Ahmadu Bello

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Sir Ahmadu Bello

Ahmadu Bello.png
Premier of Northern Nigeria
In office
Succeeded by Hassan Katsina
Personal details
BornJune 12, 1909/1910
Rabah, Sokoto State, Northern Nigeria Protectorate
DiedJanuary 15, 1966
Political party Northern People's Congress

Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello KBE (June 12, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician who was the first and only premier of the Northern Nigeria region. He also held the title of the Sardauna of Sokoto. Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa were major figures in Northern Nigeria pre-independence politics and both men played major roles in negotiations about the region's place in an independent Nigeria. As leader of the Northern People's Congress, he was a dominant personality in Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic.

Sir is a formal English honorific address for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Traditionally, as governed by law and custom, Sir is used for men titled knights i.e. of orders of chivalry, and later also to baronets, and other offices. As the female equivalent for knighthood is damehood, the suo jure female equivalent term is typically Dame. The wife of a knight or baronet tends to be addressed Lady, although a few exceptions and interchanges of these uses exist.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Premier is a title for the head of government in some countries, states and sub-national governments. A second in command to a premier is designated as a vice-premier or deputy premier.


Early life

Bello was born in Rabah c. 1909 to the family of Mallam Ibrahim Bello. His father held the title of Sarkin Rabah. [1] He is a descendant of Uthman dan Fodio, a great grandson of Sultan Muhammed Bello and a grandson of Sultan Atiku na Raba. He attended Sokoto Provincial School and the Katsina Training College. During his school days, he was known as Ahmadu Rabah. [1] He finished school in 1931 and subsequently became the English master teacher in Sokoto Middle School.

Rabah LGA and town in Sokoto State, Nigeria

Rabah is a Local Government Area in Sokoto State, Nigeria. Its headquarters are in the town of Rabah.

Muhammadu Bello was the second Sultan of Sokoto and reigned from 1817 until 1837. He was also an active writer of history, poetry, and Islamic studies. He was the son and primary aide to Usman dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate and the first Sultan. During his reign, he encouraged the spread of Islam throughout the region, increasing education for both men and women, and the establishment of Islamic courts. He died on October 25, 1837 and was succeeded by his brother Abu Bakr Atiku and then his son, Aliyu Babba.

Political beginnings

In 1934, Bello was made the District Head of Rabah by Sultan Hassan dan Mu'azu, succeeding his brother. In 1938, he was promoted to the position of Divisional Head of Gusau (in present-day Zamfara State) and became a member of the Sultan's council. In 1938, at the age of just 28, he made attempts to become the Sultan of Sokoto but was not successful, losing to Sir Siddiq Abubakar III who reigned for 50 years until his death in 1988. The new Sultan immediately made Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna (Crown Prince) of Sokoto, an honorary title, and promoted him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council. These titles automatically made him the Chief Political Adviser to the Sultan. Later, he was put in charge of the Sokoto Province to oversee 47 districts and by 1944, he was back at the Sultan's Palace to work as the Chief Secretary of the State Native Administration. [2]

Gusau Place in Zamfara State, Nigeria

Gusau is a city and Local Government Area located in northwestern Nigeria. It is the capital of Zamfara State.

Zamfara State State of Nigeria

Zamfara is a state in northwestern Nigeria. Its capital is Gusau and its Governor is Bello Matawalle, a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Until 1996 the area was part of Sokoto State.

Sir Siddiq Abubakar III (1903–1988) was a Nigerian Muslim leader. He served as the sultan of Sokoto between 1938 and 1988.

In the 1940s, he joined Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa which would later become the NPC in 1951. In 1948, he got a government scholarship and was off to England to study Local Government Administration which broadened his understanding and knowledge of governance.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

After returning from Britain, he was nominated to represent the province of Sokoto in the regional House of Assembly. As a member of the assembly, he was a notable voice for northern interests and embraced a style of consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the northern emirates namely Kano, Bornu and Sokoto. He was selected among with others as a member of a committee that redrafted the Richards Constitution and he also attended a general conference in Ibadan. His work at the assembly and in the constitution drafting committee brought him appreciation in the north and he was asked to take on leadership positions within Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa. [1] In the first elections held in Northern Nigeria in 1952, Sir Ahmadu Bello won a seat in the Northern House of Assembly, and became a member of the regional executive council as minister of works. Bello was successfully minister of Works, of Local Government, and of Community Development in the Northern Region of Nigeria. [3] In 1954, Bello became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. In the 1959 independence elections, Bello led the NPC to win a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Bello's NPC forged an alliance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe's NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) to form Nigeria's first indigenous federal government which led to independence from Britain. In forming the 1960 independence federal government of the Nigeria, Bello as president of the NPC, chose to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and devolved the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to the deputy president of the NPC, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Sokoto Place in Sokoto State, Nigeria

Sokoto is a city located in the extreme northwest of Nigeria, near the confluence of the Sokoto River and the Rima River. As of 2006 it has a population of 427,760. Sokoto is the modern-day capital of Sokoto State.

Kano Capital city in Northern Nigeria

Kano is the state capital of Kano State in North West, Nigeria. It is situated in the Sahelian geographic region, south of the Sahara. Kano is the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria and is the second largest city in Nigeria. The Kano metropolis initially covered 137 square kilometres, and comprised six local government areas (LGAs) — Kano Municipal, Fagge, Dala, Gwale, Tarauni and Nasarawa; However, it now covers two additional LGAs — Ungogo and Kumbotso. The total area of Metropolitan Kano is now 499 square kilometres, with a population of 2,828,861 as of the 2006 Nigerian census; the latest official estimate is 3,931,300.


Bello's leadership characteristics was a blend of religious, traditional and modern values and his obligation in colonial and post-independence Nigeria was performing these different roles in the northern region. [4] A major priority of his was making sure the region was at par politically and economically with the Western and Eastern regions. This contributed to the decision to replace both Southerners and Europeans in the Northern region's civil services with Northerners, a policy that received criticism from opposition leaders such as Ibrahim Imam.

The former Western State of Nigeria was formed in 1967 when the Western Region was subdivided into the states of Lagos and Western State. Its capital was Ibadan, which was the capital of the old region.

The Eastern Region was an administrative region in Nigeria, dating back originally from the division of the colony Southern Nigeria in 1954. Its first capital was Calabar. The capital was later moved to Enugu and the second capital was Umuahia. The region was officially divided in 1967 into three new states, the East-Central State, Rivers State and South-Eastern State. East-Central State had its capital at Enugu, which is now part of Enugu State.

Ibrahim Imam was a Kanuri politician from Borno, Nigeria who was the secretary of the Northern People's Congress and later became a patron of the Borno Youth Movement. He was elected into the Northern House of Assembly in 1961, representing a Tiv district. Prior to his election in 1961, he had represented his district of Yerwa in 1951 after supporting a strike of Native Administration workers.

Bello originally embraced the Indirect rule system of colonial Nigeria before gradually embracing reforms. During his period of premiership, his biographer, John Paden described him as a progressive conservative, because he was an agent of change and also of the traditional elites. [4]

Economic policies

Various institutions were created under Bello, including the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), Bank of the North and Northern Nigeria Investments Ltd (NNIL). NNDC was an holding company with capital sourced from the region's marketing board while NNIL was a partnership between the Commonwealth Development Corporation and NNDC created to assist in the industrial development in Northern Nigeria.


Bello initiated plans to modernise traditional koranic education in Northern Nigeria. He set up a commission to this effect and gave official recognition to the schools. [5] The commission recommended the introduction of secular subjects in the schools and creation of different classes for pupils. [6]

Part of his educational objectives was building a school in each province in Northern Nigeria. [4]

Cabinet in 1959

Members of cabinet of the Northern region [7]
Premier Ahmadu Bello1954-1966
Minister of Education Isa Kaita 1959
Minister of Finance Aliyu Makama Bida 1959
Minister of AgricultureMustafa Monguno1959
Minister of Social WelfareMichael Buba1959
Minister of Health Ahman Galadima Petegi 1959
Minister of Lands and Survey Ibrahim Musa Gashash 1959
Minister of Internal AffairsUsman, Galadiman Maska1959
Minister of Trade Abba Habib 1959
Minister of Local GovernmentMaikano Dutse1959
Minister of Animal Health Abdullahi Jada 1959
Minister of WorksGeorge Ohikere1959
Ministers without portfolio


Bello was assassinated by Major Nzeogwu on 15 January 1966 in a coup which toppled Nigeria's post-independence government. He was still serving as premier of Northern Nigeria at the time. That was the first coup in Nigeria history. Also assassinated in the coup was his long time friend Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa alongside many political elites in the north and in the west.

Personal life

Bello had three wives at the time of his death. Hafsatu, his first and senior wife, died alongside him. [8]

He had three surviving daughters with another wife, Amina (Goggon Kano). His eldest daughter was Inno, followed by Aisha and Lubabatu.


Bello's greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria. [ citation needed ]

The Ahmadu Bello University is named after him. His portrait adorns Nigeria's 200 naira note, and he is survived by three daughters, one of whom died in 2008.

See also

Further reading

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  1. 1 2 3 Savage, Babatunde (1959-03-16). "Profile of a Fearless Leader". Daily Times. Lagos.
  2. Edditors, Our (2019-04-07). "The Founding Fathers: Sir Ahmadu Bello". Leadership Newspaper. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  3. Edditors, Our (2019-04-07). "The Founding Fathers: Sir Ahmadu Bello". Leadership Newspaper. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  4. 1 2 3 Obadare, Ebenezer, and Adebanwi, Wale, eds. African Histories and Modernities : Governance and the Crisis of Rule in Contemporary Africa : Leadership in Transformation. New York, US: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Pp. 175-190
  5. Brenner, Louis. 1993. Muslim identity and social change in sub-Saharan Africa. Bloomington u.a: Indiana Univ. Press. P.186
  6. Kane, Ousmane. Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria : A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition. Leiden, NLD: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003. P. 64
  7. Sklar, Richard L. 2004. Nigerian political parties: power in an emergent African nation. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. pp513-517
  8. "FLASHBACK: How Nzeogwu killed Ahmadu Bello and wife, by Gidado Idris". TheCable. 2017-12-17. Retrieved 2019-03-20.