His father held the title of Sarkin Rabah. During his school days, he was known as Ahmadu Rabah. In , he was promoted to the position of Divisional Head of Gusau in present-day Zamfara State and became a member of the Sultan's council. In , at the age of just 28, he made attempts to become the Sultan of Sokoto but was not successful, losing to Sir Siddiq Abubakar III who reigned for 50 years until his death in These titles automatically made him the Chief Political Adviser to the Sultan.
Later, he was put in charge of the Sokoto Province to oversee 47 districts and by , he was back at the Sultan's Palace to work as the Chief Secretary of the State Native Administration. In , he got a government scholarship and was off to England to study Local Government Administration which broadened his understanding and knowledge of governance. After returning from Britain , he was nominated to represent the province of Sokoto in the regional House of Assembly. As a member of the assembly, he was a notable voice for northern interests and embraced a style of consultation and consensus with the major representatives of the northern emirates namely Kano , Bornu and Sokoto.
The Founding Fathers: Sir Ahmadu Bello – MingooLand
He was selected among with others as a member of a committee that redrafted the Richards Constitution and he also attended a general conference in Ibadan. His work at the assembly and in the constitution drafting committee brought him appreciation in the north and he was asked to take on leadership positions within Jamiyya Mutanen Arewa. In the independence elections, Bello led the NPC to win a plurality of the parliamentary seats. Bello's NPC forged an alliance with Dr. Bello's leadership characteristics was a blend of religious, traditional and modern values and his obligation in colonial and post-independence Nigeria was performing these different roles in the northern region.
This contributed to the decision to replace both Southerners and Europeans in the Northern region's civil services with Northerners, a policy that received criticism from opposition leaders such as Ibrahim Imam. Bello originally embraced the Indirect rule system of colonial Nigeria before gradually embracing reforms. During his period of premiership, his biographer, John Paden described him as a progressive conservative, because he was an agent of change and also of the traditional elites.
Bello initiated plans to modernise traditional koranic education in Northern Nigeria.
He set up a commission to this effect and gave official recognition to the schools. Part of his educational objectives was building a school in each province in Northern Nigeria. Bello was assassinated on 15 January in a coup which toppled Nigeria's post-independence government.
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He was still serving as premier of Northern Nigeria at the time. That was the first coup in Nigeria history.
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Also assassinated in the coup was his long time friend Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa alongside many political elites in the north and in the west. Bello had three wives at the time of his death. Hafsatu, his first and senior wife, died alongside him. He had three surviving daughters with another wife, Amina Goggon Kano. He combined traditional leadership qualities with a deep knowledge of Western governance.
His early education was at the feet of Muslim masters studying the Quran, the hadiths and sharia law. He was later a student at the Sokoto Middle School, the only modern school at the time in the Sokoto province. He then enrolled in the Katsina Teacher's Training College for a further five years.
In , he was offered a scholarship to study local government administration in England which he accepted as he wanted to increase his knowledge of the process of governance. As the movement for independence from the British Empire gathered momentum, Bello emerged as a strong advocate of federalism as the system of government most suitable for Nigeria. This was not unconnected to his desire to protect the north from what he perceived as the possibility of southern domination.
He also served on the national constitutional drafting commission as a representative of the North. Bello later became a member of the regional executive council as Minister of Works. Over time, he headed various ministries in the Northern Region including works, local government and community development. In and , he led the northern delegation during independence talks held in London.
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Bello became the first premier of Northern Nigeria in Bello was perhaps the most politically powerful person in Nigeria during the first five years of independence. The north was less developed economically than the south and Bello argued that it was necessary for the north to catch up for the sake of national unity. He travelled constantly across the north to meet with the common people and listen to their concerns.
He was also honoured by the United Kingdom, the country from which he had helped to negotiate independence, with a knighthood just before the end of colonial rule.
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Bello's greatest legacy was the modernisation of Northern Nigeria and the unification of its diverse people.