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Isaiah Balat: One Death Too Many for Southern Kaduna

Isaiah BalatJust when Kaduna State, especially the Southern Kaduna people, were getting over the death of Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, the sudden death of Senator Isaiah Balat, a former works minister, dealt another big blow to the people. Reuben Buhari looks at the vacuum created by the deaths of many prominent people from the zone
Going by the notion that the hour of death cannot be forecasted, Senator Isaiah Balat, who was special adviser in the office of Vice President Namadi Sambo, never knew that death was closer than he thought, when on February 17 he was taken to the National Hospital for treatment. He died a day later.
Balat’s death has increased the list of prominent political leaders from the southern part of Kaduna State, with so much potential, who have died. And with their deaths come the dearth of credible leaders that could speak and stand for the zone, especially with the issue of marginalisation always compounding the woes of the southern people.
For more than 50 years, the predominantly Christian people of southern Kaduna, comprising about 53 ethnic groups, had been struggling to have one of their own as governor of the state. Many had contested the governorship elections without winning, until it became possible for the people to produce a governor of the state when Sambo, who was then the governor, was elevated to the post of Vice President with the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. With the elevation, his deputy, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, became the governor on May 20, 2010. Yakowa went ahead to win the 2011 governorship election and consequently became the ideal poster boy of his people. Unfortunately, he was just settling down to the task of governing the state when he suddenly died on December 15, 2012.
Balat was instantly seen as the last remaining leader of the zone, with the right connection, political experience and financial clout to fill in the vacuum created with the demise of Yakowa. His new stature was enhanced by the fact that he was a dogged and resolute politician who had gradually made his way up since the Second Republic when he was the chairman of the Nigerian Peoples Party in Kaduna State.  Years later, he became the Kaduna State campaign coordinator for the Obasanjo campaign organisation and was able to help the PDP poll 1.2 million votes in the 1999 presidential election – the second highest in the federation.
Balat was such a consummate politician that against all odds, with all the state machinery supporting Sambo at the 2007 governorship elections, he was able to ensure a re-run when no clear winner emerged between him and Sambo during the primary election. In fact, it is strongly believed that Balat would have out rightly won at the first round of the primaries, if not for the watchful eyes of Makarfi, whose anointed candidate for the governorship race was Sambo.
He was later made an adviser in the office of the vice president and was already being mentioned as one of those strong enough to challenge Governor Ramallan Yero in the 2015 general election, a view he had neither denied nor confirmed.  Balat’s death, just like that of Yakowa, has robbed the zone of a rallying point and a political leader.
Another person who was also in position to give direction to the people of southern Kaduna State was Col. Elias Baba Nyan (rtd). He had a distinguished military career. He was outspoken, fearless and never hesitated to call a spade a spade. Many people in the zone began to look up to him.
Nyan contested the governorship election in Kaduna State under the United Nigerian Congress Party in 1998.  Even though the PDP won that election, he fought a good fight that further endeared him to the people of southern Kaduna. Unfortunately, just when he was bidding his time to take another shot at the governorship post, he died following a road accident along Jankasa-Manchok-Vom road on February 1, 2009.
Colonel Yohanna Madaki was yet another prominent leader of the southern Kaduna. A former military governor of old Gongola State, he was the first National Legal Adviser of the PDP. He was a strong opinion leader who commanded so much respect within the zone. And just when his influence in the polity was beginning to bear fruits for the benefit of all, death came calling; he died in 2006.
The list of prominent people lost by the people of southern Kaduna is long.
General Joshua Mamman Madaki was born on July 6, 1947 in Manchok, Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State. After his secondary school, he joined the Army and later became the military governor of Bauchi and Plateau state. When he retired, he joined politics. He was preparing to contest the 2003 governorship election under the Alliance for Democracy. Unfortunately, he died with all the dreams of the southern Kaduna people in May 2003 in a road accident after Ninth Mile on his way from Anambra State on an official assignment.
Garba Charles Madaki Ali was an accountant who came into politics during the Second Republic and was the state secretary of the NPP alongside Balat in 1979. He wanted to contest the governorship in 1998 but later stepped down for Makarfi. Ali later became a commissioner in Kaduna State and later a Minister of Works and Housing. He went on to contest the governorship primaries of Kaduna State in 2007 but lost. He was a grassroots politician that had etched his name in the minds of the people of the zone and would have contested again in 2011. But he died in 2009 after a brief illness.
Engr. Stephen Rijo Shekari was the deputy governor to Makarfi. He had been in politics for a long time. His position as deputy governor automatically conferred on him the political stature of leader of the southern zone. He was in the position to succeed Makarfi in 2007 after the expiration of his two terms, but Shekari took ill and was flown to Israel where he eventually died on July 10, 2005.
The vacuum created by Shekari’s death was filled by Yakowa, who was then Secretary to the State Government.  Yakowa eventually became the governor with Sambo’s elevation to the post of Vice President.  The 2011 polls came as a test as to whether the state’s electorate were really behind Yakowa. The days leading to the election and the announcement of the results were tension-soaked.
Yakowa made history as the first person from the southern part of the state and the first Christian to become a democratically elected governor of Kaduna State.
However, just when it looked like the smooth sail will continue to open up new vistas and more record breaking feats, in one of the unexplainable twists of fate, the cold hands of death clutched him. He died in an air crash in Bayelsa State on December15, 2012 where they had gone to grace the burial ceremony of the father of Presidential Adviser, Oronto Douglas.
General Luka Yusuf, former Chief of Army Staff, was also a prominent leader in the zone who hailed from Jama’a Local Government Area, the same local government as Yakowa. He became a respected opinion leader when he retired and many people were looking up to him for leadership and direction. Many were waiting for him to go fully into partisan politics for the sake of his people, but he became ill and died in 2009.
Like Robert Harrishese noted, you can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.
However, Mrs. Lawrencia  Laraba Mallam, who has t been nominated as a minister from the zone, former aviation minister, Hon. Hassan Felix Hyat, and a host of others are trying to fill the vacuum created by the death of people like Balat.

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