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Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the incident that led to the death of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, yesterday got a fresh life of its own as his surviving chief driver, Alhaji Ali Sarkin-Mota, recounted how he tried, fruitlessly, to save the late Premier of the Northern region from being killed.
The events of January 15, 1966, a watershed in the history of Nigeria, will continue to be a reference point for assessing and evaluating the country’s leadership and democratic values, judging from the way living witnesses of the memorable day spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday in no-holds-barred interviews.
Sarkin-Mota, 89, recalls that on January 15, 1966, at about 1:30am after the killers of the late Sardauna had gained access to the his residence, one of them demanded to know from him (driver) the whereabouts of his boss, a question he feigned not have understood since it was asked in English.
“I pretended that I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then he asked me in Hausa, ‘Ina Sardauna?’ I told him that since we returned from playing five (game), I had not set my eyes on the premier”, Sarkin-Mota recalled.
The octogenarian stated that, at that point, he was cleaning up the cars when he heard the Sardauna calling out to his barber to hurry up with what he was doing because he (Sardauna) wanted to shave. Sarkin-Mota said that soon after, the Sardauna turned to him and said he overheard him talking to some people.
“I told him yes, that it was the security guards or, rather, the policemen guarding the house. Alas! I was wrong in my calculation. I didn’t know they were soldiers who had succeeded in getting access to the State House and positioned themselves in strategic places. The premier then sent one of his aides, Maman Bakurato, to buy ‘kilishi’ (dry meat) and ‘Suya’ (roasted meat) for him. He then called me again and asked me to go upstairs and bring some soft drinks (tango) for the so-called soldiers,” Sarkin-Mota recounted.
According to him, all this while they were going about their normal domestic life without knowing that the soldiers had already killed and dislodged the real policemen deployed to guard the premier’s residence.
He continued: “They were three of them, and one of them told me that they were giving me five minutes to tell them where the Premier was or they would kill me. I told them they could go ahead and kill me because I was ready to die. They left me and started searching for him all over the house but they did not see him.
“Then they went to his wives’ quarters and chased them out of their rooms. As soon as the premier’s wives joined my wife in our own quarters, they (soldiers) began shooting. They came back, followed me to my room, broke the door to the room and smashed the window, thinking the premier was hiding in my room. They bent down and removed the mattress in my room. Helpless and frustrated, the soldiers were just shooting sporadically while at the same time, the premier’s wives were shouting and wailing.
“One of them, Inno, was just reciting ‘inna illahi’ (Islamic prayers). All of a sudden, one of his wives saw him (Sardauna) in jallabiya (long gown) without a cap. When she gave him a wrapper to disguise himself and quickly run away, he refused, telling her that ‘what they were looking for is here’. I moved to where the premier was standing and I held his hands. My intention was to take him to my room but the sound of a gunshot fired at our direction separated the two of us.
“They cut off the electricity in the house. Inno, his wife, again saw him and she ran towards him. The soldiers followed her; one of them shouted: ‘where is Ahmadu Bello?’ And the premier responded, ‘I am here!’ He was standing just close to the toilet and one of his wives, Hafsatu, held him tight. One of the soldiers asked her to leave him and run for her life, but she refused, telling the soldiers boldly that she preferred to die with her husband.
“Without wasting time, they shot and killed the two of them. This was at about 4am on January 15, 1966. Immediately it happened, I fainted. It took one month before I could regain my memory,” Sarkin-Mota narrated.
50 years after, Sadaurna’s legacy remains evergreen – Grandson
Meanwhile, a grandson of the late Sardauna, Alhaji Hassan Danbaba Marafara, has expressed delight that even though today made it 50 years since the death of his father, the legacies of the late Premier of the Northern region are still being celebrated.
Marafara, who is also the Magajin Gari Sokoto, also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his effort in trying to sustain the legacy of accountability and transparency which the late Sardauna stood for.
He said, “Most importantly, we thank and appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts in trying to fulfill the treasured dream of our late father in terms of accountability, dedication, patriotism, and service delivery to the people, irrespective of ethnic, religious, social or political leaning. We are indeed grateful and will continue to acknowledge the humane disposition extended to us by all and sundry.
“Today, 15th of January 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of our father, Sir Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, the grandson of Usman Dan Fodio and Premier of the Northern Region. To us as a family, it is a moment of reflection and a time to be grateful to Almighty Allah for making us a product of Sir Ahmadu Bello.
“The blossoming wind of change, freedom and development being enjoyed today was a seed planted and nourished by our forefathers, especially the irreplaceable, benevolent and kind-hearted late Sir Ahmadu Bello (KBE), the Sardauna of Sokoto, the first and only premier of Northern Nigeria.
“Fifty years have gone by, yet these legacies for which the late Sardauna worked and lived by are still being celebrated. We as members of his family, especially his daughters and grandchildren, are gratified and humbled by the deliberate and concerted efforts made by various individuals, groups, student organizations, the various Gamji clubs, the Arewa Consultative Assembly, present and past Northern Nigerian Governors, Nigerian journalists, editors and proprietors of various media organizations in remembering our father.”
He extended the family’s heart-felt appreciation to royal fathers led by the Sultan of Sokoto; Nigerian heads of governments, past and present, religious leaders and clergymen, and former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mamman Nasir.
He also offered his respects to the Emir of Daura, Umar Faruk Umar, and Alhaji Sule Gaya “who has remained our guiding compass and pillar of support.”
Plotters Of 1966 Coup Were Deceived By Politicians – Jimeta
Meanwhile, former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, has stated that the January 16, 1966 coup that claimed the life of the late Premier of the Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was a needless venture.
He told LEADERSHIP Friday that the soldiers who plotted the coup were deceived by power-hungry politicians who were looking for the shortest possible route to power.
He said, “The January 15, 1966 coup was needless as it truncated democracy and created part of the problems of the whole of Africa. By now, Nigeria would have been a giant of democracy in the world if not for the coup. We would have been in the same class with Germany and most big nations of the world.
“If you look at the perpetrators of the violence critically, you will find out that most of the soldiers involved joined the army through the short service. I think they were deceived by some politicians. They actually thought that there was a short-cut to power outside the ballot box. But you don’t have to kill to be in power. The coup was an unjustifiable event and still remains something we still regret as a nation.”
Nigeria Still Haunted By Ghost Of The Coup – Caot Ayuba
Another witness of the coup, Capt John Ayuba (rtd), a war veteran who lives in Abuja, said the bloody coup claimed the lives of those who had good plans for the country.
He said, “The coup was regretful. We lost a lot of good people who had good intentions for our beloved country. The mistake of the coup is still haunting us as a nation today.”
The Coup Was Ego-driven
Also speaking, Major Ali, a 79-year-old retired army officer, told LEADERHIP Friday that the coup was baseless and driven by ego.
“The war was needless and baseless. It was actually an ego thing and we can never recover from it as a nation. We fought in the war to keep our nation together. This is something that we are proud of,” he said.
It’s Time To Transform Nigeria’s Potential Into Accomplishment – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday noted that from Nigeria’s independence till date, the world has spoken of the country’s potential and declared that it was time such potential is transformed into accomplishments.
President Buhari stated this at the 50th commemoration of the demise of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Saduana of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region organised by the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABMF).
The president noted that, as a country, the citizens must reverse the legacy of poverty and use the country’s population as an engine of growth and prosperity rather than an engine of perils.
“We have to build skills to simplify access to capital, provide security and strengthen law enforcement; anything less amounts to paying lip service to the examples set by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello of blessed memory,” he stated.
Represented by the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the president lamented how some parts of the country are worse than others, and a country besieged by poverty, insecurity, poor infrastructure, high unemployment, declining education and health care indices.
He said it was high time the country began to fulfil the aspirations and potentialities the world has ascribed to Nigeria for over 50 years.
“Let us embrace our responsibility to serve our people better and do our utmost to secure it and inspire our people to creativity and development, which is what Sir Ahmadu Bello did all his life and expects all his inheritors, like the northern governors, to do.
“Sir Ahmadu Bello led his region with competence, integrity and fairness. He contributed to the overall development of Nigeria through his leadership by example; he did as he said and did not say one thing and did another.
“Sir Ahmadu Bello represented the essence of truly transformational leadership; when you live with honesty and integrity in the service of humanity, the society never forgets you even if you are killed and leave no words behind.”
Buhari reiterated that the tragic circumstance of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s death did not obscure the quality of the leadership that he provided, adding that the late premier exhibited “a deeply felt consciousness of duty.”
Stop Hiding Under The Late Sarduana, Sultan Tells Northern Leaders
His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday unequivocally told leaders of the northern region to stop hiding under the shadows of the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and instead work and live like the late Sardauna did.
The Sultan who made this call in his goodwill message as one of the special guests at the 50th commemoration of the demise of late Sir Ahmadu Bello, organized by the memorial foundation, reminded the leaders of the northern region of the myriad problems on their hands and the need to begin to find lasting solutions to them.
He asserted that bad leadership cannot produce any good achievement even as he challenged northern leaders to take up the mantle of leadership and the challenges.
“Fifty years after Sardauna’s death, let’s work with his blueprints and the ethics he left for us; let us avoid all forms of religious bigotry and rivalry,” he advised.
The Sultan who is the president, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Nigeria, and chairman, Northern Council of Chiefs, also called on northern leaders, particularly governors, to address the menace of unemployment in the region.
According to the Sultan, “unemployed youths are like a time bomb waiting to explode. Whoever has nothing to do will do anything available; therefore, find a way to engage our jobless youths and get our children off the streets and make them useful to the society.”
He equally tasked northern governors to see to the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta steel company and diversification into agriculture to address the problem of unemployment.
Sardauna’s Philosophy, Answer To Nigeria’s Problems – Maitama Sule
In his keynote address at the occasion, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule who spoke the topic, “the North, 50 Years after Sir Ahmadu Bello,” advocated that Nigerian leaders adopt the philosophy of the late Saduana, saying it will provide answers to the problems facing the nation.
“Yes, Sardaunan of Sokoto lived for his people and died for his people. Sardauna was a good leader, a leader that led his people with the philosophy of a Fulani herdsman.
“Sardauna, like a Fulani herdsman, is always in front of his cattle with his stick over his shoulders, leading the cattle. He is never behind them; he is always in the front leading them. If he stops, all of them will stop and if he jumps into the river, all of them will follow him.
“Why do the cattle do that; it is because the cattle have realised that the herdsman will sacrifice his life, his pleasure for them. That was the kind of Sardauna’s leadership. The philosophy of the herdsman was the philosophy of Sardauna.
“Nigeria of today will have no problem solving all of its problems, political, economic, social and otherwise if Nigeria adopts Sardauna’s philosophy. Sardauna’s philosophy is the answer to all the problems facing Nigeria – political, social, economic and religious.”
Our Leaders Must Not Be Disrespected – Emir Sanusi, Northern Governors
In their good will messages, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11, and the Northern governors who spoke through Governor Nasir el-Rufai, said under no circumstance will they allow their leaders, alive or dead, to be disrespected or their history re-written.
According to Emir Sanusi, the event of 15th January 15, 1966, was a sad one but he lamented that, 50 years later, history is being re-written as those who killed the late Sardauna are claiming to be victims.
“It is important that we keep history truthful. (Even) if we forgive and forget, we must never allow history to be re-written because what is happening in Nigeria today is a new story and a new narrative.
“Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa and others were victims. We don’t want to keep opening new wounds; everyone has been hurt and offended. Lots of people are marginalised. Every part has produced good and corrupt leaders alike; no one has the monopoly of power of corruption or oppression.
“So, why don’t we, please, as one country not forget history because it cannot be forgotten, but we must learn from our history.”
“The late Sardauna, Tafawa Balewa and their likes were heroes and were better than anything this country has produced. The time has gone and we cannot allow ourselves to get back into ethnic regional, sectionist religious battle.
“However, I think we owe it to the memory of these gentlemen who were murdered that so long as we are alive, we will defend their honour.
On their part, Malam el-Rufai who also spoke on behalf of the governors said: “As northern governors, we want peace, unity, progress and development in Nigeria, but we will not accept a situation in which our parents and forefathers are being insulted.”
Culled: Leadership Newspaper