Balarabe Musa: A life of service

FELIX NWANERI writes on the life and times of a former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, whose passage was announced on Wednesday

It matters not how a man dies but how he lived. This, perhaps, captures the life and times of a former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who passed on Wednesday at 84. A left-wing politician, Musa was elected governor during the Second Republic on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) but he held office from October 1979 until he was impeached on June 23, 1981.

Until his demise, he was the leader of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), a coalition of opposition parties. There is no doubt that Musa bestrode the political scene like a Colossus, but the ex-Chief Accountant of Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) and one of the first set of Chartered Accountants produced by Northern Nigeria was a true patriot.

Unlike most Nigerian politicians who think more about the security of their respective seats than the security of the country, Musa never wavered in his belief that politics should be the conduct of public affairs for the good of all. This, perhaps, explains why he had almost nothing in material sense to show for his struggles to enthrone an egalitarian society.

Despite his impeachment from office as governor, he soldiered on with his crusade. The removal rather than diminish him, burnished his image of incorruptibility. Consequently, when the military struck in 1983, Musa was given a clean bill of political health, while his traducers were sent to jail.

Even when politics became a cash and carry business, the former Kaduna State governor still played politics of principles and conviction. He also held on with socialism and never renounced the ideology until his last breath.

Musa the ‘rebel’

Musa once narrated to New Telegraph how he was involved in politics despite being a civil servant, an action that against the rule. His words: “In fact, the punishment during colonial era was two years imprisonment for any civil servant to be involved in partisan politics. I can remember that I was transferred from Kaduna to Jos, to replace someone, who was jailed for two years simply because he was found in possession of communist literature.

I can’t remember his name, he was an Igbo man. So, you can see that the rule barring civil servants from participating in partisan politics was imprisonment. “I and so many others defied this rule at great risk simply because we reasoned that why should we as government employees be barred from partisan politics while Native Authority employees, who were also like us, being paid from government revenue, are free to participate; that an emir could act for a premier, particularly here in the North. So, being radicals, we rebelled against this and we joined politics. But some of us suffered for it.

“Some were imprisoned, for instance, those who participated in the process of forming Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU) in 1950, were imprisoned. But in our own case, it became very difficult for the Northern Nigerian government to imprison us because of the Northernisation Policy.

”The leadership had the sense, which the present leaders don’t have, They reasoned that since there was the Northernisation Policy, whereby competent northerners were expected to take over from the British when they leave, if they incarcerate the few of us northerners, who were in the public service, then they will have no alternative but to employ southerners in the civil service. And they didn’t want to do that; they wanted to keep the Northernisation Policy going on.

So, we suffered intimidation, humiliation and lack of promotion and so on, but they didn’t go to the extent of dismissing us from the civil service.”

A politician and statesman

Whereas many knew Musa as a politician, Musa was more of a statesman, whose obsession was nation building and not winning elections. He intervened at various time to resolve national crises irrespective of partisan, ethnic or ideological differences. Most significantly, he was among those, who opposed the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election on principle. The election was won by Chief MKO Abiola, a southerner, but Musa rose above ethnic cleavage to denounce the injustice done to Abiola.

Severally, he was in the trenches to protest and denounce the establishment over unpopular programmes and policies. Ironically, Musa was a product of the establishment that he railed against. He was a blue blooded aristocrat, having been born to the District Head of Kaya, a Village in Giwa Local Government Area in 1938. At birth, he had all the perks, privileges and affluence of the local bourgeoisie but he opted to be with the masses.

By 1953, when he completed his secondary school education, he was among the first set on northern educated elites, with all the attendant privileges. That year, he joined the Northern Civil Service as an Accounts Clerk.

Thereafter, he was sent to England alongside others by the Northern Region government for further studies. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant and moved to the top echelon of the civil service.

He was at various times a lecturer at the Institute of Administration Zaria, the precursor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Similarly, he was Company Secretary and Chief Accountant of Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) as Radio Nigeria Kaduna was then known. In spite of his pedigree, political antecedents and his accomplishment in public service, Musa gained nothing in any material sense. Specifically, a three bedroom bungalow, a monthly pension of N741,000, a 1,200 acre farm and a Mercedes Benz 1978 model car were his major assets.

At 80 plus, he drove himself without security details unlike his peers. Above all, no government monument, public building or even street was named after him in Kaduna State that he once governed.

In one of his interviews with New Telegraph, he explained how he acquired the bungalow and three mud houses, one in Funtua, a town in Katsina State, and two others at Hayin Banki and Badarawa, all slums within Kaduna metropolis and farm, which were the assets he declared when he assumed office as governor of Kaduna State in 1979 and remained the property he owned after he left office and until his death.

His words: “The house was built by Northern Nigerian Development Company (NNDC). The company started what they called Home Ownership Scheme, basically to help civil servants own houses. There were 11 of such houses on this road (Aliyu Turaki Road). Similar houses were built in Kano, Katsina and other major towns in the North. So, NNDC which is owned by the Northern states built and sold them.

The price then was N20,000 for a three-bedroom bungalow; that was in 1972. I was then Company Secretary/Chief Accountant of Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), but I couldn’t afford to pay the deposit which was N1,500. And it was not unusual for a person of my calibre to be unable to afford the money because the level of stealing that we are experiencing now in the system didn’t exist. “Members of the top management of NNDC at that time happened to be my friends.

So, when they were faced with this problem, some of them said: ‘Leave Balarabe Musa alone, let’s find ways and means that will enable him to own this house. He doesn’t care whether or not he has a house when he leaves service. But he will care later in life.’ So, they arranged to rent the house to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for two years in order to accommodate one of their doctors and the cost was N2,400, that is N1,200 per annum.

“So, I gave N1,500 as deposit out of the N2,400. I had N900 balance. But I couldn’t spend that extra because if I had done that, my Tax Code would have risen to such an extent that my monthly deductions will not leave me with enough to maintain my family. So, what I did was to give the N900 to the tax authorities in order to bring down my monthly code number, so that the deductions will be within the limit that could allow me to have enough to sustain my family monthly.” On the farm located along the Kaduna-Zaria road, he said: “I acquired that land in 1970. By that time, it was very easy to acquire land for farming.

All you needed was to find a land, which is uncultivated and does not belong to anybody. All you need to do is to go through the Mai Unguwa, to the village and district head and for a very large farm like mine, up to the emir. After that, you will get the right to own the land. The land that you are talking about is in Jaji and it is about 1,200 acres. It cost me about 10,000 pounds, including clearance cost at the time I bought it.

“Of course it was a lot of money but I was already a Chartered Accountant. Not only that, I got a loan from Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (NACB), when it was first established. I paid the loan in various ways; I finished paying off the loan about five years ago (2012). My house was part of the collateral for the loan.”

An enduring Spartan life style

New Telegraph observed the modest life style of the former Kaduna during a visit to his Kaduna home in 2017. While his house was weather beaten with faded paint, a few disused vehicles strewn the compound. In particular, the sitting room was not befitting of a man of his status.

The rug was threadbare, the settees were old and dilapidated and the single ceiling fan was creaking. Old pictures of Malam Aminu Kano, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and former comrades-at-arms dot the wall, so are photographs of Musa’s student days and his official portrait as governor. Clearly, the house is of an old design, with furniture and fittings fit for the museum.

In contrast, Balarabe’s successors live in opulence, but Musa showed no sign worry. According to him, when you are involved in politics of principles, things like this happen.’’ He further said: “During my time as governor, I was opposed to naming projects after individuals except those who have contributed something to society. But I know that there is a Balarabe Musa Crescent or something like that in Ikoyi, Lagos.

That was done by Lateef Jakande’s government.” He also narrated how he survived after his impeachment as governor. He said: “All the nine progressive governors contributed some money because they knew that I had difficulties surviving. Governors of PRP, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) and Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) contributed money.

So, I had enough money to travel overseas. Return ticket from Lagos to London then was under N700. Later, I also received salaries, which I didn’t receive when I was governor. “While I was governor, there was argument across the country as to how much political office holders should receive as salaries. So, we in Kaduna, in spite of our differences, agreed that we will not receive salaries until the remunerations of public officers were agreed upon.

We worked without salaries but I was a farmer, so I didn’t bother about food. Secondly, I was a privileged person in the system; a former Chief Accountant, so I had friends, who were even more comfortable than I and they helped.” He added that apart from his monthly pension, he does not receive any monetary favour from the Kaduna State government even as he declared that he will turn it down if such was offered to him.

His thoughts on state of the nation

Musa was passionate about Nigerians liberating themselves from the grip of the ruling class. In his last interview with New Telegraph, he said: “We are just deceiving ourselves; we’ve never had democracy. We have only had democratic aspiration, but we never had democracy. Democracy means more than what we have today.

Democracy means the supremacy of the will of the people as demonstrated in the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections.” He also insisted that there is no future for Nigeria until the nation does the right thing.

“We must ensure that there are free, fair and transparent elections that will lead to legitimate administrations at all levels of government. To ensure this, we must have a situation,where the voter freely decides the fate of political parties and their candidate during elections without being financially induced,” he averred. He also charged Nigerians to protect their collective interest by any means or remain as slaves forever.

“I said by any means because that was what citizens of other countries did to liberate themselves. Countries like the United States, Britain, Russia, China and Germany, among others, didn’t get to where they are now by sitting down and wishing it.

They sat down and prepared to go the whole hog for their freedom, which in turn, guaranteed their progress.” When reminded about the complex nature and the workability of what he advocated, Musa averred: “Is Nigeria more complex that any of these countries that I just mentioned yet they sat down and insisted on democracy and national unity.

Let’s go back to history; how did the countries of Europe – Britain, Germany and France, among others secure the right of the people to elect their representatives in their respective parliaments? Was that move not opposed by the monarchy that held sway then, but the people insisted on the right of the people to elect their representatives. In America, where there was no monarchy, but the people had to fight slavery and British colonialism, and they used all means.

“So, you can see that there is no country that is free now that didn’t pass through what Nigeria is experiencing at the moment, but they sat down and used all means to get to where they are presently. Do you know how China became a Peoples Republic in 1949? Did they just sat down and celebrated those who opposed the people’s freedom? No! They did what was required. So, we have to also do what is required. We have to it because Nigeria has virtually reached the end of the road. Nothing is working in Nigeria.

Law and order no longer work; what is working now is balance of terror and you can see that clearly. “Even soldiers, policemen and personnel of other security agencies that are supposed to protect the people are being killed in their numbers these days. What is working in Nigeria today is balance of terror or what one will equally describe as bureaucratic anarchy, waiting for social anarchy to come about. Remember how Somalia got to where it is today.

Today, nobody can stand up in that country because anything can happen at any time. Are you saying that we will not reach to that level? No, we will reach there unless something is urgently done to stop Nigeria’s continued slide to anarchy.

“Of course, a social revolution will happen because Nigerians are fed up with the present negative state of the nation and there will come a time, when the people will not take that any more. And you know that history has proved that slaves never remained as slaves forever; one day slaves will rise up to free themselves.

In Europe and America, didn’t people fight against slavery, totalitarianism, monarchy and colonialism? Even in our history in Nigeria, didn’t we fight colonialism and saw to the end of it? What is the difference between what is happening now and the feudal times; the days of the emirs and chiefs, during the days of British colonialism and during the days of military dictatorship?”




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