On December 4, 2020, time stood still and the nation was thrown into mourning. One of black Africa’s most accomplished true soldier; a rare gem and perfect gentleman, Nigeria’s ex Defence Minister, Gen. Domkat Bali, OFR, (rtd), breathed his last, bowing to the ultimate fate of man after an illustrious 80-year sojourn on mother earth.
Given that Bali was neither a former head of state nor did he, like a number of his colleagues, take off the Khaki to adorn the Agbada to seek to sit on the nation’s number seat, there might an urge by the uninitiated to question the reference to the late ace soldier as the father of the Nigerian military. But for the initiated, there cannot be any doubt about Bali being Nigeria’s soldier of the soldiers; a natural leader and a sort of gold standard for the Nigerian military.
The former Defence Minister was a different kind of soldier; a man whose name was gold; an unusual man. Indeed, a very rare human being.
Bali was a man who was totally devoid of greed and ambition. He served Nigeria meritoriously, exhibiting traits that was quite odd in era when to be a soldier of his standing meant swimming in the ocean of fortune. But Bali was a man not given to materialism, and has never been counted as one of the millionaire generals who leveraged on their position to acquire wealth.
One of the few soldiers to on the continent to attain 4-star general status, a rank he attained in retirement, having decided in 1990 to call it a day, preferring in the circumstance, to uphold his integrity when staying put could have meant calling same to question.
A product of the prestigious Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, Bali held many pioneering and responsible positions within his 30 years in the military. And it was testament to his unmatched integrity, shining service records and impeccable character that as at the time he attained 30 years in service, he shunned pressures to remain by resigning from service at age 50, only to be promoted to a 4-star General after his eventual retirement.
Born in 1940, Bali had witnessed Nigeria’s independence as a 20-year-old. And having, as a young man, witnessed the transition from colonial rule self-government, and apparently filled with patriotism and desire to see the new nation attain greatness, he joined its military in 1961, aged just 21.
Born in Langtang, Plateau State to the family of Hassan Bali Tabut and Yinkat Bali, young Domkat had his primary education at Mban, Langtang and from 1955 to 1960, he attended the provincial secondary school at Kuru. He undertook further military courses at Camberley, London.
He entered Nigerian Military Training College in 1961 and in 1964, he was a lieutenant and troop commander. Bali became captain a year later in 1965. In 1966, he was battery commander and during the Nigerian Civil War, he was a regimental commander.
In 1968, Bali was made major in 1968 and between 1970 and 1971, he was commander, Corps of Artillery and later became a colonel at the Second Infantry Division in Ibadan. In 1973, he was posted to Akure as the commander of the 9th Infantry Brigade, he was adjutant general Nigerian army in 1975, commander Corps of Artillery in 1976 and in 1978, he was the GOC of the First Infantry Division, Kaduna. Prior to becoming Defense Minister in 1984, he was Commandant of the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College from 1981 to 1983 and later director of army training and operations.
In 1990, resigned from the army and subsequently went into the corporate world, serving as Chairman of HFP Engineering, builders of Victoria Garden City, Lagos Nigeria.
Some of the institutions and military courses he attended that helped to shape his world view and excellent personality include, Gunnery Staff Course, Larkhill, UK, 1968-1969; Staff College Camberley, Surrey, England, 1972; Royal College of Defence Studies, United Kingdom, 1980;US Army School of Artillery, Oklahoma, USA.
His elite haul of epaulettes from a distinguished career contains the following, Grand Commander of Order of Niger (GCON), Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), Defence Service Medal, National Service Medal, Republic Service Medal, General Service Medal and Forces Service Star, among others.
In December, 2010, Bali was selected by the Tarok kingmakers headed by the Madakin Langtang, HRH Daniel Lamda Bongtur to Succeed the Lt. Hrm. Edward Cirdap Zhattau. He remained in service to his people in this capacity until death called on December 4, 2020.