Balewa, Sir Abubakar Tafawa

Balewa, Sir Abubakar Tafawa

▪ prime minister of Nigeria
born 1912, Bauchi, Northern Nigeria
died January 1966, near Ifo, Nigeria

      Nigerian politician, leader in the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), and the first federal prime minister. A commoner by birth, an unusual origin for a political leader in the NPC, Balewa was both a defender of northern special interests and an advocate of reform and Nigerian unity.

      Balewa was a teacher by profession and was one of the first Northern Nigerians to be sent to London University Institute of Education (1945). On his return in 1946 he was elected to the House of Assembly of the Northern Region and in 1947 was one of five representatives to the Central Legislative Council in Lagos. He was reelected to the assembly in 1951 despite the hostility of some conservative amīrs of the generally Muslim north.

      From 1952 until his death Balewa served in the federal government: he was minister of works and of transport in the middle 1950s, and then, as leader of the NPC in the House of Representatives, he was made the first prime minister of Nigeria. After the preindependence elections of 1959, he again became prime minister in a coalition government of the NPC and Nnamdi Azikiwe's National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. As prime minister of independent Nigeria, he was sharply circumscribed in his powers by those delegated to regional premiers. He proved unable to mitigate the growing tensions of 1964–66, manifested by a partial boycott of the election in 1964, army unrest, and outbreaks of violence in the Western Region. He was killed in the first of two Nigerian army coups in 1966.

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Universalium. 2010.

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