Balarabe Musa’s Power of Example

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A former governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who passed on last week, led a life worthy of emulation, both in public service and his private life, writes John Shiklam

Balarabe Abdulkadir Musa, the radical third republic governor of old Kaduna State, before Katsina was chiseled out, took the final bow on Wednesday, November 11, 2020. Born on October 24, in Kaya town, Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna, Musa was an apostle of good governance and the emancipation of the “Talakawa” (masses).
Musa attended Elementary School in Kaya from 1943 to 1947, and went to Middle School from 1947 to 1952 after which he joined the civil service as a third class clerk.

He attended the Institute of Administration, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University) for a year course and taught at the institute from 1956 to 1960. In 1960, he got a scholarship to study accounting and chattered company administrator in London. He returned home and was posted to the Defence Industry Corporation (DIC), Kaduna, as accountant.
He was later moved to Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria as the company secretary and chief accountant. In 1974, he was transferred to the North Central Corporative Board, Jos.

Musa left the civil service in 1975 and went into commercial farming. Farming was his means of livelihood till he died.
He was a true and committed progressive in the real sense of the word. He was the last man standing as a leftist politician. He was a unique politician, who held tenaciously to his political beliefs and principles. He lived a simple life and frowned at “stealing and primitive acquisition of wealth” by those in public offices.

His Malali GRA residence is very simple. It had no form of barrier and anyone, who wanted to see him, was free to walk in without any hindrance. He was the defender of the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden – always confronting the establishment and their oppressive tendencies.
Throughout his lifetime, Musa was opposed to the class system and the ostentatious lifestyle of the ruling elites. For him, democracy was about justice, fairness, equity and welfare of the people. He shaped his political views early in life while in elementary school.

In an interview he granted THISDAY in October 9, 2004, he said newspapers of that time, shaped his ideas and thoughts about democracy and governance. The “The West African Pilot” newspaper in particular, he claimed, had great influence on his Marxist ideology.
“The first and the strongest influence that introduced political ideas in me was an incident that took place around 1949. I was trying to improve my knowledge of English language, because we were being taught in Hausa and Arabic. So, I began to read the newspapers – the Nigerian Student and ‘The West African Pilot’, which was a radical newspaper, which advocated radical ideas,” he said. The newspaper, according to him, was regarded by the British colonial administration as a ‘communist newspaper’.

“I was able to get a copy of the newspaper through an Igbo friend of mine in Sabon Gari, Zaria, and I took it to school. When the school authority found me in possession of the newspaper, I was brought before the school authorities and I was almost expelled for being in possession of a ‘communist literature’.

“In those days, it was a criminal offence to be in possession of communist literature. I think somebody must have reasoned that it was unreasonable to expel me from school, because of reading that newspaper”, Musa narrated in the interview.
But that action made him “curious and determined to find out what communism was all about”. And as far as his understanding was concerned at that time, “communism meant equality of mankind.”

The formation of Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU) on August 8, 1950 in Kano also had great influence on him.
As an avid newspaper reader, he got news of the formation of NEPU in the newspapers and according to him, “the objective of the party was the liberation of the common people, the Talakawa.

So, he was very much impressed by that, because as he put it, “I learned quite a lot about political systems and systems of government from my religious education and also through the reading of newspapers”.

For him, NEPU was the party to belong after reading its manifesto, which was called “Sawaba declaration” showing the character of party.
In 1953, Musa, who was transferred from Kaduna to Jos to replace an Igboman, who “was jailed, because he was found in possession of communist literature”, was shocked over the incident, but that didn’t discouraged him from holding such views in his mind.

While in Jos, he secretly obtained the membership card of NEPU, but associated freely with supporters of the party. Although he knew what he did was criminal and could be dismissed from work, he was more interested in joining a movement that would liberate the masses than keeping his job.
What mattered most to him was the fact he was in a team committed to changing the Nigerian society. And so, after he left the civil service in 1975, Musa was elected councillor in Zaria Local Government Council of the state. He later emerged chairman of the council but was denied by certain forces.

He was a founding member of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in 1978 and 1979, and was elected governor of Kaduna state on the platform of the party in a keenly contested election with the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Alhaji Lawal Kaita. The NPN was the one of the dominant parties in the Second Republic, especially, in the north.

Musa polled 560,605 votes defeating Kaita, who scored 551,252 votes. His election as the governor of Kaduna State, provided him the opportunity to do what he believed in, and that was changing the society. He brought his team from the Marxist school of thought on board – people like the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, a radical university teacher from the ABU, Zaria, who served as the secretary to his government.
To Musa, “Nigeria’s neo-colonial system was as an edifice that must be destroyed to build anew. Unfortunately, for him, the conservative NPN dominated the state assembly with more than two-third majority.

Somewhat humiliated that the NPN did not win the governorship election, the lawmakers refused to approve the list of commissioners and raised other legislative obstacles to paralyse Musa’s pro-people administration.
Nonetheless, he went ahead to implement the policies of his party. He abolished poll and cattle taxes paid by peasants. He refused to compromise his standards and principles to satisfy the selfish demands of the lawmakers.

In May 1981, he was removed from office by impeachment. For him, his removal was part of the price for the struggle for the redemption of the common man. But the few years he served as governor was recorded as impactful.
According to Mr. Tom Mataimaki Maiyashi, who served under Musa as the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, the administration recorded tremendous achievements. He said Musa embarked on massive educational reforms and established industries in all the 14 Local Government Areas in the state. Maiyashi described Musa as “a man of principle; a man, who believed in the emancipation of the poor and made sacrifices for the emancipation of the downtrodden.”

He said Musa was a detribalised leader, who believed in a united Nigeria.
“He believed in human dignity, happiness of the people and he could go to any length to ensure that happens. When he came into office, the Universal Primary Education (UPE), was just maturing at that time and there was no preparations to absorb the graduates of the UPE.
“He established 100 schools in one year. Nobody has done that since he left office. He improved the teaching and learning of Science. He provided equipment for the teaching of science. Teachers salaries and allowances were paid as and when due.

“Communities were mobilised to support their local schools. He respected and dignified teachers. Teachers had unlimited access to him. Since he left office that has never happened,” Maiyashi said, adding that Musa also established agro-based industries in each of the 14 local governments areas in the old Kaduna State.

“In the Southern part of the state, he established Ginger factory and Plywood factory. In the northern part of the state, he established oil mills. In Ikara, he established Tomato Processing Company, Ternary Factory, Sugar Company in Makarfi and Zarinject, a syringe manufacturing company based in Zaria among others.

“The raw materials for the industries were sourced from the local communities, where the industries were located. Musa fought against the system, which was primitive accumulation of wealth by public officials. He was opposed to that and was concerned about the welfare of the masses.”

Also, Mr. Richard Umaru, former editor of the Jos based Nigeria Standard newspapers, who served under Musa as Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Internal Affairs and Information, said Nigeria had lost a colossus, who struggled for the emancipation of the Nigerian masses.

“I have been privileged to work under him. I served under him as the permanent Secretary in the ministry of Internal Affairs and information up to the time he was impeached. I have been close to him for 40 years. Nigeria has loss a colossus in the struggle for the emancipation of the Nigerian masses,” he said.

Umaru said the NPN dominated House of Assembly was opposed to the changes.
“Musa was committed to bringing about change in Kaduna State and they used all kinds of excuses and trumped up charges to remove him from power. Musa was not willing to compromise his principles and the programmes that he laid down for the state. That is primarily the reason they impeached him,” he said.

Musa also had his share of the Buhari military coup in December 31, 1983. Buhari arrested many politicians including Musa for allegations of corruption. He, however, emerged as a man of unimpeachable integrity after investigations cleared him of any wrongdoing.

During the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Musa was among the few politicians that were not exempted by the ban by the administration. He was also arrested for allegedly floating a political party when the ban on politics imposed by Babangida was still in force.
Upon lifting the ban, Musa floated a successor party to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), which was banned by the military regime. He launched the Peoples Liberation Party (PLP) in Lagos and was immediately arrested by Babangida.

Musa played active role in the present democratic dispensation, challenging the undemocratic tendencies of the ruling political parties and advocating for a coalition of progressive politicians to join hands in taking power and providing credible democracy and good governance.

Throughout his lifetime, farming was his means of livelihood even though he was a chattered accountant of repute.
According to him, he couldn’t establish a private accounting firm, “because no body would be willing to “patronise me, because I will not agree to cook the books. So, I decided to go into commercial farming”.

Perhaps, Senator Shehu Sani, a close associate of the late politician, summed up his exit saying, “Balarabe Musa represents an emblem of conviction, principle of patriotism and nationalism, an exemplar for an honest, sincere, just and accomplish life.
“We have lost a mentor, and leader, who inspired a generation of people. He was a man, who lived a life of service, dignity and patriotism. There can never be a Balarabe Musa again”, Sani maintained.