Excerpts of an exclusive interview with Abdala Sadiq, tailor and house boy to the late Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa. He spoke with a team of TELL editors in 2006
When did the prime minister build his own house in Bauchi?
In 1955 when he was a minister. He was then the minister for works. It was also the time he was re-assigned as minister for transport. That was before he became deputy governor-general of Nigeria, as Waziri of Nigeria.
That house, how big was it?
It had just his sitting room, his two wives’ rooms and a guest room. That was all there was in the compound.
How many cars did the prime minister buy for his mother and his wives or for even himself?
Even a single ‘504’ (Peugeot) he did not buy for himself, not to talk of cars for his mother or his wives. He had only the official car that the government provided for him. He was using an old Peugeot. Later, they changed it to a Mercedes Benz.
So, what was his attitude to money, dresses and so on? Did he like things like that so much?
He did not like money: he did not like dresses. He only had 10 babanriga, all made with local fabrics. Even his shoes were handmade.
For someone that big – as a prime minister – how did he satisfy all the people that hanged around him?
The prime minister did not remove any kobo from the government’s coffers to give out to people just like that. It was from his salary or his personal money that he normally spent on people. If all he had was exhausted, that was it. He would tell him, “Oh, I don’t have money now!”
According to you, the prime minister did not love money, did not spend money anyhow but lived a simple life. If he woke up today from the grave to see how present-day politicians are doing, what do you think would be his reaction?
In my own thinking, if he woke up today, he would go and hide himself and cry and pity the common people. He would straightaway realise that he alone cannot fight for them because what the politicians now are doing is far beyond his own knowledge. The prime minister will weep for Nigeria.
What do you remember the prime minister for as a great leader?
What I believe is that the prime minister lived without diverting any penny from the government treasury for his own use. Now, these days, all the politicians and government officials are heavily provided for by the government. The prime minister in his days never took money from government treasury to buy food for his family, let alone embezzle millions as they do now. He never liked it. He would buy things for his family from his salary. He is the one that did the railway line from here (Bauchi) to Maiduguri and did not enrich himself.