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OBITUARY: Domkat Bali, loyal army general who ‘saved Nigeria from a genocide’

OBITUARY: Domkat Bali, loyal army general who ‘saved Nigeria from a genocide’
December 05
00:48 2020

Loyal. That is the word with which many people who knew him described him. Domkat Yah Bali was loyal to his country and he spent decades in active service proving just that. Bali served as minister of defence and member of the supreme military council between 1984 and 1985, and the armed forces ruling council of 1985 to 1990. He was joint chief of staff between 1984 and 1985 when President Muhammadu Buhari was head of state. 

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Born on February 27, 1940 in Zamko, Langtang, Plateau state, Bali attended elementary schools at Mban and Langtang and the Provincial Secondary School, Kuru, from 1955 to 1960. His military career began when he entered the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna in April 1961. He later attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England in 1961 and had further military training at the Gunnery Staff Course, Larkhill, UK in 1968; Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, and the Royal College of Defence, Cowdon, UK.

From his military years in service to serving as the Ponzhi Tarok, the paramount ruler of Langtang people, here’s what we can tell of the octogenarian who died on on Friday.

HE WOULDN’T SETTLE FOR LESS

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Bali quit the army in January 1990 under not-so-pleasant circumstances. When Ibrahim Babangida reshuffled his cabinet on December 29, 1989, he removed Bali as defence minister and moved him to internal affairs. Bali, however, refused to accept the position and left.

“To be very frank with you, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is a very important ministry, but that was not my problem. My problem was that as a military officer, I was senior both to Babangida and Buhari, but I served under both as Minister of Defence and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. I could accept that they were heads of state. You cannot remove the fact that I was a senior to both of them. And when Babangida came, he said, ‘ok, you are no longer Chief of Defence Staff, but Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.’ If I am not that, then I am also junior to all other military people other than the Head of State, which I would not accept,” Bali said in a 2006 interview with TheNEWS.

“I could accept that I was junior to the Head of State but to accept that I was also junior to other junior officers to me, that was unacceptable. That was the main reason that I had to leave. Not because I was made the Minister of Internal Affairs. Some people said it was because I was taking over from John Shagaya who was also a junior officer. Those were not the issues at all.”

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In 2011, Bali rejected the national merit award of commander of the federal republic (CFR) given to him by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Justifying his rejection of the honour, Bali said he had earlier been conferred a higher title, adding that accepting that of the CFR would amount to demoting him.

In December 2010, Bali emerged as Ponzhi Tarok, paramount ruler of the Langtang in Plateau state

“It makes no sense to me. I saw the recent national merit award given to me as an insult to my personality. They told me the 2011 honour awarded me is Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR. But the Federal Government of Nigeria gave me in the past a higher national merit honor as Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, which is the second highest national honour in Nigeria. So what this current government offers me in 2011 National Merit Award is inferior to what I have before now,” he said.

“So I said, let them give the CFR to someone else who deserves that. I don’t deserve that because I had a higher one. That was the reason why I refused to attend the programme because my appearance there in Abuja will mean my acceptance to be demoted.”

‘PREVENTED A GENOCIDE’

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Speaking during Bali’s 80th birthday party in Abuja, Yakubu Gowon, former head of state, said the army general’s loyalty and discipline saved the lives of hundreds of civilians by preventing a genocide hours to the end of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970. According to him, Gowon, who did not mention the particular military operation at the time, said that he (Gowon) called Bali and instructed him to cancel the operation after preparations were concluded for the final onslaught and he (Bali) obeyed without any argument.

Bali at his 80th birthday celebration

“We owe Domkat Bali a lot for averting what would have been a genocide by the Nigerian army during the civil war,” Gowon said.

“His loyalty and discipline saved the lives of hundreds of civilians who would have died in the final onslaught planned to take place 24 hours before the war ended. I called him and gave him the instruction to stand down. He obeyed without any question and that was how the war ended on ‘no victor no vanquished note’.”

In the interview with TheNEWS, Bali was asked if he had concerns that Nigeria would witness another civil war and he said: “I honestly have none. The first one was even a mistake to have happened at all. I dread that another one should happen. I don’t know of any country that has survived too many civil wars.

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“And I am a strong believer in one Nigeria. I tell you what, I come from a small tribe – the Tarok tribe in Langtang. It is a small tribe within a small group. If the North secures independence from the rest of the country, the Hausa/Fulani will be so dominant that they will lord it over us whether we like it or not. A bigger Nigeria will check such excesses. So the bigger Nigeria is, the freer the tribe and myself will be.”

According to Buhari, Bali’s 30 years record in public service were “most historic in the political and economic development of Nigeria”

HELPED BUHARI OUST SHAGARI

He was one of the arrowheads of the December 31, 1983, coup led by then General Muhammadu Buhari, which truncated the second republic headed by Shehu Shagari of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He also played an active role in the August 27, 1985 coup led by Ibrahim Babangida that toppled Buhari’s regime.

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1 Comment

  1. S.O.Jay1
    S.O.Jay1 December 15, 16:22

    A patriot per excellence.

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