President Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna, on Thursday January 14 stated that the events of January 15, 1966, which led to the death of Sir Ahmadu Bello and other prominent Nigerians, caused other woes that befell the nation.
Represented by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai, President Buhari, however, said Bello’s tragic death did not obscure the quality of his leadership.
He said Ahmadu Bello worked hard on the challenges of his time, adding: “At this critical juncture in our country’s history, we must grapple with the task of our era. It is our duty to unite our country, pulling together the talents of the diverse people of this land to move this country to a height that it can attain.
“From independence to date, the world has spoken of Nigeria’s potentials. It is time to make these potentials real. To transform the potentials into accomplishment, we must reverse the legacy of poverty. We must make the investment that can enable our country use its population as an engine of growth and prosperity, rather than a source of quarrel.”
According to him, “Sir Ahmadu Bello was a colossus. He took on and performed the immense task of governance, leading the Northern Region. He was clear about the challenges confronting the region he led, and he tried to address them, while trying to unite the diverse people of the area.
“The number of institutions he established, including the university that bears his name, testified to his success. The incurring appeal of the name and legacies of Sir Ahmadu Bello is his utmost victory, even in death.
“The tragic circumstances of his death did not obscure the quality of service that the Sardauna provided. His was not the empty gravitas of bearing, but a deeply felt consciousness of duty, which he responsibly undertook.
“The events of January 15, 1966 were a monumental tragedy. They set in motion, other tragedies that severely bucketed our country. The assassination of our revered Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Okotie Eboh, Brig.-Gen. Maimalari and other political and military leaders pushed Nigeria to a new dangerous place, which culminated into a civil war. I lived through these events as a young officer.
“My generation can testify that this is an important value and that it is better to talk through our differences than come to blow with short cuffs, the opportunism and the narrow-minded magnification and mobilisation of every imaginable difference for political gain, ruining the promise and optimism of the early post-independence fears. These are the sort of behaviours we should deplore and reject.
“We have to build skills, simplify access to capital, provide security and strengthen law enforcement. Anything less amounts to paying lip service to the examples set by Sir Ahmadu Bello of blessed memory.
“Amid the generally dismal state in which Nigeria was handed over to us, things are worst in certain places than others. In a country beseech by poverty, insecurity, poor infrastructure, high unemployment, declining education and threatening healthcare indices, it is plain to the casual observer that all these challenges are worst in many of the 19 northern states.
“The condition of our country demands that across the board, we summon the best effort at leadership. What Nigerians did in the 2015 general election was to initiate the process of reclaiming this country. So, the people of this country have given us a marching order to clear the rot and make this country better and to fulfil the legitimate aspiration of the people.
“Let us embrace our responsibilities to serve our people diligently. Unite our country and do our utmost to secure it and inspire our people to the field of creativity and development. That was what Sir Ahmadu Bello did all his life.
“This is what he will expect all of his inheritors, the northern governors to do. 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.
“Ahmadu Bello represented the essence of truly transformational leadership. I urge all of us with public leadership responsibilities to learn the lessons from the event today. And what are these lessons? When you lead with honesty and integrity in the service of humanity, the society never forgets you.”
Ex-leaders like Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Babangida, Goodluck Jonathan, Ernest Shonekan, former Vice Presidents Atiku Abubakar and Namadi Sambo, who were billed to speak at the 50th commemoration of the death of Bello, were absent.