SIR AHMADU BELLO THE SARDAUNA: THE TOUCH BEARERJuly 21, 2012 No Comments
Our cover story on Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, in this edition of Inside Watch Africa could not have been more challenging and exhilarating for us because a lot of digging had to be done to have the kind of perspective we had in writing this story; so a lot of credit should go to the very many resource persons whose materials we had access to, particularly John P. Paden; a former Professor in the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University and the first Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences, Bayero University Kano, who has written many books including the autobiography of Sir Ahmadu Bello entitled, “Ahmadu Bello – Sardauna of Sokoto”.
As Nigeria moved towards independence in the mid 20th century, a limited set of major leaders had emerged both in the northern and southern parts of the country. Although, they all received western education and relatively “modern’’ in outlook, they were sharply divided on certain issues. Nonetheless, they shared a sense of oneness within Nigeria’s highly controversial federal system in which different perspectives co-existed as to the appropriate nature of leadership in the country.
In retrospect, many participants during this era seemed to share common perspectives with the two southern leaders — Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was a lawyer and seen as a capable administrator and an articulate spokesman for Yoruba interests in the Western Region, while Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, journalist and writer, was seen as an articulate spokesman for Igbo interests in the Eastern Region.
Unlike in the south however, a common ethnic identity was not associated with the north at that material time. Before independence, the Northern Region of Nigeria was the largest political unit in Africa in terms of population except for Egypt, with literally hundreds of language and ethnic groups, diverse religious elements and conflicting historical legacies. Ironically, the north was left behind in terms of meaningful development and this was largely due to a belated exposure to western education. As at 1952, it had only two secondary schools and only four university graduates in 1957; it also had only one percent of its people in the Federal Public Service between 1959 and 1960. Out of these seemingly bleak prospects emerged one man who welded the north together as an entity and distilled it into a political community for the immediate and future growth of the north despite all the odds against him and even at the cost of his life. This man was Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, the Sardauna of Sokoto; a trained teacher and accomplished administrator and spokesman for “Northern” interests.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Ahmadu Bello was born on June 12, 1910 to the family of Ibrahim Ibn Rabah, the District Head of Rabah, Sokoto. Ahmadu who was born into a large royal family was the only surviving child of his mother. His grandfather was Sultan Abubakar Atiku, the son of Mohammed Bello who was reputed to be an administrative genius and the founder of Sokoto; and to cap this, the revered Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio was Mohammed’s father and Ahmadu’s great-great-grandfather. Ibrahim, who had many wives, twelve sons and thirteen daughters with Ahmadu being his 11th son, died in 1915 when Ahmadu was only five.
Ahmadu began his Qur’anic studies between the ages of three and five, but at the age of 12, he was sent to the Sokoto Provincial School in Sokoto and this marked the beginning of his western education. The school which was administered by the then regional government was the only ‘modern’ school in the whole of Sokoto Province. Although, classes were initially taught in Hausa by the Nigerian staff, he began to learn English there along with the other students. Key subjects taught, apart from English, were arithmetic, geography, history, Arabic and reading from the Qur’an.
The course lasted five years – from 1921 to 1926 and Ahmadu graduated top of his class with his favourite subjects being history and arithmetic. After graduation, he proceeded to prestigious Katsina Teacher Training College to be trained as a teacher. Incidentally at that time, the colonial masters wanted more locals trained to become qualified teachers to help in the new founded schools and afterwards, put them in the employment of the Native Administration in their respective provinces.
The trip to Katsina was about 170 miles and took seven days journey by foot. At the college, all courses were in English from the start and all of the teachers were British except for the Arabic and Islamic teachers. Life at the college was austere and strict, and the motto there was Man Jadda Wafada in Arabic which means “He who tries will succeed.” His interest in history as well as his consciousness of his prestigious background was reawakened during this period due to his exposure to the wider western world through books, newspapers and adventure stories that he had access to at the college library. With his mind now fully opened up, he became persuaded that the founders of the Sokoto Caliphate were as brilliant, courageous and as significant as the people he had read about in English history.
While in the college, the leadership qualities in Ahmadu fully manifested as he was always punctual in almost all of the school’s activities; he was honest and worked quite easily with others. These were core values at Katsina College, thus he was made a prefect in his final year. Ahmadu graduated in 1931 with the so many new skills he had learnt and his deep sense of pride in his heritage helping to chart the course of his life in later years.
WORK, FAMILY LIFE AND EARLY CAREER
On completion of his education at Katsina College, Ahmadu started teaching in his alma mater which had been upgraded and renamed Sokoto Middle School (SMS). His monthly salary as at that time was £5 and he taught English, Geometry and Arabic. He was also put in charge of games and sports at the school which was where he lived until he got married to Hafsatu, daughter of Waziri Maccido in 1932 in an arranged marriage as tradition demanded for first wives.
During this period, Ahmadu was known as ‘Ahmadu Rabah or ‘Dauda Rabah’ which means ‘the likely successor to the District Headship in Rabah’ and he began to dress in the large gown and black turban for which he later became well known. He became increasingly interested in his family history and often consulted with his “personal mallams” from the Waziri family in Sokoto. He would often take field trips with his students to visit the tombs of his ancestors and lecture them about Sokoto history. Many of Ahmadu’s students attested to the fact that he was a very good teacher, who always took care of his students while pushing them to work.
He was well known for his hard work; simplicity and generosity such that many students as well as other teachers would congregate in Ahmadu’s house to eat, sit and talk. While in Sokoto, Ahmadu had opportunities of becoming acquainted with key officials in the Sultan’s palace and he developed good relations with Sultan Hassan, thus in 1934, when Ahmadu’s cousin who was District Head (DH) of Rabah died, Ahmadu was asked to replace him. Consequently at the age of 24, he became one of the youngest District Heads ever and this marked his first step up to the administrative ladder.
In his first year as the District Administrator, Ahmadu realised that the administration of his district which included about 30,000 people, living in small, scattered farming villages was quite a different ball game from teaching. The total tax due for the district was £3,000 and Ahmadu was always the last of all District Heads to complete his tax collection; a development which was frustrating and discouraging for him but geared up the competitive spirit of achievement in him. By the fourth year in charge as the DH, he was first to complete his returns and was referred to as the “young man with the wrist watch.”
Dismayed by the rural poverty in his district, Ahmadu devised ways of improving the situation by encouraging the planting of food crops such as cassava, rice, sweet potatoes and wheat; he started a demonstration farm himself, planting sweet potatoes to make a point and to encourage others. Also, as there was no school in the district, he built a thatched hut and began to teach the local children himself. He set up an office to manage the books and records of the district and worked to develop road linkages to Sokoto so that farmers could sell their cash crops directly in the city.
Ahmadu settled more into family life during this period and in 1934 when he went ahead to also marry the daughters of Sarkin Yarki Burmawa and Zagge Tan Kari, but these marriages unfortunately were short lived and ended in divorce in 1938 with no children.
On the death of Sultan Hassan in 1938, Ahmadu was a contestant who qualified as a candidate to succeed the sultan; not only because he was blue blood, but also because he was one of the first of a “new breed” of northerners to be trained in western ways. The snag, however, was that the Sultan’s nephew, Sardauna Abubakar, who had been administering the emirate for his uncle was more favoured and was eventually made the Sultan. Although, Ahmadu who was generally regarded as “next in line of succession” to the sultanship had respect and regard for the incumbent, still there were subtle division of loyalties between the “Sardauna faction” and the “Sultan faction”. This most likely informed the decision of the Sultan to send Ahmadu on “exile” to be his representative (the Resident Councillor) in administering the District Heads of the fourteen eastern districts in Gusau, after he had made him Sardauna of Sokoto – meaning the chief political adviser to the Sultan of Sokoto.
The eastern districts were in close proximity to the railway and served as the commercial centre in Gusau; they were brimming with southern migrants who had come looking for jobs at the time. This afforded Ahmadu new opportunities to experience the cross currents of socio-economic changes occurring in Nigeria.
This time was also the period of World War II and Ahmadu was responsible for the mobilization of reservists for the war effort as well as the provision of grain supplies for the troops. Not minding his busy schedule, Ahmadu engaged in extensive touring of the districts and remained an endearing host to many of his former students, teachers and other young men who would leave Sokoto to visit him in Gusau.
In 1940, he went ahead to also marry the daughter of Abubakar Ibn Bici, DH of Bici who had three daughters for him and later took the daughter of Sarkin Yaki of Gwandu as the third and last wife in 1952 thus successfully creating family ties with the Waziri’s family – an important linkage between the Kano and the Gwandu dynasties.
Ahmadu’s ancestral lineage made him a continuous recipient of gifts from rural Fulani and Hausa merchants and the British found this awkward, so some of the British officials started scheming against him. This culminated in his arrest and trial in 1943 on charges of diverting cattle-tax revenue otherwise known as the Jangali scandal. Ahmadu’s relationship with the incumbent Sultan at the time was aloof and this didn’t help matters. He was tried by the Sultan’s court and sentenced, with his conviction drawing huge critical response from the western-educated young men who felt the Sardauna was being “victimized” by “traditional forces.”
Ahmadu appealed to the High Court in Zaria and being a popular man, he was helped and encouraged by many people on his appeal. In his own autobiography, Ahmadu wrote: “There were more than two thousand people outside the Court in Zaria; they went mad with excitement when the result was announced. My return to Gusau was a triumphant procession.”
Prior to the trial, there had been unanimous yearnings by some “radical elements” for modernization of the prevailing system of administration and governance in the north. Thus, Sardauna’s popularity with the generation of western-educated young men created a notoriety which allowed him to emerge as a symbol of “the new north.” The Jangali scandal” provoked the impetus for his political career to move to a higher level.
Ahmadu returned to Sokoto in 1944 and took charge of Sokoto Native Administration (NA) Central Office. The idea of an African who could manage large and complex areas, including cosmopolitan urban areas, yet remain under the Native Administration, was a new idea in Sokoto. The Sokoto Central Office was itself becoming increasingly complex, and Ahmadu, who was a tireless worker under normal conditions, braced himself for the task. He gained experience in many fields of administration, and managed increasingly complex and technical departments which were emerging as a result of development.
In 1948, Ahmadu was offered a scholarship to study local government administration in England; a scholarship he took sensing that he needed to shore up his knowledge about the process of governance.
By 1949 and within the span of 18 years counting from 1931, he had acquired useful working experience in the fields of teaching, rural administration, modern urban administration, traditional urban administration and modern development administration and management; Ahmadu Bello was thus prepared for the next phase of his life.
HIS POLITICAL CAREER
Ahmadu Bello was known as a pragmatic politician, who may be inclined to act as a channel for consensus, but was always blunt and frank in his views, and saw no need to be pretentious. The central policy that characterized his political sojourn was based on his profound love, respect for and belief in “his people.”
Oral account has it that in the mid 1960s, Dr. Azikiwe met with the Sardauna and said, “Let us forget our differences…….” To which the Sardauna replied, “No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a northerner. You are a Christian and an easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.”
FORGING A FORMIDABLE NORTHERN POLITICAL ENTITY
Ahmadu Bello took oath as a member of the defunct Northern Region House of Assembly in 1949 and for about two or three years, he shuttled from Sokoto to Kaduna. He would come down for about six weeks for the budget sessions in January, February and March and the ordinary meetings of about a week each (through July or December). The House of Assembly itself was still largely dominated by British administrative officers, but Ahmadu developed a reputation for being a good speaker because of his impeccable English and social disposition. He made many new friends and whenever he arrived from Sokoto, he brought with him gifts in the form of hats, shoes, gowns and other items made in Sokoto and he became such an influence on the social network which later transformed into a political organization.
In 1949, the Sardauna visited Lagos for the first time and latched on to the “winds of change” blowing in the country and so in January 1950, he, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Mohammed Ngileruma – the then Wali of Borno, were delegates billed to attend the Ibadan Constitutional Conference where they met with other delegates from other regions.
Among the major issues that came up at the conference was the vital matter of representation in the House of Representatives because the status quo in the Legislative Council before then had been equal number of members from each region with some extra for Lagos – a practice meant to reflect federal balance. What was, however, crucial for the northern team was the adoption of the democratic principle of “one man, one vote”, since the best information at the time – the 1931 census suggested that the north had the demographic bulk of the population.
In his account, Ahmadu wrote, “We…..felt that our future chances of survival depended on some other system……. The fairest way all around, and, of course, the one which favoured us the most, was to go by population……. For this reason, we were determined to secure for ourselves at least as many representatives as those for the other two regions together…….” Based on this premise, the northern team presented a united front on the issue.
These constitutional agreements set the stage for the 1951 elections, and the subsequent formation of governments (with ministers) in January 1952. The elections were held in stages of electoral colleges of which in the final stage in Sokoto Province, Ahmadu Bello came top on the list and was offered the post of Minister of Works in the Executive Council of the regional government. By 1953, he was given an additional portfolio as the Minister of Community Development and Local Government.
During the budget session of 1953, the debates at the House of Representatives were becoming heated over the issue of “timing” for independence thus when Chief Anthony Enahoro of the Action Group (AG) moved for the timing of self-governance to be set for 1956, Ahmadu Bello, like the rest northerners, opposed it.
The Sardauna’s fear was that the south would play a more dominant role at the federal level after independence, leaving no equal opportunity for development in the north at the regional levels. He conceded the fact that the south had more considerable experience in organization and may, in his belief, divide the north. The unity and welfare of the northern people was of great concern to him and until he could assert a fair balance of participation in national governance by the northern region, early independence was not an option. He was unwilling to trade one master for another with the only difference being skin colour.
On April 28, 1954, and at the age of 44, the Sardauna was appointed the leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), being a midpoint between the older and younger elements. Other sociological factors that could have resulted in the selection of the Sardauna as leader of the party (rather than Balewa) may have to do with his qualification as a western-educated teacher, his experience in the Native Authority system and his status as a member of the Sokoto royal family. Since the make-up of the NPC cuts across major sections of the northern society consisting of the young western-trained elements, the traditional leaders and businessmen (both young and old), Ahmadu symbolized each of the major factions in the NPC, except for the business community for which he created links with through his “gateway” – an associate of his called Musa Gashash.
In achieving all that he had as a political trailblazer in the north, the Sardauna had to work with other “new breed” northern politicians that cut across three different generations of the newly emancipated northern leaders in a list that include but is not limited to the following, in the persons of: Abubakar Imam, Ahmadu Coomassie, Yahaya Gusau and Ahmed Talib from the first generation; Muhammad Gujbawu, Ibrahim Argungu, Abba Jiddum Gana, Dr. Abdul Atta and Ibrahim Dasuki from the second generation; and I. J. D. Durlong, Liman Ciroma, Ahmed Joda, Hassan Lemu, Sunday Awoniyi, Abubakar Umar and Adamu Ciroma from the third, youngest and obviously most vibrant of the three generations.
After the 1953 Constitutional Conference in London and a follow-up conference in Lagos in January 1954, it was agreed, among other things, that seats in the Federal House would be allocated on the basis of population. Against the backdrop of the failed consensus for self-governance, it was also agreed that each region would be allowed to choose its own date for regional self-governance necessitating a new constitution coming into effect at the end of 1954. Elections were held in 1954 and Ahmadu Bello became the Premier of the Northern Region in his capacity as leader of the dominant regional party.
While the Western and Eastern Regions achieved the status of self-governance in 1957, the north waited till 1959, a year before independence. Close observers of the period posited that the south was richer, far more educated and more industrially developed, and that northerners believed they would remain “backward” if the sharp disparities continued. It was obvious that all markets as well as trade and business in the north were dominated by southerners, they also dominated the Nigerian Civil Service and other fields – economically and politically, so opportunities for the northerners looked rather bleak. Between 1951 and 1960, these disparities were really enormous and often the result of inadvertent government policy – for instance, the Central Government Scholarships awarded in 1953 by regions stood thus: West -109, East -59 and the North -8.
The Sardauna was uncomfortable with this situation and felt he needed to emancipate the north from the “clutches of southern domination.” His preoccupation was thus centred on the need to catch up with the south and to keep Nigeria one. He saw the nation in the context of a north-south arrangement and believed that only equity of balanced growth among the regions could ensure the future stability of the country. Nevertheless, Sardauna knew that the key item of the North’s “catch-up” race with the south was in manpower development, so there was the germane question of how the north planned to train enough people quickly enough to replace the British in skilled and semi-skilled occupations without turning these jobs over to the southerners, who they felt would dominate them perpetually.
As the Premier of the Northern Region, Ahmadu wasted no time in charting a course for his administration with the policy of northernization which became the backbone of his development thrust throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The policy entailed plans to: northernize the Public Service in the Northern Region as soon as possible; ensure a reasonable proportion of posts for Northerners in all statutory corporations; increase the number of Northerners in commercial, industrial, banking and trading concerns in the region as well as to expand as deemed necessary the educational training and scholarship schemes of the Region in order to provide qualified personnel required for the northernization process.
The catchphrase: “one north, one destiny” became the political propagation vehicle of the policy. This policy was carried out by means of all available machinery of the Regional Government; from the Ministers, to the Civil Servants, from the Native Authorities to the smallest administrative units, and so on. The Sardauna became the central figure in the articulation and implementation of the northernization agenda and the implementation of the policy engendered a massive educational effort in the north which had far-reaching outcome.
THE SARDAUNA AS AN ACTION MAN
The Sardauna was revered as a man of action and he believed in the saying, “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” The goal of the northernization policy was to “catch up.” He knew that the “due process” of manpower development were in many cases too slow, and would result in the north lagging further behind, so drastic measures had to be taken. His approach was to set up crash programmes that would yield immediate results and function as the nucleus of later regular programmes. Such programmes included the medical school in Kano, the law school in Zaria and the clerical training school also in Zaria. He initiated action programmes to promote manpower development in each of the major sectors — economic, education, health, administration and works. His administration effected equitable distribution of budget resources among the twelve (later thirteen) provinces and inaugurated the hiring of indigenous people rather than people from outside.
Between December 1959 and April 1961, the Sardauna worked assiduously towards the annexation of Northern Cameroon into the region to consolidate the strength of the Northern Region. He deployed the best of his administrative and political arsenal to see this through and his efforts paid off when the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations ratified the February 1961 plebiscite and “Northern Cameroon” joined Independent Nigeria on July 1 1961, after the handing over had taken place the previous month.
Ahmadu Bello had the opportunity of becoming the Prime Minister of an Independent Nigeria being the party leader of the NPC; however, his regional sense of duty was absolute with his main concern being his native north, and northernization as the cornerstone of his belief, that is, how the people of the north could resist the domination by southerners at the federal and regional levels. He traversed politics in dual capacities as a nationalist and regionalist. Although, he often left the national coalition-building process to others, he knew control of national power was also necessary to achieve the goal of balanced growth.
In the 1959 and 1964 elections, the NPC consolidated its powers at both regional and federal levels with landslide victories at the polls. However, the 1965 elections in the Western Region later produced violent protests among the supporters of the NNDP – an ally of NPC and the Action Group (AG) which led to breakdown of law and order in the region.
OPPOSITION TO NORTHERNIZATION AND HIS DEATH
The northernization policy came under severe attacks from southerners and even from a few opposition leaders in the Northern House of Assembly. The Sardauna’s reputation in the south degenerated further when he devoted the later years of his life to religious edification in the north. The Sardauna was unbent and pressed on with his northernization policy despite increased warnings from southern politicians as to the consequences.
When Chief Awolowo was clamouring for nationalization of industries in the country, the Sardauna strategically objected to this knowing full well the north was lacking in skilled manpower at the time, hence the need for expatriates to still help manage their industries. He was open and honest in pursuing his objectives, and believed in the capabilities of northerners, whatever others might think.
There is no doubt that the Sardauna was not unaware of an imminent coup in the offing as he had earlier received death threats from different quarters. More so, he was warned about it by friends and political allies but nobody knew the exact timing. Characteristic of him, according to accounts of close associates, the Sardauna expressed neither anxiety nor fear at the time. He was an excellent Muslim and professed unequivocal faith in God. He believed only God could protect him and that if he was killed, it should be in the service to the North – which was what happened.
In the wee hours of January 15, 1966, Sir Ahmadu Bello, as he was fondly called, was shot and killed alongside his senior wife – Hafsatu at his Kaduna residence by some dissidents in the Nigerian Army led by Major Chukwuma ‘Kaduna’ Nzeogwu in a bloody coup d’état. He was buried the same day, according to Muslim rites in the Sultan’s quarters in Kaduna.
The creation of a fully fledged pyramid structure of educational institutions in the north, from primary schools through university, was an impressive challenge to the Sardauna. In 1952, there were two secondary schools in the region, but in 1963, about 10 years later, there were 53 secondary schools at various stages of development and about the same number of teacher training colleges.
During this period, education and human resources were encouraged at all levels, and in all fields; the Sardauna personally visited hundreds of educational institutions at all levels to inspect their progress as well as to encourage the students and teachers. He mobilized the local leaders in the “war against ignorance,” to lay a more solid educational foundation for the future. He also encouraged and worked closely with the missionary schools in the Middle Belt area, and provided substantial subventions from the regional budget.
Education was the Sardauna’s top priority, and the foundation of all other development efforts. In 1961, one-third of the region’s budget was spent on education.
Despite the Sardauna’s intense desire to expand the number of post-primary facilities, he was quite determined to maintain quality; he stressed the need for discipline and moral training in education and used incentives and punishments to motivate students and teachers. Students who did not perform well were shifted to other fields and those who did well got scholarships abroad, or within Nigeria, for university education.
Ahmadu Bello had long nurtured the idea that the north would have its own university, of similar quality to the University College, Ibadan, so in 1959, the two Houses of the northern regional legislature resolved to establish a university to be named after Ahmadu Bello for the north. In July 1962, this became a reality when the House of Chiefs passed the Ahmadu Bello University law and a new university bearing the Sardauna’s name came into existence. The institution was declared open on October 11, 1962 and Ahmadu Bello was installed as the Chancellor of ABU (as the university is sometimes referred to) in November 1963.
DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE, INDUSTRY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Apart from education, the other top priority areas for the Sardauna were agriculture, industry and infrastructure. He believed that agriculture was the backbone of the north, so he took an active interest in farming throughout his life, and was particularly concerned with issues of water and the introduction of new technology into grassroots-level farming.
He believed that local farmers, if given the chance would seize the opportunities for self-improvement when provided with the necessary resources and incentives. He also saw agriculture as basis of providing infrastructure in the north, especially in the cash-crop areas of cotton and groundnuts. His search for capital and technology in the areas of textile mills, groundnut oil mills, etc., was always accompanied by an insistence on indigenization of business opportunities, and local staff development training schemes. There was also the need for improved infrastructure and communications as part of the development efforts for a productive agriculture based economy, since without feeder roads and inter-city connections produce could not be moved to the markets for sale.
With all of this in mind, the Sardauna made the Northern Regional Development Corporation (NRDC) his major governmental instrument for both industrial and agricultural developments in the north. Therefore prior to independence, the NRDC granted loans to more than 2000 small businessmen and farmers in the north and the pattern continued after independence even extending to large-scale level with projects ranging from food canning, to textile mills, including boat building, timber production, insurance, road transportation, sweets factories, and local construction industries.
The NRDC driven development initiative saw to the establishment of many companies as well as projects such as: Northern Constructions Ltd; Plant Hire Division, Zaria; Sugar Industrial Project; Northern Oil Processing Development Mill, Zaria; Sword Branch Bottling Co. Ltd, Hamdala Hotels, etc, which were once at concept level becoming a reality in the region.
Several other major developments such as the Bauchi-Kuru rail link which was completed in October, 1961, the road link between Kaduna and Lagos, the Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria Ltd (BCNN), the Northern Publishing Co. Ltd, which was the first newspaper in West Africa to print by web-offset, Hospital facilities were and the Northern Region Native Authority Housing Corporation (NRNAHC) in the north can be traced back to the Sardauna.
When some formidable opposition in the North (particularly in Kano, Borno and Plateau) favoured the abolition of the traditional institutions for meaningful developments to emerge in the North, the Emirs and Chiefs wanted the status quo of power that they had before the arrival of colonialists maintained.
Contrary to these two positions, Ahmadu saw the traditional rulers as symbolic of the past of the people they represented and their significant role in the ‘new north’. He believed however that such ‘status quo of power’ could no longer reside in the traditional authorities in the face of a new emerging political structure. Rather than sway to either side of the two parallel reasoning, Ahmadu, as Regional Minister of Works, began a reform process of the Native Authorities in 1952.
Ahmadu was known to have a lot of respect for traditional institutions but favoured reforms for both Muslim and non-Muslim chiefs in the north by encouraging these reforms, therefore, acting in dual capacity as a regional leader and a potential traditional leader. His legitimacy among the traditional leaders was related to his family ties to Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, this however did not belie the antagonism he faced from the Emirs and other traditional Chiefs regarding the reforms. Although, the Sardauna did not subscribe to the abolishment of the institutions, he wanted to democratize and modernize them to suit evolving northern values. His objective was to keep the north together, hence his truism “one north, one destiny”.
By taking this step, the North had significantly moved away from what it used to be with respect to local administration in establishing and strengthening provincial administration to provide a link between the regional government and the local governments, thus giving more autonomy to the province and moderating the powers of traditional institutions. This was also a time when depositions of some traditional leaders were witnessed and likewise successions by those with a flavour of western education to blend with the demands of a new northern era; this made the northern traditional institutions to start following a more “democratic” mode; separating the institution from the incumbent. Ahmadu Bello was thus projected as a blend of the past and the future; a go-between as it was, between the traditional and modern authorities.
JUDICIAL AND LEGAL REFORMS
The call for the abolition of Islamic courts in the north in 1955 sparked a heated debate among some northern-educated “leaders of thought.” and this necessitated an urgent need for the Sardauna to reform the entire judicial system, starting with the alkali courts.
The Sardauna emphasized that good administration cannot be achieved without law and justice and his approach to the reform at the time was to promote opportunities for the upgrading and education of young alkalis, without undermining the relationship of alkali courts to the local government system.
In 1958, the Sardauna appointed of a Panel of Jurists to advise him on the reorganization of the legal and judicial system and certain far-reaching changes were made in 1959, thus before independence, the Emir was the major local authority and chief law officer of Islamic law (a circumstance which Ahmadu himself was a victim of in the Jangali scandal), but at the time of independence and afterwards, with the establishment of the Sharia Court of Appeal and the High Court, the powers of the Emirs was literally taken away.
THE SARDAUNA’S INFLUENCE ON THE NORTHERN CIVIL SERVICE
The Sardauna adopted a ‘work ethic’ in the northern civil service that was impossible not to pass as model for both old and young civil servants in the employment of the regional government; he was fastidious, he worked hard and got responses quickly. He was also noted for instilling discipline and commitment in the civil service, and he had the respect of the people. He regarded the civil service as his family and they (the people) formed a strong cadre of administrative leadership in the discharge of their duties. The Sardauna tried insulating the civil service from politics and the service regarded itself as ‘frontiers’ of the new north and a new Nigeria; it saw the Sardauna as moving in the right direction in terms of his development policies.
The late Sardauna was remembered as being “anti-tribalist” in his action-oriented development programs and he respected useful qualities in the individual; in fact, if one was not educated or incompetent, he practically had no use for you.
THE SARDAUNA’S ANTI- CORRUPTION STANCE
The Sardauna was very much against corruption and he showed this by the establishment of Provincial Councils in the early 1960s which was a way of exercising closer control over the NA’s within a particular province; he wanted, among other things, to standardize local financial procedures and accountability.
The Sardauna did not condone bribery, corruption or misappropriation in any form and as far as he was concerned, there were no sacred cows. He was very scrupulous in matters of finances; always separating public funds from personal funds – salaries or gifts. Unlike several leaders of his generation and after, the Sardauna’s anti-corruption stance is legendary to the point that after his death in 1966, he had deficits (overdrafts) to the tune of £5,000 in his personal bank account – a rare occurrence indeed for a political leader of his stature in Nigeria.
The legacies of Ahmadu Bello as regards the unity of the north and Nigeria as a whole, from the period of his advent into the political terrain to the point of his death has undoubtedly left an indelible footprint in the Nigerian political sands of time in that Ahmadu Bello created a formidable political unit from an erstwhile segmented Northern Region, by welding it together into a cohesive force by virtue of his administrative and political skills. He was a nationalist, for he advocated for ‘One Nigeria’ all the time. He believed that disparate paces of modernization among the regions would only add fuel to separatist tendencies and endeavoured to raise the north to the same level as the south so that they could move forward together.
He felt that if the main tribes, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, understood themselves better, there would be less trouble. He replicated his utmost belief in this particular occurrence when he travelled to Ibadan in early 1962 to open the new Sultan Bello Hall of the University College, Ibadan. He had appeared in full gown and turban, and the students, many of whom had sympathies for the AG or NCNC, and apparently were prepared to demonstrate against him, were won over to receiving him well due to his superb English and flawless diction that held the students spellbound and at the end resulted in a spontaneous and rapturous applause for him.
In his lifetime the Sardauna was honoured as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by the Queen Elizabeth II of England, decorated with the Grand Cross of the National Order of the Niger, which is Niger Republic’s highest honour and also awarded an honorary doctorate degree of law by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
In conclusion, the words of Dr. Azikiwe in which he described the Sardauna as a spiritual and political leader, a statesman, an educator and a distinguished administrator best encapsulate the very essence of this monumental man who committed his whole life to the emancipation of his people.