Revisiting Sardauna’s Northernisation policy

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By Abdullahi Yusuf Tela

If only Nzeogwu and his cohorts were to be alive today, they would have regretted the actions they took, staging the first coup d’etat in the country that killed the sardauna and other notable Nigerians. Nzegowu accused the first republic government of corruption and misgovernance which was his basis for that ill-gotten idea of a coup. I am 100% sure that if he was alive today to witness the extreme level of corruption, he would have cried and redefined his concept of corruption.

Sir Ahmadu Bello, the sardauna of Sokoto was a great man born from the milk of the Sokoto Caliphate. He was earlier called Ahamdu Rabah but later changed to Ahmadu Bello after he was knighted by the Queen to show that he is a descendant of Sultan Muhammad Bello. He is the great-grandson of Sultan Muhammad Bello, the second Sultan of Sokoto after Usmanu Dan Fodio.

Sardauna’s Northernisation policy
Sir Ahmadu Bello

Sardauna ascended the premiership position in 1956 and made sure he modernized while preserving many traditional values in the North. Sardauna was so hardworking that he might be ill but would still go on working. As pointed out by Panden, in 1964, Sardauna had a bad leg and was on drugs to treat it. But at the same time, he launched the NNA campaign in a three-hour speech, standing and forced himself to carry on. (Later the doctors treated him.)

On infrastructure, Ahmadu Bello made sure that there was almost an even rate of development between the regions. For instance, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of Western Nigeria established the Western Nigeria Television Station in 1959 and Michael Okpara of Eastern Nigeria followed suit in 1960, Ahmadu Bello resiliently came up with the Radio Television Kaduna (RKTV) in 1962.

Similarly, as regards education, Ahmadu Bello’s legacy will never be forgotten in the annals of northern Nigeria. In fact, it can be said that it was due to the low educational level of the North as compared to the South that Sardauna opposed the earlier proposal for independence in 1956. Sardauna felt that the North was backward in terms of western education as compared to the South and by allowing such proposal to materialize, power will only reside in the other regions

In the light of the above, Sardauna immediately started sending many children to school at home and abroad. Many northern Nigerian children benefitted wholly from the sponsorship of Ahmadu Bello. In fact, there was a situation as opined by Alh. Muhammadu Liman in his autobiography “What I can Remember” that when they were sponsored to the University College (now University of Ibadan) because of the comfortable life they lived, other students from other regions tagged them as “Sardauna boys”.

Before the establishment of then Northern Nigerian University (now Ahmadu Bello University), most of the students in the North went either to the University College in Ibadan or were taken abroad for other certificate courses.

Sardauna personally saw to the establishment of ABU, Zaria which many students from diverse cultures, religions from across all regions now benefit from. One of the most difficult tasks today could be counting the number of graduates of ABU across the country. They are almost everywhere. Thanks to Sardauna.

You may wish to call Sardauna a regionalist; that’s your own view. But, what do you expect from a man that was given the mantle to lead Northern Nigeria? His job is the north, his territory is the north,  his rule was “ a northerner first”. Sardauna saw northern Nigeria as a nation in spite of the religious and ethnic differences.

To show Sardauna’s high tolerance for religion and ethnicity he had once preferred Yakubu Gowon who was a Christian to Hassan Katsina, a Muslim from the royal home of Katsina. Both of them were then young soldiers in the Nigerian Army.  His reason was that Gowon was more committed to the North.

Abdullahi Yusuf Tela,


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