Just like a play; just like a joke, Mallam Abdulkadri Balarabe Musa was removed as the governor of Kaduna State. It was on a Tuesday, a bad one indeed, 23 June 1981. It was an early political knock-out, for it happened at 9a.m. prompt. And Balarabe could not move his fist, he threw in the towel.
Apart from Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria, the eight “Progressive Governors” of Bendel, Borno, Gongola,Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and some few others, so many people including his leaders, Aminu Kano and S.G. Ikoku, believed Balarabe Musa asked for trouble and he got it in full dose!
When he was sworn in as the governor of the old Kaduna State on October 1, 1979, it was like a miracle. Everyone had thought, reasonably too, that the NPN gubernatorial candidate, Muhammed Lawal Kaita, would carry the day. And it became very difficult to explain why the NPN, which had over two-thirds of the members of the state’s House of Assembly, could not have the governor.
Musa, as a matter of fact, won the August 1979 election. He polled 560, 605 votes to beat Kaita who scored 551,262. In those days, the difference of 9,343 was very significant. But that was the beginning of the new Governor’s problem.
The Assembly had 99 members. Out of this, the governor’s party, People’s Redemption Party (PRP), had 21 members; Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), could only boast of ten members, while the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) paraded 68 members, that was two members above the two-thirds of the House. It meant the NPN legislators could do anything in the House, ditto in the state, without the accent of other parties.
But that would not disturb Bablarabe Musa, for immediately after he was given the mantle of office, some journalists accosted him, wanting to know how he would govern the state with so many NPN honourables. He did not mince words: “One thing is certain, I will not include any NPN men in my cabinet”!
Even this statement caught his party leaders unawares; some of them thought it was a reckless political statement in such situation, not to talk of NPN which replied through Kaita: “We shall see how he would govern. We shall not hesitate to use our two-thirds majority in the House to check whenever it is incumbent to do so.”
Musa would not succumb to such threat or blackmail. He compiled the list of his cabinet members and sent it to the House. No NPN member was in it as he had promised. And as Kaita had promised, the NPN legislators threw the list back to him, saying they were not interested. That was late 1979.
Malam Aminu Kano and the leadership of PRP sensed danger and tried to douse it. They made overtures to the NPN leadership and a committee was raised to look into the Kaduna crisis. A meeting was arranged, where a small committee comprising of NPN and PRP members would meet with the legislators and the governor.
In January 1980, the committee came to Kaduna. Sam Ikoku, Secretary of the PRP, led his party members, while Dr. Chuba Okadigbo led the NPN team. But Ikoku said later that Musa did not give the committee an audience, even when the members wanted to pay him a courtesy call. He did not also attend the meeting or send his deputy. Eventually, the recommendations of the committee were not recognised by the governor.
This angered Aminu Kano, the leader of the party. What is wrong with Balarabe? He knew Balarabe Musa would not ordinarily flout his orders or take decisions without seeking his input. Then he postulated, Balarabe had grown wings because of his association with the so-called Progressive Governors.
Yes, Balarabe Musa had joined the group of some governors who tagged themselves the Progressive Governors. They were nine in number: Ambrose Alli of Bendel, Muhammed Goni of Borno, Lateef Kayode Jakande of Lagos, Bisi Onabanjo of Ogun State, Bola Ige of Oyo State, Adekunle Ajasin of Ondo State, Abubakar Rimi of Kano State and he, Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State. They were governors of UPN, GNPP and PRP.
Since the UPN governors would never do anything without Obafemi Awolwo’s approval, he was informed before the setting out of the governors and he gave his blessing. Soon the meeting of the governors began a fertile ground to confront the Shehu Shagari-led NPN administration. And it was as if the governors had taken an oath among themselves that no one among them should have anything to do with NPN or its members. Balarabe got his strength from this group and he listened very little to his party.
But Aminu Kano did not like this; he didn’t want any confrontation with the NPN government. Besides, he did not like the idea of governors of his party associating with Awolowo, feeling the man had betrayed him. He came out to establish this, saying: “Soon after Alhaji Shehu Shagari emerged as the President, I went to see Chief Awolowo on the issue of government of national unity in the presence of the GNPP leader, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim.
“Chief Awolowo asked me to show him my proposal for the government of national unity I intended. I did not have it with me and I sent it to him later under confidential cover through Mr. S. G. Ikoku. But when three days later, I saw the report in the Sketch that PRP was entering a pact with NPN, I knew the Chief had betrayed me. This betrayal of confidence destroyed all basis of such a government. I respect the Chief as an elder and I have no cause to fear that he would betray my confidence.”
With this background, Aminu Kano detested the idea of any of his two governors dancing near Awolowo’s backyard. So he warned Balarabe and Abubakar Rimi, the governor of Kano State to let him know in time whenever they were going to the Progressive Governors’ meeting and the agenda of that meeting. Also, he wanted to be briefed when they returned from the meeting.
But the two governors would not have that, for they had drunk from the old man’s pot of political sagacity and were not ready to throw that out. And there was trouble.
Aminu took his case to the party and the party gave the same order. But the governors remained adamant. They went to the meetings, while they took permission from, or report to no one. Matter got to head on August 2,1980, when the PRP national directorate held a meeting in Lagos, examining the case of the governors and expelled them from the party.
Rimi and Balarabe went to court, first to prevent the PRP from holding its convention in Maiduguri, Borno State on December 13, 1980, where their expulsion would be ratified. The case was decided against them on December 12, a day to the convention. Again, they were in court to quash the resolution of the party banning them from attending the Progressive Governors’ meetings.
On December 23, 1980, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Mr. Justice Adefarasin, ruled that the PRP resolution banning the governors from attending the meetings of the nine “so called” progressive governors was in order.
Then they went to court again, challenging the real expulsion. They wanted the court to declare it null and void. But on January 16, 1980, a Lagos High Court presided over by Mr. Justice Akibo Savage, dismissed the suit filed by them against their ouster from PRP. Governors Rimi and Musa were each ordered to pay N150 costs. Their counsel, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, was not even in court.
With the failure of these moves, the two governors broke away from the party. What they actually did was to organise their own convention in Lagos and expelled Mallam Aminu Kano, the founder of the party and the secretary, S. G. Ikoku. There and then, they elected themselves. Abubakar Rimi was Secretary, Balarabe Musa Vice President and Chief Michael Imoudu, the National Chairman.
They announced to the world that they were the original PRP and their friends in the West, the UPN governors and their newspapers continued to edge them on, calling them the original PRP members, while referring to Aminu Kano and his group as The break-away faction or the expelled members. With this embarrassing situation, Aminu Kano wrote to the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), wanting it to declare which PRP was original.
After carefully examining the claims and counter-claims of the two factions of the party and also the submissions made, FEDECO came out on Wednesday, January 21, 1981 to announce thus: “As far as FEDECO is concerned, this is the only authentic, lawful and proper People’s Redemption Party (PRP). The party registered with the golden key as its symbol with Malam Aminu Kano as the National President and S. G. Ikoku as the Secretary.”
With this pronouncement, Balarabe Musa became a wandering politician and thus had no party. He had disobeyed his political father who had disowned him as his political son too. This was when the NPN hawks moved in to suck the remaining political blood of Balarabe.
Before then, the governor had sent names of his cabinet to the House on four occasions and they were usually returned to him. No dice. He too never considered any NPN member worthy of his cabinet. And once they had refused him this far, he too ignored them, running his government without any input, approval or disapproval from the state’s legislators.
Of course, he couldn’t have done this without breaking the laws and Balarabe knew this, but thought as time went by, the House members would crack one by one. But they never cracked, rather their anger continued to pile up. So it was not surprising when on January 10, 1981, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Alhaji Maccido Muhammed, told journalists in Lagos that “Kaduna House may impeach Balarabe.”
He hinted: “Already, the legal ground work had been to legal minds for necessary actions. We are all bound by the constitution and the impeachment of the governor is long over-due because of his infringement on the constitution. It is not a question of whether I like or hate his face. The law is there for all of us”
Balarabe did not bother himself with the statement of the Deputy Speaker, but he chose the right occasion to reply all the NPN members put together. It was at the meeting of the nine progressive governors in Benin on Saturday, January 17, 1981, when he told Nigerians: “NPN out to loot!” He emphasised that what was paramount in the mind of any NPN member was to steal public fund.
The NPN members closed their ears, as if Balarabe’s vituperation was not directed at them. Not until April 8, 1981 did the Majority Leader in the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Alhaji Dauda Mani, hint again that over two-thirds of the members of the legislature had signed a notice seeking to remove Governor Balarabe Musa from office.
This time, it was the biggest masquerade himself that came to Balarabe’s rescue. The UPN leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, warned that his party and progressive forces in the country would engage the NPN in a serious fight if Balarabe was impeached.
This was a cue and the Awo boys set out to fight. “Remove Musa, invite chaos,” was the statement from Ebenezer Babatope, the UPN Director of Organisation. Babatope went further on April 10, 1971: “The proposed impeachment is not only frivolous, crazy and ill-conceived, but also an attempt by NPN to embark on callous decimation of the provisions on fundamental human rights as contained in our presidential constitution.”
Emboldened by this huge support from outside Kaduna, Balarabe found his voice, saying he was not in any way worried by threats of impeachment by the NPN majority in his state House of Assembly. But when on April 16, UPN members in Ondo State warned that the move to impeach Balarabe would erupt a political dynamo and spell doom for the nation and UNILAG students threatened that there might be bloodshed if the Kaduna governor was removed, Balarabe boasted: “It is an empty threat!”
On Tuesday, April 21, 1981, the Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, added another twist to the matter. He told his colleagues in government that the event surrounding the planned impeachment of his Kaduna State counterpart was similar to those which brought the military to power. Abraham Adesanya threatened that if Balarabe Musa was removed, Shehu Shagari, too, would go the same way.
But all this changed on 7 May, when the governor was served with a notice of impeachment by the Kaduna State House of Assembly. The charges were: Gross misconduct; Violation of constitutional rights; Breach of constitutional and legal duties; Misappropriation; Misdirection of public of funds.
Now, there was hullabaloo. Police had taken position in the city to avoid any breakdown of law and order. The UPN shouted: “This is dangerous!” Tai Solarin said “Nation boat will sink” while NPP admonished: “Don’t bring chaos!” But Awo made a promise: “We’ll fight legal war!”
Things began to take a new turn when three political parties attempted to gather and protest the impeachment notice handed down to Balarabe but the police would not let them as they were turned back from Murtala Muhammed Square, the venue of the rally. Though Dr. Lekan Balogun of the Imoudu faction of the PRP said the whole thing was a big joke, Balarabe himself didn’t see it as such. He was not happy. He told journalists: “How can I be happy with a matter that has adverse effect on my life!”
When some legislators, including the speakers of Bendel, Ogun and Oyo states, travelled from the West to Kaduna to plead with the House, and they refused, Balarabe, too, knew he had stretched the matter too far. Yet, he went to court, hoping it could stop the legislators.
But while this was on, the Progressive Governors met again in Ibadan and Balarabe Musa was specially met at the toll-gate, with crowd cheering his name. Bola Ige, the governor, mounted the rostrum and hollered: “We’re behind Musa.”
While the court was not facing the real issue but giving judgment on how to serve the court order and notice of impeachment, the 14-day deadline which the constitution provided for the governor to reply to notice of impeachment expired and he never replied. Next day, May 21, 1981, 69 legislators voted in favour of setting up an independent investigative panel to probe the allegations leveled against Balarabe.
On May 26, the names of members of the panel of investigation were announced. They were Reverend Canon H. O. Muhammed, Alhaji Muhammed Jibo, Alhaji Abdul Galadima Zazzau, Alhaji Ahmadu Coomasi, Alhaji Jairu Abdullahi, Mallam Auta Hamza and Mr. J. J. Boyo.
The UPN made good its promise, sending 12 big names in law to Kaduna to defend Balarabe: Busari Obisesan, Olaniwun Ajayi, Ayo Adebanjo, Adenuga Adesina, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, Dr. Emiko, Mr. Alele, Mrs. Ayodele Soyode and others. But the NPN came with an intimidating team led by Remi Fani-Kayode. Other lawyers were Nwakanma Okoro, M. Odje,Chief Akpofure, Alhaji Kaloma Alli, Y. Paiko, Sobo Sowemimo and Alhaji Femi Okunnu. Others were Toye Coker, Afe Babablola, Edwin Clark, Lai Joseph, Ahmed Kusamotu and S. S. Obara.
Back at home, it seemed the backers of Balarabe were getting tired and there was less noise on the pages of the newspapers, as the reality of the case robbed in. Balarabe himself had started to prepare for retirement, saying he would return to farm if impeached.
On Wednesday, June 3, members of the investigative panel were sworn in, whereas, Balarabe Musa was still in court. On June 10, the impeachment proceeding began in earnest where the Kaduna State Director of Audit, Alhaji Dalhatu Bello, told the committee that the withdrawal of N18.9m from the Kaduna State Consolidated Revenue Account on the order of Governor Balarabe Musa did not conform with financial instruction and regulation. This was one of the allegations and reasons for removal from office put before the panel. It was even alleged that the said N18.9m was spent on fake companies.
But if this were lies, Balarabe did not go there to testify or defend himself. He was busy in court. On Tuesday, June 16, the panel closed shop, it had collected enough evidence and would just remain to work on it and come up with a verdict. The next day, the court where Balarabe and all the lawyers had been going, fixed its judgment for June 30, 1981.
But just a week to that date, on Tuesday, June 23, 1981, the panel submitted its report to the House of Assembly at exactly 9a.m. Three hours later, the House reconvened and the debate on the report began. Since the panel had found Balarabe guilty on all the charges, there was no need to waste more time.
Members of the PRP in the House kicked, so were the GNPP members. It was a heated debate. Then the Speaker, Alhaji Abubakar Maman Dan Musa called for separation of those who wanted Musa impeached and those against. All the NPN members wanted him removed and that was 68 members out of 99.
The Speaker then raised his gavel, then, pronounced: “As from today, Alhaji Balarabe Musa is no more the governor of Kaduna State!”
And from that day, too, Alhaji Abdukadri Balarabe Musa became the first Nigeria governor to be impeached. The painful aspect of it was that upon all the noise made by his friends, no one lifted a finger after the impeachment; he was left to his own fate.
After his removal, one of the members of the House, Alhaji Abdul Mashi, who was the Chairman of the Business Committee, teased journalists. He was asked how he felt now after removing the governor. He said: “No, it was God who appointed the governor, and it is God who had removed him! Chikena.