had very humble origins.
was born on October 1, 1912 in the village of Tafawa Balewa
, in modern-day Bauchi State.
father's only child.
Although it is widely presumed that he
was Hausa, Balewa's father was in fact of Bageri ethnicity, and his
mother Fatima Inna was Fulani.
attended Koranic school and learnt the first chapter of the Qur'an by heart.
For his Western education he attended Bauchi Provincial School.
According to his
teacher and classmates he
was shy, quiet and not an outstanding student.
He later enrolled at Katsina Teacher Training College (1928-1933) and graduated with a third class certificate, performing best in English.
He became a teacher and having passed the Senior Teacher's Certificate examination he would go on to become headmaster of the Bauchi Middle School.
and a handful of northern teachers obtained scholarships to study at the University of London's Institute of Education
from 1945 to 1946, where he
received a teacher's certificate in history.
returned to Nigeria, Balewa
"returned to Nigeria with new eyes, because [he] had seen people who lived without fear, who obeyed the law as part of their nature, who knew individual liberty.
In 1946 the Bauchi Native Authority had selected Tafawa Balewa
as their representative to the Northern House of Assembly and the House of Assembly in turn selected him to become a member of the Nigerian Legislative Council
In the North's first elections in 1951, Tafawa Balewa won seats in the Northern House of Assembly and in the House of Representatives in Lagos, where he became a minister in the Central Council.
By 1952 he became Minister of Works and in 1954 was made Minister of Transport and the Senior Minister and leader of the NPC in the House of Representatives.
In 1957 he became the first prime minister of Nigeria, a position he held until his death.
At first, Balewa
was suspicious of Nigerian unification and feared that the Northern Region would be dominated by the better educated and dynamic South.
said that "the southern tribes who are now pouring into the north in ever increasing numbers...do not mix with the northern people in social matters and we...look upon them as invaders.
Since 1914 the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs, and do not show themselves any sign of willingness to unite.
So what it comes to is that Nigerian unity is only a British intention in the country."
would later change his
ideology and adopt a federal outlook following a visit to America in 1955.
reminisced that "in less than 200 years, this great country [America] was welded together by people of so many different backgrounds.
Tafawa Balewa, Princess Alexandra, Nigerian independence
Princess Alexandra and Tafawa Balewa
In 1957 Balewa was elected Chief Minister, forming a coalition government between the NPC and the NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons - later the National Council of Nigerian Citizens), led by Nnamdi Azikiwe.
As prime minister, Tafawa Balewa developed a favourable reputation in international circles.
was considered a pro-Western leader but was very critical of South African racial policies and of French plans to test atomic devices in the Sahara.
last public act was to convene a Commonwealth Conference in Lagos to discuss action against the unilateral declaration of independence by Rhodesia.
career Tafawa Balewa
played a leading role in national policy making.
In 1950 in the Northern House of Assembly he
had advocated fundamental reforms to the system of Native Authorities in the North, a proposal highly unpopular among many of the Northern leaders.
Throughout the 1950s he
participated with great skill in the discussions on constitutional reform that ultimately led to independence.
played important roles in the continent's formative indigenous rule and was an important leader in the formation of the Organization of African Unity
and the creation of a cooperative relationship with French-speaking African countries.
was also instrumental in negotiations between Moise Tshombe and the Congolese authorities during the Congo Crisis of 1960-1964, led a vocal protest against the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and also entered into an alliance with Commonwealth Ministers who wanted South Africa to leave the Commonwealth in 1961.
As Prime Minister of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa, from 1960 to 1961, doubled as the country's foreign affairs advocate.
proposed an amendment to Nigeria's
constitution to give due recognition to the nation-building role played by then Governor-General Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Balewa proposed that "Nnamdi Azikiwe shall be deemed to have been elected President and Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces" because "Nigeria can never adequately reward Dr Azikiwe" for the nationalist role he played in building Nigeria and achieving independence.
On January 15, 1966 armed soldiers who were executing Nigeria's
first military coup kidnapped Tafawa Balewa
was missing for several days and a search for him was ordered by the new military regime headed by Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi.
family and friends continued to believe he
Rumours claimed the rebel soldiers were holding him alive and that he
would be released as part of a prisoner swap involving the imprisoned Obafemi Awolowo.
However, these hopes were dashed when his
decomposing corpse was found a few days later, dumped in a roadside bush.
corpse was taken to Ikeja Airport in the company of Police Commissioner Hamman Maiduguri
, Inspector-General of Police Kam Selem, Maitama Sule, and his
wives Laraba and Jummai, who also accompanied it as it was flown to Bauchi
body now lies inside a tomb which has since been declared a national monument.
The tomb includes a library and a mosque.
The famous race course square in Lagos was renamed "Tafawa Balewa Square" in his
image appears on the N5 note.
The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University
is named in his
Watch: Tafawa Balewa in an interview with the BBC a few days after Nigeria's independence