By Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali
No doubt, the year 2020 has sneakingly earned for itself, with little dispute, the appellation “annus horribillis,” for quite depressing reasons.
As the sound of the death bells for both great and small, and funeral rites gets recited unendingly, one of Nigeria’s shinning political figures, Mallam Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, one-time Governor of Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria’s powerhouse, caved-in to its unsympathetic hands on 11th November, 2020. He was aged 84 years. Although, he found himself serving at a time national politics was kicked out by military jackboots due to perceived pervasive corruption and incompetence, he was on the contrary, an oasis of probity.
He was politically most uncharacteristic and aversely non-hedonistic. Both personal conduct and not the least public functioning.
Fortuitously, his own state’s legislature (House of Assembly), as a reward for his uprightness and stiff-neck had him kicked out of office, two years into his four-year tenure. Ironically, this spared him from the eventual day of Armageddon – 31st December, 1983 – when the entire self-styled Second Republic (1979-1983) was inexorably sacked and many of his original colleagues jailed.
Born to rural royals in Kaya village in present Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and against the backdrop of the relative comfort of his family, he was trained as a Classroom Teacher and later an Accountant, both in Nigeria and in various professional schools in the United Kingdom. Of particular note, he attended the elitist Zaria Middle School and later, Institute of Administration, Zaria, established in 1947 by the British Colonial Administration to breed a core of northern intelligentsia. Most of the politicians and public servants from the north were trained in this institution. Interesting though, in 1962, the Institute of Administration, transmuted to become the main starting point for the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU).
The Mallam Aminu Kano connection and how NEPU started
A recollection of the life’s journey and contributions to national service of Balarabe Musa would only make meaningful understanding when contextualized within the great footprints left behind by Mallam Aminu Kano (1920-1983), his political mentor. Although a Fulani and of orthodox Islamic clerical heritage, Aminu Kano decided in life to tow radical and socialist footpath. At a time when people in civil service could, somewhat, be involved in politics at the local level, Aminu Kano along with other teachers in the north were active in the emerging events.
From the Clifford’s Constitution (1922), which came after the original Amalgamation Constitution of 1914, great mileage was achieved in terms of creating common awareness on global indignation against colonization. So, after twenty-four years of Clifford’s Constitution experiment, the longest in Nigerian history, the promulgation of the Richard’s Constitution of 1946 came about. Added to these, the end of the Second World War (1939-1945) brought a new World Order in which the ethos of freedom began to echo and reverberate all over Africa.
The north of Nigeria still dominated by conservative thoughts amongst the political gentry, birthed the emergence of the Jam’iyyar Mutanen Arewa cultural association. This body was in same standing as Egbe Omo Oduduwa, founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the Western Region in 1945. Shortly after, a few radicals led by a Poet, Sa’adu Zungur and one Bello Ijumu began to advocate for some form of dismantling of the feudal traditions of the north and the enthronement of what they called “Democratic Humanism.”
Their efforts were bolstered by a businessman, Habib Rajib Abdallah, who started to proselyte as it were, some form of Pan-Socialist liberation doctrine. This resulted in the formation of the Northern Elements Progressive Association (NEPA). Abdallah himself had become totally captivated with the nationalist political philosophy of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who had returned from United States of America in 1932 having attended Howard, Lincoln, Colombia and Pennsylvania Universities and formed the Zikist Movement. Dr. Azikiwe was soon part of the Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM) which since its formation in 1934 became the leading voice for Nigerians.
With such American background, the “great Zik of Africa” as he was mostly called, was in no way given to left-leaning thoughts but his high-command of language including Hausa and Yoruba in which he communicated more fluently than his native Igbo, made his thoughts to be very persuasive. Therefore, his early followers such as Abdallah and his NEPA were captivated by Zikism. Meanwhile, Aminu Kano soon broke ranks with his initial conservative peers who went on to form the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in 1949. So, he aligned with the likes of Zungur and Abdallah. In the resultant years, this body metamorphosed into the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) actually formed in the bustling Northern-Nigerian city of Kano on 8th August, 1950. Therefore, NEPU became the leading opposition party in the north when the region was granted self-governance in the 1950’s and started to attract to itself, various activists and politically-minded persons in the area.
The ideology of NEPU was clearly Socialists and Social-Liberalists, and in some sense also Communitarian. According to the “Sawaba Declaration” highlighting the objective of the new party, they called attention to attenuating the class differences in Northern Nigeria and protecting the rights of the down-trodden, workers as well as the rights of women and other vulnerable groups. Many hold the view that their ideological slant was somewhat influenced by the happenings in other parts of Nigeria such as the General Labour strikes of 1945 organized by the fiery labour leader, Michael Imoudu and the series of defiant political actions which culminated in the Enugu Coal Riot in 1949.
When Balarabe entered partisan politics
It is not clear exactly when Balarabe Musa came into the mainstream of these series of radical movements around him. It is known however that from a very young age, probably in his teenage years, he became active in standing up for the reversing of the plight of the rural poor. One thing which is known was the fact that he was at the forefront in organizing actions and activities in different areas around present day Kaduna and Katsina States. Also, he was perhaps, one of the closest associates of the early founders of the leftist movement. For much of the time, he remained in relative inconspicuousness due to the fact that he was still in full-time service as a professional Accountant up till 1976. With the transition to Civilian Rule Programme of then military Head of State, General Obasanjo, he joined his boss, Aminu Kano in some of the initial backroom political meetings.
Although they initially conversed with those of conservative ilk, this was however short lived as these leftist champions could not go the way of the old order represented by Alhaji Makama Bida (1905-1980) who went on to form the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in September, 1978. Rather, like times past, Aminu Kano and Balarabe Musa teamed up with such reformist elements as Michael Imoudu (1902-2005), radical scholar, Dr Bala Usman (1945-2005), Sule Lamido, Samuel Grace Ikoku, Umaru Musa Yar’adua (1951-2010) who later became the President of Nigeria, former Speaker House of Representatives, Alh. Gahali-Na’aba and frontline playwright and Novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) to form the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). Eventually, Balarabe Musa was one of two members of this political party (PRP) who later got nominated and elected as Governors in Nigeria’ short lived Second Republic, capturing two of the most strategic of the nineteen states at the time – Kano and Kaduna.
The “Great” impeachment
It was German Philosopher and Poet, Karl Wilhelm Schlegel (1772-1829) who once stated that “where there is politics or economics, there is no morality.” Sad, this is the type of political minefield that existed in Kaduna at the time when Balarabe Musa came into office. While he came to power on the pedestal of a puritanical, reformist mantra, the legislative arm of the government was dominated by persons from the conservative- status quo. He was of the PRP while his Legislative Assembly which he needed to work and succeed were of the NPN. The apotheosis of the House of Assembly from Day One was nihilist, rejectionist and existentialist as a political group, and was to get him out and take over power.
Despite the economic blueprint which Governor Balarabe presented to the House of Assembly on making Kaduna State the shining light in Nigeria in terms of economic development, despite his ebullient team led by intellectually focused leftist scholar, Dr. Bala Usman as Secretary to Government (SSG), he just had to go. After two tempestuous years of near impossible governance, he came into the eye of the metaphoric maelstrom of treachery and was impeached as Governor of Kaduna State on 23rd June 1981. In line with the 1979 Constitution, his Deputy Governor, Abba Rimi, took over the mantle of leadership of Kaduna State. Ultimately in the subsequent Governorship election two years later, the NPN’s candidate Lawal Kaita, defeated the PRP and took over power as Governor of Kaduna State.
Being the first ever impeachment of a State Governor in the history of governance in Nigeria, the whole country was bewildered. More so, a Governor who was popularly elected by the people on personal merit and was considered above board in moral credentials. In a twist of fortunes, all were overthrown on 31st December, 1983 by the military after just three months in office. After that, the PRP like other political parties, was abrogated and sent packing. Balarabe Musa remained active in leftist politics, even as various military governments succeeded one another often through military coups. These included General Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985), General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993), General Sani Abacha (1993-1998) and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999).
During these periods, the military flip-flopped on handing over power, and Governor Musa remained one of the strong moral voices insisting on return to democratic rule. Having lost his boss, Mallam Aminu Kano as far back as 1983, the onus fell on him and a few old hands to keep together the remnants of the socialist struggle in Northern Nigeria. So, in actual political engagements he continued to play prominent roles in the “progressive” political groups such as the PRP, Nigerian Conscience Party (NCP), and Social Democratic Party (SDP).
By the time the floodgates reopened for political activities, in what became known as the “Fourth Republic” (1999 to date), he returned to his good old self and became leader of the PRP and was its Presidential Candidate in the 2003 General Election. Thereafter he became part of the leadership of opposition parties, leading to the formation of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) while still remaining National Chairman of PRP. Later in life, he also encouraged alliance between PRP and a western Nigeria based political party, the Action Congress (AC), which controlled political activities in that part of Nigeria. Having lived a turbulent and rectilinear life, Governor Musa bowed out of partisan politics in Nigeria on 31st August, 2018, explainable as his health became challenged.
Pan Nationalist Idealism
In his usual display of his independence of mind and thoughts, Gov. Musa supported all pan-national ideals, irrespective of his Islamic faith and his ethnicity. For instance, he supported the efforts of then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan from the deep Christian, South-South of the country, to assume political power in the aftermath of the illness and subsequent death of his boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in May 2010. Unlike several elite from the north of Nigeria, who at the time, initially expressed coldness or opaqueness to that idea, Governor Musa insisted openly that the law of the land which allows a Vice President to succeed his principal must be followed to the letter. Thereafter, he supported the ambition of Jonathan to contest as President for full four years tenures in both 2011 and in 2015.
On other matters, he continued to pursue egalitarian courses such as building a nation of equity, fairness and justice. He strove for the downtrodden, irrespective of creed or tongue or the region of the country in which issues came up.
The exit and legacy
As the curtain of life pulled over him, Balarabe Musa existed with a sterner name. He was authentically communitarian and undeviatingly welfarist. He believed, espoused and was committed to equitable distribution of societal wealth and social transformation. He was an iconoclastic, anti-establishment liberator for the Talakawas of northern Nigeria and their equivalents in the rather binary class fissures in all of Nigeria. He did not believe in a revolution or some form of violent social change but fought fanatically on the need for creating equal-opportunities as a precursor for harmonious society, not only in Kaduna but in all of Nigeria.
He understood, as did many of the founding fathers of Nigeria, that the House built by Lord Frederick Luggard in 1914 was heterogenous and complex, starting from his own Kaduna State. It was therefore necessary to have the courage, against extremist drifts of some, to be fair, inclusive and accommodating at all times. No wonder, Kaduna State at the time, which by the way, includes present Katsina State had relative peace, accommodation and thrived on the pedestal of give-and-take, mutual tolerance and forbearance. This he extended to national politics.
The other remarkable and much treasured reality is the fact that Balarabe Musa led by example. He was, remarkably, a role model of what his initial co-traveler in PRP, Umar Musa Yar’adua, who later came to lead Nigeria under the PDP, defined as “Servant Leadership”. He was modest, unpretentious and openly averse to any semblance of ostentatious living. His elevation to high political office did not in any way convert him into a “big man”. After his impeachment saga, he returned to his modest home and lived for much of his life without airs.
“Nothing of real worth can be ever bought. Love, friendship, honour, valour, respect. All these things have to be earned.” It was the theatrical depiction of the Battle of Troy (Shield of Thunder) that those clichéd words became popularized. In his generation and in the years out of power, Balarabe Musa netted an indelible footmark as one of the most exceptional citizens, nay leaders, that came our way. But then, Nigeria’s hopes lie in the realization that his legacies would not die or become sterile. Indeed, hopefully, not too long from now, the snooping instincts of Nigerian youths would open the annals of the accounts of heroes past and retell with stoic coldness the true chronicles of all.”
Despite been a one-time impeached Governor, he ended up, not only being the winner over those who tried rather early to eclipse his star. He will continue to be a front-runner for many generations of Nigerians who we are sure would prove their mettle and grit as real cream of the crop; in building the country which the children of tomorrow truly deserve.
Good bye, citizen Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa.
Dr. Igali, is a former Federal Permanent Secretary.