Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – First Prime Minister of Nigeria

Sir abubakar tafawa balewa nigerian independence
Sir abubakar tafawa balewa nigerian independence

Here’s a detailed article about Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, his speech at the first Nigeria Independence day on October 1st 1960, how he became the first Leader in Nigeria and more.

Arise o compatriot, Nigeria’s call obey, To serve our fathers land with love and strength and faith, The labor of our heroes past, “shall never be in vain”,

Hmmmm, that line from Nigeria’s national anthem is the focus of discuss. Why? You may wonder! It is good to give honor to those whom honor is due.


First Prime minister - Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa History and biography

Without doubt, Nigeria’s history would be totally incomplete without mentioning great men and women whose effort can’t go without been noticed. They’re like the great heroes and heroines of Africa.

These fighters have fought the good fight which led to some vital achievements accorded to our great country Nigeria. They have served the land with love and with their strength just because they have faith.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is one of such heroes. For the purpose of this article, we focus on Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa biography, educational qualifications, career and various achievements.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa History

Here’s a brief biography of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a great mind who came to this world two years before the amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Lugard.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was born October 1st, in the year 1912, he hails from a northern state, Bauchi precisely – one of the largest states in this country.

According to history, he was born in the village called Tafawa Balewa which was then attached to his name been his place of birth. The name Tafawa Balewa means ‘black rock’.

He was the only son of Yakubu Dan Zala, who was the district head of Bageri Muslim Bauchi state division of Lere. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s mother – Fatima Inna is a Fulani woman.

Tafawa Balewa was a teacher, a legislator, a politician who founded Northern People’s Congress (NPC) alongside Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, and he was the first Nigerian Prime Minister.

You can read more on names and pictures of past presidents in Nigeria

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Education

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa education
Image Credit: GettyImages. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912 – 1966), the Federal Prime Minister of Nigeria, with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (right) at 10 Downing Street in London, 17th September 1959. The Nigerian PM is in the UK to discuss the proposed French atomic tests in the Sahara. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It is interesting to note that with such a root, Tafawa Balewa was enrolled into the Quranic School at an early age attesting to the adage “catch them when they’re young” and was able to recite the first chapter of the Holy Quran by heart.  Awesome right?

This early education he acquired in Bauchi further gave him the privilege to enroll in one of the most attended schools by the elites and one of the largest boarding schools in the north known as Katsina College now Barewa college

Enrolling in Katsina Training College in the year 1928 all through to 1933, to acquire western education as did his contemporaries.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, studied at Katsina Training College and soon acquired his certificates which includes teaching certificate.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa education at barewa college

He displayed the words of Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, having acquired a good level of education returned to his home town to contribute his quota in disseminating knowledge gain. That’s thoughtful right?

He displayed such bravery as he taught in Bauchi middle school and guess what? He later became the schools headmaster.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was a teacher by profession among the few in the north back then. He was paid back for such good, as he was privileged to be selected among the few learned teachers in the north back in 1944.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was selected in the year 1945 to study abroad at the University of London’s Institute of Education to end 1946.  Basically, his alma maters were Katsina College now Barewa College and University of London.

After his return to Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became an inspector for schools (an education officer) during the colonial administration; afterwards he paved his way into politics.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Spouse and Son

“Behind every successful man is a woman and vice versa”. Well in the case of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa “behind a successful man are women”.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa had four wonderful spouses, they were Jummai, Umma, Zainab and Laraba and 19 children.

To know Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s son had been a controversial issue till date, as there was a key political ally to one of Nigeria’s past president, Goodluck Jonathan, named Dr Abdul Jelil Tafawa Balewa.

Dr Abdul Jelil Tafawa Balewa  indicated interest in running for the presidential seat three years ago (2015).

Dr Abdul Jelil Tafawa Balewa
Dr Abdul Jelil Tafawa Balewa

However, in 2008 the family of the late prime minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, ably represented by Alhaji Yakubu Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, disowned claims of the said Dr being a member of its family.

So who then is (are) his son(s)?

They include Mukhtar, Sadiq, Hajia Uwani, Umar, Ahmed, Haruna, Aminu (a journalist who has since died), Hafsat, Amina, Zainab, Yalwa, Saude, Hajia Binta, Yalwa (widowed early and became an organiser of women’s education), Rabi (resisted early marriage in favour of study), Ali (died aged 9), and Hajia Talle Aishatu (now deceased).

Also Read: The untold story of Nigeria 1967 civil war

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Speech at 1960 Independence Day

It would be fascinating to mention Sir Tafawa Balewa’s journey into politics which thus gave him leverage to give a grand speech later in 1960, a year that was memorable and still memorable to Nigerians – Nigeria independence.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa independence speech october 1 1960

Although he would have just been in the education sector all through his life if and only if there wasn’t a ginger from the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe et al for an independent Nigeria.

Recall he paved way into politics, a factor that made that feasible was the fact that he was one of the learned, back then in the north, and was opportune to further study in London.

Sir Tafawa Balewa returned from London in 1946 and was elected to the colony’s house of assembly, and in the year 1947 he was elected into the legislative assembly.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became a civil servant and served in some ministries. His ministerial posts include;

  • Minister of works in the year 1952;
  • Minister of transport;
  • Chief Minister forming a government between his founding party NPC and NCNC led by Nnamdi Azikiwe.

As the Prime Minister of Nigeria prior to Nigeria’s independence, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was indeed a good leader. During his tenure he played some vital roles since he holds a key post. Some of which were;

  • Forming an organisation, organization of African unity;
  • Establishing a relationship with the French speaking African countries;
  • He used his veto power in liaising between Moise Tshombe and the Congolese authority during their crises in 1960 through 1964;
  • As a vocal advocate, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa led a protest in 1960, the Sharpeville massacre that occurred that year;
  • The office of an official foreign affairs and commonwealth relation minister;

By the year 1957, Nigeria was on the path towards attaining her independence from the colonial masters.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa having accepted his new appointment as the prime minister in the soon to be independent Nigeria on October 1960, took to broadcasting stations as a leader to address the soon to be independent citizens his intentions for a better Nigeria.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was indeed aware of the truck full of responsibilities on him and his cabinets, he humbly accepted and is ready to take the nation to greater heights.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa at Nigerian independence october 1 1960

Here are some of the words of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa;

Today, we have set out on the last stage of our journey to Independence, and the next three years will see the culmination of a process which has been gathering momentum year by year, and will see us reaping the harvest of what we have sown.

The success of the harvest will depend upon us, and that is why I am glad to speak to you tonight

Every one of us has his part to play in the work of preparing Nigeria for Independence.

I want everyone in Nigeria to realise that this is no easy task, and it cannot be performed by the Federal and Regional Ministers and legislators alone.

It is a task for every one of you because it is only by the personal effort of each individual that Independence for the Federation can become a reality in 1960.

We have declared our intention of attaining Independence for the Federation on the 2nd of April, 1960, and if we wish to take our place among the responsible nations of the world, we must make every effort to see that this aim is achieved, and achieved with an international reputation for good internal government.

Nigeria has now reached a critical stage in her history. We must seize the opportunity which has been offered to us to show that we are able to manage our own affairs properly.

Every Nigerian, whatever his status, and whatever his religion, has his or her share to contribute to this crucial task.

I appeal to all my countrymen and women to cooperate with me and my colleagues to create a better understanding among our peoples, to establish mutual respect, and trust, among all our tribal groups, and to unite in working together for the common cause, the cause for which no sacrifice will be too great.

I am convinced, and I want you also to be convinced, that the future of this vast country must depend, in the main, on the efforts of ourselves to help ourselves.

This we cannot do if we do not work together in unity. Indeed, unity today is our greatest concern, and it is the duty off every one of us to work so that we may strengthen it.

This morning I said in the House of Representatives that bitterness due to political differences would carry Nigeria nowhere, and I appealed to the political leaders throughout the country to control their party extremists.

To you who are listening tonight I repeat that appeal—Let us put away bitterness and go forward in friendship to Independence.

To further this overriding need for unity, my colleagues in the Council of Ministers and I have decided to give the country a lead by inviting the leaders of the Action Group to form with us a truly National Government composed of members of the main parties in the Country.

And here I must pay tribute to Dr Azikiwe, to Chief Awolowo, Dr Endeley and to the leader of my own party, the Sardauna of Sokoto, for supporting me in this decision.

Tafawa balewa visit to the united states with John F kennedy
Tafawa balewa visit to the united states – At the White House

I and my Colleagues of the N.C.N.C. and N.P.C. bold out our hands in welcome to the Action Group members of the Council and I promise you that we shall do our utmost to ensure that the deliberations of the Council are held in an atmosphere devoid of strife and narrow party prejudice.

And now I would like to say a word to the civil service. We are grateful to all the civil servants, through whose work the country has reached the present stage of political development.

I know that every constitutional advance puts a great strain on the civil service. Not only is there additional work to be done, but some officers find it hard to accept the new changes, but I must emphasize that Nigeria has today taken another important step forward, and if we are to succeed we must have the loyalty of all Nigerian and expatriate officers in this vital period before self-government is achieved.

I should like to reassure all our expatriate staff of our continued Sincerity in the pledges given over the last few years and to promise them that they need have no fears about their future.

Their aim and our aim remains what it has always been—the welfare and prosperity of Nigeria. Our political advance will be of no value if it is not supported by economic progress.

It is therefore most important that the development plans throughout the country should be carried out with vigour in order that we may have a proper financial standing when, in three years’ time, we ask the world to regard us as an independent self-governing nation.

I would like to remind you of what a great American once said. It was this, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. This statement is as true for Nigeria today as it has been for any other country.

The peoples of Nigeria must be united to enable this country to play a full part in shaping the destiny of mankind. On no account should we allow the selfish ambitions of individuals to jeopardize the peace of the thirty-three million law-abiding people of Nigeria.

It is the duty of all of us to work for unity and encourage members of all our communities to live together in peace and harmony. The way to do this is to create understanding, mutual respect and trust. It is important that we should first show respect to each other before asking the world to respect us.

Well—it is time for me to wish you good night, but first I would Once more tell you how absolutely vital it is for your future and the future Nigeria which your children will inherit that, during this interim period before Independence we should be united.

Let us be honest with ourselves, and let us be sincere—we know what we want, and we are sure that we can get it, and get it at the right time, provided we are not delayed by selfish quarrels.

At a time like this, we must all turn our minds to Almighty God and seek His guidance and assistance—by His grace, we shall succeed”.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was indeed the right choice. He’s choice of words depicts a good advocate, honestly I was carried away totally as if he were and I was listening to him live from 101.5 cool fm.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa thus displayed that “being a good leader requires remembering that you’re there for a reason, and the reason is certainly not to have your way”.

Following that incredible speech of his, I agree with Ben Carson who recognised the keys to leadership, been that a leader recognises that everybody has gifts and talents and a good leader will learn how to harness those gifts towards achieving same goal.

Kudos to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa he left a good legacy. He’s worthy of emulation.

As at independence on October 1st 1960, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa gave an eloquent speech yet again like he did earlier. Click to read the full Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa speech on independence day here.

Memorable Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Quotes

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa quotes would be sharing some iconic quotes from Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on different occasions.

Returned to Nigeria with new eyes, because I had seen people who lived without fear, who obeyed the law as part of their nature, who knew individual liberty”.

This was said on arrival from London having been one of the privileged to further study in London, where he obtained teaching certificate.

Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite … Nigerian unity is only a British invention” –1948.

I was legit shocked when I came across this, with loads of questions on my mind. What led to such? Of course is similar in our day, some don’t share the ideology ‘we are one’.

He once reminisced that “In less than 200 years, this great country [America] was welded together by people of so many different backgrounds. They built a mighty nation and had forgotten where they came from and who their ancestors were. They had pride in only one thing —their American citizenship… I am a changed man from today. Until now I never really believed Nigeria could be one united country. But if the Americans could do it, so can we.

Summary Notes on Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set themselves” – Ray Kroc.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was indeed a good man who led by example. With the tons of responsibilities, coupled with all the colonial masters left, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa depicted what I’d describe as a selfless man.

From his eloquent speeches including that of the independence he geared, he spoke warmly about the British contributions ‘first as masters, then as leaders, finally as partners, but always as friends’.

What a good exemplar that is known to be a genuine democrat, and craves for a national unity. “A good name is rather to be chosen than riches”.

This doctorate awardee and knight was unfortunately one of the victims of the first military coup on January 15, 1966. Read more in this our article titled Nigeria military rule – history, causes and impacts.

It is believed he died in 1966. Sir Abubakar Balewa is an outstanding hero not to be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. He’s portrait is adorned on Nigeria’s five Naira note and the former race course square in Lagos is named after him.

Abubakar Balewa 5 naira note

Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, (October 1912 — January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician, and the only prime minister of an independent Nigeria.

Originally a trained teacher, he became a vocal leader for Northern interests as one of the few educated Nigerians of his time. He was also an international statesman, widely respected across the African continent as one of the leaders who encouraged the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Nicknamed the Golden Voice of Africa because of his oratory, he stands as one of only three National Heroes of the Nigerian Nation.

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