President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said he received with ‘great shock and sorrow’ the news of the sudden death of the Special Adviser (Special Duties) to Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senator Isaiah Balat.
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: “On behalf of himself and the Federal Government, President extends sincere condolences to the Vice President, his staff and all others who had the pleasure of working with Senator Balat at the Presidential Villa.
“The President also condoles Senator Balat’s wife, children and relatives as well as his kinsmen, people of Kaduna State and supporters whose interests he capably represented and defended throughout his political career.
“He joins them in mourning the very affable political leader who will be remembered for serving meritoriously as a Senator and Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The President prays that God Almighty will receive the soul of Senator Balat whom he had the pleasure of working with at close quarters in the Presidential Villa over the past three years and grant him eternal rest.”
Meanwhile, former Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, on Tuesday described the death of Sen. Isaiah Balat as “very shocking and unbelievable’’.
“I am just returning to the country and I have just heard the sad news. Very shocking and just unbelievable,’’ he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview.
He prayed God to grant Balat eternal rest and console Nigerians, especially Balat’s friends, family and associates.
In his reaction, former Minister of Aviation, Mr Felix Hyat, described the news as “very scary’’.
“The news took me by surprise. It is a very devastating incident,’’ he told NAN, also in a telephone interview.
Hyat described Balat as “a dogged fighter, who put in his all in whatever he believed in.
“Balat was a hard fighter. He gave people, especially the helpless and poor, the hope that they could achieve their life dreams if they fought hard enough.’’
The former minister said Balat represented a ray of hope to his people in the south of Kaduna State, saying the late politician fought to the very end.
“Throughout his life, he fought a good fight and died a gallant fighter. May God give him eternal rest and console the federal and state governments as well as the entire country,’’ Hyat said.
Reacting to the incident, Mr Shehu Abui, a former Editor-in-Chief of NAN, described Balat’s death as “very unfortunate’’.
“It is very devastating. Balat died at a time the nation needed his service most. It is very shocking,’’ Abui said.
Born in Gora-Bafai, in the Zango-Kataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State 61 years ago, Balat was a businessman and politician.
He attended various schools in Jos and Kaduna, and later studied at the Harvard Business School in the U.S. and later in the UK.
At the age of 27, Balat became the first Chairman of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in the old Kaduna State in the Second Republic.
He led the coalition of four political parties which surprisingly defeated the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Kaduna state governorship election in 1979.
Balat would later become the first chairman of the Katsina Steel Rolling Mill in 1980.
He was also a former chairman of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA) and a former council member of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE).
At the NSE, he served as chairman of the Kaduna and Kano trading floors.
It was during his tenure as KADCCIMA chairman that he initiated the construction of a permanent site for the Kaduna International Trade Fair.
This was done in the effort to expand the annual trade fair site and make room for more participants.
He was appointed Minister of State for Works and Housing in 1999, and later won a seat to the Senate to represent the Southern Kaduna zone.
Balat contested the PDP ticket to run for the Kaduna state governor’s position in 2007, but lost to Alhaji Namadi Sambo, now Vice-President, after a re-run.
In 2011, he was appointed Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties by President Goodluck Jonathan, who deployed him to the office of the Vice-President.
The late Balat was survived by two wives, five children and parents.
Similarly the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has described the death of former Sen. Isaiah Balat as sad and shocking.
Ekweremadu stated this in a condolence message issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Uche Anichukwu, in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said that the late senator was a resourceful lawmaker and selfless politician whose death was “a reality that is difficult to come to terms with’’.
“Apart from his laudable legacies as one Nigerian, who rendered selfless service to the nation in many respects, Balat was one lawmaker no member of the 5th Senate would forget in a hurry.
“He will always be remembered as a total parliamentarian, a compassionate fellow, an uncommon patriot and a bridge-builder who saw the whole nation as his constituency,’’ he said.
The deputy senate president expressed regrets that Balat died at a time his experience and inputs were most needed toward the realisation of the Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government.
Ekweremadu, who prayed for the peaceful repose of the deceased, also condoled with the Senator’s immediate family, the presidency, and the government and good people of Kaduna State.