Independence Day: Reminiscing the life of Tafawa Balewa

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By Muhammad Sagir Bauchi

A few months ago, for an excursion, I took my pupils to the famous tomb of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to commiserate on his demise. We had the honor of visiting his grave, where the innocent body of this immortal hero rests. We prayed for Allah’s mercy upon his soul. Consequently, we went straight to the museum where historical items associated with the day-to-day life of the demised were kept. We saw the first crude oil dogged in commercial quantity, the book he wrote for an essay competition, his booth, radio and some other things. We also saw a picture of him with his friends and associates. After the trip, I had the privilege of reading a book about the biography of The Golden Voice, written by Malam Danlami Baban Takko. Therefore, this piece will serve as a concoction of our visits and the review of the book I read about his biography.

History is not in romance nor in favour of anyone. It shows the good, the bad, and the ugly side of every personality, irrespective of their tribe or religious background. Furthermore, no amount of gimmicks or lies can suppress or change what is written in the book of history. Sometimes, those entrusted with the position of writing history penned it the way they wanted it to be seen, but some put it the way it was.

Every nation has a group of people who have made significant contributions and fought valiantly for its development. Their role can never be neglected in all the aspects. Nigeria as a nation is not exceptional because it has some people that played a pivotal role in saving the state from the evil hands of western colonisers. They played this role without looking at their religion or region, but at the nation at large. That patriotism, among others, earned them widespread admiration.

One may be perplexed about what earned them such respect. Was it their religion, region, or tribe? Or was it just natural? Aside from intellectual ability, integrity, sacrifice, and patriotism are among the most important qualities in a leader, and they are what win the hearts of the people in a particular
society.Therefore, our fallen heroes lived a life full of these qualities, to the extent that they chose to sacrifice their lives to salvage their country.

January is a day that will forever be remembered in the history of Nigeria’s political struggle, for it was a day on which some of our forefathers that fought for the independence of the country were sent to their maker by some unpatriotic elements. Among the heroes that answered the call of their Lord on that day was a teacher by profession who was elevated to the rank of headmaster of the school he was once a pupil at—Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was born in December 1912 in a district called Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi, though the historical village was addressed in Fulani dialect as TAFERI BALERI, which means (Blackstone). He started his early educational career as a pupil at an elementary school in Tafawa Balewa village.

In 1925, he was enrolled in Bauchi provincial school (Yelwa) where he studied Arithmetic, Physical and Health Education, Gardening, Crafts, and Qur’anic Studies for three years. In 1928, he was selected to attend Katsina teachers’ training college where he read English for the first time, along with some subjects in Arithmetic, History, and Education. During his life at college, he exposed some hundred dollars in leadership qualities and traits of personality that portrayed his good habits.

As a patriotic citizen, when he finished college, he returned to his home state of Bauchi and began teaching at his former high school, which was renamed “Bauchi Middle School.”In the same year, he participated in a writing competition with his story “Shaihu Umar”, which was published in 1934. He was among the brainboxes behind the formation of the “Bauchi Discussion Circle”, a forum that comprised: Mallam Aminu Kano, Malam Sa’adu Zungur, Malam Yahaya Gusau, and Malam Abubakar Gidado.
He got a scholarship to attend a one-year professional course at London University in 1945. He attended the course alongside Yahaya Gusau, Abdurrahman Mora, and Bello Dan Amar. As he returned to Bauchi from London with his eyes wide open, he was appointed to serve on the Advisory Council of Native Authority and became the Vice President of the Northern Teachers’ Association in 1948.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s philosophy of life was that of a true practicing Muslim that takes Islam as a religion of peace and a total way of life. He viewed it as an avenue that taught him to respect and see all human beings as equal, regardless of their creed, religion, race, tribe, or ethnicity (humanity). He lived as a true democrat and believed in it. It doesn’t give him the audacity to denigrate his culture and subscribe to western lifestyles. Despite all the Western knowledge and civilization he acquired, he didn’t subscribe to the idea of separating religious beliefs apart from the affairs of his state. He lived a life full of lessons worth learning.

On the part of his integrity, which was the core value that earned him the respect of today, He lived a life whose personality was devoid of any form of negative attitude that could have touched his integrity. He was
straightforward, trustworthy, and frank in his personal and official dealings. Despite being in a position that could give him all he liked, he spent about six years saving money, which he used on his first Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca in 1957. After he returned from the pilgrimage, he collected a loan of three thousand pounds from Barclay’s Bank to renovate his obsolete mud-made house into a modern cement house. In the interim, he was killed and martyred. Apart from his house in Kaduna and his farm house in Tafawa Balewa, he had no property worthy of mentioning!
Today’s teaching profession is basically relegated to teaching the foundational alphabets-A,B,C, D, and E in the classroom. Sadly, teachers are viewing their role as being limited to people that only teach in classrooms, with no business in the lives of their fellow folk. Contrarily, the golden hero, despite being a teacher by profession, sees the role he could play in his and give back a positive development to his society beyond teaching in a classroom alone. He chooses to be a sponge that would absorb the negatives and shoulder their affairs. He was a teacher who rose to the rank of Headmaster and also a freedom fighter who fought for the independence of his country. At the same time, he was a politician that rose to the position of pioneer prime minister of the country.

Despite all his qualities, he suffered intense humiliation, insults, and harassment from his political opponents. As we all know, the battle between good and evil has been a game all the time. Evil always sought a way to outsmart and eradicate good, so that he would be free to do all he wanted. So, the same thing could be seen in the life of this golden hero. For he was tortured by the evils of his time, which led to his martyrdom! Before his death, when the rumour news of the planned coup came to him, his word was, ” We have information about an impending coup. Our belief in God makes us consider it nothing. God bestows power on whom He wills and takes it away when He wills.I am sure if I die now, I’ll not leave anything, nothing except my love for my people in the North and Nigeria as a whole”

Certainly, the words that came out of his mouth were nothing more than a testament to his sacrifice and the faith he had in what he was doing, as well as his extreme faithfulness to his Lord, as He is the giver and taker of whatever he desired! Also, toward the end of his life, he was known as someone who devoted all his remaining days to serving his Lord.

As a true believer in God, A few days before his death, he was also quoted as saying, ” God is our witness concerning the way we hold our people’s mandate in trust. We shall seek no assistance from any quarters concerning the threat of the coup d’etat. Sardauna Bello, Premier of the Northern Region, and I had agreed. We firmly believe that once your days are over, there is no other option but to return to the creator.

Unfortunately, by the wee hours of Friday, January 15, 1966, the plotters of the coup spread and surrounded all the places to carry out their evil plan.
After leading the group of recalcitrant soldiers to invade the house of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in Lagos, after their successful invasion, they abducted him in front of his friend. On the same night, they assassinated Brigadier Maimalari, Colonel Pam, Minister Okotiela Eboh, Canal Kur Muhammad, and Lieutenant Colonel Abogo Largema, all in Lagos. While in Kaduna, Major General Nzeogwu Kaduna led another troop of soldiers that invaded the house of Sir Ahmadu Bello (Premiere of the Northern Region), where they killed the police guarding the house and Alhaji Ben Musa. At the centre of the house, they killed Sir Amadu Bello and his wife, Hajiya Hafsatu. On the same night in Kaduna, where the evil act was worst, they also killed Brigadier Ademulegun, Colonel Shodemde, and a vast number of soldiers. The corps of the late Tafawa Balewa was discovered on January 20th, 1966 in a bush near Otta along the Abekuota and Lagos highway.

With all the struggle of these fallen heroes, the Nigeria of today cannot be addressed as the Nigeria of their dream! They dreamt of a Nigeria devoid all forms of religious jingoism, bigotry, and all sorts of elements of division. But today, they are the others of the day.

They sacrificed their lives for independence from the European colonists, but their sons and daughters are today enslaving us—the grandchildren of freedom fighters. What would our modern politicians tell our noble grandfathers when they met in heaven? Would they tell them that leadership is today’s simple way of enslaving their populace instead of a simple way of being a slave to the masses?

May their gentle souls continue to rest in perfect peace.

ibrahimsagir1227@gmail.com and 07019718681

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily