By Willy Eya
Former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa believes that at 56, Nigeria has failed to meet the expectations of her people. He reflected on the nation’s independence which comes up on Saturday among other issues in this interview.
What is your take on Nigeria at 56?
During these 56 years, other countries in the world have achieved greater developments than we in terms of national unity, freedom and all round development of their countries. In the past 56 years, China has become the second world power in the world. We could have achieved the third but we have not. The reason why we have not is that we are bogged down by two evils. One, the system controlling all development – the socio-political and economic system controlling all developments in this country. The second is the leadership, the political leadership produced by the system, both of which are built toward self-interest first, public interest second or secondary instead of public interest first and little self-interest second. It is the system and the leadership which is directly responsible for the negative state of the nation particularly, this disabling level of corruption, and the only way we can achieve anything comparable with our advantages is to change the leadership and the system. The only way we can be our self and for us to become one of the ten most developed countries in the world is to change the system and the leadership and what we say will require structural reconstruction of Nigeria starting with the leading role of the states in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person, and progressive even development of the country. There is no way we can make any progress at all, there is no way we can have peace with this neocolonial system controlling all developments in the country. There is no way; we can only continue to go backward.
So, what you are saying is that there is nothing to celebrate?
There is no reason to celebrate but we thank God; we have survived, we have remained one country in spite of odds, this is the grace of God. We should go to our mosques and churches and anywhere we use in thanking God, we should go there and thank God for enabling us to maintain unity, stay as one country with all the problems because that is the grace of God; it means something. It means we can always start all over again. If we go by the prescription of the most difficult elements on this country, those who are asking for the breakup of Nigeria, they are asking for ethnic sovereignty, we will go back to the primitive time. We should ignore them. We should also ignore those who are campaigning for the leading role of the private sector in the economy because there is no way we can advance with that. Our destinies in Nigeria did not grow from hard work. They grow out from either public favour or pure stealing and the greatest example I will give you now is this controversy about the wife of the former president – the amount of money she had in banks. She is said by the media to be the richest first lady Nigerians ever had. Now who is that lady? She was just a food seller on the street but because she became the wife of a president, now she used the position of her husband to acquire so much wealth. Now this attitude characterized leadership in Nigeria and we can’t make progress with that kind of leadership.
A major crisis has started in APC with the former Lagos State governor telling the National Chairman to resign. How do you see the development especially with regards to the crisis in PDP, one of the major parties also?
I really want to answer this because I have my bias. Even though I am not in the APC and I am not enticed by APC, I respect the former governor of Lagos State. I respect him because I know he knows what he is doing; he is patriotic, and indeed, he paid the price. You can see it today!
What are your reflections on the general state of the nation today?
Negative! The state of the nation is negative in almost every respect. To get away from this, you have to change the socio-economic and political system controlling all developments in the country, and the political leadership inevitably produced by the system, most of which are based on self-interest first, and public interest second. We should go back to what we had before 1970 – public interest first and little self-interest second.
Now, if we want to do that, the starting point is the leading role of the state in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and progressive even development of the whole country. We should be able to do this again; we should deal decisively with this deceivable level of corruption, stealing and economic waste of resources. We should deal with this dangerous situation of poverty and unemployment; we should deal with this dependence on foreigners, for example, more than 60 per cent of the food we eat is being imported, we rely on import so much that our foreign exchange is always decreasing in tens. There is inflation everywhere and so on and now we are hearing the worst. The National Assembly is aligning with the President in instituting the leading role of the private sector in the economy. Remember the President said two months ago, that his policy seeks to be the leading role of the private sector in the economy. And two weeks ago, the Senate President came out openly and supported the sale of basic public institutions to the private sector which means the senate President is going in line with the President, which means the National Assembly and the current executive are on the same line in the leading role of the private sector in the economy. So, what am I doing? I am calling on those patriotic Nigerians who realize what the leading role of the state in the economy did to this country up to 1970 to stand up and reject the position of the President and the National Assembly. Even if it means protest, let them protest because this will lead Nigeria to even greater problem. The whole politics talk about Nigeria being the biggest country in Africa, the biggest economy, all is bunkum.
All your life, you’ve always been advocating for social justice and good governance and up till now, the situation of the common man has not improved.
What is the problem?
I have always advocated for the social reconstruction of Nigeria starting with the leading role of the state in the economy and that is the line of my party up till today, the PRP (Peoples Redemption Party) and it’s quite clear in the manifesto.
But do you think that you see this being realized in your life time because it has been a failure of leadership all these years?
Yes exactly but let us, Nigerians fight and let’s make sure that it is a credible leadership, let Nigeria by all means ensure free, fair and transparent election. I am one of those who have had the benefit of peace, free, fair and transparent election leading to a legitimate government. Without that condition, I wouldn’t have been the governor of Kaduna State. What happened was that all good residents in Kaduna State irrespective of the party – PRP, NPP, UPN, CNPP, all the four out of the five political parties and their leaders came together and said, in Kaduna State, we must support the PRP to win the governorship election; we want freedom and not money and they threw away not only the monetary incentive and voted me when I didn’t have even a kobo in the bank. So, it is possible to have free, fair and transparent election leading to a legitimate government in Nigeria, it is possible because when you do it in Kaduna, not only in Kaduna, it will stand in Plateau, it will stand in former Gongola, it will stand in Borno, almost all states controlled by non NPN. We want free government not money.
But looking at President Muhammadu Buhari, when he came on board, so many people were hopeful that this may be the turning point in the history of Nigeria but with what is happening now, are you disappointed in him?
Popular misjudgement and manipulation by the media, use of money power to manipulate things and misdirect Nigerians. Foreign powers also came and were part of the plot.
So you are saying foreign powers even helped Buhari to win the election?
Of course! It is clear; look at what is happening, particularly the recent visit of John Kerry. They will meet them here just to make sure that the Nigerian government would continue to support the policies of the role of the private sector in the economy.
Do you know what happened after the indigenization in Nigeria in 1972, when foreign interests were sold to Nigerians? What happened? The Nigerian individuals could not maintain these assets; they sold them to foreigners. When key public institutions, the funds which are supposed to ensure less suffering for the people and improve the country, were sold to the private sector or those private individuals who could not even pay the price agreed and they couldn’t continue running the institutions. Now tell me, what can happen now with the sale of all the key federal government institutions like the NNPC and about eight of them. In the first place, foreigners will buy them directly or indirectly.
So I am calling on all patriotic Nigerians who want the unity of Nigeria to continue, who want the growth of Nigeria to continue, who want Nigeria to take its rightful place in the world to rise and protest against the decision of the government, of the National Assembly to sell these public undertakers to the private sector which is so parasitic, which will be an evil to many, which will even increase our dependence on foreigners.
What do you think would be the future of Nigeria if all these assets are sold?
Well, I think eventually the Nigerian people will have no alternative than to rise and bring about a revolution because only a revolution can change this misuse of power because remember what they were doing and what they have been doing; it is against the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If you read chapter two of that constitution, you will see clearly that the leading role of the private sector in the economy is unconstitutional; this privatization of public institution is unconstitutional, and this sale of public institutions is unconstitutional.
What is your impression of the power elite in the North in the politics of Nigeria? Many believe that they play selfish kind of politics which has not impacted positively on the common man in the region.
They are the same being, bourgeoisies in Nigeria whether in the North or in the South. I am patriotic! Those people who have petroleum properties are the same whether in the North or in the South. The only thing that makes the North fearful which is the bourgeoisies group is that this North is filled up by the most powerful – power of the large territory, power of population, power of more balanced economic resources because remember, if you take the economic resources in the North and compare them with the economic resources in the South, the economic resources in the North are more balanced and varied than the economic resources in the South. But who carries the blame? It is all Nigerians from the North and South; all the human beings that create the agriculture, created even the orange, the mineral soil, all Nigerians. Even talking about the North and South, there is no North and South; there is only manipulation.
Recently, Prof. Wole Soyinka told President Buhari that Nigeria’s sovereignty is negotiable and that he should give ear to the call for restructuring.
He has always believed in ethnic sovereignty in the reconstruction of Nigeria. That has always been his belief. That Nigeria should be restructured in such a way that there is ethnic sovereignty in the affairs of Nigeria. How practical is this with over 400 ethnic groups in Nigeria?
But what is your own take on the call for restructuring?
Yes, I agree that there is need for restructuring of Nigeria because Nigeria is now big – 170 people with resources; we have been together for 100 years now; we should review the situation. And therefore, restructuring is definitely essential and grave in the interest of the country. But what is restructuring? The idea of some on restructuring amounts to ethnic sovereignty which means the breakup of Nigeria. Another idea of ethnic sovereignty is to check the North which has become so powerful. The North is so powerful and with a larger geographical area with balancing resources. So definitely, the North is too strong and can be fearful unless it is guided by democracy; that is quite alright.
Then other people also talking about restructuring, about resource control. Now, these calls for ethnic sovereignty, resource control will lead to disintegration of Nigeria and it is completely unnecessary. What is required now is to restructure Nigeria into three, or four or five, at most six regional arrangements so that each region will become big enough and viable and can stand on its own. It does not need to still depend on the centre all the time; such that every region creates as many local governments and states as they can cope with. The government at the centre should have nothing to do with the creation of states and creation of local governments. That is the responsibility of the region and they should do it according to what they can cope with. There should be no transfer of funds from the centre to the state or to the local government; the region should be the federating unit. And the allocation of resources also, I don’t know what they call it now because there are so many jargons. Now from the region of revenue, the present arrangement where the Federal Government takes so much is definitely undemocratic and it will not lead to the speedy development of the country. The centre or the Federal Government should take not more than 30 to 35 per cent. Seventy or sixty-five per cent should go to the federating units which should not be more than six.
Secondly, we should continue the presidential system because it is more viable than the parliamentary system. The presidential system was established just to give the centre sufficient authority, to unite the country and also bring about even economic development of the country. We should continue with the presidential system.
Another thing is the participation in the economy. The government and the private enterprises should participate in the economy. But we want an economic situation whereby the states play the leading role in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human being and progressive even development of the whole country. So, these are the three or four most important structures that are patriotic, that are in the interest of the country and not things like going inside ethnic identities like we had during primitive times which is not good.
Many insist that while majority of the stakeholders in the North do not support restructuring is because the present structure of Nigeria is to the advantage of the North. Do you agree?
It is the same thing with the South. The reasons they give is that for instance, we run a three tier of government whereby the North has so many local governments and they have more states which were creations of the military and in sharing the federal allocation, they get more resources than the East for instance, that has only five states.
But that isn’t the case now with the oil producing areas; the thing is, we want a return to the original arrangement, viable regional arrangement; so that our money would go to the regions, the federating units and not the local governments or states. Let every region if they want, create as many local governments as many states as they want within their region according to what they can cope with. That will get rid of this allegation of the number of states and local governments in the North.