Tribute by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the valedictory Executive Council session for His Excellency, Architect Barnabas Yusuf Bala, held at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House on Thursday, 22nd July 2021
- I wish to join my colleagues to celebrate the life of His Excellency, Architect Barnabas Yusuf Bala and the exemplary service he gave to this state. We have lost a good man, but we remember and acknowledge his contributions.
- Bantex was my friend and brother, from the beginnings as undergraduates in ABU, interaction in the construction industry, then through our collaboration in a political and governance project and continuing long after he left office as Deputy Governor in 2019.
- I admired him as a man who had attained success as a distinction graduate of Architect and a professional before venturing into politics, a vocation in which he left his mark at local, state and national levels. I was proud to have him as partner in our quest to remake Kaduna State. We are grateful that he agreed to come out of retirement to work with us to establish the APC in Kaduna State, as its first elected chairman and thereafter as my running mate personally selected by President Buhari from a shortlist of six names on 23rd December 2014.
- Bantex was passionate about issues of human progress, development and equal opportunity for all. He was committed to progressive ideals and believed that the people of this state could work together for progressive attainments. He ensured that we visited the Millennium Village pilot project in Pampaida in Ikara LGA, which he initiated when he was a member of the House of Representatives, before we took office in 2015 to see a concept of integrated development at work. He was enthusiastic about expanding access to education and healthcare, especially through free basic education.
- As a former local government chairman, he was an authority on local government administration and responsible for the autonomy we granted all our LGAs from day one in 2015. He also convinced our Cabinet to legislate on the presidential system of local government- a first in Kaduna State and one of the few states in Nigeria practising this system faithfully.
- The greatest tribute to Bantex for us as a government is how his election as Deputy Governor of this state has made the office the most powerful of any state in the country. Our Deputy Governors in Kaduna State are not spare tyres. He acted as State Governor, leading with integrity and chairing our State Executive Council so many times when I was out of the country. Bantex also chaired our KADIPA, SEMA, JAAC, Power Reform Committee, Ease of Doing Business Committee and the State Tenders Board at various times.
- He was self-assured, steadfast, courageous and collegial. Bantex was witty, he loved good jokes and told many with his full hearty laughter affirming his pleasure. Amiable, happy and confident, his expansive worldview embraced everyone. He was a great ambassador for Kaduna State at international and national events. As Acting Governor during some episodes of crisis, he led our team very well. It is on record that he was the only Deputy Governor to be part of the President’s entourage to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 which hitherto included Governors and Ministers. He also launched the Kaduna State SDG Report at UNGA in 2017.
- The last time Bantex attended the meeting of the State Executive Council was in May 2019, as he prepared to bow out as Deputy Governor. He gave another confident performance, a trait that concealed the considerable pains of ill-health he had endured over the years. His family can be very proud of this good man, who gave great service, was principled and stood by his convictions.
- On a very personal and final note, I want to recount a painful episode in our over four decades of comradeship with Bantex. Within 10 months of our being in office, fake news circulated, created and weaponised by some mischievous people, that he was involved in a scuffle with me during an Executive Council meeting. He was alleged to have slapped me and walked out of the meeting. Those that know Bantex need not think twice to conclude that the story was false. Neither of us bothered to comment or even discuss it.
- Suffice it to say that we have never ever argued with Bantex, other than the robust debates we often had in Cabinet and other policy level meetings. The only disagreement we ever had had to do with his offer, not once but three times to resign his office as Deputy Governor. Thrice I rejected. He offered to resign because he felt that the open hostility of some leaders, groups and associations from his senatorial district will be reduced if he resigned, and if I conceded to such persons the right to nominate his replacement. I assured Bantex that under no circumstance will any person or group dictate who I work with as Deputy Governor. I appealed to him to stay and he agreed. I am very grateful to him for that.
- We remember a man of brilliance and imagination, an accomplished professional, a practitioner of the politics of service and courageous leadership. He was optimistic about the potentials of Kaduna State and Nigeria, and he did his best at all times to help actualise them. I will miss my friend. I will miss my political partner. I will miss my governance soulmate. I will also miss his smile, pleasant personality and wise counsel.
- We thank him for his contributions to Kaduna State and we pray Almighty God to grant him peaceful repose.
Thank you and God bless.