Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909 – 1966)

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SIR AHMADU BELLO (1909 – 1966) | Biography, History, Facts, Politics and Death

Sir Ahmadu Bello was one of the greatest Nigerian nationalists and, perhaps the most forceful Nigerian politician of the 1950s and early 1960. A great grandson of Uthman dan Fodio, the Fulani religious leader who founded the Sokoto Caliphate, Ahmadu Bello was born on 12th June, 1909 at Rabbah, near Sokoto.

He had his elementary education in Sokoto and later attended the Katsina Higher College where he was a college mate of Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. He later attended a course in Local Government in England.

Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello
Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello

The career of Ahmadu Bello started at Sokoto Middle School where he taught for three years. He later became the district head of Rabbah. Like many of his contemporaries among the small elite of Northern Nigeria. Ahmadu Bello became involved early with politics, participating actively in the political events that led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

The first remarkable stage in Bello’s career was the formation of the Jamiyar Mutanen Arewa (JMA), a cultural association, by a group of educated northerners in Zaria in October 1948.

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The Sardauna of Sokoto and his close friend and associate – Abubakar Tafawa Balewa were members of this cultural body by virtue of their membership of the Northern Teachers Association with which this body was affiliated.

The elections of 1951 under the new McPherson Constitution, however made it imperrative that those aspiring to enter the new Regional House of Assembly at Kaduna should campaign on the platform of a political party. The Sardauna and his colleagues took note of how the dominant political party in the Western Region, the Action Group, had metamorphosed out of a Yoruba cultural association called the ‘Egbe Omo Oduduwa‘ (i.e. ‘Association of the Descendants of Oduduwa‘), and followed the same process in the transformation of the J.M.A into the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1951.

After the formation of the party, the Sardauna emerged, as its President and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Vice-Preeident. The NPC won the elections of November 1951 to the Northern House of Assembly, and formed a government under the leadership of its president, the Sardauna of Sokoto.

Sir Ahmadu Bello also held the important portfolio of Minister of Local Government. This was a testimony to the conservative inclinations of the Sardauna as it was this ministry that handled affairs of the native authorities usually headed by the Emirs. He also served as Minister of Community Development and Minister of Works. In 1954, he was appointed Premier of Northern Nigeria and, at this time, his party controlled the vast Northern Region. This made him the most powerful political figure in Nigeria at the time.

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Apart from being a devout Muslim, the Sardauna was also an accomplished politician. He established several schools and made education available to larger sections of the society. He established the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and embarked on the industrialization of the region. These changes tended to conflict with his conservative orientation and aristocratic background.

The Sardauna (or war leader) was politically very ambitious and his objective was to turn his control of Northern Nigeria into political control of the whole Nigerian nation. The desire of the Sardauna to dominate the political landscape pitched him against leading southern politician like Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

To him charity begins at home and that was why he said “I would rather be called the Sultan of Sokoto than the President of Nigeria”. Although his party won the 1959 federal elections, Sir Ahmadu Bello declined to be Prime Minister, but rather sent his deputy and protege, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, to be the Prime Minister of Nigeria in Lagos. But he continued to have considerable influence over Balewa. The Sardauna was also said to have the ambition to succeed his relative, Sultan Abubakar.

Although very charming and unassuming, Sir Ahmadu Bello was feared and loved by many and respected by all. His strong attachment to the North and his undisguised attempt to use that region as a launchpad for controlling the whole of Nigeria made him unpopular in the southern parts of the country. He also had many opponents in Kano and the Middle Belt especially among the Tiv society, although these were, on occasions, repressed harshly.

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He was assassinated in the military coup of 15th JanuaIy, 1966 by forces which claimed to be progressive.

Several important national institutions including Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Ahamadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna which his government built were named after this illustration sum of Nigeria.


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