February 4, 2005
Paul Bell, the famous South African writer once wrote that: “Personality is no substitute for intellect and nor is simplicity. But in a leader, intellect alone is useless without personality and simplicity.” It is in light that Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the defunct Northern Region makes a grandeur and prestige with high esteem. His formidable intellect, elemental personality and unimpeachable integrity made him to save the North from the cocoon of wretchedness and ignorance, thereby placing it on a national map. To the Premier charity and humanity must begin at home. By Paul Bell’s assertion the late Sardauna is a complete leader because he was a tripod mixer of intellect with personality and simplicity. There’s no single Nigerian leader both living and dead that had the audacity, momentum, zeal and focus to lead his people to highest heights like Sir Ahmadu Bello. He established the largest University South of the Sahara (Ahmadu Bello University), the largest Polytechnic in Africa (Kaduna Polytechnic), one of the largest investment conglomerate (N.N.D.C) in Africa, one of the biggest printing press (New Nigerian Newspapers) in Africa, one of the leading banks (Bank of the North Ltd) in Africa etc.
A symbol of convenient equilibrium of all the adverse forces in the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello smelted the North into a united entity even with its highest ethnic configurations in the country, a phenomenon that is very difficult to achieve even in the monolithic societies in the other parts of the country. An icon of the institutional regeneration of the North, A projectile that burst the north into national consciousness, Sir Ahmadu Bello provided the North with timely respite and saved it from a virtual destiny of unhealthy competition.
Amidst the perfidy and prediction of negative attitude towards Western education and opportunism restricted to the most powerful, the late Sardauna broke the deadlock by paving way for equal competition between the rich, poor, powerful and the less-powerful in areas of commerce, education, military, bureaucracy, finance, media etc. An upholder and tutor along the line of truth and integrity, Sardauna’s implants flourished even after 33 years or more of his death. The bulk of the past leaders of the country from the North starting from Gen. Yakubu Gowon to Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar are products of his making. His infrastructural legacies are as enduring as the oak tree (Gamji) named after him. An initiator of a forum of all leaders from the North which later culminated into the All northern governors meeting, an idea the southern part of the country had to emulate 34 years after Sardauna’s death. Sir Ahmadu Bello struggled hard to see the North in particular and Nigeria in general restored to stability and prosperity within the context of a pragmatic engagement with the new world order. His imaginative leadership allowed for huge foreign investment in the North and these investments still remains the only finished projects in the North since his death. One of Sardauna’s close associate and personal secretary re-iterated, Sir Ahmadu Bello’s leadership style that encourage the pursuit of education, hear him. “If a northern civil servant attended a course and did well especially in competition with others from else where, you would see the Premier beaming with pleasure like a school tutor at the success of his pupil with a gift. It did not matter what his tribe or religion was. His pleasure was in the knowledge that a northerner has done well.” The premium placed by the late Sardauna on education was enormous, as he had to force people to enrol in schools. Most of the products of this effort are those that constituted the bulk of the northern elite of today.
On the issue of personality and simplicity one cannot fault the compassion, disposability and good will of the late Sardauna. Sardauna was a rallying point for all in North; the rich, the poor, the powerful, the weak, Hausa or Fulani, Kanuri or Marghi, Idoma or Tiv, Jukun or Chamba, Gwari or Nupe, Mummuye or Highi and this is a unique disposition which is hardly found. Sardauna, conscious of his origin became a morass of all the segments of the Northern representations. His father is from the Sokoto Caliphate and his mother is from Zing-a domain, which is predominantly made up of Christian, and animist minority tribes. He therefore became a natural converger of all the centrifugal forces in the region. Sardauna’s
Leadership model became synonymous with the progress and prosperity of the North supported by men and women from all segment of the North. His lieutenants like Justice Mamman Nasir, Mr. Michael Audu Buba, Mr. Sunday Awoniyi, Pastor David Lot, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Mr. Joseph Tarka, e.t.c. worked tirelessly with the Sardauna as formidable team to project the North upwards.
A man known universally for his analytical prowess and deep intransigence, Sir Ahmadu Bello produced a brilliant formulation that will propel the entire North gradually into self-dependent and combat-effective entity surviving on the built-in fulcrum for fifteen consecutive years. If ingenuity, visionary leadership, political integrity and intellectual prowess are major determinant in assessing leadership. Sardauna would have had no rival in Nigeria. The late Sardauna contented with opposition groups maturely. You could imagine Sardauna sitting on a round table with Chief Joseph Tarka, leader of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) and Mallam Aminu Kano, leader of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) to iron out differences and mis-givings amicably. There’s never a time the ruling party under Sardauna and the opposition parties disagreed on issues that are fundamental. He manages his territory and path of its destiny with high mental skill and physical prowess. Thirty – nine years after his death, if Sardauna were to come back, he would certainly have frowned at the celebrated indolence of some of his would – be successors and their egocentric posture. He would have seen his hard earned ideals crumbled due to in-continuity of the standard set up by him. He would not have understood why a Northerner could be a second-class citizen in Nigeria. He would have queried the miscalculations of the northern political elite. He would not have allowed the systematic weeding of the northerners occupying strategic positions. He would have prevented a situation where northerners were engaged in a fight with each other. He would have faulted the erroneous methodologies that paved way for institutional degeneration of the North. He would have viewed the concept of power shift as the equivalent of a political regicide. He would have stopped the course of a limited philosophical perception and the vain prevarication of the northern people in the modern times. The heavily corrupted leaders that made it a way of life to secure a misbegotten wealth cornered away from the public accounts would have bemused a returning Sardauna. He would have fumed at his earlier society’s complete departure from the course of truth, justice and fairness and its penchant for unGodly practices. He would have thanked Almighty Allah for an early recall.
The Late Sardauna lived a humble and decent life while on earth. Even some southerners cannot fault his personality where it is sometimes regarded with disdain. His legacies are more enduring than any other legacies set aside in the post-independence Nigeria. To me he is the greatest man and leader of this century. Allah ya jikan Gamji. Amin. May Almighty Allah grant the soul of this man of honour, the provider for the needy, Nationalist, the Earl and Poinsettia of the North eternal rest. Amin.
Mamza writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria