BARNABAS BALA BANTEX: A BROTHERLY TRIBUTE
By Ahmad Sajoh
Sunday the 11th of July 2021 was indeed an incredibly sad day for me personally. The passing away of the former deputy Governor of Kaduna State my dear brother Hon. Barnabas Bala Bantex was a tragic occurrence. Not quite long ago we had a long telephone conversation on several issues. What I enjoyed most about him is that he was always frank, honest and a moderating voice even during extreme crisis periods. When he holds a view, he was never afraid to air it or expound it. He never sacrificed truth on the alter of populism or political correctness. That has always been the Bantex I know, and I knew him long enough to assert that.
I came across the late Bala Bantex in 1974 at Federal Government College Warri in my first year at the school. I was assigned to National House and to the same room with him. He was by far my senior, but he took me like a younger brother and became my guardian angel. He protected me when the need arose, he supported me where necessary and he assisted me with some intricate academic and even personal issues. He was around and about, never one to feel restricted by any factor. Although he was a Christian, he was genuinely concerned about ensuring that I practice my Islamic faith unabated. He was not just liberal but indeed fair and just in his dealings with anyone in the school.
When he left the school, I felt like a part of me was gone. I knew nothing about art appreciation but anytime he painted a masterpiece he will want me to critique it. My shallow ability in that field helped him to look at his paintings beyond the critical eyes of scholarship. He bounced my views off the fine lines and brush strokes like a cracked mirror trying to reflect one image instead of many. I enjoyed it but never had the talents to paint. It was unfortunate for me. His views on happenings in the land were always frank and straight. I was naïve, a bush boy from a far corner of Nigeria, I did not understand much of what was said but I admired his analytical mind.
Later in life when I came to NTA Television College Jos for studies, I was told Barnabas Bala had an Architectural Firm which was called Bantex located in Jos. I enquired about the Location and was told it was immediately after the Railway crossing coming from the location of the Teaching Hospital or after the Abattoir for one coming from Rayfield. I located the place and reconnected. In Jos we were both adults, so our relationship was more fraternal. He kept reminding me that I was still a student and needed help. Whenever I visited, he will give me transport money. It certainly limited my visits because I felt I was becoming a burden on him. Unfortunately, if he did not see me, he always looked for me.
Right from the days when we were at school, we knew that Barnabas Bala Bantex had a lot of leadership capacity. He was both an activist and a consummate leader. He was the pioneer Secretary General of SUKAPU. It was like a launching pad to politics for him. Therefore, when he ventured into the murky waters of politics we were not surprised. Within a short while after joining politics he made a mark by first becoming the Chairman of his native Kaura Local Government. One of the things my wife remembers very vividly about the late gentleman was our visit to his home as Local Government Chairman. I went to visit him with my entire family. He was happy and gave us some gifts including a keg of pure honey.
He later went on to become an immensely powerful voice at the National Assembly as a member of the House of Representatives representing Kaura Federal Constituency in Kaduna state. He was always vocal, bold and very logical in his arguments. When I was at New Age Network as the Editorial head of the “House Ticket” team, I always looked out for such powerful contributions. I felt proud anytime we were editing a clip from Barnabas Bala Bantex. He later became state chairman of APC for a short while, but his tenure was indeed impactful. I remember when he was considered for the post of running mate to the current Governor of Kaduna state, I was passing through Kachia to Kaduna, and I saw this big billboard of him as Chairman of APC and I called. I jokingly said, “my brother you want to change from a King maker to join the King’s court?” he simply laughed.
Throughout, my relationship with him he never displayed any form of prejudice towards me or anyone or any issues I know off. He was honest and forthright. Never afraid to face adversity even if at the risk of a personal loss. He also abhors sycophancy and vain praise singing. He was an honest man with an honest outlook. I am sure if he were alive and he read this tribute he would have rebuked me, perhaps think I was patronizing him. But I am not. I am stating facts as I know them. Facts about the life of one of the finest patriots Nigeria had produced and my relationship with him. His death is indeed a personal loss for me. It is sad and tragic. Nigeria needs him more now when it is at a time of extreme crisis where patriots must rise to chat a new course for our journey to nationhood.
As we all commiserate with his immediate family, the Government and people of Kaduna state, let us find time to remember him in our prayers, to remember his fine attributes of promoting unity and understanding and to support the family he left behind in whatever way possible. Adieu my dear brother.
Rest in perfect peace as the architect of peace that you have always been.