Domkat Bali: 80 cannons for a quintessential General
He belongs to the good old days. At close quarters, Major General Domkat Yah Bali leaves you with the impression of a soldier’s soldier, the stamp that benighted that class of Nigeria Army that goes with the cliche, ‘officers and gentlemen’.
Domkat Bali was 20 years old when Nigeria became independent. As a young man he saw the new nation’s transition from colonial rule through internal self-government and finally its attainment of full sovereignty as a republic. His decision to join the Nigeria Army in 1961 could be said to have been influence by patriotism which ensued from internal self satisfaction and the joys inherent in the nationhood of his fatherland.
After 30 years of engaging in the task of defending and ‘keeping Nigeria one’, DY Bali had made a good name for himself and a success of his vocation rising to the position of a Four-Star General in the Nigeria Army.
Within his active days in the military, Bali served in various positions of sensitive responsibility. After serving as a lieutenant and troop commander, he was promoted to the rank of a captain in 1965 and shortly after, with the outbreak of the civil war, he was made the battery and regimental commander respectively.
By 1968 when the Plateau State-born commander became a major, the hostilities had gone beyond resolution. In the course of the Nigeria civil war, he was commander, Corps Artillery and served as a colonel at the Second Infantry Division in Ibadan.
His stay in the Western part of the country was elongated, as he served in Akure as Commander of the 9th Infantry Brigade, Commander, Corps Artillery, before being transferred to Kaduna, where he became the GOC of the First Infantry Division. It was from his positions as Commandant of Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College and Director of Army Training and Operations that Bali was appointed the country’s Defense Minister in 1984.
Last Thursday February 27, when he joined the octogenarian club, the profusion of kind words and warm sentiments that were poured on the product of the prestigious Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and Langtang-born General were most becoming and befitting.
The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal republic of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari, while congratulating the Octogenerian, praised Gen. Bali’s role as the pioneer Commandant, Command and Staff College, Jaji, especially for helping to institutionalise security structures in the country, stressing that his role in Nigeria’s “nation building is enviable.’
President Buhari declared that Gen. Bali’s 30 years’ stint in public service, 1961-1990, were most historic in the political and economic development of Nigeria.
Gen Bali’s former colleague and Defense Minister, Lieutenant-Gen.Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, recalling their glorious days and how their paths crossed in service of fatherland, said: “Domkat Bali served as my Artillery commander in 1 Brigade, Nigerian Army throughout our advance from Nsukka to Umuahia.
“As his Brigade Commander in the war front, I had ample opportunity to observe and appreciate his military skills and capability closely. After the civil war our paths crossed again when I became the Chief of Army Staff and Bali the Inspector of Artillery. Consequently, I can justifiably claim to have written more annual evaluation reports on Bali than anybody else throughout his military career.
“Bali is a perfect gentleman, an excellent and brave soldier. His humble and unpretentious disposition may be mistaken for docility but at critical moments, Bali’s true nature comes to the fore. He would assert himself and defend his position without mincing his words. Bali is humane and he mixes easily across religious and tribal boundaries, but he does not suffer fools gladly.
“At Army Headquarters, I found Bali as a dependable and loyal officer. He was diligently in the performance of his duty and he was honest and transparent in his handling of public funds. I rated him as a possible future Chief of Army Staff in my last and final report on him. I was not surprised when he eventually surpassed that and ended his career as a four-star general. He fully earned every one of those stars.”
Also, the chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, his home governor, Simon Bako Lalong, said attaining the glorious age of 80, the former Minister of Defence and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nigerian Armed Forces, General Domkat Bali, gave “his best to the nation throughout his years of distinguished military career, and service to Nigeria.”
Lalong recalled that having served as pioneer Commandant, Command and Staff College, Jaji, Adjutant General, Nigeria Army, as well as member of the Supreme Military Council and Armed Forces Ruling Council for many years, “General Bali remians a pride to the military institution, Plateau State and Nigeria at large.”
While noting the Octogenarian’s track record remains an inspiration to many younger ones, Lalong tasked the celebrant not to relent in offering his knowledge, experience and wisdom to his nation and state at this time when the challenges of insecurity are being tackled.
The life of General Bali holds out to emergent leaders and young Nigerians with a rich lesson that education remains the key to a progressive future. His path through academic institutions, including Junior Primary School at Mban and Provincial Middle School, Kuru, exposed his thirst for knowledge, which marked him out as a bright and precocious pupil with leadership qualities.
Standing up to his father’s apparent indifference to western education with determination and perseverance, Bali’s personal sacrifices at a very young age helped him to attain lofty heights in life.
Although many people believe that Bali was an accidental soldier, given the fortuitous circumstances that propelled his enlistment into the Army, his thirst for knowledge and academic brilliance did not lose its luster as he served with monumental distinction in his different military assignments.
In most of the pioneering and responsible positions he occupied within his 30 years troubadour in the military, his deft application of sound character and arcane intellect bequeathed his professional calling those qualities that succeeded in making him a General’s General. It was a mark of his popular acclaim of his shining service records that as at the time he attained 30 years in service, he shunned powerful pressures to remain by resigning from service at age 50, only to be promoted to a General after his eventual retirement.
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.
After his resignation from the Army thirty years ago, Bali became the Chairman of HFP Engineering, the building construction firm that gave Lagos the iconic Victoria Garden City. Now, at 80, General Domkat remains one of Nigeria’s ornaments of harmony and beauty in diversity.
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