Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, was a Nigerian political leader and statesman who served as the Premier of the Northern Nigerian Region from 1954 to 1966. He was a member of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and one of the Nigerian nationalists who struggled for the Nigerian independence since the early 1950s till 1960 when Nigeria became independent. Since the independence, Ahmadu Bello became one of the influencial political leaders in the Nigerian First Republic, and up to date, he was regarded as one of the founding fathers of Nigeria.
Early Life of Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello was born in Rabah, a town located to the northeast from Sokoto in 1909. His father was Ibrahim the District Head of Rabah and the great grandson of the 19th century Islamic reformer Shehu Usman Danfodio who founded the Sokoto Caliphate. He started his primary education at Sokoto Provincial School. While from 1927 to 1932, he attended Katsina Teachers College.
Early Career of Ahmadu Bello
After finishing Katsina Teachers College, Ahmadu Bello became a teacher at Sokoto Middle School where he taught from 1932 to 1934.
In 1934, Bello turned into an emirate administrator as the District Head of Rabah, the position which his father held previously. In 1938, when Ahmadu Bello was still the District Head, the Sultan of Sokoto Hassan died. Therefore, Ahmadu Bello contested the vacant seat with Abubakar Siddique as the top contenders. However, Abubakar was chosen over him. But, Bello was given the title of ‘Sardauna‘ the position which means the crown prince. With the new title, he was also moved from Rabah District to the Sokoto Native Authority (N.A.) as Province Inspector in charge of about 47 districts. He later became Chief Secretary of the Sokoto Native Administration.
In 1948, Ahmadu Bello was offered a scholarship to study in England, where he studied local government administration until 1949.
Early Political Career
Before he left to England, Ahmadu Bello had been a participant in the local youth struggles. That was why together with other youth elite in Sokoto, they founded the Sokoto Social Circle.
In 1949 when he returned from England, Ahmadu Bello joined the Northern cultural organization called the ‘Jam’iyyar Mutanen Arewa’. Later, he Organization turned into a political party with an English name the ‘Northern Peoples Congress’ (NPC) in late 1949.
Also, in late 1949 Ahmadu Bello was chosen as a parliamentarian to represent the Sokoto Province in the Northern House of Assembly in Kaduna. During his time as parliamentarian, he earned a recognition by being a good speaker who participated in the parliament discussion. Due to this reason, he was selected as one of the members that drafted the Richard constitution. He was also highly appreciated by his party the NPC, and therefore elected as its president.
In 1952 a regional elections was held, and Ahmadu Bello was elected into the Northern House of Assembly. As one of the top parliamentarians, he was appointed a minister of works and a member of the Northern Region Executive Council.
In 1954, the new Constitution of Lyttleton established the office of the premier in every 3 region and conferred the office with the executive responsibility. Therefore, Ahmadu Bello as the leader of the NPC which has the majority in the north, was chosen as the Premier of the Northern Region. After he became the Premier of the Northern Region, Bello continued his nationalist struggle along with other nationalists such his deputy Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and others. With these leaders, Ahmadu Bello participated in many conferences in preparation for the Nigerian independence.
However, in the struggle, Bello showed more concern with the northern issues than the Nigerian in general. That was why he used his position in strengthening the NPC to a full capacity, which enabled the Party in acquiring majority of seats in both the Regional legislatures and the Federal legislatures in the 1954 and 1959 elections.
Nigerian Independence and the First Republic
Nigeria became independent on 1 October, 1960. Ahmadu Bello together with top other nationalists including Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and others were celebrated as during independence day as the founding fathers.
After achieving independence, Nigerian First Republic started, Bello became more regional patriotic than the national patriotic. Because, most of his speech and actions reflected his northernization ideology in which he regarded northern Nigerian issues first before the national issues. However, despite that, he continued to influenced national affairs due to his position of the national president of the ruling party.
On the other hand, Ahmadu Bello became very committed in building the Northern Region. Immediately after independence, he introduced the ‘Northernization Policy’ which aimed at promoting the northerners in every sectors of life. For example, under the policy, many northerners were elevated to top positions in the civil service.
Economically, Bello introduced many programs. Economic institutions such as the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), Bank of the North, and others were established.
In the educational sector, Ahmadu Bello established a school in every province. Also, in order to keep pace with the southern Nigeria in terms of higher education, He established a university in 1962 which we know today as Ahmadu Bello University (ABU).
Since the inception of the Nigerian First Republic, tribal and political tensions dominated the young Republic. Eventually, crises such as 1962/1963 National Census, and the 1964 General Election and others caused many crises that threatened the unity of Nigeria. In the Southern Nigeria specifically the Igbos, Ahmadu Bello was blamed as tribalistic who wanted the north to dominate the political scene in Nigeria.
Sadly, on 15 January, 1966, some young army officers mostly majors from the Igbo ethnic led by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu carried out a military coup d’etat in the cities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Kaduna. In Kaduna the capital city of the Northern Region, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu led the Coup into the House of the Premier of the Northern Region Ahmadu Bello, where they killed him together with one of his wives.