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Balarabe Musa, the Gadfly passes

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
12 November 2020   |   4:15 am
He lived his life for the downtrodden masses. Indeed, his everyday activity was for them. He drew strength from their presence and like his mentor, the late Mallam Aminu Kano, he was a friend of the talakawa.

Balarabe Musa

He lived his life for the downtrodden masses. Indeed, his everyday activity was for them. He drew strength from their presence and like his mentor, the late Mallam Aminu Kano, he was a friend of the talakawa.

That is the story of Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, who passed on yesterday. He left behind a feast of doggedness, commitment and dedication.

Born August 21, 1936 in Kaya, Kaduna State, Musa was a man who commanded respect and whose opinions were not sniffed at. This wasn’t because of his success as a governor, however, unlike majority of those occupying high political offices today, he stood up to be counted when it mattered most.

In the jackboot days of Sani Abacha’s regime, Musa put his life on the line for democracy with other National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) heavyweights such as, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Bola Ige, Segun Osoba, David Jang, Ndubuisi Kanu, Alani Akinrinade and Dan Suleiman.

The left-wing politician studied at Zaria Middle School (1947–1952) and at the Institute of Administration, Zaria (1952–1953). He was an accounts clerk (1953–1955) and a schoolteacher (1955–1960). He held various managerial positions related to accountancy in the period 1960 to 1976, while studying at different colleges in London to gain additional qualifications.

He was one of the youths, who had their tutelage in the foot of Mallam Aminu Kano. Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU)/ People’s Redemption Party (PRP) served as veritable training ground for a galaxy of young radicals that included the late Dr. Bala Usman and Abubakar Rimi.

Musa was elected governor on the platform of PRP in the second republic that lasted from 1979 to 1983. Though, National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the dominant party, challenged his election, it was not successful. He was in office from October 1, 1979 until he was impeached on June 23, 1981.

A Marxist, when the Kaduna Polo Club sent Musa an invitation to join along with a mallet he refused the invitation and gave the mallet to a servant, saying, “I don’t play polo … It is the game of the rich and powerful, of neo-colonialists.”

The tempestuous story of his romance in government is familiar to many. As governor, Musa was stalemated by the Kaduna State House of Assembly, which was dominated by NPN members. He operated without a cabinet for almost two years due to refusal of NPN legislators to ratify any of his party’s (PRP) nominees because he did not appoint members of NPN, which had a clear two-third majority in the State House of Assembly. Following this irreconcilable difference, the NPN-controlled Federal government incited the Kaduna State House of Assembly to impeach him. Thus, he became the first governor to be impeached from office in Nigeria.

Before his removal, he went to court and lost his bid to stop the proceedings that led to his exit from the Government House. Specifically, some members of the state legislature had levelled allegations of gross misconduct against him and they sought to investigate these accusations by constituting a seven-man committee.

On May 7, 1981, the state legislature served him a copy of the notice, and thereafter, on May 31 of the same year, the lawmakers resolved that the allegations be investigated by a committee of seven persons.

Few days after the Investigation Committee of the state House of Assembly invited the embattled governor to appear before its public sitting on June 10, 1981, Musa sought to enforce his fundamental rights under section 170 (2) and (6) of 1979 Constitution.

Through an ex parte application, he approached the Kaduna State High Court and asked for an order prohibiting the state House of Assembly and its Investigating Committee from proceeding with the investigation of the allegation levelled against him. He was eventually impeached on June 23, 1981.

Musa later said he was impeached because he planned to have the state open small and medium-sized industries, and this would have denied the NPN members opportunity of establishing their own enterprises. Though, he did initiate some state-owned companies, they were unprofitable and all were eventually closed down.

Since he left office, Musa commanded more respect for his forthrightness. He made contacts that turned out useful in politics. He held aloft the progressive ideology. He even contested for the presidency during the 2003 and 2007 general elections.

In May 2003, the Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun refused a permit to the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), to hold a rally in Kano. As Chairman of the coalition, Musa was not intimidated, as the CNPP had other ways to achieve their objectives.

Also Speaking as CNPP chairman, in February 2004, Musa described President Olusegun Obasanjo’s policies as “phantom and mirage”, doing nothing for the people and serving only to enrich politicians and government officials.

Over the intervening years, despite his fame and popularity, he remained totally committed to the masses. Of all the words he rasped, the most remarkable was when he said, “Capitalism is returning us to the era of slavery. The solution to the current crisis is the abolition of greediness and antagonistic competition in our economic systems.”

Government should embark on social reconstruction of Nigeria, taking the leading role in the economy and bring about a system that places public interest first above every other interest.

“The root cause is the leading role of the private sector as opposed to the leading role of the state in the economy to ensure, peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and the progressive development of the country.”

To him, “there is nothing we can do to solve the problem of Nigeria other than to fundamentally change the social, economic and political system and the leadership produced by the system. This is because both of them are based on self-interest first; public interest, second. Before 1966, before the Army emerged in the administration of affairs of Nigeria, did we have this type of thing? No. This is because at that time, the system was relatively based on public interest first and self-interest second. We didn’t have what I will call “survival of the fittest”. And if we really want to change the negative state of things now, we have to change the system and the leadership that comes from it.”

He said that Nigeria’s economic system was based on narrow self-interest, with a disabling level of corruption, theft and waste of public resources. He expressed concern that the state might fail, as had happened in Somalia.

He was committed to social reconstruction of Nigeria, starting with the leading role of stake in the economy to ensuring peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and the development of Nigeria. I came from the Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU)/ Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) ideological group. And our concern is the human person, not an individual; our concern is the dignity of human person, and not superficial differences of religion, ethnicity or geographical area. And that is why we have not spared any President in Nigeria since 1950s when the party was first established irrespective of region, religion, and ethnicity and so on. We judge a person by his integrity, objective and not where he comes from.

He believed so much in ‘a revolution’ in Nigeria that would have a positive change in the political system. “The situation in Nigeria is so bad that we would need a cleanup in the form of a revolution. The nation is in a negative state. Can you tell me of anything that is positive about Nigeria presently, aside that, we are still one nation? You could say: After all, fight against corruption is on. What is the essence of the fight against corruption, when those we know to be corrupt are walking freely? We know that many of Nigeria’s corrupt leaders are free enjoying their looted funds in Nigeria.”

With knowledge of history, he held tenaciously to the view that hunger and mass poverty have been the most immediate cause of proletarian revolution in every country of the world and Nigeria is closer to it.

He warned that nothing pushes people to revolt against government than hunger, pointing out that the primary responsibility of government is the welfare of its people, and this, government must not shy away from.

He went on to explain that the possibility of a revolt by Nigerians is 100 per cent sure because Nigerians are not different from the rest of the people in the world. “Whatever people did in the world to protect themselves or show their anger against bad government, Nigerians can do it, and nobody should deceive himself that Nigerians are so docile, that they will not revolt. Anger pushes anybody to the limit,” he said.

In an interview in April 2010, Musa said the electoral system was rigged to favour those with money. “I know Nigeria’s situation, it is impossible to have free, fair, credible and transparent election leading to democratic mandate. We need a revolution, we need peaceful democratic revolution or otherwise to bring about the condition that will bring about free, fair, credible and transparent election that will lead to legitimate leadership. Let us be objective, elections today are decided by three factors. First, money power; second, incumbency and now we are facing the third one: balance of terror. The ruling party can do and undo with the people’s votes. So, revolution is the answer, whether peaceful or otherwise.”

Musa, a staunch anti-graft advocate, believed the military institutionalized corruption in Nigeria, noting that the country was almost corrupt free in 1966. In his words, “did you hear of anybody stealing public funds before 1966 and getting away with it? Or a president of a country being so rich from the period of amalgamation till 1965? Or did you hear of any credible allegation against the likes of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo; the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello; the late Mallam Aminu Kano and many others in government or in the opposition? It is from 1966 that the issue of corruption started rearing its ugly head in this country. It started with the probe under Gen. Murtala Mohammed’s regime, which found all the governors who served under General Gowon guilty of corruption except the late Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson, a former military governor of Lagos State. So it is true that this level of corruption and criminality started with military rule since 1966.”

Musa, who is the National Chairman of People’s Redemption Party (PRP), admitted that though the PDP leadership was incompetent, Nigerians are now confronted with something worse in the APC. He said the party was not only lacking political leadership, but it also manifests traits of fascism in its general outlook.

In a message to the 18th Annual Convocation of the Igbo Youths Movement (IYM) held in Enugu, he said the country would remain in arrested development until it was restructured to achieve true federalism. He proposed the six geo-political zones as the federating units. There is no disputing that Nigeria has an over-bloated, overly expensive and inefficient government structure, which urgently needs to be made cheaper and more efficient.