The Life and History of Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna

Written by Bello Abdullahi

Bello Abdullahi loves books, design, and computers. He believes poetry to be his safe space, as it allows him to express himself in ways he normally wouldn't have. If Bello isn't reading, researching, writing, or learning about humans, he is either designing or adding to his coding skills.

September 17, 2021

Sir Ahmadu Bello, popularly known as the Sardauna of Sokoto is arguably one if not the most politically powerful man to have walked the northern Hemisphere of Nigeria. The Sardauna of Sokoto was a reputable statesman, a focused politician, and a well-admired and loved diplomat.

Every Nigerian, and all human being are created equal, endowed by God with rights among which are life, liberty, equal opportunity, blessings and the legitimate pursuit of happiness.

John Paden, Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto : Values and Leadership in Nigeria

Ahmadu Bello is a descendant of the famous Islamic Cleric and Jihadist, Usman Dan Fodio who founded the Sokoto Caliphate.

Early Life of The Sardauna

Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello was born in the city of Rabah, on June 12 1910 to the family of Mallam Ibrahim Bello. His father held the title of Sarkin (king of) Rabah. He was from the early age of four Islamically educated at home, where he learned the Qur’an, Islamic jurisprudence, and the Prophetic traditions which were expected as a descendant of the great Sheikh Muhammad Bello, son of Dan Fodio.

Schooling and Education

After his homeschooling, at the age of eleven, he then attended Sokoto Provincial School and afterward the then Katsina Teacher’s Training College (now Barewa College, Zaria). During his school days, he was popularly known as Ahmadu Rabah.

Sardauna is an ardent lover of sports
Sardauna is an ardent lover of sports

He graduated in 1931 and subsequently became (appointed by the sultan) the English teacher in Sokoto Middle School. Like the majority of other northern royals, he is an accomplished horseman.

Early political Activities

In 1934, the Sardauna was made the District Head of Rabah by the then Sultan, Hassan dan Mu’azu, who succeeded his brother. In 1938, Ahmadu Bello was promoted to the position of the Divisional Head of Gusau (present Zamfara State capital), thus, making him a well-standing member of the Sultan’s council.

At a very young age of 28, in the year 1938, After the demise of Sultan Hassan dan Mu’azu, he attempted to become the Sultan of Sokoto but was not successful, losing to Sir Siddiq Abubakar III (his first cousin) who reigned till his death in 1988.

As Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, the new Sultan assumed the seat of power, he immediately made Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna (Crown Prince) of Sokoto, a chieftaincy title, and promoted him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council, noticing he commanded a high morality and intellectuality. These titles by default made him the Chief Political Adviser of the Sultan.

The Sardauna of Sokoto was eventually put in charge of the Sokoto Province to oversee its 47 districts and by the year 1944, he had returned to the Sultan’s Palace to work as the Chief Secretary of the State Native Administration, which meant he held the traditional Islamic title of Sardauna as well as a British Colonial Office. This appointment was in line with the British Policy of indirect rule.

Involvement with The Northern People’s Congress

In the 1940s, sir Ahmadu Bello joined the Jam’iyya Mutanen Arewa party, which later became the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1951. After his appointment as the Chief Secretary of Native Administration, he traveled to England on a government scholarship to study Local Government Administration, which broadened his understanding and knowledge of the western form of governance.

After Sardaunan Sokoto’s returned to Nigeria in 1952, in the first-ever held elections held in Northern Nigeria he secured a seat in the House of Assembly of the Northern region of the country, and when there was a new constitution that came into being, he was appointed as an Executive minister of Survey and Works.

He was also minister of Works, Local Government, and Community.

Political Activities in NPC

As a member of the house of assembly, he became a prominent voice for northern interests and adopted a style of consulting and consenting with the major representatives of the then northern emirates; Kano, Borno, and Sokoto. He was also selected to be a part of the committee that redrafted the Richards Constitution and he attended the general conference in Ibadan.

His participation in the assembly and the constitution drafting committee brought him much appreciation and admiration in the north and was asked to take on leadership positions within Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa.”

Two years after his appointment as minister, the Sardauna of Sokoto became the first and sadly the only Premier of the North, being the leader of the Northern People’s Congress, the ruling party at the time.

Sir Ahmadu Bello with the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi I
Sir Ahmadu Bello with the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi I

In 1959, during the independence elections, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello led the NPC to win the majority of the parliamentary seats. The NPC allied with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, forming Nigeria’s first indigenous government which led to Nigeria gaining its independence from Britain.

During the formation of the 1960 independence government, Ahmadu Bello, the president of the NPC, was by default supposed to be the Prime minister of the newly formed government. But the Sardauna had other plans than leading the newly formed independent government, he chose to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and redirected the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to his deputy of the NPC, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Achievments

Ahmadu Bello’s many political accomplishments include; establishing the Northern Regional Development Corporation (NRDC), which subsequently became the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), the Bank of the North, the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), and the Nigeria Citizen Newspapers. The Sardauna saw the North as far less developed; structurally as well as economically than the South, and he argued that the North needed to catch up and a matchup with the South for the sake of national harmony hence his policy of Northernization.

His leadership characteristics were a mishmash of religious, traditional and modern values and his obligation in colonial and post-independence Nigeria was performing these different roles in the northern region.

He made it a major priority of his that the North would be at par politically and economically with the Western and Eastern regions.

Sardauna’s Death and Assassination

On the 15th of January 1966, Sir Ahmadu Bello was assassinated by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu a Nigerian Army officer in a coup that toppled Nigeria’s post-independence government. Before the coup d’etat, he had received warnings from the Premier of the Western Region Samuel Akintola, and Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun.

He was still the premier of Northern Nigeria at the time.

This was the first coup in the history of Nigeria, which catapulted the rise of a series of military reigns and coups in the country’s politics. Also assassinated in the coup was his long-time friend and deputy, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa alongside many other notable political elites in the north and western region of the country.

Ahmadu Bello’s Legacy, Honours and Awards

During his lifetime, he had received a lot of honours and awards, including honorary doctorates of Law from UNN (University of Nigeria Nsukka) in December 1961 and an honorary degree from the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo in 1962. He was made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 just before the colonial rule came to an end.

He established the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1962, the second largest University in Africa, which was named after him. He was the University’s first Chancellor. The 200 Nigerian naira carries his portrait.

Sir Ahmadu Bello during the groundbreaking ceremony of ABU
Sir Ahmadu Bello during the groundbreaking ceremony of ABU, Zaria

Sir Ahmadu Bello also has several roads named after him in almost all states in northern Nigeria. The stadium in Kaduna is also named after him. His residence in Kaduna where he lived, is now a centre of Research and Historical Documentations under Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The memory of Sardauna lives in the minds of millions of northern Nigerians.

Allah Jikan Gamji!

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