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Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Christmas Message

December 11, 2020 

By Femi Abbas

This is the month of December, a month of the paradoxical trade fair in which lies, fabrications and falsehood are, invariably, the wares displayed for exhibition. This is the month in which ostentation displaces faith and deception replaces conscience. How and why are these case? Please, read the story of facts and fictions below.

Preamble

An axiomatic Yoruba adage came to mind

Again recently, when a so-National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF) of octogenarians published a fabricated statement in Nigerian media and falsely credited it to the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello. The statement was quoted from a false publication by some Biafra agitators of Igbo extraction, as a justification for their thoughtless secession bid. The adage goes thus: “Any slave that is desperate to forcefully usurp an estate bequeathed to an innocent orphan must fabricate a rootless history to justify his/her inordinate ambition for usurpation”. For people who can read between the lines, this adage needs no interpretation. It is self-explanatory.

Record of history

Here is a season in which recalling certain aspects of Nigerian history, if only to put the records straight, is a sine qua non. History is a living phenomenon that is common to all people around the world, in time and in space. No matter what interpretation or misinterpretation is given to it, in certain quarters, the fact remains that history is not anybody’s personal property and can, therefore, not be anybody’s enclave of monopoly.

Memory lane

Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first and only Premier of Northern Nigeria was not just one of the foremost political icons in Nigeria’s First Republic. He was also a patriarch of the political party called Northern People’s Congress (NPC). This man of colossal status became the Premier of Northern Nigeria in 1954, the same year in which his political counterparts and arch-rivals, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, became Premiers of Eastern and Western regions respectively.

The trio assumed office as Premiers, in 1954,  through party-based elections. They were later joined by Chief Denis Osadebe as the fourth Premier in Nigeria. The latter became the Premier of Midwest region, in 1963, when that region was created. However, barely five years after Nigeria’s independence, Sir Ahmadu Bello was callously killed, as Premier, on Saturday, January 15, 1966, by some Nigerian military coup plotters whose real intent was to obliterate all traces of Islam in Nigeria. Virtually all those coup plotters were of Igbo extraction and no single one of them was a Muslim, an indication that the coup was religiously motivated.

That devilish coup was led by one Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, an Igbo man from the present-day geographical area of Nigeria, called Delta State. Those coup plotters had killed the Muslim leaders in government, including Premier Ahmadu Bello, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and several other political leaders of other tribal extractions, in that year’s sacred month of Ramadan, before they started looking for reasons to give as a justification for the heinous termination of those leaders’ lives. The three reasons that they gave after killing those leaders were corruption, tribalism and religious bigotry. It was a matter of calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

Analysis of their reasons

Among the four Premiers in Nigeria during the first republic, only Ahmadu Bello, was a Muslim and he could not, in any way, be evidently linked to corruption. Unlike the other Premiers who lived opulently in expensive affluence, Ahmadu Bello was an ascetic personality who served his people diligently and patriotically without an iota of blemish. At the time of his gruesome murder, that Northern Premier had only a small residential bungalow in his home town of Raba in Sokoto Province, which he built with a loan and nothing more has been traced to him as property till today. He had not even completed the payment of the loan he obtained for the building of that bungalow before he was murdered.

Who else among his peers can be said to have left such a flank behind?

Sir Ahmadu Bello, the only Premier from the North, at that time, could also not be singularly accused of being tribally inclined because tribalism was the basis of all the existing political parties of the time. No Premier, in Nigeria, from 1954 to 1966 could be exonerated from tribalism directly or indirectly. They were all guilty of it.

Genesis of Tribal Politics in Nigeria

It can be recalled that certain tribal groups such as Ibiobio State Union (IBU), Ibo Federal Union (IFU) Egbe Omo Oduduwa (EOO) and ‘Jam’iyyar Al-Ummar Nigeriya ta Arewa’ translated as Northern Elements Progressive Association (NEPA) which later transformed into Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) were all tribal socio-cultural organizations that metamorphosed into political parties. All those parties preceded ‘Jam’iyyar Mutane Arewa’ meaning Northern People’s Congress (NPC), to which Ahmadu Bello belonged. Many other ethnic-based political parties later emerged to broaden tribalism in Nigerian politics. If anything, therefore, Ahmadu Bello was the least tribally inclined Premier of his time. If he was actually a tribalist and religious bigot as he has always been maliciously painted in Nigeria’s political history, by the Sothern Nigerian media, he would not have appointed Sunday Awoniyi, a Yoruba Christian, from the present day Kogi State, as his Private Secretary. Which other Premier appointed his private secretary from another tribe or from a religion other than Christianity? And, why did his killers link him alone to tribalism and bigotry?

His 1959 Christmas Message

Among the four Premiers in Nigeria’s first republic, only Ahmadu Bello was bold and sincere enough to allay the fear of the minority groups in his (Northern) region by making a public policy statement about his government’s stand concerning tribalism and religious bigotry. Here is an excerpt from what he said while sending a Christmas message to northern Christians at the time of Christmas in 1959:

“…We are people of many different races, tribes and religions, who are knit together by common history, common interests and common ideals. Our diversity may be great but the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. On an occasion like this, I always remind people about our firmly rooted policy on religious tolerance. Families of all creeds and colours can rely on these assurances. We have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. Subject to overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his belief. It is befitting on this momentous day, on behalf of my ministers and myself, to send a special word of gratitude to all Christian missions”.

“Let me conclude this with a personal message. I extend my greetings to all our people who are Christians on this great feast day. Let us forget the difference in our religion and remember the common brotherhood before God, by dedicating ourselves afresh to the great tasks which lie before us….”

That was the Christmas message that Sir Ahmadu Bello delivered in a radio broadcast on Thursday, December 24, 1959. And, it remained intact in Nigerian historical archive until 18 years ago (2002), when a Yoruba agent of the Lucifer came up with a fabricated statement that is now being devilishly quoted and circulated spirally by mischievous elements in Nigeria, who have been  crediting it to Sir Ahmadu Bello.

The fabricated version

Decades after Sir Ahmadu Bello’s unjustifiable assassination, some evil elements in the media, in active conspiracy with certain political demagogues, who were passionately pregnant with morbid hatred for Islam, went to fabricate another ‘Christmas Message’ and credited it to the late Northern Premier as a justification for his murder. The concocted statement was purportedly culled from a non-existing newspaper called ‘The Parrot’. Below is the fabricated Christmas Message:

“…The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future….”

Now, should that senselessly fabricated statement said to have been made by Sir Ahmadu Bello on October 12, 1960, be quoted blindly by any reasonable individual or group? How can a Christmas message by a Premier of Ahmadu Bello Status, be delivered in October, two months before Christmas? Haba! Is that not a confirmation that liars never think of the implications of their lies before they fabricate them?

Truth and falsehood

“Truth has come and falsehood has vamoosed; surely, falsehood is meant to vamoose in the presence of the truth”.  Q. 17: 81

Comparison

Now, looking at both (genuine and fabricated) statements quoted above very carefully, shouldn’t any sensible person be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood? The Premier’s original Christmas message, earlier quoted above, was made on the eve of Christmas on Thursday, December 24, 1959, through a radio broadcast and it was published by all newspapers in the country including the vociferous ‘West African Pilot’ owned by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the boisterous ‘Tribune’ owned by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the clamorous ‘Daily Times’ jointly owned privately by certain prominent Nigerian individuals at that time. That original statement was equally published by many other smaller newspapers in Nigeria. All those newspapers are identifiable in Nigeria’s media history even though most of them are now defunct.

On the other hand, the place and occasion of the fabricated statement credited to Sir Ahmadu Bello was not indicated and cannot be traced in Nigeria’s newspaper history.

Evidence of fabrication

The first time any genuinely existing newspaper ever made reference to that fabricated statement was on November 13, 2002 (42 years after it was purportedly made by Sir Ahmadu Bello. And, ‘The Tribune’ newspaper that published it on that date only claimed to have culled it from an online column published on October 24 2002 by a fraudulent Yoruba Journalist (name withheld) who entitled it ‘The Northern Agenda’. The referred online was actually named ‘Nairaland’, and it can still be found on the internet today if googled.

It can therefore be confirmed that the statement was actually fabricated, not in the 1960s but in October 2002, by the so-called online columnist who credited it to a newspaper that never existed. The objective was to give it an undeserved credibility. What a country! What a people! What a shame! This is a typical case of an obvious mischief by heartless mischief makers just to fetch ephemeral fame and illegal income.

The belief of such fraudsters was that once such a fabricated article appears on the internet and is ignorantly quoted by some inconsequential mercenary writers, it would automatically become a document of fact. And, true to that assertion, a self-acclaimed Nigerian Christian Elders Forum’ (NCEF) has shamelessly quoted that fabricated falsehood, as usual, to justify its baseless allegation of ‘Islamization’ of Nigeria. That is Nigeria for you.

The 1966 Coup Episode

January 15, 1966 was a Saturday like no other one in the history of Nigeria. It was on that day that the bitter political seed which germinated and grew into the thorny political tree that is now feeding Nigerians with bitter political fruits, was planted. The evil planting of that seed marked the beginning of an agonizing voyage of destiny on which Nigerians embarked without a compass. Coming up in the sacred month of Ramadan, the day, (January 15, 1966) actually came to confirm the axiomatic thought of an Arab poet who once asserted in a couplet thus: “Nights are heavily pregnant; they give birth to wonders in the days….”

The major casualties

The real target of the heartless coup ploters in  military uniform, who struck on January 15, 1966 coup was Islam. Although they (the coupists) killed virtually all the major key players in the then Nigerian politics except those of Igbo extraction, most of the victims of that coup were Muslims and some non-Igbo Christians who were then in prisons. The Prime Minister, Alhaji Sir AbubakarTafawa Balewa and the Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh were killed in Lagos. The Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was killed with his wife and some other people in Kaduna, the then Headquarters of Northern Nigeria. The Premier of Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, was killed in Ibadan, the then Headquarters of the South Western Region, while some military top brass of non-Igbo extraction were killed in different military barracks across the country.

Except for Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe who was killed for being too close to one Brigadier-General Zakariya’ Maimalari, a top Muslim military officer from the north, and could not be trusted, no other Igbo man of note, civilian or military, was killed in that coup. As a matter of fact, if there was any feeling of the coup in Nigeria’s Eastern Region at all, it was that of victory and heroism. The top military officers who were killed in the senseless coup included: Brig. S. A. Ademulegun (South West); Brig. ZakariMaimalari (North East); Col. Kur Mohammed (North West); Lt. Col. J. Y. Pam (North Central); Col. S. A. Shodeinde (South West); Lt. Col. Largema (North Central); Lt. Col. A. G. Unegbe (South East); S/Lt. James Odu (Mid West) and a host of others.

The False Allegations

After the dust had settled, it became evident that virtually all the planners of that coup as well as its executors were soldiers of Igbo extraction and Christians. Thus, other Nigerians whose relatives were severely affected saw the coup not only as tribal but also as religious, the killing of some Christians like Chiefs Akintola and Okotie-Eboh notwithstanding. This was because the then Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam was as deeply involved in religious matters as Sir Ahmadu Bello. The one was a Vice-President of the World Council of Churches. The other was the Vice-President of the Muslim World League. If religion was, therefore, the reason for the coup, the two of them ought to have been killed for bigotry. But history entails a variety of interpretations especially in a society where conscience hardly plays any meaningful role.

Beneficiaries

It is historically notable that the chief beneficiary of the coup (Major-General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi) was also of Igbo extraction. Almost all the military appointments after the coup were for men of Igbo extraction. Among those appointees, only Hassan Katsina and Muhammadu Shuwa were Muslims. How else could a coup be tribal and religious? After all, as far back as 1953, a frontline Igbo politician (name withheld) had set such agenda for his tribe’s men when he reportedly said that “Igbos’ domination of Nigeria is a matter of time”.  That statement was allegedly made at a cocktail party in Lagos. If this remains the yardstick for driving democracy in Nigeria, for how long can such democracy last?

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