Dr. Pablo Idahosa on Bala Usman's life:
It brings great sadness to my heart to know that Bala Usman has died, both in and of itself, of course, but because he stands for something that appears to have gone. He was not only a mentor to many people, but most importantly he wanted nothing from anyone except what he gave to others, and so he had a genuine moral power: the power of conviction, the power of incorruptibility, and therefore the power not to be intimidated by those who held power, and who would hold others abusively to it. As someone who knew it, he was not beholden to it; he did not crave what others wanted: the showy babban riga or garish agbada, the excoriation of many a Fela song. His was not the vainglorious attachment to power; he stood for what he knew, and always knew what he spoke about precisely because he knew power. He knew it not only in its in its petty corruption and its larger venalities, or because they are Dr/Prof for personal aggrandizement, or, like so many sycophants who sought the academic vocation because it gave the the trappings of power, and the capacity to exact from others what was not their own. Perhaps being born of power, he understood a noblesse oblige that would not brook the vulgar obsequiousness that has deep markings in so many of our cultures, which so many of his and subsequent generations seek, and for whom the "people" were the physical force of Cabral's compromised nationalism: to be used, not to have agency, and to have extracted from them the wealth of their nations, of their communities and of their birthright.
No, what really sadness me, is a question I know an answer to: it is that how many people outside of Nigeria new of Bala Usman? Usman was something special in an age of CODESRIA; in an age of the instant production of knowledge; in an age of the Africa Union, with its large conferences, drawing in "diasporic" intellectuals, with new fads and new theories, with cached research grants and multiple air miles. He was an organic intellectual who stayed home, because home is where the people are . He will rest in peace knowing that what he achieved; perhaps we will not, aware of what we haven't.