Balarabe Musa blows hot: ‘Our Political Leaders are thieves’

Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa is the National Chairman of People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and the first elected civilian Governor of Kaduna State. A Chartered Accountant and Administrator of repute, the former governor spoke to our Kaduna Bureau Chief, Musa Alhaji Muhammad, on the recent all politicians summit and other issues of national importance.  Excerpts:

You participated in the summit held recently in Lagos by the National Summit Group (NSG), what where the reasons for holding such a summit at this time?

The deteriorating negative state of the Nation made us to organize the second all politicians’ summit to review the state of the Nation, identify its problems and find ways of solving them; making Nigeria a united, sovereign peaceful and progressive country.

We lost a lot of time, a lot of opportunity in 1960, although at that time we were not thinking of being the greatest in the continent of Africa. But even before 1960 the advantages of Nigeria in terms of human and material resources where quite clear.  And now fifty two years after by the estimation of the informed Nigerians if things have been proper, Nigeria would have been one of the ten most advanced and prosperous countries. But as it is today, in spite of the tremendous opportunities available to us, we are one of the most backward countries. In fact we are at the root of backwardness at least in the continent of Africa simply because of the socio- economic system controlling all development in the country and the particular political leadership produced by the system which are based on self interest as opposed to public interest and the situation will deteriorate even further until there is this change of the system and the leadership. It is this change that we are thinking of through a National Conference. This is the second attempt to hold a National Conference. We held one in Lagos in 1994 which was called all politicians’ summit. Now we are in the process of holding a second one. What we want is a National Conference independent of the executive and the legislature but with the support of the two.

We know that the Executive in Nigeria and various administrations (both military and civilians) have made efforts to hold a legitimate National Conference but these attempts were unsuccessful. Instead of surrendering to the process of backwardness, we are planning to hold a second all politicians summit which is named “National Conference”. Now, I have to draw the attention of those Nigerians who have heard about our attempt to hold national conference and mistakenly assumed that we are holding the Sovereign National Conference, no, this is not going to be a Sovereign National Conference because we realize that Nigerians are not prepared for the Sovereign National Conference either intellectually or otherwise because such a conference can only be established by an interim administration that is, when the President and the present government in the form of the executive and the legislature are set aside and a new interim government takes over that interim government can call for a Sovereign National Conference. In fact this issue was debated and it was decided that sovereign national conference should be set aside in favour of the national conference which we hope will be achieved by the people with the assistance of the executive and the National Assembly. It will be an independent National Conference but definitely should be assisted by the executive and the legislature. But in the event where these two bodies fail to support this conference then a Sovereign National Conference will have to take place in which case the Nigerian people will exert their sovereignty as defined by the constitution.

At the summit, people came with different agendas and ideas:  tribal, sectional and regional.   Don’t you think that this new trend could mar even a broad-based National Conference?

This is inevitable whenever something like a National Conference is planned in any country we will have these differences sometimes expressed violently particularly in the situation in which we are in Nigeria when virtually everything is negative there is bound to be these. Like I told you, during our meetings on the 6th and 7th all these issues where raised. There were people who were even prepared to ask for the immediate disintegration of Nigeria because they believe that it was not in their sectional interest etc, but after the free debate before we even reached the position of agreeing on a communiqué those who where seeking for that became a very small minority and in fact they were warned. I remember when the debate became heated, one of the most dramatic warnings came from one of the participants, Chief Ezeife, a former Governor from the Southeast, who said that even if Nigeria disintegrates the Igbos will be everywhere throughout the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. So at the end during the writing of the communiqué it was all agreed that we should drop the idea of a Sovereign National Conference because Nigerians are not prepared for it even at the intellectual level in which we are involved.

There was no agreement among us on any issue other than that this disabling level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste of resources have gone too far and have become endemic to the extent that one of the participants, a former public office holder rose and asked which one among us is not a thief, which one of us has not participated in stealing public resources? I could remember the one time Commissioner of Police in Lagos State rose and gave the impression that he did not steal anything and then somebody sitting close to me, who claimed he knew the Commissioner, wanted to contradict him but unfortunately he didn’t have the courage to stand. So we all agreed that we are part and parcel of the de-generation of the negative state of the nation but that does not stops us from tying to change the situation for the better.

Prior to this time, the elite and political class in the North detested such conferences, but now its you, the Northern political class, who were accused of mortgaging the North through unconstitutional method of power shift, that are now aligning with the proponents of National Conference. What actually went wrong?

It is not politicians mortgaging the North. In fact, there was no mortgaging the North, there was probably a mistake and I wouldn’t even say it was a mistake, I think there was a problem of betrayal of the North by some of the leaders of the north and others. I know exactly what happened before the 1999 election, I can say I even participated. Virtually all leaders of the North of whatever political persuasion agreed that power should move to the South. Virtually every informed Northerner in 1979 felt there was that need for a number of reasons, but particularly because Northerners held political power in Nigeria longer than southerners yet; things have not changed particularly for the North.

Furthermore, we were being accused unnecessarily for holding on to power for so long without achieving any tangible results. So, we felt that since this is one country and we don’t want it to disintegrate we want peace, let the power shifts to the South and every Northern leader except those who are irrelevant, those who are liars agreed under the persuasion of a leading Northerner,  General Ibrahim Babangida, to campaign for Obasanjo as the Presidential candidate for 1999 because Obasanjo was considered then, after taking everything into consideration, to be the least risk by not only Northerners but all Nigerians because when he was the military President he performed well and people where so proud of him that when the election came in 1999 after he retired, Northerners in particular, with the exception of his South West people  campaigned for Obasanjo throughout Nigeria and he won a free, fair and transparent election as much as it could be and he established a legislative government. Unfortunately he betrayed. But under the condition in which we are in Nigeria, that type of betrayal was expected.

So, having known this Nigerian factor, steps were taken to ensure that if he becomes the President of Nigeria and betrays there was a reserve power to deal with him, but unfortunately immediately he became the President, the same Northern leaders who promoted him instead of making sure that he did not derail started lobbying for appointments and contracts and once they were settled, they forgot about Nigeria and in particular the North. None of them called him to order those; who quarreled with him did so because of the positions they got which they said were not adequate. None of them quarreled with him (Obasanjo) throughout his eight year term on principle, so when he betrayed, the same Northern Leaders who promoted him went along with his betrayal and enjoyed it and now they are complaining.

You have been talking about alternatives. What were the alternatives given to Obasanjo?

Well there were so many alternatives. First, to call him to order in a peaceful way and advise him that he was derailing, but none of them had the guts to do that because they have gotten what they wanted. Let me give you one example of the betrayal of the Northern leadership. The problem of Almajirai has been a problem in Nigeria for a long time. Almajiranci is a legitimate system of discipline among the Muslims. It was never a degrading situation until later. But what I am saying is that there has been and there is still a problem of Almajiranci. It was a system based on discipline but it has now been transformed into a system of degradation. Now, Northerners particularly the leadership must be concerned more about it than anybody because it is a problem of the North. When Obasanjo came to power first as a Military President, he realized that there was that problem and he intended to do something about it, so he brought free primary education for every Nigerian. Now these Northern leaders particularly Islamic leaders should have taken Obasanjo on his promise which he began to concretize. Now if they have made him to stick to it instead of making him to give those contracts and favors, the issue of Almajirai would have been solved by now.

And the other twin issue of forty-year gap in educational development between the North and the South would have been reduced substantially but instead they did not make him concretize it. Primary schools were built all over the country but they couldn’t be run because there were no teachers, those in government did not care about it. Later, when Obasanjo became the Civilian President in 1999, he elevated the system and provided for free education at primary and secondary levels that is nine year education. There was demand, and because of the hesitation of Muslims to send their children for western education it was agreed that Islamic education and western education should be integrated so that there will be for every Nigerian a nine –year free and compulsory education. Northern leadership should have taken on that challenge and make Obasanjo to concretize it which by now there would have been  no problem of Almajirai because the nine-year education means that you would have free education up to the age of fifteen years so you see all the Almajirai you see on the streets of Nigeria  who are aged below fifteen years would have been in school under the free and compulsory primary and junior secondary education which Obasanjo borrowed and started concretizing through a number of measures but the northern leaders which include politicians, Islamic leaders as well as our traditional rulers all went for what they could get under the Obasanjo administration. That is why up to now the issue has not been solved.

How do we look at this issue of almajirai now? Is it still a Northern issue or a national issue?

Definitely it is a national issue; it was primarily a northern issue arising from the indifference of the leaders. They have always known of its existence. For instance by 1956 there were not more than 15 northerners who occupied position equivalent of salary grade LEVEL 8 while at that time between the Eastern and Western Region, they had at least 5,000 university graduates. So we knew the gap in educational development between the north and the south of which we have been in a position to do something about since 1960 but we have not because when states were created they were given adequate power and were well funded but instead of the money being devoted to bridging this gap in educational development which stands in the way of peace and progress the leaders were free helping themselves.

Since you said  the issue of almajirai has become a national issue can we absolve the Northern governors of blame?

All the governors in the north both past and present are culprits because they had the resources to do something about it but they didn’t until when the situation became beyond them. They would have bargained with the Federal Government to intervene and bring the situation to an end. For example, when the south was asking for power shift and resource control, the northern governors should have also tabled their own demands instead of quarrelling with them over their legitimate demands which I believe if that opportunity had been taken the forty-year gap we have been talking about would have been something of the past by now. However hope should not be lost because even with a southerner as the president, the north could still use its numerical strength and relative experience which is indispensable for the president in power.

Sir, projects that are very dear to the northern people have been stalled, like dredging of the Niger River and prospecting for oil in the Chad trough and none of the Northern Leaders either elected or appointed is even talking. What…

{Cuts in}Exactly! Because those things do not matter to them at all it is the same instance I have given you on the issue of almajirai. What matters to them is what they can get for themselves and their families.

The cost of running government is becoming too heavy on our economy especially cost of maintaining the legislators, the presidency and other political office holders. What do you have to say on that?

Those are symptoms of our problems. The real problem is the socio-economic and political system controlling all development in the country which is based on self interest as opposed to public interest as provided for in chapter two of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides for leading role of the state in the economy. That is being consistently violated by the present privatization, commercialization, deregulation and minimal government which lead to this disabling level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste of resources. If you can deal with that level of corruption, which arises from a system based on self interest all those unjust remuneration of political office holders will not arise.

This system of aggrandizement did not happen during the colonial time and even during the first republic, it was during the second republic that this started happening and we who were in government at that time warned about it. An example was when we were governors, a problem arose after the National Economic Council meeting of which governors were members, the Vice President told us that the President had sent him to tell us that he was in trouble with members of his party. The problem was that the NPN members at the senate refused to attend dinner invitation because they were annoyed with him (the president) for not allowing them to fix there salaries and remunerations and he said he needed the help of the governors. So, when we realized that the President was genuinely in trouble and if we didn’t help him it will extend to us because we also have state Assemblies who will demand same from us. So we formed a committee of five governors one each from the five political parties who recommended the authentic salaries and remunerations of all political office holders including the President which he accepted and told the nation through a press conference.

But immediately the National Assembly members heard what the president said, they rose vehemently against the government in the press and even threatened to amend the constitution and exclude the governors from membership of the National Economic Council.But surprisingly, during another national economic meeting while we were all seated before the meeting started, we saw the then Senate President who was also a member of the council laughing. Then I asked Jakande who was sitting next to me why the senate president was laughing at a venue of a serious meeting, then Jakande told me that the president, Alahaji Shehu Shagari has surrendered to the National Assembly. He had allowed them to fix their salaries and remunerations against the recommendations of the five member panel. I remembered my first comment then was that a floodgate of corruption had been opened in the country and that was exactly what it has become. So the beginning of the problem we are facing now is weakness of the President and the greed of the National Assembly during the second republic.  As it is today, no President, Governor or even Local Government Chairman can prevail over the legislature even in the course of the interest of the nations they can threaten him with impeachment and it can happen. So, now the legislators at federal, state and local government levels are on their own, they ask what they want and they get it and it is unbelievable what Senate President gets, Speaker of the House of Representatives or even a member of a state assembly or a councilor gets.

During the Second Republic, party supremacy was truly supreme, but today the parties have little or no control over elected members. Could it be that the clause have been expunged from the constitution of the parties or what do you think?

No, this is the direct result of money politics in all political parties now existing. The candidate for an election takes over the party in his constituency and becomes the financier  in his constituency. Although the party supremacy clause is still there in the constitution of the parties but it is not clear. But in any case money should not be a deciding factor because even during the second republic many of those who controlled the parties are fairly rich with the exception of Malam Aminu Kano, but all of them respect the decisions of their parties, they did not misuse their advantages. And at that time again, the level of money politics was very low, but today anybody that wins election automatically becomes the head of the party at his respective level. That is why party offices are empty while the presidency, government houses, local government secretariats and houses of elected leaders are always busy because that is where the financial favors are.

How can we cut down leakages in running the government?

This can be done first, like I said, through a reversal of the situation in which we are now. The leading role of self interest should be replaced with the leading role of public interest as it was before. The second thing is that the president, the governors and the local government chairmen are too powerful. The constitution gives them too much power and they are abusing it. This power should be substantially reduced.

The increase in electricity tariff is coming at a time when Nigerians are still facing the hardship caused by the increase in the price of fuel. At the same time the Federal Government is planning to secure foreign loans. Sir, do you think that the president is fully aware of the implications of what is happening around him?

We cannot get out of these problems without a revolutionary reconstruction of the country whether peacefully or otherwise; we are at a stage where there is no control over public functionaries and their insensitivity to public outcry and suffering is getting worst. Now how on earth would the president remove oil subsidy just recently and now the increase in electricity tariff is also going to be effected. This means more hardship for the poor Nigerians who already more than 50% of them are living below one dollar a day. So the president is doing this because he is too powerful and could do anything and go away with it. But if it were in the parliamentary system, the president would have been out of the way since.

That being the case, why don’t we revert to the parliamentary system of government?

No, no, no, I think we still require adequate power for the president; the governor and the local government chairman to enable them bring about cohesion and direction. Under a parliamentary system it will be difficult but you know with the level of corruption  in this country it means they will continue even under the parliamentary system because you remove the president in the parliament you appoint another and he does the same thing. This is the same complaint we had with obasanjo that we are now having with Jonathan even at a higher level. So the first correction is to make sure that the system and the political party leadership produced by the system is changed in favour of a system based on public interest. Once we do that it will take care of every other thing. You see we did not have this corruption in the first republic and the second republics even with the system as weak as it is concerned itself primarily with public interest and with legitimate, enlightened interest but it is now the other way round and that is why we have now systematically produced a thieving leadership.

Do you support the call for the setting up of state police?

No, with the level of indiscipline in this country and with the misuse of state resources I think it is inadvisable. For instance if we had state police the situation in Borno State would have been uncontrollable due to the activities of Boko Haram because if the Nigeria Police could murder the Boko Haram leader, Muhammed Yusuf and other leaders in cold blood then only God knows how many innocent lives the police would waste under the command and authority of the state governor. The injustice done to the followers of Muhammed Yusuf is the consequence of what we are seeing today because apart from the killings, the traditional rulers’ involvement in seizing the properties of the sect members is also a factor. Governors could also use the police to intimidate their political opponents and any person who cross their way. No we really do not need a state police may be in future when we have standard of conduct for political leaders as they have in most of Europe and America. In those countries, they can decide to have state police and most of them have it and they manage it because they have a standard of conduct for leaders and no leader can go below that standard of conduct and survive so they can afford to have state and even local government police and they will work based on that standard but here we have no standard. Those elected are the ones expected to set the standard but they themselves have no standard by which they are forced to comply because the constitution is there but it has been abused we have this case like in the case of the governors. We have information that there are cases where the governors direct the police but the constitution does not allow governors to direct the police they are flouting the constitution because they are the players and umpires.

The governors pay the allowances and other bills of the police and even provide logistics, so instead of wasting state resources without getting a refund from the federal government why shouldn’t the states be allowed to control the Police?

The governors volunteered that and they are committing illegality because it is not their responsibility to finance the police but they are doing it because it suits their dictatorial power. Even this insecurity in the country is directly the result of the corruption of the governors because even without controlling the police the governors can deal with the security situation in the country and in their states because they are the chief security Officers of their states. If there is a justified case for using the police or the army he can make that case to the President or to the Inspector General of Police as the case may be because the constitution gives him such powers. But as it is today, the governor will give the instruction directly to the commissioner of police in his state simply because he (the governor) is financing him. This is what is happening in almost all the states in Nigeria

As a Chartered Accountant, what type of economy is Nigeria practicing now?

We are running  a capitalist type of economy, but the primitive type which has no concern even for the interest of workers, has no safety valve whereby if people are about to be pushed to the wall, to the extent of taking the law into their hands something is done to prevent the people going to such extreme. A typical example of the primitive nature of our type of capitalism and the indifference of government to the need for a safety valve as a result of the protest over the withdrawal of oil subsidy, the government came with two decisions one reducing the price of petrol from N141 per liter to N97 per liter just for the sake of N1.3trillion. So you can imagine the stupidity of the government because actually N1.3trillion is nothing to a country like Nigeria. But assuming it was a legitimate need in order to prevent the collapse of the economy what the president ought to have done was to cut the cost of running the government because it is too expensive, without of course pushing people to the wall. The palliative measures from the two committees set up by the president could not provide the palliative, so this is what goes to show that this government has no focus.

A legitimate palliative has three stages, the immediate, the mid-term and the long term palliatives. The first stage is to set aside the minimum slave wage of N18, 000 because with the increase in the price of petrol it has become irrelevant.

The mid-term solution which will take between one and three years is to restore our four major refineries working to capacity and build eight additional ones. Nigeria can build ten refineries directly over a ten year period

The long term solution of course is ensuring the oil and industry in Nigeria is freed from foreign control. At the moment we estimated that foreigners benefit to at least 70% from the oil and gas industry in Nigeria in various ways while what Nigerians benefit is just 30%. So one can say that the oil industry in Nigeria is controlled by foreigners it will take us more than the intermediate years to free the oil industry from foreign control. At the moment the Nigerian government and institutions know very little concerning the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. All the knowledge is with the foreigners. While all these measures are being taken, Nigerians must be informed including their representatives so that they will have confidence on what the government is doing with their monies.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Interviews


More soon


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

One Comment on “Balarabe Musa blows hot: ‘Our Political Leaders are thieves’”

  1. mujtaba adam
    March 16, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    what is hot in what this gentleman said? Even a child in nigeria know that our leaders are thieves

%d bloggers like this: