Second Republic governor of the old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, for many years, has been consistently advocating a welfarist economy in Nigeria, where the interest of the poor would be factored in.
In this interview with the Daily Sun, the elder statesman insinuated the possibility that some governors are playing politics with the Corona Virus palliative. He said that for Nigeria to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic, those with social consciousness, and who can make personal sacrifice would have to make a case for socialist reconstruction of the country, where peace, equality, justice, dignity of human person and promotion of even development would take prominence. He further said that for the change to happen, there must be free, fair and transparent election by any means and at any price, without which Nigeria would continue to move in circles.
What is your assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak in Kano, where mass deaths of people had been recorded?
I don’t have much to say about Kano because there are conflicting reports in Kano. But first, Kano has a distinction in Nigeria. It has the highest birth rate in Nigeria; therefore, it is also expected to have the highest death rate in Nigeria generally. Secondly, many of the deaths announced in Kano arising from COVID-19 cases involved old people; people of 80 years and above. And in any case, I think the issue should be examined further. In the case of Kano, really, I am not convinced that I can say much; I need to be sufficiently informed through the media. So, I think we should be concerned about the citizens in the whole country and not just in Kano in particular.
What is your reaction to the denial by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that it never linked the mass deaths in Kano to COVID-19 pandemic?
Well, I think that in this case, we need a clear message regarding the Kano incident. But, what sources have said is that Kano has the highest birth rate in Nigeria. It also appears that there are much older people in Kano than in other states, and according to what we have been informed about the virus, older people are more at risk of being infected than the younger people. So, in the case of Kano, we need further information from those who know better than us.
The infectious disease control bill currently before the National Assembly has been generating ripples among Nigerians. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) boss has even said that the bill is not necessary now but some of the legislators are still insisting on going ahead with the bill, what is your take on that?
The reality is that we should not be quarreling or arguing among ourselves, particularly, on issues that we are not sufficiently informed. Whatever we feel about the government, we should rely on what we hear from the government because government gets relevant information from many sources, including the medical services, the international community and so on. So, we should avoid unnecessary argument and rely on what the Federal Government found out and told us because this virus is real. Let us also rely on international situations in other parts of the world.
Does that mean you are in support of the bill, which many people are saying would make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for Nigerians?
What I am saying is that if the Federal Government is convinced about the bill, let us give it the benefit of the doubt, in spite of what we know about the Federal Government. In spite of the incompetence of the Federal Government as we know it, let us give it the benefit of the doubt. Secondly, we have to compare the position of the Federal Government on the bill and also the position of the international community, including the advanced countries. What we should not be doing is what we hear in the news now. Many other countries, including developing African countries, are taking first to discover the source and control of these epidemics, particularly the vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic. What we hear now is that many African countries are taking prominent part in international community in discovering vaccine to this pandemic. Can’t Nigeria be thinking along that line, instead of quarreling among ourselves unnecessarily?
Doctors in Nigeria have come under attack by this pandemic with about 40 of them having tested positive for COVID-19 and one dead already in Kano; where does this development leave us as a nation?
First of all, it should be expected because one of the requirements to avoid the spread of the disease is social distancing. Whether they like it or not, doctors and other health workers, have to maintain close contacts with their patients. This exposes them to be victims. In this case, the question should be whether Nigeria has the capacity to deal with the problem, and we know it doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the problem. What is Nigeria going to do now to ensure that it has the capacity to deal with the problem in future? For instance, there are proofs now that some countries are not suffering much of this Coronavirus, and even if they are suffering, they are capable of controlling it and providing safeguard to reduce the people’s suffering. What is Nigeria doing along that line? Is Nigeria changing its socio-cultural, political and economic system in such a way that the first and primary concern of the system is human person and not personal interest? This is because it appears those countries that are capable of tackling this problem, for instance socialist countries, some Islamic countries and Israel, have a system that enables them to tackle the people’s problem because they have control over the resources, both human and natural resources.
The widely reported deportation of Almajirai by some Northern states has already started taking its toll with the recent report of about 70 deported from Kano to Kaduna State testing positive for COVPID-19. Is it proper for the governors to have embarked on such exercise at this trying time?
First, it speaks of the irresponsibility of government at state and federal levels in Nigeria. It also shows their incapacity to tackle the problem because what they are doing is transferring one problem from one state to another, instead of attacking the problem throughout the country. There is no certified evidence that the carriers or the greatest carriers of this virus are the Almajiri. The greater carriers of this virus are those that have actually been affected through association, and others who are so poverty-stricken that their immunity against the virus is almost zero. And this is affecting the whole country because there are lots of Nigerians who are deprived and are even poorer than the Almajirai. In any case, even if you want to tackle the problem of Almajirai, what is the rationale in transferring them from one state to the other? Instead of looking at the problem in the context of Nigeria, why look at it in the context of the Almajirai alone?
But is it proper for the Northern governors to have started deporting Almajirai from their various states at this point in time, when the country is battling with a highly infectious disease like COVID-19, even when these Almajirai have been there for decades?
It is highly irresponsible of the governors to have engaged in such a shameful exercise. Who is the cause of the Almajirai system in the North? If today, we can make every Nigerian capable of working and surviving on himself, if we can have qualitative free and compulsory primary and secondary education throughout Nigeria, would we have these Almajirai? The Almajiri system in the North is over 70 years old. If we have free, fair, transparent and compulsory primary and secondary education, would we have them? For how long have Nigerians been asking for free, compulsory primary and secondary education throughout the country? Nigerians have been asking for it since the independence time but our leaders have been irresponsible and indifferent to the yearnings of Nigerians.
The Minister of Health and the Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVIPD-19 have both denied knowledge of the exact amount of money that have been donated to the Federal Government to fight COVIPD-19. What are your views on such development?
First, it is not surprising because of the level of corruption in Nigeria. Some people steal the money. Look at what is happening in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. The level of corruption in Nigeria is so disturbing that you can’t expect anything under the social, economic, cultural and political system of monetary control; we have to change it by all means in order to have meaning for the life of the people and progress for the country. This pandemic is challenging those Nigerians with social consciousness to know what should beat them because we have a situation where we have material and human resources, yet we can’t tackle the problem. We are just quarreling among ourselves and crying; those who have social consciousness are crying because there is nothing they can do.
We have heard of states where people are declared COVID-19 positive even when they are actually well and sound. Do you think state governors in Nigeria are playing politics with this pandemic?
In the first place, who have been collecting fees in the country? Is it not the governors, ministers, the president, and the privileged and so on? So, you should not be surprised
What is your assessment of the Nigerian economy post COVID-19? How are Nigerians going to pick up after the pandemic?
Let me tell you, right now, those with social consciousness, those who understand and can make personal sacrifice will now know that for Nigeria to progress and move forward, there is no other alternative other than socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, starting with the leading role of the states in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of human person and promotion of even development. To even start that, we must have a free, fair and transparent election by any means and at any price, otherwise we are just deceiving ourselves.