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"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…”  - Sir Ahmadu Bello


 

Ahmadu Bello, a symbol of religious tolerance

By Ezekiel Oyeyipo   / 2006-01-14

 

What does Ahmadu Bello symbolise in the light of your knowledge of him?

Ans: Sir Ahmadu Bello was a political and an administrative hero not only in Northern Nigeria, but in the whole of the country. He was an astute administrator, a level headed politician and a father not only to people of his faith and creed, but also to everybody who was under his paternal care. He was an active contributor and a promoter of progress of Northern Nigeria in particular and the sustenance of Nigerian unity as a whole. He identified himself as a bonafide son and lover of his country in the sense that Nigeria mattered to him more than any other country in the world. He took to the policy of charity beginning from home. He first tried to develop the Northern Region of Nigeria to the best of his capacity and ability. It was he who under the Northernisation policy built up the virile Northern civil service, including letting up the educational status of Northern Nigeria. Before then, people looked at the North as a backward people with particular reference to western education. Sir Ahmadu Bello came to correct that impression by providing facilities and opportunities for Northern sons and daughters in other parts of the country educationally.
What was your relationship with Sir Ahmadu Bello?

 

Ans: Ahmadu Bello was the Premier of Northern Nigeria and its administrative head. I was a civil servant in Northern Nigeria. I started as an Assistant Secretary and later was promoted to Senior Assistant Secretary and Provincial Secretary and then Permanent Secretary. I worked in the Premier’s office as Senior Assistant Secretary in charge of General Administration of the whole Northern Nigeria and also responsible for the training and posting, discipline and disposition of administrative staff of Northern Nigeria. From there, he evaluated what I did and decided to take me to his home province, Sokoto, as Provincial Secretary. This he did regardless of the fact that I was neither Fulani nor Hausa, in spite of the fact that I did not live enough of my active life in Northern Nigeria, in spite of the fact that I happened to be a Yoruba, a Yoruba identifiable by mark, in spite of the fact that I happened to be a Christian, yet he sent me down to Sokoto to man that big province of his own. It was an administrative feat by him.
Was he a tribalist?

 

Ans: He could not have been a tribalist if he left his own Hausa-Fulani boys and took me to his home base to man the area, he could not have been a tribalist if he left Hausa-Fulani boys and made Sunday Awoniyi the head of security of Northern Nigeria, he could not have been a tribalist if he took Aro of Mopa, a Yoruba Christian from Kabba and made him Secretary of Northern Nigeria Executive Council. I don’t think he was a tribalist, in spite of views of some myopic individuals who did not move near him to understand him, who did not know his way of life. He was not a tribalist, from all indications, from all that I knew about him.
How do you see the legacies left behind by Sardauna?

 

First and foremost among his legacies is the awareness of Nigerians that they belong to a geo-political entity of which they could be proud of, that is Nigeria within the context of Africa. Another legacy is the very strong foundation he laid for the unity of Northern Nigeria. Another one, contrary to the views of other people, is the educational empowerment, which he gave Northern Nigeria and which he helped to maintain, not only for the unity, but also for the progress of the country. The Sugar Company in Ilorin, apart from Jebba Paper Mill and Bacita Sugar Company. He also left a legacy of politics without bitterness, otherwise why did he allow coalition and a broad-based administration at the federal level under the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa with Festus Okotie-Eboh as Finance Minister and others from the East and other parts of the country? The greatest legacy I remember him for is that he was somebody who had a vision, a vision of the great North and the legacy of religious tolerance. That was the main reason why many Christians were able to serve him diligently, both in the political class and in the civil service.


  “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…”  - Sir Ahmadu Bello 

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