Nigeria we have People of Many different races, tribes and religious who are knit together to common history, common interest and common ideas, the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. I always remind people of our firmly rooted policy of religious tolerance. We have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. Subject to the overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his belief according to the dictates of his conscience…”  - Sir Ahmadu Bello


 
 

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