Ahmadu Bello, The Charming History of Nigeria’s First Premier/President
Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, first premier of Northern Nigeria, was born on 12th June, 1909 in Rabbah, near Sokoto. His father, Ibrahim, the chief of Rabbah, was a grandson of Usuman Dan Fodio, the Fulani religious leader who founded the Sokoto Empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
After primary education in Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello attended Kaduna Higher College where he was a contemporary of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. For three years he taught at Sokoto Middle School. Later, he became the district head of Rabbah. Following a local government course in England, Ahmadu Bello was appointed secretary to the Sokoto Native Authority.
Ahmadu Bello in PoliticLike many of his contemporaries among the small elite in Northern Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello quickly became involved with politics, participating actively in the rapid political changes that preceded Nigeria’s independence. He was one of the founders of Northern Peoples’ Congress (N.P.C.) in 1949. His princely background in a feudal North gave the Sardauna – a title which means war leader – automatic leadership of the party. Successively regional Minister of Works, of Local Government and Community Development, Ahmadu Bello was appointed in 1954 the first Premier Northern Nigeria. By this time, the fact that his party controlled the vast and dominant Northern Region had made him the most powerful political figure in Nigeria. Imperious in manner and gifted with a keen political sense, Sir Ahmadu Bello was to dominate Nigeria’s political life until his assassination (death) in January 1966.
Ahmadu Bello Personal Preference
Although his predominant image is one of a feudal Moslem religious leader, Ahmadu Bello was really first and foremost a politician. His conservatism and near-ostentatious attention to religious were carefully cultivated attitudes calculated to appeal to realities of the Northern Nigeria of his time. His personal private life and the basic enlightenment of his policies on education and industrialization in the North do not reveal a man opposed to change. By temperament a natural leader, born into a ruling family, he was ambitious for power. The dominance of the North in the old federation left the seat of power in Nigeria in Kaduna, the North’s capital. The Sardana knew this and preferred to keep direct personal control of the North. “I would rather be called the Sultan of Sokoto than the president of Nigeria,” he was quoted as saying as late as 1965.
As the leader of the Northern People’s Congress, which controlled the federal government from independence in 1960 until the military coup in 1966, it was normally his place to assume the post of federal Prime Minister. This Ahmadu Bello left to his deputy, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, whose activities in Lagos he guided all the time by remote control. Personally charming, Sir Ahmadu Bello was admired by many, feared by more and respected by all. His attachment to the old North, however, and his undisguised attempt to use that region as a base for controlling the whole of Nigeria made him unpopular in the rest of the country. The assassination of this gifted and the most powerful Nigeria politician of his time was a direct attempt to dislodge a man whose grip on the lever of power appeared so strong that it led many idealistic progressive to think that it would be permanent as long as he lived.
Assassination of Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello was attacked and killed in Kaduna on 15th January, 1966.