Thursday, October 1, 2020 10:24 pm
It is exactly 60 years today that Nigeria gained independence from Britain. That was on 1 October 1960.
That time, it was not clear what the Western Press could make of the new Nigerian leaders. That was why a whole powerful New York Times could call Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Region, King of Nigeria!
Was it a deliberate mischief or plain ignorance of the journalist who wrote the short piece or a combination of both?
That was when Bello went shopping in the US in 1960, as captured below by New York Times.
King of Nigeria Has Royal Treat
Colorfully attired Premier and Party Spend $607 in Hour’s Shopping Here
By Gay Talese
“King! Oh, King,” a lady in Rockefeller Center called yesterday, running breathlessly with an autograph book toward a tall, turbaned man in damask gown, his head and chin ringed in a red polka-dot scarf designed to keep out sand. As a matter of fact, people all over Manhattan were mistaking him for a king.
But he was the Prime Minister [Premier] of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, who is now touring the United States. And when he and his half-dozen dazzling companions visited Mercy’s, they acted like any other group of bargain hunters.
They bought eight watches, three transistor radios, stamp albums and luggage, and spent $607 in barely an hour. The sales girls made their slips out to “King of Nigeria”, undeterred by the fact that Nigeria has no king. But they were careful not to charge the dignitaries any local or state tax, although the Nigerians freely flipped $100 bills around.
“Have you a brief case?” The Sardauna asked.
“Yes, here is an attached case, like American business men use”, said a salesman.
“I am not an American business man”, the Sardauna said.
“I wish a case with a combination lock”
“We May have some on the…”
Then the Sardauna, flanked by Alhaji Sir Muhammadu Sanusi, Emir of Kano, was led to the fabrics department.
“Something in brocade?” a sales lady asked.
“Bright! Bright, the Sardauna said. “Gold.”
They looked for five minutes, then gave up.
“You are taking my picture?” the Sardauna asked.
“I think so,” said 12-year old Richard Sberlarti of Flushing.
“If it comes out, you send it to me”, he said . “I’ll become your overseas friend”. An aide gave the Sardauna’s card to the boy.
“I’ll take another picture,” the boy said, gleefully.
“One is enough, sonny,” a Macy’s guard cut in.
By noon, the Nigerians, who will begin their eighteen-day tour of America and Canada today in Washington, were out of Macy’s and riding four air conditioned Cadillacs back to the Waldorf-Astoria.