Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Sardauna: Political Legacies And Contemporary Politics
February 5, 2003
Remarks at The Gamji Memorial Week Organized By The Gamji Memorial Club Usman Dan Fodio University Sokoto Branch.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto (May Allah grant him eternal peace) was a politician of distinction, unaffected by selfish interest, dedicated to service and committed to unity and the brotherhood of the human person.
Since he became the President of the NPC in 1952,
up to the time of his death, in the hands of some misguided military officers,
on 15th January 1966 he became a fundamentalist for unity in Nigeria
in general and the North in particular.
What this means is that the Sardauna succeeded in
creating a united entity out of diverse tribes and this was strengthened by the
general use of the Hausa language in the region?
How was he able to achieve this remarkable legacy?
How did he create a common identity for such a diverse people, who lost their
individual identity for the word North?
Let me answer with a few examples. There was a young secondary school graduate from what is today Plateau State who passed out with flying colours. The Sardauna came across his name when he was going through the results of college examinations as he formed the habit of doing so. He was so impressed with the results of that particular student that he ordered that he be brought to Kaduna.
When those ordered to do so arrived their house,
his father became apprehensive, wondering aloud what offence his son might have
committed that he was to be taken to the Sardauna. As the messengers had no
idea, he became more worried and pleaded that he should be allowed to accompany
him. This was granted.
After dinner, he told them why he wanted to see
the boy. The father was relieved and more so when the Sardauna showered them
with gifts. He was said to have told them that “ your son has done the North
proud in his examination so we are sending him for further studies abroad”.
The lesson here is that the Sardauna was concerned
in the matters of individuals in his domain and this very much endeared him to
the people. The young boy was not a Muslim, a Hausa or Fulani. He was a
Christian from one of the minority tribes in Plateau. Yet his achievements were
recognized by a Fulani Muslim leader which consquently made it possible for the
young man to graduate from a British university with a degree in mining
engineering. It was exceptional that a leader would concern himself of going
through school reports after each academic year and rewarded individuals purely
on merit. The Sardauna saw every one as a human being and not as Birom, Kanuri,
Hausa or Higgi.
General Jemibewon, then from Kabba Division, now
in Kogi State, once narrated how he got admission into the military school.
There were several of them he said from different parts of the North. It so
happened that the three of them that came from that Division came tops. Inspite
of their non Hausa-Fulani and Muslim status, they were the ones recommended by
the Northern Nigerian Government and they were admitted. Jemibewon is a Northern
A friend of mine once told me that he had an
occasion to visit a family in Mangu Plateau State. In the house of his host, a
Christian stood a life-size portrait of the Sardauna. On enquiry, he was told
that his education was personally sponsored by late Northern leader and he was
the only Christian among his six other brothers. The rest are Muslims. Yet he
was the closet to the Sardauna spending his holidays in Kaduna with him.
Another told me that a son of late R. B. Dikko,
the first Northern medical doctor, and the first president of the NPC, once
narrated to him that when they were young, the Sardauna was always visiting them
on Sundays. During one of such visits he found them playing and wondered why
they didn’t go to the Church. On explanation, that their father was still in
bed, he drove them personally to the Church.
Chief Sunday Awoniyi, The Sardauna “kekere” and
one of the highly principled and respected Northerners ever, has never failed to
tell any one who bothers to listen that his first Bible was purchased for him by
the Sardauna. He has also been saying that each time he, Gamji, was in Illorin
on an official visit he stayed in the house of a friend who was a Christian.
Unlike what we have today where opposition is seen
as enmity, Mallam Aminu Kano, the late leader of the NEPU was one of the best
friends of the Sardauna who he highly respected. The late NEPU leader never had
to book an appointment before seeing him both privately and officially. It was
the same with the late Tarka, the leader of the UMBC. Even when he was leading
the Tiv uprising, they were always on speaking terms with the Sardauna.
Thus, Gamji never saw political opponents as
enemies but as friends in different camps dedicated also to the Northern cause.
Underlying all this was the singular objective to ensure Northern unity inspite
During a debate in the House of Representatives in
1953, Chief Enahoro called for self-government for the various regions by 1956.
The Sardauna responded that the North would never oppose such a move for any
region but that the North hadn’t the needed manpower to stand on its own. This
infuriated Southern leaders and so started the lucrative business of insulting
Northerners by them and their media. It is this democratic position they always
cite that the North was opposed to independence. What they failed to appreciate
was the working of federalism. In any case, the North became self-governing in
I have given these examples to demonstrate how the
Sardauna tried to build bridges of unity across the country by taking even the
interest of individuals, into account not to talk of those of groups.
Let me cite a specific example of what honesty
could be. A one time military governor, in one of the Northern States, once
related to a group of few Northerners that when the military took over power in
1966, they discovered huge amount of money in the accounts of the NPC whose
president was the Sardauna. In Addition, they found the expenditure profile of
the party. According to him, after consultations with the defunct Interim Common
Services Agency, the body established to oversee the distribution of Northern
assets after the creation of more states in 1967, it was decided that the sum be
shared to those institutions left behind by the Sardauna such as the New
Nigerian, FRCN, Kaduna Polytechnic, ABU Zaria and others. It was with its own
share that the ABU started its School of Basic Studies. FRCN Kaduna used its own
to acquire several powerful transmitters which are still in use to this day,
built an additional office complex and a housing estate in Malali and other
parts of Kaduna. The New Nigerian applied its own for the same purpose. Thus,
those who passed through the ABU School of Basic Studies should bear in mind
that they are beneficiaries of the living evidence of Sardauna’s honesty and
prudent management of public funds.
But this wasn’t all according to the officer. What
surprised them most was that the Sardauna, in his capacity as the President of
the party, issued a query to a minister, who was a party officer, for failure to
account for 50 kobo! Imagine only 50 kobo! Compare this to what is happening
today where there are claims that a governor stole about N2 billion and nobody
can query him.
This is why I keep on saying that the nemesis of
what happened in 1966 would remain to hunt Nigerians. We murdered innocent
people on the false accusation of corruption only for us now to discover that
they were the angels of the time. The Sardauna left no house behind except, I
understand, the traditional mud house in Sokoto. Same with Tafawa Balewa who was
yet to finish paying the balance of his car loan of N30 before his murder. Since
their death Nigeria has never known peace to this day. It is Allah punishing us
for the sins we have committed against them until we repent and seek
forgiveness. Consider the various calamities we have been experiencing since
1966 when they were murdered. Allah is punishing us for killing innocent people.
The Sardauna was in power between 1952 to 1966. He had no house, no car, and no
savings! A councilor was in power for just three years. Today he is a
millionaire! Why would Allah not be angry with us for murdering them on account
of allegation of corruption while history has now demonstrated that this was
merely a frame up against them?
Any wonder that the legacy of unity left behind by
the Sardauna has been shattered such that the North can no longer speak with one
voice even when there is the need to do so. Any wonder also that a Sardauna is
yet to emerge from among us almost 36 years after his murder.
Look at the situation today; the suffering of the
people under this Obasanjo Government. Yet some Northern Leaders, in
collaboration with others, sold out for peanuts; because of money without
bothering that this administration has brought unprecedented hardship to ALL
Nigerians. How can any leader in his conscience seek the return of this
Government when even its Governors admitted openly that they can not market
Obasanjo any longer? Yet, the same people went ahead to endorse him on the
promise that he would cover up their misdeeds.
What happened after he made this promise and got
what he wanted? Soon after, they requested for the names of their Governors
under probe by ICPC and now there is no place to hide for some of them. We now
know that 9 of them are under probe. Obasanjo quickly broke his promise to them
that if anointed PDP flag bearer, ICPC would drop all investigations against
them. What is the situation today?
The Governors of the Niger Delta, who equally sold
out, were promised that the Offshore/Onshore Bill would immediately be signed
into law. So far nothing is happening. Promises are not vows with our
politicians today. Nemesis is catching up with those PDP governors who sold out
their people to this poor performing administration. Allah witnesses everything.
Talking of Northern unity brings us to the now
cordial relationship between General Buhari and General Babangida brokered by
His Highness the Sultan of Sokoto and President Shagari. This is a worthy legacy
to their credit in the spirit of Sardauna’s philosophy of one North one People
one Destiny irrespective of differences.
Our leaders of today must build on this legacy by
taking deliberate steps to bring our people together, as did the Sardauna. The
building of unity is the best we can honour the Sardauna.
Students have also a role in this. Through their various organizations they can bring together our quarreling leaders. I hereby therefore charge the Gamji club of the Dan Fodio University Sokoto to spear-head this by bringing together our leaders to dialogue among themselves as Nigerian students did in 1944 which eventually led to the formation of the NCNC. This party was established by the Nigerian students of the time as their contributions towards uniting the people against the British colonial administration. You should therefore link up with your other colleagues, tour the North on a mission of peace, unity and reconciliation, preaching always against violence, religious and tribal differences and working for the unity of our people in friendship and brotherhood.
Today, we are a fragmented people, easily
manipulated by all, killing ourselves after a divide and rule tactics has been
applied against us. The forth-coming election is a test case for our unity and
brotherhood, based on our past experiences. Let our leaders be united and
maintain contacts with others across the country, with clear promise and
understanding and let us live up to our promise.
My parting words is for you as students to be
united irrespective of differences, to preach against violence, intolerance, on
the basis of differences because you have a role to play in the well being of
this country. Nigeria belongs to you and so you must not allow some few
individuals to break it up. A fragmented Nigeria is not in your interest. Stand
up and unite the people of Nigeria in honour of the Sardauna who died fighting
this cause. May Allah guide and help you in doing so and may Allah rest his soul
in perfect peace. Amin.
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