By Luka Binniyat
The remains of the late Senator Isaiah Balat were, last Wednesday, buried after a funeral service attended by a record crowd from the area. Vice President Namadi Sambo, members of the National Assembly and Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State took turns to eulogise the man seen as an important political figure in Southern Kaduna.
He was indeed one of the most colourful, charismatic princes of Nigeria politics; a shrewd business man, and the most towering socio-political symbol of the people of Southern Kaduna.
At the age of 27, Balat had already jumped from a little known entrepreneur in Kaduna to become an important figure in the second republic, as Kaduna State Chairman of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), under the leadership of the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe.
As the Chairman of the party, he was among those who brokered the arrangement with the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) that saw Alhaji Balarabe Musa elected as the first civilian governor of Kaduna state. At the national level, he was also key in the loose coalition that made Edwin Ume Ezeoke of the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Wash Pam, also of the NPP, the Deputy Senate President under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-led government.
He was also instrumental to getting some other key appointees for the party, such as making the then Professor Ishaya Audu – a minority Christian from Wusasa Zaria – the Minister of External Affairs under the President Shehu Shagari-led government of the NPN.
Since then, he had remained a very important figure in business and politics as attested to by those who came out to speak at his funeral.
The body of Balat was carried in a grey Cadillac escorted by over one kilometre long motorcade in a three-hour journey from Kaduna to Gora Bafai, in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
A crowd waited as the corpse arrived at an open rectangular ground the size of a football field, covered with canopies by 11am for the funeral service.
His two wives, five sons and in-laws, clad in white, sat in the front row alongside Nigeria’s number two, three and four citizens.
Speaking after the homily, the Vice President said Balat “was a brother, a colleague, and a confidant”.
Sambo went on: “He was a great mobiliser of people, an astute politician, a humanitarian, a humanist and a great asset to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“From a humble background, he converted challenges to his advantage and became an icon of his time. His death has created a huge vacuum which cannot be filled now”.
Senate President David Mark asked Senator Solomon Ewuga to speak on behalf of the National Assembly, in which Balat served as senator representing Southern Kaduna, from 2003 to 2007.
Said Ewuga: “I am cold with grief standing here to speak on behalf of the National Assembly. I have known Balat for quite some time, and I have visited this village several times to hold discussions with him on several issues. He was a hardworking, discipline man who believed in getting things done correctly. We shall all miss him”.
Professor Jerry Gana, a former Minister of Information, who served at the same time Balat was Minister of State for Works, said of Balat: “He was a very courageous politician. He was one of us in the G18 and G34 who formed the PDP. He was a principled person, and believed in justice and fair play to all”.
Governor Mukhtar Ramalan, in his speech, said that he would miss the invaluable advice he received from the late Balat.
“He was one of the people that I always consulted on how to ensure everlasting peace and security in he state. He was loved both by his people and outside his state. The PDP has lost a great leader”, he said.
He promised to complete a community secondary school which the late senator had started in Gora Baffai. He also informed the gathering that Kaduna and Plateau State will hold a meeting of their security chiefs to see how to curtail the violence in their border areas around Southern Kaduna.
The National President of SOKAPU, Dr. Ephraim Goje, in his remarks, said that though Southern Kaduna had always been the cash cow of the PDP, it had no any federal institution to show for it.
“For the ruling party to truly honour our brother, who was one of its major financiers, it should convert the Kaduna State University (KASU), Kafanchan Campus into a Federal University of Technology and also ensure the creation of Gurara State, for the people of Southern Kaduna”, he said.
He also pointed out that the Sambo, who was the governor of Kaduna State from 2009 to 2010, only visited the place in December 2012 during the burial of the late Sir Ibrahim Yakowa.
“We would want to see you visit us during the time of joy, also”, he told the VP.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Balat’s son, Adamu, an engineer, paid tribute to his father.
After the service, the body of Balat was taken to his compound – an immaculate white mansion of red roof about a kilometer away, where he was interred in a private ceremony attended by family members.