Sosyal Medya


Ahmadu Bello: A legendary son of the Mujāhidīn

Ifeoluwa Siddiq Oyelami*

A decade after the British occupied the land of the Sokoto empire, which is centred in modern-day Northern Nigeria, they amalgamated it with the southern region to form Nigeria, which would become the most populous nation on the continent. The Sokoto empire was a Muslim state ruled by the sultan and regional emirs.With the occupation by the British, the state lost its sovereignty, but its structure remained functional under British rule. After this defeat, some leaders migrated from the occupied lands; but the majority remained under the British’s domination to continue this “political” and cultural heritage. One among those that remained was the immediate family of Ahmadu Bello, who would become the founder of modern Northern Nigeria and strive to carry on the legacies of his predecessors.

Who is Ahmadu Bello

Ahmadu Bello was born on January 10, 1910, in Rabah, present-day Sokoto state. His father, Ibrahim, was the grandson of Muhammad Bello, the first sultan of the State of Sokoto. In other words, he was a member of one of the leading families of the region in terms of knowledge and politics. The birth of Ahmadu Bello in such an environment enabled him to receive an Islamic education, then a secular one provided by the British, especially to the elite children. He later enrolled at a teacher’s college in 1926 and worked as a teacher in his own town.

Ahmadu Bello failed in his supposed 1938 bid to become sultan. Ultimately, his cousin Siddiq Abubakar was chosen. Following this, he was given the honorific title of Sardauna (Commander of the Guard) and became secretary of the Sokoto native administration. In 1948, he left for England to gain expertise in local government administration. Upon the colonial government’s liberalization of the political participation of natives, he became a member of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), a party comprised of the region’s elites. He eventually became the party leader in 1954 and then Northern Nigeria’s premier.

Ahmadu Bello’s Political Life and Views

Towards the period when Nigeria gained its independence, The search for the right policy led to the emergence of many ideological theses among local politicians. Thus, there was a very tense atmosphere in the country. For example, there was the question of whether the county would continue with its unity after the colonialists were gone. The question of what methods the country will adopt. What will the country’s foreign policy be like? Amazingly, there were also debates on whether the country should get independence.

Ahmadu Bello’s approaches during and after this tension are perhaps some of the factors that made him important. In the following lines, we will try to address his views on different issues.

• Nigerian independence

The bill on the independence of Nigeria was first proposed in 1953 by the Action Group (AG) party, which consisted of the leaders of the southern region. The pronunciation was expressed thus: “This house accepts as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government of Nigeria in 1956.” Despite the attractiveness of the ideas of independence and self-government, Ahmadu Bello and his party felt the date to be premature and did not favour the proposal. Of course, this should not be considered as some anglophile actions. According to them, the northern region, primarily Muslim, was relatively undeveloped. So, they would not want to leave their people at the mercy of the southerners. Until then, most of the schools established by the colonialists were in the south, and only a few northerners understood the official language of English and modern statecraft. For this, Ahmadu Bello opposed early independence. He primarily aimed to train enough northern bureaucrats and technical staff in the fastest way with various domestic and foreign opportunities. In the following years, although northerners could not reach the level of southerners in terms of education, welfare level and equality in bureaucracy, this program at least saved the northerners from being second class in their own regions.

• Federal Government of Nigeria

Although Ahmadu Bello favoured the continuation of the Nigeria entity, which gained independence in 1960, as a single state, he never sought a position in the federal government. Despite his party having the majority in the parliament, he did not pursue either the presidency or the prime ministership. Instead, he chose to remain the leader of the Northern Nigerians. Perhaps he saw this as the best way to continue his ancestral legacy. It is important to note that at that time, the emirs have substantial political influence even in the current order.

• Northern Nigeria Administration

Ahmadu Bello remained the ruler of Northern Nigeria until his death. In this period, his primary goals were centred on the region’s human development and economic growth. He appealed to investors of different levels to build the local economy. For example, during his time, Northern Nigeria experienced significant growth in the textile industry. He played an active role in establishing several important organizations, such as Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), Northern Bank and Northern Nigeria Investments Limited (NNIL). He founded the first university in northern Nigeria, and this university still bears his name.

Although most northerners are Muslims, Ahmadu Bello tried to keep the peace with members of other religions. Emphasizing the importance of serving Allah and earning halal income, Ahmad Bello adopted “Work and Worship” as a mantra for Northern Nigeria

• Foreign policy

Ahmadu Bello’s foreign policy approach can be looked at from different perspectives. Introducing himself as neutral, Bello approached the rising Panafricanism in a balanced way, not emotional or radical. According to him, while African unity could be discussed, it was premature to put forward an idea of the United African States due to reasons such as the cultural differences of African societies. Unlike many African leaders, he did not blame colonialism as the source of all problems. Instead, he considered it necessary to cooperate with foreign countries, especially the UK, on issues that could better his community. However, he stated that Nigeria would not be a partner in the Commonwealth or anyone’s war.

In his autobiography, Ahmadu Bello, after condemning the warning tones of Western countries, stated that Nigeria would not convert to communism but nevertheless would establish a healthy relationship with the Soviet Union. Moreover, he said that no matter who it comes from, Nigeria only needs foreign capital that it can have a say in and buy off later.

Ahmadu Bello attaches great importance to ​​Pan-Islamism, especially in his last years. He visited many Muslim countries between 1961 and 1962 and urged that these countries should come together and collaborate in different areas. His visits and dialogue gave birth to the World Muslim League in the 1962 hajj season, and he was appointed the league’s vice president. His idea of ​​pan-Islamism is also reflected in his attitude towards Israel. He lived when Israel was trying to garner African allies through funds. However, Ahmadu Bello succeeded in blocking the invader country’s fronts in Nigeria. In 1964, Nigeria rejected the financial support offered by Israel.

Ahmadu Bello’s Service to Islam

Just as he put efforts into promoting Islamic unity across the Muslim world, Ahmadu Bello was also active in trying to solve the problems of Muslims in his county. It is like he continued the jihad struggles that his ancestors had engaged in a century ago within the framework of modern government laws. He kept the Nigerian scholar Sheikh Abubakr Gumi as his advisor and carried out various projects with him.

He established a platform called Jamaat Nasir Islam (JNI) to bring together leaders and scholars to solve the problems of Muslims in the region. This platform opened schools in Northern Nigeria and acted as a reconciliation platform for sectarian issues, among other social and cultural activities.

Ahmadu Bello published the works of the ancient scholars of the region and translated some into local languages. He solicited support from the Saudi Arabian government in publishing the translation of the Qur’an in the Yoruba language spoken by Muslims living in the Southwest region. Before then, the Yoruba translation of the Qur’an was written by a Christian missionary. Ahmadu Bello appointed preachers to the villages where Islam had not been introduced, creating what would be later referred to as “the conversion campaign”. To cut the attractiveness of Christian missionaries’ enticements, he tried to support the societies that chose Islam in various ways. These activities of Ahmadu Bello are described as a major historical blow in the literature of Nigerian Christians to this day.

In his 1965 speech at the World Muslim league Islamic Union conference, he discussed the problems faced by Nigerian Muslims, such as the problem of missionary work, inequality and poverty; He highlighted the steps he has been taking and presented suggestions and demands. Unfortunately, however, this speech was his last speech among Muslim leaders. On January 15, 1966, he was killed in a coup by a major from Southeastern Nigeria.

Death of Ahmadu Bello

Historians and political scientists have interpreted Nigeria’s first coup, in which Ahmadu Bello was killed, in different ways. The fact that the victims of the coup were not from the regions of the plotters reinforces the thesis that the coup had an ethnic undertone. In fact, six months after, some northern officers staged a countercoup. Again, some claimed that the coup was targeted at Islam. Of these, Abubakr Gumi; tried to reinforce this view with a dialogue with the putschist Major Kaduna Nzegwu in his book, Where I Stand. Whatever the case, we ask Allah to accept Ahmadu Bello as a martyr.

Upon his death, Janazah for the absent (salat al-Gaib) was made for him throughout the Muslim world, including the Haramayn and Masjid al-Aqsa. Ahmadu Bello left behind him a consciousness of Islamic unity, modern Northern Nigeria and institutions such as Jamaat Nasir Islam (JNI), as well as an autobiography called My Life.

In his Memory …

The Federal Republic of Nigeria counts Ahmadu Bello as one of its founding fathers. It put his photograph on the 200 Naira note. One of Nigeria’s prominent universities is named after him. His documents are preserved in Arewa House (North House), a museum and research centre in Kaduna state, the capital of former Northern Nigeria. Many books have been written on his life and ideas, especially a biography by researcher John N. Paden.

This artcile was translated from Turkish to English language by Zekiye Gök.It is a summary of the presentaions made at the 157th graduate student debate hosted by the Kayseri International Students Association. The speakers were Ifeoluwa Siddiq Oyelami, Lias Aliev, Lütfullah Zaid, and Hussam Alsalameh.

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