One of the great people that I ever came across in the history of Nigeria is that of an upright, humble, courageous, resilient, and principled statesman and astute politician, Alhaji Abulkadir Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State, who passed on recently at the age of 84. Ordinarily, I do not fancy the way and manner politics is played in our dear country because many politicians fight dirty to get into office.
The recruitment process is manipulated and crooked so much that those privileged to occupy political positions would have been compromised. After winning elections and with all sorts of interests to be satisfied or ‘settled’, it becomes practically impossible for politicians to serve without getting preoccupied with how to satisfy stakeholders and their godfathers by compensating them with appointments, contracts, and tall favours.
In the end, what suffers is good governance, which has been a major problem facing the country. In terms of decency, principle, and ideology, the politics played by our politicians in the First Republic is much better when compared to today’s cash-and-carry politics. The reality is that politics seems to have become the fastest route to power and riches at the expense of real service delivery.
The Balarabe Musa legacy model of politics is worth examining in defining the essence of politics and leadership within the Nigerian context. No doubt, the elder statesman was indeed a great man of honour, who consistently championed the cause of the masses and stood firm on the side of equity, fairness, and justice.
Musa’s political ideology leans more to the Left and hence, the rationale behind why he joined the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which was founded by Mallam Aminu Kano, before being elected governor of Kaduna State in 1979 on the platform of Peoples’ Redemption Party (PRP).
The left-right political spectrum is a system of classifying political positions, ideologies and parties from social equality on the Left and the Right while the intermediate stance is called centrism.
The ideological thoughts were originally coined by the politicians during the French Revolution (1789-1799). As governor of Kaduna State, it was a tough terrain for him because as a PRP governor, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was the ruling party at the federal level, had the majority in Kaduna State House of Assembly. He never defected to NPN.
Which sin did Musa commit? The state lawmakers had demanded to have input in the governor’s appointments, a request that was turned down thereby causing a protracted political turmoil in the state.
Not only did the legislators refuse to confirm his major appointments, but the crisis also culminated in the governor running his government without a cabinet. This political acrimony was equally hinged on the premise that Kaduna was the regional capital of the old North that hosted the powerful and so-called Kaduna mafia that was largely made up of disciples of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello and their followers and the natural quest to control the apparatus of power and be ever relevant in that region, just the way Chief Obafemi Awolowo is believed to wield so much political power in the West and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s firm grip on the East, plus the irritating dominance at the federal level.
Unfortunately, Musa’s PRP could not win enough seats in the NPN-controlled state assembly, and on June 23, 1981, he was impeached, making him become the first governor in the history of Nigerian politics to be impeached.
Musa was reputed to be passionate and outspoken when it had to do with issues affecting the Talakawas (common people) in the North. He stood against any form of injustice, corruption, and oppression.
This, he projected through a revolutionary orientation that focused on the liberation of the poor and the redemption of the Talakawas, which today has become a social and security menace in the North. Unlike what we have now where politicians surround themselves with security barricades and throw money around, Musa lived a frugal life. He rejected the high paraphernalia of office of the governor and rather chose to live in a private three-bedroom apartment, which is devoid of hordes of security details, as people freely interact with him without any hindrance.
Albeit, when he attempted to run for president in 2003 under the PRP, he was said to have confessed to not having money to print his campaign posters! Despite the short period spent in office, Musa was impactful, unlike many self-seeking politicians, as his administration recorded tremendous achievements in areas of massive educational reforms through the establishment of industries in all the local councils in the state whereby needed raw materials were sourced from local communities where they were sited.
Not only that, even though he cannot be said to be well educated, he still established 100 schools within one year in office while teachers’ salaries and allowances were paid regularly. Another sterling quality missing among our politicians is courage. Musa never failed to speak truth to authority without contradictions.
On several occasions, he had decried the rot in the social, economic, and political trends in Nigeria. The late octogenarian not only condemned corruption, waste of public resources, and electoral malpractices such as the annulment of the 1993 presidential election by the Ibrahim Babangida regime. He was a leading antagonist of the dictatorial rule of Gen. Sani Abacha and his planned self-succession efforts.
The fearless Musa, while speaking on the 60th independence anniversary of the nation, said “We need a revolution in Nigeria to have a positive change in the political system… The economic and political models we are currently operating only empower a few… Governments must be structured to impact positively on the masses.” He never relented in his dreams of bequeathing a better country by leading the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), as a formidable coalition of opposition parties.
The Balarabe Musa legacy lives on only when there are free, fair, and credible elections; when politicians are ready to render selfless service and speak to power; when political office-seekers do need to become rich before being elected; when politicians become conscious that they do not need to spend several years in office before making an impact; when there are mutual respect and independence among the various tiers/arms of government; when leaders pursue people-oriented programmes; when politicians begin to live a simple life and interface/mingle freely with their people; when weak democratic institutions become strong; when there is virile opposition; and more importantly, when politics is played with purpose, dignity, principle and strong ideology.
Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State @AdewaleKupoluyi