Ahmadu Bello

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Ahmadu Bello
Ahmadu Bello.png
Premier of Northern Nigeria
In office
Succeeded by Hassan Katsina
Personal details
Born June 12, 1910
Rabbah, Sokoto State, Northern Nigeria.
Died January 15, 1966
Political party Northern People's Congress
Religion Islam

Sir Ahmadu Bello KBE(June 12, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician, and was the first premier of the Northern Nigeria region from 1954-1966. He was the Sardauna of Sokoto and one of the prominent leaders in Northern Nigeria alongside Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, both of whom were prominent in negotiations about the region's place in an independent Nigeria. As leader of the Northern People's Congress, he dominated Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Rabbah, Sokoto State. The son of a district head and heir to the Sokoto Caliphate, his great-grandfather was Sultan Bello, the founder of Sokoto and son of the revered Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio. Ahmadu Bello received his education first at the Sokoto Provincial School, the only modern school at the time in the Sokoto province. Then, he proceeded to the Katsina Teacher's Training College. After spending five years at Katsina, he was appointed by the Sultan to become a teacher at the Sokoto Middle School, his former school which had undergone rapid transformation. In 1934, he was made the district head of Rabbah, four years later, he was promoted and sent to Gusau to become a divisional head. In 1938, he made an unsuccessful bid to become the new Sultan of Sokoto. The successful sultan immediately conferred upon Sir Ahmadu Bello the traditional, now honorary, title of Sarduna, alternatively spelled Sardauna, and elevated him to the Sokoto Native Authority Council. In 1948, he was offered a scholarship to study local government administration in England. Ahmadu Bello took the scholarship sensing he needed to shore up his knowledge about the process of governance.

Family Life and Marriage[edit]

In 1932, he married Hafsatu, his first wife and the daughter of the Waziri Maccido. Some records indicated he married Hafsatu when she was nine while another stated twelve. Hafsatu would later battle with childlessness. With time, he married two more wives, Kande and Amiru (divorced them in 1938) and later married Amina and Jabbo in 1940 and 1952 respectively. In 1952, his five-day-old son from Jabbo died and back in 1936, he had also lost a two-year-old son, Mohammed Tambari, from his divorced wife, Kande. The late Sardauna of Sokoto was survived by three daughters (Inno, A'ishat, Lubabatu). One of them, Inno died in 2008. There were three sons but all died.

The eldest today is Hajiya A'ishat Marafa Danbaba, born in 1945 (see pictures) now aged 67, she said that after the brutal assassination of their dad, they have been surviving on the goodwill of close associates such as the late Emir of Daura, Alhaji Muhammadu Bashar, the Sarkin Fadan Kano, Alhaji Sule Gaya and the former Chief Justice of Nigeria but commended the Sokoto State Government headed by Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako for taking good care of them, as from May 29th, 2007, the State Governor had placed the Sardauna family on a monthly allowance of N250,000 ($1560). She said: “Since the death of our father, there has never been a government that showed us care and concern as the current administration of Governor Wamakko which placed this family on a monthly allowance of N250,000 for which we are very grateful.

She also praised the former administration of Army Colonel Yakubu Mu'azu, the Military Administrator of Sokoto State during General Abacha's regime (read all about General Sani Abacha, Nigeria's most enigmatic ruler here http://abiyamo.com/sani-abacha-nigerias-most-enigmatic-ruler/ ) for renovating one of the late Sardauna's two houses at Kanwuri, Sokoto but complained that his other building at Kofar Marke area of the state is in a dilapidated condition and desperately needed renovation. Hajiya A'ishat got married to the late Magajin Gari Sokoto in 1956 and said of her father: “I had a very close relationship with my father. He showered us with great love and we will continue to cherish those moments. My dad was a simple man despite being an aristocrat. He was temperamental but easily forgets after sometime. He doesn’t bear any grudges against those who offended him and forgives those who wronged him. My father was kind and just to people and never discriminated against anybody based on his ethnic group or religion.

“He was a man of the people. He always sat on the floor in his house, to eat food with his bare hands, from the same bowl with his drivers and relatives. He maintained an open house, and anybody who wanted to see him got audience. He listened to people’s problems and helped both the high and the lowly.

“My father was generous and loved to give out gifts to people. He never had material accumulation instincts, did not accumulate wealth and gave out whatever came into his possession. He was scrupulous and prudent with public finance but generous with his own money. “His happiest moments were always when he was in the company of people. He constantly toured the length and breadth of the Northern Region, always on the move persuading, cajoling, mobilizing, urging, inspiring people to be disciplined and law abiding, to work hard for common goals, to measure up to their potentials. My father had the desire of transforming the North so that the country can attain its true potentials.” Hajia A'ishat has five children and the fourth one, Hassan Danbaba Marafa is the Magajin Garin of Sokoto, who happens to be one of the 11 kingmakers of the Sokoto Caliphate saddled with the responsibility of appointing the Sultan. Her first daughter is married to Nigeria's former Ambassador to South Africa. Alhaji Shehu Malami.

A second daughter, Hajia Luba is married to the Marafan Sokoto, Alhaji Ali Umaru Shinkafi (CON, NPM, MNIM), former Head of the National Security Organisation (NSO) and one-time Presidential Aspirant.

Nigerian politics[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 interest and embraced a style of consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the northern emirates: Kano, Bornu and Sokoto. 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 successively minister of Works, of Local Government, and of Community Development in the Northern Region of Nigeria.

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.


Bello's greatest legacy was the modernization and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria. He was assassinated 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.

Ahmadu Bello was often criticized for not seeing a unified Nigeria as a whole but rather a unified north as he viewed the Igbos as "The Jews of Nigeria" as they had a sense of dominating where ever they went and often publicly stated he would rather have a non-Nigerian do a job than have a non-Northerner.

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.

Career and Later Life[edit]

By 1934, he was made the District Head of Rabah under the colonial setting and in 1938, he got a promotion as the Divisional Head of Gusau (now in present-day Zamfara State). 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 (Warlord) of Sokoto, a 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.

In the 1940s, he established the 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. As 'successor-in-waiting' to the throne of the Sultan, he wore the turban. In 1943, a drama played out when he was thrown before the Sultan's court for misappropriating jangali (cattle) tax for the Gusau region where he was the Councillor.

He was sentenced to one year in prison. Do not forget the fact that there was a rivalry simmering below the robes between him and the new Sultan. But with the aid of the other 'Barewa guys' like Shehu Shagari, Aminu Kano and Ibrahim Dasuki, he filed for an acquittal after he had already spent three months in jail. But that would only boost him popularity and many felt he was just a victim of unfair political tussle.

See also[edit]


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