By PAUL ORUDE, Bauchi
For a long time, the Tafawa Balewa tomb, the resting place of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, former Nigeria’s prime minister located along Ran road in Bauchi Metropolis, was an eye sore. But things are beginning to change for the better as the complex now wears a new look. This, observers say, is to commemorate the 100 birthday of the late Balewa.
The Bauchi State government handed over the place to the Federal Government few months to the centenary anniversary in 2012. The latter renovated the complex preparatory to the event to give it a befitting look as well as kick-started an exhibition to promote the place as a centre of research and training in leadership and integrity.
Before now, the place was abandoned with the structures in the complex covered by grass while rodents made it their abode.
The generating set, water pumping machine and most other facilities in the tomb were not functioning. Visitors who came to the tomb always left sad.
But the new development has come, not only as a relief, but as good news to tourists and visitors to the tomb who for long have lamented the dilapidated facilities in the complex.
Explaining the changes, Alhaji Saliu Ibrahim Aliyu, the commissioner for tourism, said the state government had been the one managing the complex right from its inception during the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo.
It was declared opened to the public as national monument on 29 August 1979 by the then Military Administrator of Bauchi State, Brigadier Garba Duba. Construction actually started in 1977 under General Yakubu Gowon but was completed under General Olusegun Obasanjo.
The tomb was designed to reflect the simple life of the late Prime Minister, who did not have vast estates when he was assassinated during the first coup. The slabs and the gaps on the grave signify the crisis of civil servants after he was killed while the rainbow colours on the walls show the various ethnic groups in Nigeria and Tafawa Balewa’s efforts welding these different groups into one country.
According to the commissioner, the state government built and furnished the library, the auditorium, as well as the tomb in the complex and ensured the day-to-day management of the place.
Ibrahim said that although the state government has since handed over the complex to the Federal Government, the state government still maintains and pays the staffs who manage the place till this day.
“December last year, the Federal Government sent two representatives from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments to renovate the place with a view to taking over. We allowed them to take over the place. But the main staffs are still being maintained by the state government. The rest of the facilities like photographs and personal belongings of the late Prime Minister were provided by the family of the late PM. We used to have video camera, Television for guests to play some of his speeches and activities.”
Preserving the leadership, integrity and sacrifice of Balewa
On December 18, 2012, a glimmer of hope ignited the legacies of the late Prime Minister when the National Commission for Museums and Monuments organised the Centenary anniversary and opening of exhibition on the life and times of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Sadly, investigation shows that the event which theme was “Leadership, Integrity and Sacrifice” organised to celebrate one of the greatest past leaders of the country was not honoured by many invited government officials, politicians and associates of the late statesman.
Those billed to attend but did not show up include the guest speaker, Alhaji Dr Yusuf Maitama Sule, Danmasanin Kano and associate of Balewa, Aminu Saleh, Wambai Katagum and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Also absent were Senator Ahmed Hassan Barata, chairman, Senate Committee on Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and his counterpart from the House of Representatives, Hon. Ben Nwankwo.
Nevertheless, the poor attendance did not mar the iconic legacies left behind by the late Balewa, who was one of the rare Nigerian leaders that did not amass wealth while in power.
Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usma said the National Commission for Museums and Monuments would partner with Bauchi State government to properly manage the complex as educational facility in leadership training and social re-orientation.
Usman while commissioning the exhibition of the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Tomb said: “The commission plans to develop museum, education programmes around this facility that will target pupils and students of secondary school and tertiary institutions.”
The DG advised that the legacies of the late Prime Minister should not be allowed to fade away saying: “We should all resolve to preserve the memory of the life of service and sacrifice Abubakar Tafawa Balewa rendered to this great nation.”
He said the exhibition was meant to give an insight into the life and times of Balewa as regards his leadership style, personal integrity and his sacrifice to the nation, adding that the tomb and exhibition will be integrated with other heritage resources that abound in Bauchi State for the development of tourism.
Mallam Isa Yuguda, Bauchi State governor commended the Federal Government for building a befitting edifice to honour the late prime minister, as well as renovating and putting up the exhibition.
According to Yuguda who was represented by the commissioner for tourism, “Bauchi State government has resolved to work closely with the federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism to develop functional tourist sites in the state. In particular, we shall seek the cooperation of heritage professionals from the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in re-vitalising the tomb both for tourism and for the education of youths to imbibe the values of service to the nation.”
Visitors to the library or resource centre in the complex will see his personal items he left behind after his death. Workers at the tomb who conducted visitors round the auditorium said there were some video and audiocassettes of his speeches.
Also found in the auditorium is a sword given to Balewa by the then Sardauna of Sokoto during independence in 1960 and copies of his speeches ranging from the first broadcast speech at independence in 1957 to speeches delivered at international engagements.
Another item is a sword given to him by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello during the independence ceremony in 1960. His three caps, radio and television, are also there. The television was given to him by the Queen of England during the his conference in 1957 in London when he was given the name, the Golden Voice of Africa
Also in the resource centre are his rain boots shoes, his only bed which was inherited by his eldest son Alhaji Baba Abubakar. He later donated the bed to the library. Balewa’s carpet and rosary as well as the only book he wrote in Hausa called Shehu Umar are also in the library.
Alhaji Yakubu Baba, the eldest son of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in his goodwill message on behalf of the family, expressed gratitude to the federal and state governments for efforts to keep the legacies of the father alive.
Life and Time of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Members of the public who attended the Centenary anniversary and opening of exhibition on the life and time of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa got an insight into the humility, leadership gifts, sacrifice and honour embodied by Balewa.
With memorable black and white pictures of his humble childhood at the small town of Tafawa Balewa, to that of his life as a students, stint as a teacher, and foray into politics, where he took the Africa and world stage by storm, Tafawa Balewa lived a life devoid of greed for power or wealth.
Born on December 12, 1912, Balewa was killed in the January 15, 1966 botched coup led by Major Nzeogwu Kaduna. He started his career as a trained teacher and later joined politics.
Balewa during his life time set an exemplary standard of leadership characterised by selfless service, high level of integrity and courageous sacrifice, because of his simplicity, transparent honesty and responsible leadership.
Mallam Yusuf Abdullahi, a lecturer with the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic said that late PM laid the foundations of Nigerian economic in areas such as petroleum, road and rail transportation and hydroelectric power generation, which remain unequalled.
Yusuf said throughout his life, Sir Abubakar exhibited admirable personal qualities of patience, endurance, discipline, hard-work, humility and loyalty; foresight and patriotism; frankness and friendliness; intelligence and public speaking, which our today’s leaders failed to emulate due to selfish interest and their desire to acquire wealth by all means.
“Even a councillor in local government accumulates ill-gotten wealth while leaders like the late prime minister sacrificed for their country.”
The late prime minister died and left only one mud house on Ran street and one farmhouse in Kaduna, which was sold after his death to pay the bank loan he obtained to build the house in Bauchi.