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43 years after, Ahmadu Bello lives on

By Emeka Mamah
“Northern Nigeria is a large and heavily populated country, full of vitality and promise. In such a large country there is inevitably a great deal of diversity, but in this diversity, as in your great country, lies our strength.

In the region, although the majority of the population are Muslims, there are also many Christians and animists. There are also many different tribes such as Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Nupe, Kanuri, Tiv and Idoma, to mention only a few. All these diversities however, add to our strength in that we all are joined together in doing what we can to ensure that our internal self-government is successful…”  Sir Ahmadu Bello.

Some 43 years after his death, the name of Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the defunct Northern Region and Sarduana of Sokoto still evokes memories and his image still looms larger than life not only in the north but across the country. When on Saturday, October 17, 2009 virtually all northerners converged on Kaduna, the late Sarduana literally came alive again as prominent Nigerians eulogized him.

The occasion was the launch of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation Appeal Fund, which the organizers explained was designed to immortalize the sage who is fondly remembered for his various achievements for the North.

Had he lived longer, northerners believe that the crass under-development of the area would not have been so. “Let us emulate the legacies of the late Sarduana,” has become a sing-song for politicians in the north and they indeed harp on the name of the Sarduana to canvass for votes during elections. Sir Ahmadu Bello was killed by some dissident soldiers during the ill-fated 1966 military putsch, along with other equally prominent politicians from across the country.

Between April 1954 when he was elected President-General of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and as such became Premier of the Northern Region and 1966, Sir Ahmadu Bello’s efforts became legendary as he launched so many projects which had set the north on the path of rapid development. Some of these projects include the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria,New Nigerian Newspapers, the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), Bank of the North, Hamdala Hotel as well as textile industries, among several others. The Sarduana would shiver in his grave today for, apart from the ABU and Hamdala Hotel, virtually all other institutions he established have collapsed and mismanaged out of existence.

As early as 7 am, the Murtala Square, venue of the N20 billion foundation appeal fund was filled even as security personnel had problems of crowd control as northerners from across the area and other Nigerians gathered to honour the Sarduana. Apart from a donation of 100 hectares of land for the foundation’s secretariat at the New Millennium City in Kaduna, the state government also gave a cash contribution of N250 million. All the other states in the North donated between N150 million and N250 million.

But Sokoto, the home state of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, gave a donation of N661million. This was after the chief launcher, Alhaji Aminu Dantatta and his associates from Kano State gave about N779 million. There were also donations from other states and individuals and corporate organizations outside the North including Edo State (N20 million) with additional N5 million as personal contribution from the Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, Akwa Ibom (N35 million), former Lagos state Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (N10 million), Unity Bank (N10 million), Oando (N5 million), UBA (N5 million), former Head of Interim Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan (N500,000), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (N2.5million), Arik Air (N25 million) while members of the House of Representatives gave a total donation of N84 million.

The Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF), organizers of the programme explained that the foundation’s main interest is the promotion of good governance and responsible leadership for the overall development of Nigeria and especially the Northern states where “there are acute socio-economic disadvantages” in line with the visions and aspirations of Sir Ahmadu Bello.

According the NGF chairman who is also Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, the foundation will dedicate its efforts towards promoting socio-economic activities that will transform the lives of the people of the northern states in particular and Nigerians in general. Aliyu said, “for us at the NGF, we have recognized that if we must make a difference as political leaders of this generation, who have a covenant with history and posterity, who desire to make our states and nation much better, then we must continue to emulate people like Sarduana and appreciate the sacrifices made by our past leaders, so that as our national anthem states, the labour of our heroes past shall not be in vain.

We must emulate the virtues and values of honesty, justice, fair play, hard work, transparency and accountability for which they lived and died. We are convinced that Nigeria can get back on track if we go back to our lost social and moral values of discipline and respect for law and order in the land, among other things. Nigeria and Nigerians still possess those sterling qualities and attributes of a great nation and a great people, envisioned by the international community at our independence in 1960. We therefore call on our elders and leaders to have a common interest and desire to help our people to live above partisanship and above selfish and parochial interest.

We want to believe that our elders and leaders can rise above lower interests and together seek for greater good for the greater number.” He also listed other areas that will receive attention of the foundation to include, youth and women empowerment, agriculture, education, resuscitation of ailing industries in the north, eradication of poverty, destitution, street begging, and entrepreneurial development schemes, aimed at taking the children out of the streets.

“We should have a regional plan based on comparative advantage and indeed comparative disadvantage,” Aliyu noted and added that, “indeed; we must strive to restore morality in our body polity, discipline, law and order in our private and public affairs, equity and fairness in our administration.” Former Head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, was chairman of the ceremony which also had in attendance, former President Shehu Shagari,former heads of state, Maj.Gen. Muhamadu Buhari and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as the Senate President, David
Mark, Emirs, among others.

For President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Sir Ahmadu Bello was more of a national hero than a regional leader “because of his belief in unity, justice and fair play.” According to Yar’Adua who was represented at the occasion by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Sarduana built institutions of bridges, including a university and the Kaduna Polytechnic adding that he also made massive investments in agriculture, politics, religion and culture to foster national integration and growth.

“Why did we fail to continue fro where he (Sarduana) left?” Yar’Adua asked and advised leaders at all levels to emulate the Sarduana’s virtues for the good of the society. Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative at the United Nation, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, who was the guest speaker at the launch, noted that the myriad of the nation’s socio-economic and political problems would be solved if the leaders apply what he described as the Sarduana phenomenon. According to him, “Sarduana’s style of leadership is the answer to all the socio-economic and political problems facing us today in this country. Sarduana is the answer to our administrative inadequacies.”

Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, GCON, was born at Rabah, Sokoto State, in 1910, into the Sokoto royal family. He was the great grandson of Uthman Dan Fodio, the founder of Sokoto Caliphate. He attended the Sokoto Provincial School, Katsina Training College from where he qualified as a teacher in 1931.

He later taught at the Sokoto Middle School before he was appointed District head of Rabah from 1934 to 1938. In 1938 he was appointed as the Sarduanan Sokoto by Sultan Abubakar 111, a position which made him the Chief adviser to the Sultan who was his cousin.

In 1949 Sir Ahmadu Bello was nominated to the Northern Region House of Assembly. In 1951 he was appointed Minister of Works, Northern region and later transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and was designated Leader of government Business of the region.

After the nation’s independence in October 1960, Sir Ahmadu Bello continued as leader of the NPC which was the dominant party at both the federal and the Northern region. In 1963 he became the Vice President of the World Muslim league and he was also the first Chancellor of the ABU.


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