By Samuel Aruwan
Contrary to claims by the 19 Northern state governments that they were servicing debts incurred since the days of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the region from 1954 to January 15, 1966, he instead left a strong financial base, an investigation by Blueprint has confirmed.
The development followed public pronouncements by some governors that their states were still serving debts incurred during the leadership of the premier, who was killed in the 1966 coup d’etat.
When our reporter contacted the famous biographer of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Professor John N. Paden, he said the claim was not only outrageous but also false.
Paden is a Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies who once taught at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Bayero University, Kano, before publishing a book, “Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership in Nigeria.” He is also a leading expert on United States-Chinese relations and on Nigeria.
According to him, “To the best of my knowledge, the huge financial debt rumour is without foundation.”
Paden, who has been researching Northern Nigeria for over five decades, said the claims lacked substance or concrete evidence, saying, “But we are all watching developments closely.”
Also lending his voice, Dr. Kabir Chafe, a historian and Director of the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research, popularly known as Arewa House, Kaduna, the place where Sir Ahmadu was killed, said: “From all available records, it is not true; there is no proof or evidence to back it up.
“Let me tell you, there is nothing like that; it is all but falsehood.
“If someone says they are servicing debt incurred during that government, let him prove and provide details. The government Sir Ahmadu Bello ran was prudent and left legacies in abundance that have not been beaten, even Native Authorities in the North at time were rich and had properties outside the shores of Nigeria.”
Chafe added that the Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA) that later replaced the Interim Administrative Council for the newly created Northern Nigerian states in 1967 handled all assets and liabilities, and so it was baseless to advance that states were servicing debt that were not even taken by the then regional government.
In his take, the Managing Director of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, a research centre set up by the 19 Northern states, Dr. Shettima Ali, said: “We are not aware at all that Sir Ahmadu Bello left the North in debt. The only thing we are aware is, he left the region well-organised and established.
“The North was rich in agriculture and it was from there that he achieved all these developments you see. He never borrowed money from anywhere, whether United Kingdom, America or even here in Nigeria, to develop the North, and it is not correct to say he left debt.
“Probably, they may say states took loans after states were created in 1967 because Nigeria went into war and there were financial crises but not from the era in question, as far as we know, because there is no proof.”
When our reporter contacted Professor Abdullahi Mohammed Ashafa, a historian currently on sabbatical at Arewa House, Kaduna, he equally said there was no proof to back the claim.
He said: “As far as I know, and from all the records, there is no proof that showed that Northern regional government took any loan from anybody; instead it was the same region that supported what is known today as South-east and South-south, and it was from the bulk of the foreign exchange from export of groundnuts, hides and skin, etc, from the North that oil exploration even started in the 1950s.
“The period in question was glorious in the North. The region was financially buoyant enough to even be a country on its own.
“If you look at several donations of Northern regional government, they will show you that the region was strong. And so there is no any record to that effect.
“The North got its money from the agricultural sector; the Northern Nigerian Marketing Board was a major source of income because of the agricultural export, and the record is there.
“Adamu Fika has even proved it in a detailed research that the North was not in any way collecting loans, instead it was financially stable and supporting other parts of Nigeria. And all the development was from agriculture and the export and also taxation, contrary to all these stories.”
As at the time of this report, all files our reporter gleaned at the National Archives, Kaduna, regarding the Northern regional government has no record of any debt accessed by the premier.