Nigeria in search of another Balewa

Much have been said or written about the late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was  killed on January 15, 1966 by some military coupists. That is why, January 15 of every year has been set aside for the rememberance of this colossal personality who stiid as a symbol of unity and pan-Nigeria. 

The late prime minister hailed from Bauchi state. He was a school teacher and a politician of great repute. He was a “cool figure” who preoccupied himself with the integration of Nigeria’s over 250 ethnic groups before and during his tenure as prime minister. 

Tafawa Balewa was a vocal leader, a trained teacher, and he was one of the most educated northerners during his lifetime. He participated in numerous international development conferences geared towards the nation’s independence. 

He was referred as“Golden Voice of Africa” because of his eloquence and oratorical prowess. His speech was full of wisdom and attracted applause whenever he made a delivered in gatherings.

  The late Bauchi illustrious son lived a life worthy of emulation. He sacrificed his day to beautify our today and tomorrow. He lived without tribalism, nepotism, religious bigotry and showed love to his subjects and the entire nation. 

During his lifetime, he advocated one Nigeria based on mutual respect and trust among the diverse ethnic composition. One interesting thing about his personality was his simplicity. It was reported that, there was a time he was on leave and was sighted sitting with two of his children in his country home chewing sugarcane. 

This is contrary to what is obtainable today. Our ruling elite choose overseas to spend their time instead of spending it with their subjects. Though, the government has immortalised him by putting his picture or portrait in five naira note and named Bauchi Federal University after him, these are not enough to remember this great patriot. I learnt the government has abandoned his family.

His well spent life is full of lessons for our elite who see leadership as an avenue to amass ill gotten wealth. Until Balewa’s death, he had only one house and did not mantain several accounts full of dollars and pounds. The current crises bedevil the country could be traced to leadership failure or deficit. 

Our founding fathers such as Tafawa Balewa were preoccupied with nation building on the pedestal of peace and justice. The late prime minister was a recipient of awards from Britain such as: OBE in 1952, CBE in 1955, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in January 1960 and was awarded an honorary degree by the university of Sheffield in May 1960. As prime minister, Balewa helped shaped the early foreign policy of Nigeria. 

In 1960 he was instrumental in negotiating a settlement between factions in the Congo civil war. He led his government in a vocal protest of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa and attempted unsuccessfully to persuade other British Commonwealth nations to expel South Africa because of its apartheid policy. 

Balewa also was one of the African leaders who encouraged the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). As Nigeria heads to 2023 general elections, we need another Tafawa Balewa who will unite the already polarised country and address its multi-faceted challenges.

Mustapha Bukar,


Borno state

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