Ahmadu Bello

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Sir Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello.png
Premier of Northern Nigeria
In office
1 October 1954 – 15 January 1966
GovernorBryan Sharwood-Smith
Gawain Westray Bell
Kashim Ibrahim
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Born(1910-06-12)12 June 1910
Rabah, Northern Nigeria Protectorate
(now Rabah, Sokoto, Nigeria)
Died15 January 1966(1966-01-15) (aged 55)
Kaduna, Nigeria
Political partyNorthern People's Congress
Alma materBarewa College

Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello (listen), Sardauna of Sokoto (12 June 1910 – 15 January 1966), knighted as Sir Ahmadu Bello, was a conservative Nigerian statesman who masterminded Northern Nigeria through the independence of Nigeria in 1960 and served as its first and only premier from 1954 until his assassination in 1966, in which capacity he dominated national affairs for over a decade.[citation needed]

He was also the leader of the Northern People's Congress, the ruling party at the time consisting of the Hausa–Fulani elite. He had previously been elected into the regional legislature and later became a government minister. A member of the Sokoto Caliphate dynasty, he made attempts at becoming Sultan of Sokoto before later joining politics.[citation needed]

Early years[edit]

Bello was born in Rabah c. 1910 to the family of Mallam Ibrahim Bello. His father held the title of Sarkin Rabah.[1] He was a descendant of Uthman dan Fodio (founder of the Sokoto Caliphate), a great-grandson of Sultan Muhammad Bello, and a grandson of Sultan Atiku na Raba.

He received Islamic education at home, where he learnt the Qur'an, Islamic jurisprudence and the traditions of Muhammad. He later attended Sokoto Provincial School and the Katsina Training College (now Barewa College). During his school days, he was known as Ahmadu Rabah. Some also called him Gamji growing up[2] He finished school in 1931 and subsequently became the English teacher in Sokoto Middle School.[3]

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.[citation needed]

The new Sultan immediately made Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna (Crown Prince) of Sokoto, a chieftaincy 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.[4]

Early political career[edit]

Nigerian Public Domain 23.jpg

In the 1940s, he joined Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa which would later become the Northern People's Congress (NPC) in 1951. In 1948, he traveled to England on a government scholarship to study Local Government Administration, which broadened his understanding and knowledge of governance.[citation needed]

Young politician[edit]

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.[4] In 1954, Bello became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria.

Independence of Nigeria[edit]

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.[5]

Premier of Northern Nigeria[edit]

I am not unaware that I have often been a controversial figure. I have been accused of lack of nationalism and political awareness because I considered that independence must wait until a country has the resources to support and make a success of independence. I have been accused of conservatism because I believe in retaining all that is good in our old traditions and customs and refusing to copy all aspects of other alien civilizations have been accused of many things, but the views of others have never made me deviate from the path which I am certain is the one which will benefit my people and country. I have always based my actions on my inward convictions, on my conscience and on the dictates of my religion

Sir Ahmadu Bello

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.[6] 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.[6]

Premier of Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello far right, and Muhammadu Sanusi I leaving the Atomic Museum Oak Ridge in 1960


Due to a limited number of qualified graduates from the region, Sir Ahmadu Bello instated the northernisation of the regions public service. Administration in the North was through indirect rule and Western education was not considered very important in many divisions. After the regionalization of the public service, political leaders in the region felt that the number of Northerners in the service was minimal in comparison to their counterparts in the South. Due to political considerations, leaders in the region limited the recruitment of Southerners into the Northern regional service and found ways to push up the ranks of northerners in junior and senior position.[citation needed]

The leaders retained the services of expatriates, [7] because Northerners regarded expatriates as transients but feared southern domination of the regional civil service.[8] Measures were put in place to train northerners; in 1949, a scholarship board provided grants to almost all Northerners with qualifications to enter universities.[9] In 1957, administration courses were taught at the Institute of Administration in Zaria. Apart from trying to fill positions in the civil service with Northerners, political leaders in the zone also made it a priority to secure Northern representation in senior positions of the Federal service.[9]


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.[citation needed]


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.[10] The commission recommended the introduction of secular subjects in the schools and creation of different classes for pupils.[11]

Part of his educational objectives was building a school in each province in Northern Nigeria.[6]

Final years[edit]

Bello's final years were characterized by his earlier years. 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.[citation needed]

Coup warnings and predictions[edit]

Prior to the 1966 Nigerian coup d'état, Bello received warnings from the Premier of the Western Region Samuel Akintola, and Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun.[12]


On 15 January 1966, Bello was assassinated by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu an Igbo Nigerian Army officer in a coup which toppled Nigeria's post-independence government. He was still serving as premier of Northern Nigeria at the time. This was the first coup in the history of Nigeria, which heralded the rise of the military in the country's politics. Also assassinated in the coup was his long time friend Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa alongside many political elites in the north and in the west.[citation needed]

Bello had three wives at the time of his death. Hafsatu, his senior wife, died alongside him.[13] He had three surviving daughters with another wife, Amina (Goggon Kano). His eldest daughter was Inno, followed by Aisha and Lubabatu.[citation needed]

Legacy and memory[edit]

Bello's greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria.[14]


Ahmadu Bello believed that every Nigerian, and all human beings are created equally, that they are endowed by God with rights among which are life, liberty, equal opportunity, blessings and the legitimate pursuit of happiness. Throughout his political career and before, he espoused high morality and intellectual virtues.[15]

Place names[edit]

A number of localities and monuments around the country have been named in Sardauna's honour. They include:


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahmadu Bello; My Life, Cambridge University Press, 1962.



  1. ^ a b Savage, Babatunde (1959-03-16). "Profile of a Fearless Leader". Daily Times. Lagos.
  2. ^ John, Paden (1986). Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto : values and leadership in Nigeria. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0340389672.
  3. ^ "www.ahmadubello.com". www.arewaonline-ng.com. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  4. ^ a b Edditors, Our (2019-04-07). "The Founding Fathers: Sir Ahmadu Bello". Leadership Newspaper. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  5. ^ "Heroes of the struggle for Nigeria's independence/pioneer political". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 2020-10-01. Retrieved 2021-12-28.
  6. ^ a b c 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
  7. ^ Nwankwo 1980, p. 309.
  8. ^ Mackintosh 1966, p. 184.
  9. ^ a b Mackintosh 1966, p. 183.
  10. ^ Brenner, Louis. 1993. Muslim identity and social change in sub-Saharan Africa. Bloomington u.a: Indiana Univ. Press. P.186
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ "Ahmadu Bello, Akintola knew about 1966 coup but refused to flee –Maradun, the late Sardauna's driver". Punch Newspapers. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  13. ^ "FLASHBACK: How Nzeogwu killed Ahmadu Bello and wife, by Gidado Idris". TheCable. 2017-12-17. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  14. ^ Alhassan, Amina (2011-10-01). "Decades after assassination, Sir Ahmadu Bello lives via exhibit". Daily Trust. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  15. ^ "www.ahmadubello.com". www.arewaonline-ng.com. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  16. ^ Nigeria 200 Naira 2000-2019 Bank note museum

Cited sources[edit]

  • Mackintosh, John (1966). Nigerian government and politics. Allen & Unwin.
  • Nwankwo, Godson (July 1980). "The Bureaucratic Elite in Nigeria". Philippine Journal of Public Administration. 24 (3).

External links[edit]