By Nadir A. Nasidi
The 10th of July, 2020 marks exactly the 39th commemoration of the brutal assassination of Dr. Bala Muhammed at his house in Kano. Being a person who believes in marrying activism with scholarship, I feel mandated to write this piece in his honour.
Born blue-blooded in 1944, Dr. Bala received his rudimentary knowledge in Nigeria and studied Political Science in the United States of America.
While a student of Political Science in the United States, he was mentioned in 1978 among the ‘Who is who?’ of American Universities for his academic erudition and excellence.
Throughout his life, Dr. Bala Muhammed advocated and struggled for a true, but new social order that would give each and every Nigerian opportunities to actualize his dream in whatever way he sees fit.
That was why he spent a greater part of his youthful exuberance in the mighty ocean of activism through writing and public enlightenment.
Having hailed from the present-day Bauchi State, he developed a strong passion for Sa’ad Zungur and the ethos of his ideology especially that geared towards human emancipation from the socio-political and economic bondage of the capitalists, aristocrats, and the bureaucrats.
He spoke truth to power no matter the consequences. It was for that reason he devoted his time for public awareness via the radio as the strongest and easiest way to reach the commoners and to inculcate in them, the spirit of activism and progress.
His radio broadcast especially with the Voice of Nigeria, Lagos, was professional and intelligible to the mind and soul.
During that time, he struggled in order to improve the integrity of not only his people, but also the entire country as John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States of America who was assassinated in 1963 once said, ‘Think not of what your country can give you, but what you can give for your country’.
Despite the fact that Dr. Bala was blue-blooded and had married the daughter of Sir, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), the first Prime Minister of Nigeria who was assassinated in the Igbo designed coup of 1966, he sacrificed all that to struggle and act for the betterment of his people.
He chose this way knowing full well that history would certainly be kind to him. Even though he later became a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano, he never chucked away his principles nor allowed the spirit of activism and selfless service to humanity to fade away.
Unlike most of our present university lecturers who completely denied themselves through mental regimentation the bounties of the public life, Dr. Bala was a teacher, an educator, an activist, a reformer, and a hero.
According to him, one’s own knowledge would be useless if it cannot be translated into action in terms of public enlightenment and awareness. It was on this basis that the late governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi made him his Special Adviser.
That is why his unwavering crusade against corruption and corrupt politicians and public civil servants during the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) led the government was outstanding and swift.
For this reason, he attracted a lot of enemies from the devil’s camp. The suspension of late Alhaji Ado Bayero (1963-2014), the emir of Kano by Rimi’s government added salt to the wound.
On a black Friday of the 10th of July, 1981, a group of disgruntled hooligans fully backed by the NPN led government and even the security forces besieged the house of Dr. Bala and afterward, assassinated him in cold blood and burned him alongside an unidentified corpse.
His mega and reached library, as well as his important recordings, were also burnt. The culprits were said to have been about 200 persons who went round the Kano city setting places ablaze, attacking, and looting peoples’ properties with no justification.
Though the man died, his beliefs, ideas, and ideals are still with us, the young activists. As late Professor Mazrui puts it ’A hero is judged by his or her own performance and by the positive results achieved.
A martyr is judged not by performance and results, but also by the suffering of death that he or she has sustained. The ultimate price a martyr pays is, of course, life itself…’ In this regard, Dr. Bala was and still is both a hero and a martyr.
In the very generation Dr. Bala lived, he was not the only activist killed for his abhorrence to injustice, corruption, and societal decay. Others like Malcolm X (ass. 1965), Martin Luther King Jr. (ass. 1968), Patrick Lumumba and host of others were equally assassinated while fighting for justice and the creation of an ideal society based on the rule of law and equal opportunities for all irrespective of one’s social, religious, political, or economic status.
The late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman (1945-2006), a great historian, activist, teacher, and human liberator while responding to the death of Dr. Bala Muhammed argues that ‘The ferocity of the para-military operation at Bakalori and the viciousness of the slaughter of Bala Muhammed and the arson in Kano on Friday 10th July are organically linked’.
I honestly believe that people like Dr. Bala Muhammed shall never be forcefully extracted from the bloodstream flowing in the veins of not only our hearts but our soul and our ways of thinking. To die his death to me is an honour that comes once in a blue moon.
As the Arabs are saying ‘If you do not die from the sharpness of the sword, you will surely die from something worthless’. May the soul of this servant of God, be immersed in the ever-flowing waters of the kingdom of God.
May his assassins, be the permanent dwellers of the burning hell. May Allah in His intimate mercy make our youth in this 21st century learn from the life of Dr. Bala.
Nadir A. Nasidi is from the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria