By Muktar Yakubu
The anniversary of the death of Premier of the old Northern region and Sardaunan Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello,does not fall due until January 15. However, happenings in our country today, including pervasive corruption in public life, have compelled to reflect on the life this great Nigerian, popularly referred to ‘Gamji dan kwarai’. The late Wada Nas described him “a politician of distinction, unaffected by selfishness, dedicated to service and committed to unity and the brotherhood of the human person’’
On 15thJanuary, 1966 the Sardauna was killed by misguided military officers mostly Igbos, as a result of failed coup d’état. The Ahmadu Gamji dan kwarai was a fundamentalist for unity, an embodiment of democracy and civilization. He dedicated his life for service to humanity and he died in such. He worked assiduously for unity of Nigeria and North in particular. Under him, the North was a united entity with no reference to tribe or religion, people in the region came to be associated with northerners as a tribal name, rather than reference to a particular region, religion or race as the current situation.
In his time the north was a magnet; attracting all sphere of human being. The over two hundred tribal groups considered themselves as northerners with any rancor, different from the current situation, in which people make reference to race or region. Today the North has becomes a disjointed family. People no longer fight for unity and progress of the region but self-aggrandizement.
Sir Ahmadu was a liberal person who believed in freedom of worship for every Tom, Dick and Henry. He did not allow his selfish interest to override public wishes. Before I proceed I would like the reader to see what he can make of one Sir Ahmadu Bello’s speeches: ‘’Here in the Northern Nigeria we have People of Many different races, tribes and religious who are knit together to common history, common interest and common ideas, the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. I always remind people of our firmly rooted policy of religious tolerance. We have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. Subject to the overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his belief according to the dictates of his conscience…”
Some say Gamji was a jihadist, anarchist, regionalist, religionist etc. I cannot say you should not criticize him, but the fact remains that he was a noncontroversial figure and a liberal person who looked at individuals rather than where they came from. It was the same Sardauna who you ascribed with all sort of names that recognized an achievement made by a Christian Plateau boy and finally sent him outside country to study mining engineering. Also, same Gamji bought the first Bible for the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi former Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum. I heard that Baba Ahmadu Ahmadu Bello did become angry with Christians who didn’t go to the Church, he even drove some to the churches.
The same Sardauna had at his midst the like of Michael Audu Buba, from Plateau, Edward Maminso from Adamawa, Jolly Tanko Yusuf from Taraba, Mr. Achimugu from Kogi and several other notable Christian ministers who had very close political relationship with him. His deputy the Makaman Bida was not a Hausa/Fulani but Nupe.
I am calling on Ahmadu Bello’s critics to continue with their criticism. As words cannot destroy greatness nor can they bring down a steady fence. I heard that “one only criticize when he/she has nothing to say about him/herself. So please, criticize Ahmadu but know that your criticism is worthless if you have not done better than Gamji.
It was he who was reported to have told Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo “Don’t envy the unity of the North but worry about the division in the South so that we can have a united South and a united North in a united Nigeria”. It was upon this that he once advised Dr. Nmamdi Azikwe that for us to achieve unity in Nigeria we need to appreciate our differences so that we can live of them. The same Ahmadu Bello you call a corrupt and greedy person left only a traditional house; he owned neither a car nor a bank account despite his influence. The Sardauna issued a query to a minister, who was a party officer, for failure to account for 50 kobo!
Yakubu via firstname.lastname@example.org