Bala Usman was here until 12 years ago. One has to check the print media to see how much of the 12th anniversary of his passage has been the subject of any much critical opinions or attention generally. Perhaps, Nigeria is too angry with itself to bother about the dead.
But forgetting is dangerous. Dr. Bala is certainly unforgettable. This has nothing to do with him being an angel. He never sought to be an angel. Even if being an angel were granted human beings, people like him were probably too opinionated to be considered. But it was in being opinionated that he secured his place in the club of the early voices that started reminding the Nigerian establishment that they were taking the country the wrong way. A casual listing of the members of that clan would include Claude Ake; Omafume Onoge; Kyari Tijani, Obaro Ikime; Bala Usman; Okwudiba Nnoli; Segun Osoba, (not the journalist-governor); Eskor Toyo; Bade Onimode and Aaron Gana. They were not just radicals, they were united in subscription to anti-imperialism as the corner-stone of their activism. They all equally subscribed to one variant of socialism or another. What that means is that they were indeed a clan apart.
It was not everything they said that was correct or accepted. In fact, except one or two on the above list, every of them attracted criticisms on conceptual, methodological, ideological or organisational positions. In fact, many NPN bigwigs boycotted the ‘State of the Nation’ conference that assessed democracy in Nigeria from 1979 – 1983 partly because of the fear of what the late Historian could say. The conference took place in ABU, Zaria.
So, his achievement was not in having no critics, opponents or people who fought him, especially on the campus. His achievement is in opening and sustaining the tradition of ensuring that his voice was heard. And he was right because as the philosophers of free speech argued, no one can say where the most fantastic idea may come from. It may come from the one we may call an imbecile just as it may come from the mouth of the rich person. In order not to let society miss any such thing, the best option is to hear every voices.
The larger society might be so engrossed in remembering the dead but not an institution Bala was part of if not the mastermind. From there, a symbolically adequate commemoration has come. Captured from the social media is it above. May his soul rest in peace!