Former Governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa
In this interview with John Shiklam, former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, gave his assessment of Nigeria at 52. According to him, the country is held down by massive corruption which he said has continued to impede human and national development.
Nigeria is 52. Do you think we have lived up to the aspirations of the founding fathers of the country?
No. We have not lived up to the aspirations of the founding fathers of this country whoever they might be in 1960. The achievements as a nation have been so marginal that you can even ignore them when you take into account the enormous human and material resources that have been made available to us in the past 52 years. If we have utilised these enormous human and material resources well, by now, Nigeria would have been at a higher level on the scale of human development than it is today.
But as it is today, after 52 years, we have not even got to the take off level of human and national development. We are still bogged down by primitive and disabling level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste. We are still bogged down by high level of insecurity, high level of unemployment. We are still bogged down by a high level of organised violence resulting in massive loss of lives and destruction of property. We have virtually achieved nothing, so to speak. I think the only thing is that Nigeria has remained one country in spite of the bad political leadership. This is a favour from God. If God has not favoured us because of what we are, Nigeria would have disintegrated since.
Why do you say so?
The reality is there. You yourself know it. What is the quality of life in Nigeria today? We have got to a stage whereby we hardly have any Nigerian, no matter his place in the society who can tell you categorically and honestly, that he is surviving on his legitimate source of income. Every Nigerian is virtually surviving on some illegitimate means of livelihood and he has no choice because that is the system and it has produced a political leadership that is appropriate to it. We have got to a stage whereby, the country is ruled by thieves. This is not just a mere allegation; the evidence is there!
From the probes conducted by the executive and a revelation in court as well as popular perception of the people, indicate that Nigeria is ruled by leaders who are thieves. The latest example which has not been the worst is this revelation through the probe conducted by the National Assembly on fuel subsidy. Those indicted are still alive. They are in the country; nothing has happened to them and nothing will happen to them. You can see the steps that are being taken to make sure that nothing happens to them.
In a situation like this, what hope do we have? We have only two hopes; either to wait for God’s redemption but both Islamic and Christian clerics as well as those who believe in traditional religion tell us that God’s redemption doesn’t come so easily but it is painless. The other hope is for a revolutionary transformation of Nigeria. In my own view, the socialist reconstruction of Nigeria is staring with the leading role of the state in the economy to provide for justice, equality, dignity of the human person and progressive even development; to do away with the leading role of the private sector in the economy; to return to the leading role of the state in the economy as we had up to the Second Republic which laid the foundation of our economic and social progress but which is now being destroyed by privatisation.
In other words, we have to do away with this system of self-interest and adopt a system of public interest. If we continue as we are, with this level of privatisation, commercialization and deregulation, we will get to a desperate level that is worse than that of Somalia which has no credible government for almost 20 years.
How would you assess the political development of the country in the past 52 years?
The political development of Nigeria has been negative and that is what I have just described. That is what it is! We have got to a level where we are not only stagnating but we are making two steps forward and ten steps backward. That is what I can say about political development in Nigeria since independence. It is negative in almost all its ramifications.
Do you think that opposition in Nigeria has effectively played its constructive role in this country?
No. And the opposition cannot because the system does not allow the opposition to do so. Legitimate opposition is based on social conscience. Let’s talk in terms of opposition political parties. How can you have a strong opposition from the parties when they have become so marginalised and are even not better than the government in power? Where is the opposition to the (Peoples Democratic Party) PDP government in Nigeria? In terms of opposition parties that are in control of a state government, are they doing anything better than what the PDP is doing? So, the system has systematically destroyed opposition.
What remains is an attempt to produce a credible opposition but it is not possible. Let me give you an example to show that the opposition in Nigeria is almos t irrelevant. We have two political parties now that are dominant - the PDP which controls everything in terms of political power and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which is the largest opposition party in the country. The PDP controls about 23 states; the ACN controls six states; All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) controls three states; All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) controls two states; Labour Party (LP) controls one state and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) controls one state.
So, the clear opposition is ACN, however marginal. It has more states than any of the four other political parties put together. Yet all the political parties want to see PDP off their back. This should be easy because the PDP lacks moral base. It should be easy to replace PDP if there is an alliance particularly a democratic electoral alliance among the opposition parties. The most realistic thing is that all these political parties that control governments at state level and those that don’t even control a ward should rally round the one that is in true opposition, that is a true alternative in any democracy, which is the ACN.
Other parties should rally behind the ACN so that we can kick the PDP out of power. There is rarely no hope for the opposition in Nigeria without rallying behind ACN. Can we rally behind APGA or ANPP or LP or CPC and expect to defeat PDP? No. We have to rally behind the true opposition and the true alternative government. Is this happening? We now have two and a half years left to the 2015 elections and yet there is nothing concrete to contain the PDP. We are making the same mistake we have been making since 1960. So, where is the relevance of the opposition?
Do you think the current federal structure where states depend largely on the Federal Government for survival enhances development?
It is alright, but it encourages abuse of power. Each of the states gets about N150 billion from the Federal Government annually. I think the oil states get about N30 billion. That is enough to run even the whole country, not only a state. But this is not happening because of the misuse of power by the Federal Government. Secondly, there is this issue of stealing and corruption at the state level.
What are your views on true federalism?
In the first place, what is the meaning of true federalism? The only sensible meaning is that the federating units should have sufficient power to be able to conduct their affairs without the over bearing burden of the centre. That is the simplest definition of true federalism. Obviously, you cannot expect this in this system of self-interest as opposed to public interest. Maybe we can do it better by returning to the old regional arrangement by transferring, for instance, the present six traditional zones into six regions and making the regions the federating units so that the allocation from the federation account will go to the six regions and each region will be allowed to establish as many states and local governments as they can cope with within the allocation and resources available to them.
How is the legislative business so far?
I believe so far, so good, we set before the House of Representatives a very ambitious programme as encapsulated in our legislative agenda. What that has done is to put the House on a footing. That also means that we are now more committed to doing legislative duties in order to ensure that we can beat our chest.
Hopefully, two years down the road, I can say that we are able to achieve what we set out to achieve in that agenda. We believe that if we are able to do even 50 percent of what we set before us, then this seventh Assembly will turn out to be a great improvement as far as all the other sessions of the National Assembly are concerned.
As you know, we have a very able leadership. The Honourable Speaker Aminu Tambuwal has been up and doing. He is actually also gingered up just like the rest of members of the House. Currently, what we are doing is the oversight which we have embarked upon to monitor the performance of the budget 2012. Before I left Abuja, we were actually in the process of compiling the reports of our findings.
I have to say also that when the president presented the budget, the unity of purpose by the National Assembly was displayed. The Senate and the House of Representatives are working together as one, which is something that I hadn’t quite experienced especially in the sixth Assembly. We are now moving together in one direction as a parliament.
I think the country benefits when the two arms of the National Assembly are working in unity as we are doing presently. I am optimistic that with the time available to us, it is possible we can achieve so much in the period we have left.
The House recently threatened the President with impeachment over budget implementation. Has the issue been resolved or the House just decided to drop the move?
Well, I don’t know where this thing about threat of impeachment is coming from except from the media. What I recall was that before we went on recess, clearly, everybody was aggrieved and I think this is something that concerns all of us in this nation- that the implementation of the budget now and in the years gone by hasn’t been up to expectation. But perhaps, if you want to achieve a level of progress, we must as a nation then, take seriously budget implementation because until we are convinced that we are making progress in that regard, it will seem to me that development is going to elude us for sometime.
So, when we take seriously budget implementation, I think we will have a better nation. Now, coming to the point whether it was a threat that was issued or not, I recall that when we were about going on recess, there was a debate regarding budget performance which eventually led to this oversight that we did recently. In the course of our debate, one of our colleagues in his contribution alluded to the fact that we could explore all constitutional means to ensure the budget was properly implemented. Of course, that could be interpreted to mean that we were issuing an impeachment threat because that obviously is one of the constitutional means available to us. But impeachment is also a very serious business. It means you don’t just wake up one morning and impeach the president.
There must be very serious and grievous allegations with constitutional backing that can propel you to do that. What I can say is that clearly, the executive took seriously the discussion and the resolution that came during the course of that debate. Of course, impeachment was not one of the resolutions that we made that day. The executive was encouraged to ensure even greater budget performance and implementation. Like I said, I believe that was taken seriously by the executive. During the course of the two months of recess, certainly in the case of the committee that I have oversight of, the (Federal Capital Territory) FCT committee, I am happy to announce that budget implementation was really at a very high level. Again, I hasten to say that we can do more but surely when you look at the point we were when that deliberation came up on the floor of the House and two months after; if you look at the quantum of improvement that we’ve been able to achieve within the FCT budget (I can’t speak for other sectors of the economy but certainly with regards to FCT), I can say there is a level of improvement that I think is considerable.
So, if all that we’ve been able to achieve with that particular debate - whether it was interpreted to mean that we were issuing a threat to the executive or otherwise, I think the major motive behind the discussion was to spur the executive in the direction of making sure that the budget implementation was actually elevated and as far as I can see today, I believe that we’ve been able to achieve some successes with that discussion.
The president is alleged to be weak. And this is viewed as the main reason for continued state of insecurity. What is your view on this as well as your thought on insecurity in the land?
First, let me start by answering this in a way that I understand it best. It is the job of leadership especially in a nation of 150 million people with divergent opinions to tackle any crisis in the land. But to saythat the president appears to be weak in certain areas may not be right. In truth, what I have for the president is sympathy really and not criticism. I am not one of those who think that the job of security or securing a nation is singularly the responsibility of one individual.
You have to recognise the fact that the president has all manners of appointees who work under him and you have service chiefs and members of the security committee down the line; some of those who also have responsibility for taking certain decisions. But by far, I think most importantly, is the recognition that security is something that all of us as a nation must come together to work on. The whole idea that because I am outside the government, it’s only the responsibility of someone who is in government to provide security even when that really is the core principle upon which good governance is built, is untrue. I argue that we must recognise that everybody has a role to play in this.
Yes, the president must provide leadership within the limit of a democratic institution. You see, part of the problem I think is the fact that we are coming, if you like, from the military system of government and dictatorship where the word of one man was law and everything.