Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, KBE (December 1912 – 15 January 1966) was a Nigerian politician, and the only prime minister of an independent Nigeria. Abubakar Balewa was born late in 1912 in Bauchi the son of a Bageri, Muslim district head.
He studied at the Katsina College for further education and soon acquired his teaching certificate. He returned to Bauchi to teach at the Bauchi Middle School. In 1944, along with a few learned teachers from the north, he was chosen to study abroad for a year at the University of London’s Institute of Education. Upon returning to Nigeria, he became an Inspector of Schools for the colonial administration and later entered politics. He was elected in 1946, to the colony’s Northern House of Assembly, and to the Legislative Assembly in 1947. As a legislator, he was a vocal advocate of the rights of northern Nigeria, and together with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, who held the hereditary title of Sardauna of Sokoto, he founded the Northern People’s Congress (NPC).
Balewa entered the government in 1952 as Minister of Works, and later served as Minister of Transport. In 1957, he was elected Chief Minister, forming a coalition government between the NPC and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by Nandi Azikiwe. He retained the post as Prime Minister when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and was reelected in 1964. His term in office was turbulent, with regional factionalism constantly threatening his government.
However, as Prime Minister of Nigeria, he played important roles in the continent’s formative indigenous rule. He was an important leader in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity and creating a cooperative relationship with French speaking African countries.
In January 1960, Balewa was knighted by Elizabeth II as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield in May, 1960.