By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
An Evening with Balarabe Musa
In his interview with Aliyu U. Tilde of the Premium Times, on 13 April 2012, the first executive Governor of defunct Kaduna State and the Chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, bared his mind on a number of issues in contemporary Nigerian politics. Sitting in residence in Kaduna, Musa spoke on his participation in NEPU and PRP, taxation, corruption by the children of emancipated masses, his call for a revolution, his support for Obasanjo, his differences with late Malam Aminu Kano and Abubakar Rimi, his involvement in G34 movement, North-south pilitics, etc. In this marathon interview, Balarabe Musa was hot. He indicted a number of personalities. He rated Obasanjo an idiot, Rimi good only for "make-up" (kwalliya), Ekwueme very weak, Falae lacking in principle, President Yaradua a tragedy, the Kaduna Mafia as “are greedy, selfish, reckless but very intelligent", and present stock of northern leaders as "mere commodities". After some discussion regarding governance during the colonial era and the First Republic, we went ahead to discuss the politics of emancipation.
QUESTION: What do you think was the reason behind your performance as PRP governors?
With all modesty, I will say that we PRP governors distinguished ourselves due to the training we received from our party. But there would always be good and bad people. And as I speak to you in 2012, if checks are made, it will not be impossible to find in this dispensation governors that have distinguished themselves like the PRP governors.
QUESTION: Coming to the contribution of NEPU and PRP. Malam Aminu Kano and the likes of Saadu Zungur brought up people like you. You were lucky to have the opportunity to implement what you learnt from them as governors. But there is presently the fear that the children of Talakawas (masses) who were emancipated have betrayed that struggle. After they have attained political leadership, there is nothing to show more than corruption and and outright theftof public funds. Here, are you of the opinion that the cause of your struggle is betrayed by the children of the very masses you emancipated?
There are two things here. Today, the system of governance has been bastardized. The practice today has become so bad that it is almost impossible for anyone to live within his means. If you take the ordinary worker for example, you will see that he can hardly live on his salary.
Two, NEPU and PRP only tried to cultivate public awareness. Moreover, they administered only two out of nineteen states then. Therefore, their effort was just a start, not enough to totally emancipate the masses to the extent that they would avoid these bad habits. What NEPU and PRP did was to emancipate the mases from traditional rulers and colonialists. But it has not emancipated them from western educated elite who inherited the two. Those involved in corruption admittedly now are educated children of the masses. Unless total emancipation of the masses is attained, this trend will continue.
QUESTION: Do you then see any possibility for that total emancipation in the future, given the fact that despite your saintly character, people, including some governors who were former PRP members, preferrd to join the PDP in preference to your party have, the PRP?
As I told you, the present political system and leadership that it portends are based on selfishness. But there will be a change someday, though it may not come in a way people would like.
QUESTION: Through elections?
Those on power would not allow it so. Even if a good person wins the election, he will not be allowed to attain power. Examples here are Abiola and Buhari. As Professor Nwosu recently said, Abiola did win the June 12 elections. Buhari also won presidential elections since 2003 and 2007. There was no election in 2011.
QUESTION: Now, in what way do you anticipate the coming change then?
There must be a struggle like the Arab Spring or a more thorough one like the Bolshevik and Maoist revolutions. Those in power have amassed so much wealth and they have corrupt record. So they will not allow any better person to defeat them. In addition, the opposition parties that have seats at states and local governments are not better than the PDP, unlike during the Second Republic when governors of GNPP and PRP showed some level of transparency. The situation now is so bad that nothing can check them. The only way is through a revolution.
QUESTION: Now let us return to the Second Republic. Recently, there was a debate on one of the internet groups regarding your abolishment of poll and cattle taxes as PRP governors during the Second Republic. As undergraduates, I remember we were very happy with the measure. However, a revision of our contemporary history has shown that the measure has has some negative effects on the economy of the country, especially in the North. It created unemployment, weakened the authority of government and encouraged apathy. Even one of your diehard supporters during the debate categorically supported the reintroduction of these taxes. Sir, have you developed a second thought about the abolishing of those taxes that you made?
There are three things here. We abolished those taxes because of they were a burden and a source of oppression not only on the masses but also on the agents of the NA system – mainly the district and ward heads. These agents were annually tasked with collecting specific amount of taxes regardless of whether the amounts are reasonable or not, or whether their wards could afford them or not. Some of them had to resort to oppressive measures in order to meet the demand. It was a burden which many of them were glad to see it done away with.
Two, tax has to be commensurate with the income of people. If a person cannot afford to feed himself, how do you tax him? Under the former system, you are taxed because your name is on record, regardless of whether you are living or not, whether you can afford it or not. This is unjust.
Three, the essence of taxation is to contribute your quota to development. Now what is the essence of taxation if what you pay is stolen or misappropriated?
Yet, even during our time there are categories of people, like workers in the public and private sector, that continued to pay tax according to their abilities.
In short, three things are associated with taxation. One, it must not be oppression or a means of oppressing the masses. Two, it must be done commensurate with the income of the citizen. Three, it will be used for development and not misappropriated.
QUESTION: What then would be your advice regarding taxation today that will encapsulate the three points you just enumerated, given your training as an accountant?
Right now, there is no need for any advice because nobody will use it.
QUESTION: You mean the governors will not take it?
How would they take it? These are people who are not even afraid of God. People today are no longer afraid of God, unlike before when a mere saying of Allah ya isa was enough to instigate remorse in them. This time is only for struggle and revolution. But that revolution must be based on fear of God and faith in Him, in which case the struggle would even be a regarded as a Jihad.
QUESTION: Okay sir. At the end of the interview, I would like to raise two issues. It is normal even in scholarship for people to differ from their mentors. We have seen that between Malik and Shafi’I; between Afghani and Abduh; and even between Aqqad and Sayid Qutb. Now, you and late Abubakar Rimi, after the 1979 elections were won and you came to power, PRP became embroiled in bitter conflict to the extent that you were expelled from the party. I remember at that time, you pitched camp with the 'progrssive' southern parties like the UPN, NPP and even with clandestine politicians like Shehu Yar’adua as you recently revealed. What lessons would younger generations learn from that conflict?
It is good that you mentioned how such conflict were found in Muslim history. That was the type of conflict that happened between us and Malam Aminu Kano. But here there is a difference between me and Rimi. I have been a NEPU member since my days as a clerk during the colonial era. Rimi was only a member of PRP.
Actually, we rebelled against Malam. What happened was that the issue started from Kano. Kano was different from Kaduna because unlike the latter, the former comprised of masses, traditional rulers, western educated elite and ulama. When the issue of gubernatorial candidate came up during the second republic, nobody among the elite came forward except Salihi Ilyasu, who then was a civil servant in Lagos and who some powerful civil servants managed to get him disqualified. PRP had to look for someone else. That was how Abubakar Rimi was picked. So there is a difference between us.
Now after the election was won, conflict started in Kano, though the majority of the house of assembly members in Kano was from PRP, unlike my case in Kaduna where I had a majority NPN assembly. Late Salihi Ilyasu became the chairman of the party in Kano. He prepared a list of commissioners and took it to Malam Aminu for approval. Lawal Dambazau, on the other hand, alerted Rimi on the development and advised him to make his own list. Malam would approve it, he anticipated, forgetting that he has endorsed the other one. Malam endorsed it and it was subsequently approved by the House.
Back in 1974, we realized that Malam had a health problem that renders him almost unaware of happenings around him whenever it struck. It was this illness that some evil people around him exploited, making him approve things which under normal circumstances he would reject. It was under such circumstance that our expulsion from the party was obtained.
A reconciliation committee was formed under Umaru Chief. Rimi and I agreed to be taking directives from the party only when it came from Malam directly. As governors we were bound by the constitution of the country with which that of the party may be in conflict. We trusted that Malam, given his experience, would know how to reconcile the two. An agreement was reached and a date was fixed for its submission publicly before Malam. But just before that could happen, those people got Malam to change his mind. From then things went bad.
We in Kaduna supported Rimi because if he were overcome, we would become an easy prey to those people. We also hoped that our action would make Malam contemplate his action and investigate those matters accordingly.
The party eventually became divided into ‘yan santsi and ‘yan ta’bo factions. We the governors met in 1980 in Lagos and appointed Malam’s deputy to become the head of our faction.
Effort was made to reconcile the two. the party formed a committee under Chukwumereji. He spoke to Malam, Rimi, myself, legislators, etc. It will be good to see the contents of the report.
Later when Malam realized how those people were making him to take decisions detrimental to the interest and unity of the party, he started some measures for reconciliation. This caused me to return from London where I was living after my impeachment. It was planned that a big gathering would be held at Malam’s house, including journalists. It was while we were waiting at Wada Abubakar's house for the gathering to hold at 10am that we received the information that Malam has relapsed into his sickness. The gathering could not hold and Malam eventually died.
After his death, we reasoned that since Malam did not live to realize his dream of uniting the party, the best honour we can give him is to ensure that we carry the effort to fruition. The party became united. Hasan Yusuf of Damaturu became the party chairman, Michael Imodu continued as the deputy, And I became the vice president. Rimi decamped to NPP. That is how we continued with PRP until today.
QUESTION: This leads us to the last question. Prior to this time, politics in Nigeria was regionally based. Though there was Plateau state that was in NPP already, Rimi’s decamping to NPP was the first time the Hausa-Fulani would pitch camp with a party from the south in a subordinate position. Before that Saadu Zungur had joined the NCNC but later, as he showed in his poem Arewa Jamhuriyya ko Mulukiya, he showed that a durable political intercourse between North and south was difficult due to difference in tradition. Since Rimi and other 'progressives' started to intercourse with the South since 1983 elections, the practice has continued through the Babangida and finally culminated in the formation of the PDP. Rimi in fact has revealed that PDP was named so in his house. Most of those who partnered with him since 1983 were brought in to form it. Now, after over a decade of its formation, happenings within the PDP have once again proved Saadu Zungur right. Obasanjo was elected as a unity candidate who the North believed could trust. But immediately he took over, things turned different. When northerners started to condemn him, I remember you were among those who argued that people should give him some time. However, after the 2003 elections, you too became critical of him and indeed became the Chairman of the opposition Conference of Nigerian Political Parties.
Here, some people believe that that was Zungur’s prophecy come true after 50 years of composing that poem. I do not know if this sequence of history – from 1983 to date – that I tried to thread across is correct or there is a correction to make about it. Also, given how Nigerian politics has become so much ethnically based once again and the preponderant feeling of betrayal in the North, do you think here will come a time when the two sides would cohabit once again under another umbrella like it happened in the PDP? I said this because many elections have taken place but the south has always identified with their own. It has shown that it is ready to elect a southerner no matter his defects even in preference to a better northern candidate. What will you say on these issues?
You have said many things. I would like you to bring back the last aspect of your question later. But I will try to correct some notions that I know are not correct.
The first political party in Nigeria was NCNC led by its first leader, Herbert Macualay. After his death which followed a campaign visit to Kano, Zik became the national chairman of the party. Saadu Zungur was since the beginning a member of NCNC, which was a national, not sectional party. He was its secretary. So Zungur could not have made a mistake because NCNC was the only party in the country then. It was later that NEPU was formed in 1950, then NPC and Action Group in 1951. NEPU was formed as a result of the problem found in NCNC.
As a result of the formation of NEPU, the colonialists formed NPC and Action Group. Most of the persecution of NEPU happened because the colonialists were afraid of the reincarnation of reformist Mahdi (of Sudan) in the North and its communist ideology as reflected in the Sawaba Declaration.
You mentioned that Rimi has claimed that PDP was conceived in his house. I am not sure if this is true but it could be possible. The history of PDP preceded its name. The Kaduna Mafia started to oppose Abacha and formed the G16. They invited me to a meeting at Adamu Ciroma's house. There I told them this: "The problem you enumerated were nationwide in nature. We are tired of people using the North to exploit us. Two, you have been with Abacha until recently. Are you forming this group now because Abacha has expelled you from his government? But agreed that these problems are on ground. So if you want us to join the group, it must be national, not restricted to the North."
That is how G34 was formed. We used to meet at Jerry Gana’s house in Abuja. Rimi did not know about this because he was then in prison. All the political gatekeepers of the country used to attend the meeting.
After a while we learnt that when Abacha became jittery, he met with Adamu Ciroma behind our back. We challenged the leadership of the group under Ekwueme for meeting with Abacha without our approval. We told them that the military is now afraid of us. If you isolate yourselves, they will overpower you. Later, they started taking steps for transforming the G34 into a political party. We objected and said, "G34 is now popular. Why would not you leave the group to remain as an umbrella "with the purpose of serving to discipline political parties such that they can be credible enough to restrain the military." And if the military would take over power, we as a group should reject them. Three, any party that wins credible elections, though the group will continue as an opposition umbrella, it should allow the party to work for the people.
The most shocking thing was that in spite of the political record of Rimi and that these things happened while he was in prison, just few days after he was released, when I went to attend the meeting of the group at Jerry Gana’s house, I was told that it will now hold at Rimi’s house. I was shocked. Rimi is dead. May God have mercy on him. For me, “I did not regard Rimi as disciplined enough” to handle this task and I did not see any logical reason why we would leave Jerry Gana’s house – someone “who was more tolerable than Rimi at least at intellectual level. Shi ken nan, things relocated to Rimi’s house. Then “I suspected something.” And you will be surprised at the people who used to go to Rimi’s house. They included Ojukwu, Bola Ige and even Adamu Ciroma who had the least respect for Rimi. “So I was frightened” that there was something sinister. I refused to go to the meeting that day. That was the last time I had anything to do with G34, which eventually became PDP. So it is possible that after this occurrence, the name PDP was given to the party in his house.
QUESTION: So the idea of the group remaining a vanguard that would check the excesses of political parties was abandoned… now it is a fully blown political party.
Yes. Exactly, we wanted it to be like the current CNPP. Unfortunately, the CNPP has become worthless. We only maintain the name in order not to give PDP the impression that they have been left alone to do as they like.
QUESTION: And about your relationship with Obasanjo..
Okay. PDP was formed and all political gatekeepers in the country joined it. We in the PRP did not have a register. Our philosophy in PRP is that whether we are registered or not, we will continue to exist as a movement for political mobilization. So we could not contest in 1999. But before then, an army officer – a General in fact – came here and met me. He discussed with me which candidate would the North support to ensure the unity of the country. Would it be Falae, Ekwueme, Rimi, Obasanjo or who? The army officer came soliciting our support for Obasanjo.
I told him that Obasanjo has a number of problems. But after a several visits and prolonged analysis, we agreed that Obasanjo “constituted the least risk". In fact, my analysis was public: As for Rimi, if I could remember I said some things about him which people did not like. I said, Rimi is only good for make-up (kwalliya), he cannot be “considered for anything serious". Ekwueme is so weak that he was of no use to Shagari in spite of the problem that Shagari had. Again, he was our chairman of G34 but he allowed this mistake to be made. And I mentioned that we put forward Ekwueme as a leader on a number of things but we ended up with failure, right from the time we were at Kiri-kiri prison during the Buhari era where we lived like brothers. There too he demonstrated extreme weakness. Falae, on his part, was the author of SAP. And if you read his writings, you will understand that he does not have principles. His only credentials are that he was associated with Awo’s struggle due to his marital relationship with Ajasin. Beyond that Falae was empty. I said under the circumstance, Obasanjo is the least risk we can take, despite the fact that any candidate in Nigeria is a risk. Later I was to use the same logic to support Buhari, given that he is not a thief and he has courage.
So I actively campaigned for Obasanjo. My analysis was once published by the PDP in eleven newspapers. But even during the campaign, I refused to associate with Obasanjo because he was distributing money through that general that was visiting me. Even after Obasanjo won neatly, I refused to see him, in spite of the pressure from that general.
After Obasanjo spent one year in office, I analysed his performance and concluded that he will end up in tragedy. A foreign newspaper published it. So Obasanjo was advised to arrest me but some people objectedto that. Instead, he was advised to invite me based on our commitment in the PRP to the principle of assisting any party which we helped to come to power. So he invited me through the same general. I told the general that I have done my best to assist him but we will not participate in his government because he has betrayed the people. Two, I am not a contractor so I will not go and be waiting for days before i could see Obasanjo. There, the general guaranteed that I should go and see Obasanjo and tell him my mind. I agreed out of respect for the general.
I went and saw Obasanjo within 15 minutes with the general. Where I understood Obasanjo is an idiot or he was being used was that immediately after the three of us sat down and exchanged pleasantries, Obasanjo asked me, “What do you want?” I told him, “As the President who is shouldering this enormous responsibility, you should not asked me what I personally want as the first question. You should ask me my feelings about your style of governance, given that I supported your election. Even if I should have something to ask, this concern should be the primary one. But since you are about to see the American secretary of state now, I will return to my people to discuss how we can assist your government to correct some things. When we are done, we will submit a written memo to you.”
That is how we came up with a twenty-one page memo. Dr. Bala (Usman) was with us. I gave it to the same general. Obasanjo acknowledged its receipt and commented on the points we raised in the memo. I remember that the first thing we warned him against was privatization. It was wrong, ethically or politically. Two, marginalization. No body expects margninalization under him, much less to allege it. It is a shame, particularly his comment that he was favouring the Yoruba because he was consoling them. We said he had no reason for doing that. We showed him the state of corruption and how things are worsening, etc.
After his comments, the general – who used to see three of us in the North at least once every fortnight – returned. I told him, “Look. Now that we have done the first thing, I can tell Obasanjo what I want.” (Then, I needed to only pick my phone and say I would like to see Obasanjo and his secretary would immediately arrange for it.) So I met Obasanjo and told him that now that we have done the first thing, I would like to tell you what I want. What I want is a register for PRP. He said, “Ahh. I am not a dictator.” I told him that it was he who registered APGA which had less spread than PRP. "Our party had also better spread than AD which was restricted to the southwest. And I can remember in 1979, it was you who registered PRP on merit. PRP is now stronger because subsequently we do win local government elections. Lastly, in your government there are enemies of the PRP, particularly members of the Kaduna Mafia, like Adamu Ciroma, who will do all they can to fight us. So since we have supported you, strengthen us in such a way that we can defend ourselves.” He said, “Ah yes. Bla bla. I know PRP's demands are modest and not difficult to meet.” But nothing happened. Instead, it was deliberately organized to ensure that PRP has not won election anywhere simply because the Kaduna Mafia – who “are greedy, selfish, reckless but very intelligent…
QUESTION: Sir, who are the Kaduna Mafia? We have heard a lot about them since we were small. From what you said now, it is obvious that Adamu Ciroma was among them.
Let me tell you. Kaduna Mafia is a collection of groups of civil servants and intellectuals of Ahmadu Bello University and institutions connected with ABU like Vom, New Nigerian, NNDC, etc. The death of Sardauna created a vacuum in Northern Nigeria. It is they who tried to fill it. They first emerged immediately after the coup while I was in study in England. As a critic in NEPU we were watching political development particularly in the North where powersas stronger. We noticed that they have formed a group under Mamman Daura. They had a magazine through which we used to follow their development. They were expanding their sphere of influence to the extent that at a time, no northerner can hold an executive position without a note from one of them. As I said, their leader was Mamman Daura; others included Adamu Ciroma, Umaru Dikko, Ango Abudullahi who was serving as their boy; Ibrahim Tahir was like their intellectual leader given his sound western education and the adavantage he had of Islamic education, Sola Saraki, and so on. It was an informal group that could be identified only by those who knew them. So we used to call them Kaduan Mafia (laughter), a name that was publicised by a Tiv journalist called Jibo or so who had problem with the group.
Anyway, in the end, it was clear “that we could not continue supporting Obasanjo without undermining our camp.” So we started attacking him publicly.
Question: Okay. About the last aspect which you asked me to delay until you have made these clarifications. Now it is clear that there is a problem with politics in Northern Nigeria. We seem to be at the crossroads. The constitution requires a candidate to get at least 25% of the votes cast lest about twenty-four states of the federation. From our recent experience, even if the North presents a very credible candidate, the south has shown that it will not vote for him. Buhari is an example. During the last election, he did not meet that requirement in any state in the south. How would this situation lead us to the unity of Nigeria and the possibility that the two sides would reconcile and live under one political umbrella in future?
I will answer your question in brief. The North that you talk about is no longer like the one we knew before during the colonial era and the First Republic. Now, the leadership of the North is worthless. Before, during that era, even if you do not subscribe to a northern leader, you will agree with that he commands dignity. It could be called false dignity of the imperialist or feudalist, but it is dignity all the same. He would not dance naked as the southerner would do. But today that dignity is not there. Leaders of the North are worthless. “They are just a commodity.” The corruption of the southern leadership derived from that of the North. Let me give you an example.
South south once teamed up with the North to keep Nigeria one. It supported the North in every election. But northern leaders gave themselves in in such a way that Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa would not do. Then for whatever reason, Jonathan became the vice-president under Yar’adua. Umaru Yaradua was himself a tragedy which the North allowed to become the president, though that is a different issue altogether. For no fault of Jonathan, a situation arose where he should be the acting president. But the leaders of the North objected "due to their limited calculations", though the constitution has indicated that Yaradua should appoint him acting president. If it were the former northern leaders like Sardauna, "they would have seen it as a matter of honour". Though there is a risk, they would say, it is better to take the risk than to betray (our partners). In the end, Jonathan even became the president.
Two, look at the ongoing corruption. If the northerners had been upright, would they have allowed what is going on today? If it were not for Shagari, this country would not have been in the unfortunate situation it is today. In 1979, the south initiated zoning. Members of their ruling class made the following calculation: With the discovery of oil, this country will become very wealthy. It should return to civilian rule. And the only guarantee against the return of the military is to elect a northern president especially from the Hausa-Fulani stock because he has a massive support in the North. Northerners would mobilize more than southerners to uproot the military. What remained was who would be the candidate.
At that time, the southern leaders objected to the candidature of Sola Saraki, Adamu Ciroma, Danmasanin Kano, etc. They said these are our intellectual equals. So they preferred someone from the emirate system. That is how Shagari was brought in. This was the Shagari who once said he did not see himself becoming anything better than the local government chairman.
(Unfortunately, the battery of the camera ran down as he was making this last point.)
Aliyu U. Tilde
26 May 2012