I kept my honour to lose the governorship, says Balarabe Musa
Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa is a well known Nigerian politician. He came into the political limelight in October 1979 when he was elected as the first civilian governor of the old Kaduna State under the platform of the now defunct People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and for 18 months, he governed the state without a cabinet since he refused to nominate NPN members and the House refused to ratify his candidates. On June 23, 1981, he was unceremoniously impeached by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-dominated Kaduna State House of Assembly, making him the first Nigerian state governor ever to be impeached. In this interview at his modest home in Kaduna, Kaduna State, few days ago, the radical politician and leader of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), a coalition of opposition ties, spoke extensively on the impeachment saga. He also spoke on national issues. Enjoy this incisive interview:
Sir, in October 1979, you were elected the first civilian of Kaduna State on the platform of the now defunct People’s Redemption Party (PRP). On June 23, 1981, you were unceremoniously impeached from office by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-dominated assembly to be the first governor in history to be sent packing from office by impeachment. Many blamed you at that time for causing the impeachment by not carrying along the NPN members in the House. What is your take on this?
First of all, I admit it was my fault that the impeachment happened. If I had wanted to stop the impeachment, I could have done so. There is only one way of doing it and that is to steal public funds and bribe them, which I could not do. This ultimately was the immediate cause of the impeachment. But there were already irreconcilable contradictions between what the PRP stood for and what the NPN stood for. The NPN was a capitalist political party. The PRP was a socialist political party. So you can see they are at the root of everything, irreconcilable contradictions between what the NPN stood for and what we stood for. But in spite of that, if I had been prepared to bribe them with public resources, yes, I could have avoided it, just like so many governors, even presidents, who avoided impeachment by buying members of the legislature with public funds.ir, in October 1979, you were elected the first civilian of Kaduna State on the platform of the now defunct People’s Redemption Party (PRP). On June 23, 1981, you were unceremoniously impeached from office by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN)-dominated assembly to be the first governor in history to be sent packing from office by impeachment. Many blamed you at that time for causing the impeachment by not carrying along the NPN members in the House. What is your take on this?
Were you not given advice by your political adviser on the ways to take to avoid the impeachment?
Oh, so many well wishers advised that I should do what the NPN wanted but I said I could not do it just for the sake of survival. I was prepared to face the reality that they controlled the state House of Assembly. How they controlled it is another matter. But I accepted the reality that they controlled the state Assembly and I was prepared to compromise on the basis of that. And I even compromised. For instance, I agreed to appoint a number of commissioners from the NPN. But I was not prepared to appoint sufficient number of commissioners to give them control of the executive. So this was the problem, we couldn’t sell out. The funniest thing was that they asked me for land for every member of the state Assembly, they were 99 members, including the NPN members. So, they asked me to give each one of them a plot of land with N50,000 to build on the plot of land. But I told them that look, there is no way I can steal public funds to please you. I cannot steal public funds for myself to be in comfort, so, how can I steal public funds to give you? If you want to abandon this impeachment, I am also prepared to do something within the law.
What were the things you wanted to do for them that were within the law?
For instance, they could participate in contract to build a bye pass here, a bridge which has now been built. I offered for those of them who were in business that they should form a consortium and I would give them a contract to build a bridge and charge toll and after their investment had been recovered, then we can take over the bridge. I even offered them at least 1,000 hectares of land or more for them so that they can develop or establish a modern housing scheme. Indeed, the government didn’t had the money to do that because we had others things to do. But since we couldn’t do it, I told them I would give them the opportunity to form company that would have a land to build a modern city. I told them that we would take electricity there, we would take water there, we would build roads and then allowed them to develop the area, recovered their investments. They didn’t want that.
After you had put all these carrots before them and yet they went ahead to impeach you, what was in your mind then?
Well, it was something that I expected, something I planned for. I mean, I planned to protect myself against the consequences. But the most important thing was that whatever happened, I must not betray the people of Kaduna State. And, in spite of that, we did. In fact, our record in office has not been met by any government in Kaduna State up till today. In fact, in some cases, I can say all the governments that came after the PRP government in 1983, when you put them together, in respect of any project, didn’t do up to what we did.
What were the things your government did at that time?
When the PRP government was in power, the projects we initiated or complimented during this period were more than the projects of all the governments established from 1983 till today. We established 100 secondary schools, established Kachia Ginger Processing Factory, established the first State Integrated Rural Development Agency (IRDA), established Funtua Bricks Factory, established Daura Tannery, established Kafanchan Food Processing, established Jema’a Plywood Factory, established Ikara Tomatoes Processing Factory, Makarfi Sugar Processing Factory, Zaria Pharmaceutical Company, established Malumfachi Starch Derivatives, established Mani Floor Mills, established the first set of Comprehensive Primary Health Care Centres in all local governments, established Gwaska Maize Processing, Birnin Gwari and also established the First Agency for Mass Literacy and Non Formal Education. Apart from these, we also abolished school fees in state-owned schools, provided scholarship for all those who secured admission for tertiary level education, laid the foundation of upgrading the state College of Education Kafanchan to a University of Education, provided employment for tertiary students on vacation, provided free medical services to women, children and the aged, provided motorised 1,500 boreholes for rural communities, made fertilizers and farm accessible to peasant farmers at all 200 Farm Service centres, initiated the eastern by pass access road and bridge, now part of the millennium city project and abolished Haraji and Jangali.
These were the things we did. We also built 10-bed hospitals and more. We tarred 13 roads. So, this is our record. We resolved that we should commit ourselves to these projects.
The late Mallam Aminu Kano, founder of PRP, was alive when your impeachment took place. Did you contact him, telling him what was going on?
Of course, we had contact with him.
What was his response?
At that time, the PRP was in factions. One faction was led by Aminu Kano and another by labour leader number one, Imoudu. The party was in factions as at the time of the impeachment. The two governors of old Kaduna and old Kano belonged to the Imoudu faction.
Do you think factionalisation of your party contributed to your exit from power?
No, I don’t think it was the reason but it helped in making it easier for the NPN members to impeach me.
Why couldn’t you use other instruments of state power, apart from money, to stop the NPN members from carrying out the impeachment?
In what way do you mean?
Using the state security apparatus, like what is being done now, to harass them?
Let me tell you that by 1979, the support of the PRP in Kaduna here was total, particularly with the support of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) and Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP).It was total. Now, the opposition of the NPN was also total. The NPN leadership at the state and national level was so mindless, they didn’t mind what happened. After 1979 elections, the NPN said publicly that they lost the 1979 elections throughout the country because they lost two key states, Kano and Kaduna. It would have been better for them if they had got Kaduna, Kano and three other states, making five and the oppositions got all other states. So, they were determined to really impeach the government of PRP. In 1979, the arrangement was that governorship election came first and then the state Houses of Assembly election followed. When they lost the governorship election, they swore to have two thirds of the House of Assembly by any means so that they could start an impeachment process against me. And that was exactly what happened to me. There was no way we could avoid it and the only way we could avoid it was by spending public funds to please them like what is being done now and lose honour. And we preferred to keep honour and lose the governorship. We could have prevented it; firstly, particularly like I told you, we had 100 per cent support of Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Nnamdi Azikwe and Waziri Ibrahim. We had their 100 per cent support because each one of them came out openly and told their members in Kaduna State that they should vote for the PRP and they did.
Don’t you think your fraternisation with these progressive parties must have also been one of the reasons the NPN members swore to send you out of office?
No, that was not part of it. The most important thing was that there was no way NPN would tolerate PRP government because of ideological contradictions.
For the period that you were in office, you were able to govern Kaduna State without cabinet in place. What was the magic?
People make serious mistakes, including you, the media. You didn’t read the 1979 Constitution properly. The 1979 Constitution provides for the governor to be the chief executive of the state. Everybody was subordinate to the governor, the deputy, including the state executives. The governor assigns responsibility to everybody from the deputy governors to the commissioners, which means the executive governor can function without a deputy and the executive. The only thing is that you cannot be elected without a deputy. The electoral law says so. The governor must have a deputy. But once they are elected, it was up to the governor to assign responsibilities to the deputy governor. That was the position even till today, so, which means the executive governor can perform his functions even without the deputy governor and the commissioners because you assigned the responsibilities. First of all, you submit their names to the state House of Assembly for approval, in the case of commissioners. In the case of the deputy governor, you are elected together but he has no constitutional responsibilities as long as the governor is there in office. He does the work assigned to him. And you know even during the Second Republic we had instances whereby governors refused to assign responsibilities to their deputies. In some situations, governors travelled and while they were outside the country, they appointed other people like the secretary to the state government to do the work of the deputy, leaving the deputy governors without anything. In the case of the commissioners, it didn’t even arise because the commissioners were to be given assignments and nothing has been stated. In fact, the only commissioner who had a legal assignment was the attorney general of the state.
If you were to be elected governor of Kaduna State today, would you still do what you did at that time?
Exactly, I would do it in the interest of Kaduna State. Yes, in the interest of peace in Kaduna State, in the interest of progress in Kaduna State and nothing would stop me.
Do you have any regret about your actions or inactions as governor of old Kaduna State?
How can I have any regret? You regret only if you do bad things, so, I have no regret. May be, if I can say I regret that I had not stayed for eight years because if I had stayed for eight years the limit allowed by the constitution, the situation in Kaduna State would have been so different. For instance now, they have destroyed all the projects which we initiated or established. Now, if I had stayed for eight years, we would have consolidated those projects in such a way that it would have been impossible for NPN to stage a comeback. In spite of the fact that the NPN was mindless, still they wouldn’t have been able to destroy some of the projects. Some of the projects had just started, in some of them, only the equipment and so on were in position. We had not even employed the staff when the impeachment came. We had only established legal liability companies; we had appointed board of directors for them. All the projects were in partnership with east European countries. We signed the agreements and so on and the equipment had started coming in.
You have been in politics for over four decades now, is this the Nigeria of your dream?
No. Certainly it is not. We expected a better Nigeria, particularly with the handing over of power by the military to the civilians in 1979. We expected a lot even though we knew with the NPN in control and a president who couldn’t bite, we knew that there would be problem. But we thought with the existence of Aminu Kano, Zik, Awolowo, Waziri Ibrahim and their subordinates as honourable people, with the high level of the expectations of Nigerians, in spite of the character of the NPN, in spite of the control of the country by the party, we still expected a much more progress for the country. For instance, we didn’t expect this level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste of resources. We didn’t expect this level of insecurity, we didn’t expect this level of unemployment and poverty. We didn’t expect this level of collapsed industries and, certainly, we didn’t expect this level of privatisation which destroyed the economy of Nigeria. We didn’t expect this.
Let us talk about the issue of corruption which has reached a frightening level in the country. What is your view on this?
We called it disabling level of corruption and criminal waste of resources. It has made government unable to function, clear and simple. I mean, let us look at this situation which even the President has admitted through the budget. Twenty five per cent of the budget of this country is devoted to security without a security situation. Is there a security situation in the country? No. But 25 per cent of the annual budget is spent on security. Unemployment, look at it. We now have 15 to 20 million post-secondary school graduates that are unemployed in this country. You have graduates that remained unemployed. In the case of the South, it is 14 years or more and in the case of the North, it is five years or more. That is the situation now. And the situation is getting worse with more post-secondary institutions being created in the country and for each of them, not more than ten per cent of the graduates get employment.
What about this issue of insecurity, especially in the North where we have the Boko Haram insurgency?
You see Nigerians, particularly the elite, have a problem which is a national problem but you always look at it from a sectional view. Look at the Nigerian problem and then you look at the particular sectional problem. We must admit that there is insecurity throughout the country.
But now there is more insecurity in the North than in the other parts of the country?
No. There is more insecurity in the South than in the North. For instance, the way you move freely in the North you can’t move freely in the South. We know it. But with the elite insecurity, organised violence, yes, in the case of organised violence, if you say occasionally, you have them in the North more than in the South. For instance, I don’t know whether it has changed now but up to four years ago, I think Lagos is the only state where you can move freely in the night, certainly not beyond 12 midnight.
I disagree with you sir. I live in Lagos and my brothers and parents are living in Ibadan, Oyo State. I am not aware of that and my parents and my brothers never told me of anything of such.
But you may not be aware. I go to everywhere in Nigeria. Armed robbers, just armed robbers; we are not talking about OPC, Boko Haram or Niger Delta militants. No. These are insecurity introduced by the elite. But normal insecurity, particularly in the case of armed robbers, the insecurity concerning armed robbers was more in the South than even in the North. As I told you, in the whole of the South, except Lagos, I have been to every part of Nigeria. There was nowhere in Nigeria in the South that you could move freely after 12 midnight. In some states, for instance, in Edo State by 8p.m, everybody has to find where to go. That was the case everywhere. But at that time in the North, you could move throughout the night, freely. Even in the North now, you move freely in the night, except in places like Kaduna and some states where there is now Boko Haram. And even with that case, the most serious one is that Southerners do not feel confident to move freely throughout the North, yes, certainly because of the fear. For instance, fear, as I am talking to you now, if something comes here that will threatened the lives of two of us, you don’t know where to go, you rely on me. But I know where to go.
I had this fear when I was coming to Kaduna North here. I was told that I was risking my life; especially being a Southerner, coming here is dangerous because Kaduna North is very volatile. I heard that people in Southern Kaduna don’t come here; likewise the people here don’t go to Southern Kaduna. That is why I told you that I would want to conduct this interview during the day.
Exactly, Northerners have the same fear if they go to the South.
That is not true sir.
But I am telling you now. I know this more than you because I know the North, I know the South. You only know the problem in the South. I have been everywhere in the South, even riverine areas, for political campaigns and so on. It was there. Northerners don’t feel free to move in the South. Southerners don’t feel free to move in the North. That is the general thing. Of course, there are exceptions. Some Southerners, for whatever reasons, are so much confident that they can virtually move anywhere. The same thing with some Northerners, but they are very few. Northerners are not free in the South; at least, they feel so. Southerners are not free in the North; at least, they feel so. I will give you an example. I am always on my farm; my farm is about 50 kilometres from here and I go there every day. Sometimes, without this curfew, I could be on the farm after 10p.m. and can virtually do the same everywhere in the North except when there is an emergency like Boko Haram and so on. It is the same thing. But I can do that in the South. No Northerner can do that in the South – move freely as he moves freely here. This is what we feel. It may be just right, it may not be just right.
I also disagree with you on this sir. There is no Northerner living in my area where I live In Lagos, who does not move freely.
I can tell you, I know more than you because I have been to every part of the South; I have been to every part of the North. That is one. I quite agree with you that there are Northerners in Lagos who feel free, yes, but, how many of them? There are Southerners in Kaduna here, even for social reasons, they move more freely than me because everywhere I move people say that is Balarabe Musa. That limits my freedom. Some of them, of course, know Kaduna just as much as I do because some of them were born here. So they know Kaduna so much that their fear is no more than that of an ordinary Northerner living in Kaduna. Sometimes, they are even more confident because that is their nature, so, you will always find this exception. But let us go back to the issue, the issue that there is so much insecurity throughout the country. But from time to time, we have a greater intensification of insecurity in a particular area. Just as you have Boko Haram terrorising people in the North here, irrespective of where you come from, you shouldn’t terrorise when you are in Kaduna. This is because whether you are a Northerner or not, when it comes, it affects you. For instance, the Boko Haram incident caused the death of more Northerners than Southerners in the North. That is the Northern phenomenon. That is the same thing with the OPC. When OPC was operating in the South West, it terrorised first the Northerners. But later it terrorised western southerners because it terrorised the Yorubas. There was a time when the OPC terrrorised Yorubas even more than the Hausas. For instance, when they started trying to collect tolls of all kinds, trying to enforce law at all times, so they became not only a threat to the Hausas in Yorubaland but also to the Yorubas there because they wanted everybody to follow their terms. The same thing happened with MASSOB, but the organisation never rose to the extent of that fear. Even the Niger Delta militant organisation didn’t.
But the ones that really mattered were OPC and Boko Haram. Boko Haram was better than OPC because it was selective. You could see that Boko Haram was interested in the elite. But the thing is this; I always want us to look at Nigeria as a whole when we are talking about security. There is no security in Nigeria as a whole. But at different times you have one section of the country where the insecurity is intensified more than in any other part of the country, for instance, now, in terms of Boko Haram, it is quite clear it is more threatening in the North than in any other part of the country at this time. But next time, it would be a different thing. So, when we are talking about this question of insecurity, we should look at it as a whole because lives are insecure throughout Nigeria. But at different times, certain areas are more insecure than the others. Do you know that unemployment is an aspect of insecurity? There is ten times unemployment in the South than in the North. So, you might say insecurity in the South is ten times more than insecurity in the North because of unemployment. And that is the truth. All you need to do is to calculate the number of students that pass out of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education every year and how many get employment, particularly in the South. It is very few, less than ten per cent. And those 90 per cent that passed out without employment, without any hope of employment every year, is a serious aspect of insecurity.
How then do we address this insecurity where a Nigerian cannot feel free to live in any part of the country without fear?
First of all, what is responsible for this? Let me ask you, what is responsible for this level of insecurity, unemployment, corruption, stealing, criminal waste of resources, organised violence and others? What is responsible for this is the social economic system controlling all developments in the country and the political leadership inevitably produced by that system. This is a system based on self interest, not even enlightened self interest. So, it is a system of free for all, whether you want to clean it and call it capitalism or not, this is a system for free for all. Therefore, inevitably, it has a leadership that would protect this system of free for all. And it is this system that is responsible for the negative state of the nation. The moment you change the system from one based on self interest first, to one based on public first, you will see a high level of reduction on insecurity, poverty, hunger, unemployment, organised violence and quarrelsomeness of leadership. Look at the stupid quarreling happening in the leadership of the country. I will give you an example even from our own history. You know the negative state of the nation now, you know how threatening it is to everybody and to the system itself, was it like this during the colonial times and the First Republic?
It was not like this sir.
Why? Because during the colonial rule and the First Republic, the system was based on public interest first, while enlightened self interest was secondary. That was why we went to free school, free everything. Yes, people in the South, for instance, had been paying for education for a very long time but it was mixed education- private education, public education. In the North, everybody got education free. At that time in the North here, there were old public schools. But now, the North and the South are the same-they are all subject to what we call private education, yes. So this system is based on self- interest first, public interest second. I will give you another proof besides the fact that there was more stability and more security during the colonial time, the First Republic and then since the Second Republic upwards. How many can legitimately prove corruption against Awolowo, Zik, Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano, even Sadauna of Sokoto. Nobody. During Sadauna’s time, during Awolowo’s time, during Zik’s time when they were the leaders, nobody could steal a kobo of public funds and get away with it. He would have been investigated and punished accordingly. Look, let me tell you and I am in a position to tell more than so many people because all my life, I had been a public servant and in the treasury. So, I know everything, I know every record. It was not just possible in those days to steal and get away with it. And those leaders could not think of doing it.