Born on 4th April 1945, Yusufu Bala Usman, more popularly known as Dr. Bala Usman was a grandson to two famous emirs in Northern Nigeria. His paternal grandfather was the emir of Katsina Muhammadu Dikko while his maternal grandfather was Abdullahi Bayero, the emir of Kano. He schooled at Musawa Junior Primary School and Minna Senior Primary School, completing in 1957. He attended Government College, Kaduna, in 1958-1962 and proceeded to the UK for his higher education. He attended University of Lancaster, 1964-1967. Dr. Bala Usman first started as a secondary school teacher at Barewa College, Zaria, where he taught history from 1967-1970. He then moved over to Ahmadu Bello University to start his postgraduate studies in history under the supervision of the famous Professor Abdullahi Smith. He completed his PhD at the age of 29 in 1974. His influence in the Department of History was such that since he completed his PhD, each and every postgraduate student requested him to read their theses, whether he was their supervisor or not. He never declined. He was very thorough in his work. He was Head of Department of History from 1976-1980. He organized the re-orientation of the department, introducing new courses on African history and recruiting radical historians from Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe among others, to teach African history as it should be taught.
In addition to his University work, Dr Bala Usman became a national figure due his sharp criticism of unjust government policies. He was fearless, and never shirked from telling the truth, no matter the consequences. Along with colleagues, he was instrumental in establishing the political magazines The Analyst, Fitila and Analysis,(1986-2010) which were important vehicles for educating the public about the true nature of the Nigerian state, economy and society. During the Second Republic, he became a leading figure in the radical Peoples’ Redemption Party, PRP led by Mallam Aminu Kano. He served as Secretary to the PRP Government of Kaduna State in 1980-1981. He was also actively involved in the campaign organization of Alhaji M. D. Yusufu when he was challenging the self-succession efforts of General Sani Abacha, 1997-1998. He was equally a key member of yet another radical political party (MDJ) established by the MD Yusufu campaign group and their supporters.
In both his academic and political work he was an inspiration to all who came into contact with him. He published several books and journal articles. His most popular book was a collection of his public lectures on Nigeria and Southern Africa, titled: For the Liberation of Nigeria, published in 1980.
He died on 24th September 2005.