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The Legacy of Sir Ahmadu Bello, The Sardauna of Sokoto

Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello was the Sardauna of Sokoto and the head of Nigeria’s northern region during the final years of the British administration and the early years of independence. He was, however, brutally murdered at his home during a coup d’état in 1966, one of several incidents that exemplified Nigeria’s political unpredictability.

Sir Ahmadu Bello was Nigeria’s first and only premier from 1954 until his assassination in 1966, according to history. He was regarded as a conservative leader who oversaw Northern Nigeria’s independence in 1960 and ruled the country for more than ten years.

During his lifetime, Ahmadu Bello was regarded as a political leader whose primary responsibility was to protect the interests of the people of northern Nigeria. In contrast, other Nigerian political figures envisioned a unified Nigeria following independence from the British. As a result, he has recently been viewed as the perpetrator of Nigeria’s disunity.

Because of his interest in northern Nigerian unity, he was appointed leader of the Hausa-Fulani elite-dominated Northern Peoples Congress, which was in power at the time. He was also previously elected to the regional assembly before becoming a government minister. Before entering politics, he attempted to become the Sultan of Sokoto as a descendant of the Sokoto Caliphate dynasty.

Early Life

On June 12, 1910, Ahmadu Bello was born into the family of Mallam Ibrahim Bello, who lived in Rabah at the time. Mallam Ibrahim Bello, his father, was given the title Sarkin Rabah (a local government area in Sokoto). He was known as a devout follower and descendant of the Sokoto Caliphate’s founder, Uthman Dan Fodio, as well as the great-grandson of Sultan Muhammad Bello and the grandson of Sultan Atiku na Raba.

According to history, Ahmadu Bello was a descendant of the Toronkawa (Torodbe)-Muslim clerics known as the family that is part Arab and part Fulani, which was managed by Usman’s brother, Abdullahi dan Fodio.

Before the Jihad in 1804 the Torankawa (Torodbe) did not consider the category Fulani to be significant; their literature reflects their uncertainty in describing Torodbe-Fulani connections. They kept their distinct identity while absorbing much of the Fulbe culture and language. Originally, the Toronkawa clan drew members primarily from the lower strata of Sdn society. In Toronkawa, there were clerics of Fula, Wolof, Mande, Hausa, and Berber descent. They were, however, Fulbe scholars who spoke Fula and married into Fulbe families.

Ahmadu Bello allegedly received his Islamic education at home, where he studied the Qur’an, Islamic law, and Muhammad’s customs. He later attended Katsina Training College and Sokoto Provincial School (now Barewa College). When he was a student, he went by the name Ahmadu Rabah. Growing up, some people called him Gamji.

Ahmadu graduated from college in 1931 and began teaching English at Sokoto Middle School. Later, thanks to Sultan Hassan dan Mu’azu, Bello succeeded his brother as District Head of Rabah in 1934. In 1938, he was appointed Divisional Head of Gusau (in modern-day Zamfara State) and made a member of the Sultan’s council.

He thus attempted to become Sultan of Sokoto at the age of 28 in 1938, but failed, losing to Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, who ruled for 50 years until his death in 1988. The new Sultan, Sir Ahmadu Bello, immediately appointed him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council and bestowed upon him the chieftaincy title of Sardauna (Crown Prince) of Sokoto.

He was the Sultan’s Chief Political Advisor by virtue of these positions. He was back in the Sultan’s Palace by 1944, this time as the Chief Secretary of the State Native Administration. Later, he was given command of the Sokoto Province, with responsibility for 47 districts.

Political Career

In the 1940s, Ahmadu Bello joined Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa, which later changed its name to the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1951. He received a government scholarship to study local government administration in England in 1948, which increased his awareness of and familiarity with governance.

As World War II came to an end, Bello became involved in larger political issues. In 1945, he helped establish the Youth Social Circle in Sokoto, a discussion club for Northern educators and government employees. This group allied with the newly formed Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1948, which was intended to be a cultural organization but ended up becoming the main political force in Northern Nigeria.

Following his trip to the United Kingdom, Ahmadu was elected to represent the province of Sokoto in the local House of Assembly. He was a prominent advocate for northern concerns in the assembly, taking a consensus-building approach with the northern emirates’ key Kano, Bornu, and Sokoto representatives.

Sir Ahmadu Bello was elected to the Northern House of Assembly in the first Northern Nigerian elections in 1952 and later became the minister of works on the regional executive council. Bello was the Minister of Works, Local Government, and Community Development in Nigeria’s Northern Region. Bello was elected Northern Nigeria’s first Premier in 1954.

Bello led the NPC into an alliance with the Western Region’s Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1964. In the 1964 federal elections, the coalition’s party, the Nigerian National Alliance, secured a resounding victory.

Ahmadu Bello and Nigeria’s Independence

Bello led the NPC to victory in the 1959 elections for independence, winning the majority of the parliamentary seats. Together, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) and Bello’s NPC created Nigeria’s first indigenous federal government, which eventually led to the country’s independence from Britain.

Before eventually accepting reforms, Bello initially supported the colonial Nigerian system of indirect control. His biographer, John Paden, referred to him as a progressive conservative during his time as premier since he was a change agent as well as a representative of the old elites.

History has it that Bello had a unique blend of religious, traditional, and modern ideals, and it was his duty to play each of these roles in the northern region of colonial and post-independence Nigeria. Sir Ahmadu Bello implemented the northern nation of the region’s public service due to the dearth of qualified graduates from the area.

Indirect rule was used for administration in the North, and Western education was not given much weight in many regions. Political leaders in the area believed that there were fewer Northerners working in the public sector compared to their colleagues in the South when the public sector was regionalized.

Political factors caused regional officials to restrict the hiring of Southerners into the Northern regional service and find means to advance Northerners into junior and senior positions. Because northerners viewed expatriates as transients but worried about southern dominance of the regional public service, the leaders continued to use their services. Efforts were made to educate northerners, and in 1949, a scholarship board gave money to nearly all of those who met the requirements to enrol in institutions.

The Institute of Administration in Zaria began offering administration studies in 1957. Political leaders in the zone made it a priority to ensure Northern representation in high positions of the Federal service, in addition to attempting to fill posts in the civil service with Northerners.

Ahmadu Bello’s Administration

Bello established a number of organizations, such as the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), the Bank of the North, and Northern Nigeria Investments Ltd. (NNIL). However, while NNIL was a collaboration between the Commonwealth Development Corporation and NNDC established to aid in the industrial development of Northern Nigeria, NNDC was a holding company with funding from the region’s marketing board.

Bello started initiatives to modernize Northern Nigeria’s traditional Koranic education. To this end, he established a commission and gave the schools legal legitimacy. Thus, the commission suggested setting up several classes for students and introducing secular themes in the classrooms.

However, his educational goals included creating a school in each northern Nigerian province to ensure that every child in the north had access to education, as well as a chance to learn the Quran.

Ahmadu Ballo’s Northern Priority

The prior years of Bello’s life were evident in his later years, even after his death- although, in recent times, he has been accused of being the reason for disunity in Nigeria as a result of Islamization and the liberation of the north, perpetrated by him.

Thus, making sure the northern region was politically and economically on the same level as the western and eastern regions was one of his top priorities. This influenced the decision to hire more Northerners to replace Southerners and Europeans in the civil service of the Northern region—a move that angered opposition figures like Ibrahim Imam.

However, over the years, Ahmadu has been perceived as the saviour of the north for his remarkable innovation in the region, ensuring that the people there experience development in all sectors. This, according to research, is perceived as giving the north the power to drive the decisions of Nigeria.

Ahmadu Bello’s Death

Prior to his assassination, Bello got warnings from Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun and Western Region Premier Samuel Akintola, which was before the 1966 coup d’état in Nigeria.

On January 15, 1966, an Igbo Nigerian Army, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu soldier murdered Ahmadu Bello, overthrowing Nigeria’s post-independence government in a coup. At the time, Ahmadu Bello was still Northern Nigeria’s premier.

History has it that the coup d’état was Nigeria’s first-ever coup, which signaled the military’s emergence as a political force in the nation. He was therefore assassinated during the coup. Along with many other political elites from the north and the west, his longtime friend, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was slain during the coup.


Bello had three wives when he passed away. His senior wife, Hafsatu, passed away with him. His second wife, Amina, produced three daughters for him. Inno was his oldest child, followed by Aisha and Lubabatu, and they are all still alive.

In honour of his dedication to the development of the north in ensuring equality, quality education, peace and unity in the region, some structures were built in his memory. For instance, Ahmadu Bello University, located in Zaria, was built in his memory. Furthermore, the Nigerian government also designed the 200 naira note with his picture on it.


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