Nigerian political leader Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966) was the main spokesman for the North during Nigeria’s independence process from the British.
Ahmadu Bello was born in Rabah, in the North West State, a descendant of Uthman Don Fodio, the famous 19th century Muslim leader of northern Nigeria. Bello received his education first at the provincial school of Sokoto, then at Katsina Teacher Training College. In 1934, after teaching for several years at Sokoto Middle School, he joined the administration of the Emirate as District Chief of Rabah. In 1938 he approached the Sultan’s office in Sokoto without success. The new Sultan immediately awarded him the traditional, now honorary, title of Sardinian and elevated him to the Council of Indigenous Authorities of Sokoto.
By the end of World War II, Bello was involved in wider political issues. In 1945 he attended the formation of the Sokoto Youth Social Club, a discussion group of educators and civil servants from the North. In 1948 this organization sharpened to the newly formed Northern People’s Congress (NPC), originally conceived as a cultural organization, but destined to become the leading political party in northern Nigeria. Bello became increasingly active in the NPC and, ultimately, in its president. In 1949 he was elected by the Sokoto Native Authority to the Northern People’s Congress House. During discussions of constitutional reform in 1949-1950 he became one of the main spokesmen for the northern vision of the federal government. In 1952, at the first elections held in northern Nigeria, he was elected to the Northern Assembly House, where he became a member of the regional executive council and minister of works. The following year he accepted the regional portfolio of community development and local government. In 1954 he became the first premier of northern Nigeria, a position he held until his death.
As president of the Pnp and Premier of the Northern Region, Bello was perhaps the most politically powerful person in Nigeria during the first 5 years of independence. Despite this, his role in national politics has remained abnormal. He had an expressed disgust for the political style of the South and had no desire to participate in the federal government, which would have required his residence in Lagos. Although he participated in national discussions on constitutional reform and was a member of the Federal House of Representatives from 1952 to 1959, he was primarily concerned with the development of the North and the protection of the country.
of that region from what he considered raids from the South. Therefore, when Nigeria became independent in 1960, Bello chose to remain premier of the Northern Region, while the vice president of the Pnp, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, became prime minister of the Federation.
In 1964 Bello led the Pnp in an alliance with the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) of the Western Region. The coalition party, called the Nigerian National Alliance, won a clear majority in the 1964 federal elections. In the autumn of 1965 the NNDP claimed victory in a highly contested regional election, and the Western Region fell into chaos. Bello’s attempt to support his political allies on this occasion was the immediate, though not the only, cause of an attempted coup in January 1966, during which Bello was assassinated.
More readings on Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello
The only book that deals specifically with Bello’s life is his autobiography, La mia vita (1962). Although not an objective account, it is excellent in revealing Bello’s point of view on his role in Nigerian political development. A discussion of the Northern People’s Congress and Bello’s role in it can be found in Richard Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emerging African Nation (1963).
Other biographical sources
Sir Ahmadu Bello: a legacy, Jos: ITF Printing Press, 1992.
Paden, John N., Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna by Sokoto: values and leadership in Nigeria, London: Hodder and Stoughton; Portsmouth, N.H.: Distributed in the USA by Heinemann Educational Books, 1986.