‘We need revolution now’
Former Governor of the Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa is reputed for his frankness. He speaks from his heart and says it the way it is. In this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, he insists that the very political weaknesses that flushed out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections would do the same to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019.
Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who is the National Chairman of People’s Redemption Party (PRP), admitted that though the PDP leadership was incompetent, Nigerians are now confronted with something worse in the APC. He said the party was not only lacking political leadership, but it also manifests traits of fascism in its general outlook. Excerpts:
It came to the open the other day that former Heads of State and Presidents had not been paid their allowances for the past 10 months. How does that sound to you?
Well, it is very unfortunate. It actually shows a strain of incompetency on the part of government of the day. However, I must add that it is not a fundamental issue because these heads of state are comfortable people. It is their right even though they are comfortable people; they should be given their right. Their salaries and allowances are their rights. If they don’t get their rights, it means something is wrong; there is incompetency somewhere.
And recently, President Buhari dispatched to the senate a proposal to borrow about $30bn Dollars. Some Nigerians, however, objected to this move on the ground that it will mortgage the fortunes of future generations. Don’t you think we need this loan, given the times we are passing through?
In the first place, the country does not need this loan…
Yes, because we have concrete evidence that one man alone has stolen more than such an amount, and that amount of money can be collected from that one man. So, in the first place, we don’t need the loan. Another reason we don’t need the loan is that we don’t know anything about the debt portfolio of Nigeria at the moment. Even if we hear something from the government, it is not verifiable. There are so many reasons this loan should not be taken and I must add that we really don’t need the foreign loan.
People say there is hunger in the land. Is there truth in that, or it’s another rhetoric to make the government look irresponsible? Are you worried that such statement could be made at all?
There’s hunger and I wouldn’t say I am worried…. because we saw the hunger coming. But all I can say is that I am most worried about the consequences of the continuation of hunger, particularly with the present cover ups…..because government talked about 18 per cent inflation, giving the impression that the rate of inflation in the country is only 18 per cent. But this is a lie; it is false, unless they are talking of the rate of inflation on a daily basis, that is what is 18 per cent. How can you talk of the rate of inflation at 18 per cent when consumer prices, and even prices of manufactures double within six months? For instance, when this government took over, a 50kg of rice, even imported was selling for N7000 to N8000 per bag. The same rice is now being sold at N20000 here in the North, and about N21,000 in the South. And you are talking about inflation at 18 per cent. Nothing can be as untrue as this claim.
Let me draw you back to the unfortunate incident in Kano that saw the killing of some members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (Shiites) by the police. How would you react to that?
When we were comparing the PDP and APC before the 2015 general elections, we said taking everything into consideration, the PDP was incompetent, but APC is fascist. And we are now seeing the evident of fascism, which we even experienced even before, but for some reasons, this was ignored. Now, we are seeing it. It is now starting with the Shiites, and nobody knows who will be next. This is fascism.
You said we have experienced it before, what do you mean?
We had experienced problem with a religious group, for instance, during our time, we experienced problem with Maitaisine, which started in Kano and later spread to other states in the North including Kaduna, when I was the governor of Kaduna State. We were able to expose President Shehu Shagari government for its conspiracy, which made the Maitaisine more destructive. That accusation against the Federal Government made it sit up in dealing with Maitaisine decisively.
And just recently, Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, described Niger Delta militants as criminals and vowed that the elders in the region would fight them. Some have said that this is how elders in sections of the country with youth restiveness are supposed to react to such sustained belligerency. Do you share this view?
I commend him for the statement because he is beginning to face the reality. He supported Jonathan despite the former President’s incompetence, but now he has seen that the militants are doing worse against the country, and he came out to voice his opinion against it. So, I commend him for being realistic. He is now 85 years, and even though he supported the militants during Jonathan, he is now saying that they have over-stepped their bounds. And so, he is condemning them. He is taking into account the fact that it was reported that the militants and the government discussed 16 demands, and he knows that if these are legitimate demands of the militants, there is no reason for what they are doing now because the 16 demands, none was about the disintegration of Nigeria which the activities of the militants will lead to. So, I commend him for being realistic, and being honest, even though it is coming at a late hour.
Do you recommend the same recourse to elders of other sections that have violent groups?
There are elders in the South-East who are criticising the Biafra agitators openly. Although the agitators have genuine grievances, the method they are using to drive home their agitation is wrong. So I commend some of the elders in the area for openly criticising the agitators over the move to cause chaos and anarchy, thinking that they can achieve the agitation in that manner. Let them use peaceful means to push for whatever they are agitating.
Some say so far, President Buhari’s corruption fight has been reduced to a fight against the administration of President Jonathan; it has been quite selective. You agree?
First of all, it is expected of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption, because he promised to fight corruption and eradicate corruption in Nigeria. He knows very well that concentrating the probe on former President Jonathan’s administration alone will not lead to effective fight against corruption and the elimination of corruption. If he continues with this limited objective, he will end up being grouped with the corrupt leaders.
The right thing to do is to probe the administrations from 1966 when this level of corruption and criminal wasteful of resources started. It started with the 1966 coup when the military took over power. It is the military that brought about this level of corruption.
For President Buhari to say that he will only probe the immediate past civilian administration is disappointing; it is definitely not consistent with the level of integrity associated with him. In fact, this attitude should serve as a warning to Nigerians of a possible return of the 1980s episode of double standards, sacred cows, vindictiveness and even fascism, where civilian governors were clamped into jail for alleged corruption.
We know that all the Presidents in Nigeria, from the beginning of the Second Republic up till date, have been alleged to have been involved in corruption, and in some places and at some time. It is quite obvious because they are found to be some of the richest Africans. So, I don’t see any honest reason for excluding any administration from 1966 to date. No credible explanation from excluding them, except if the sitting President is afraid of something.
The President is from your own part of the country and some would ask: Why are you hitting him this hard?
Well, I am not hitting hard. I am telling the truth. Secondly, where do I come from? I come from a political party which is committed to social reconstruction of Nigeria, starting with the leading role of stake in the economy to ensuring peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and the development of Nigeria. I came from the Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU)/ Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) ideological group. And our concern is the human person, not an individual; our concern is the dignity of human person, and not superficial differences of religion, ethnicity or geographical area. And that is why we have not spared any President in Nigeria since 1950s when the party was first established irrespective of regional, religion, and ethnicity and so on. We judge a person by his integrity, objective and not where he comes from.
At the moment, the President of Nigeria is expected to correct the wrongs in the country, which led to this high level of corruption, stealing and criminal wasting of resources, which also led to the negative state of the nation in virtually all respect. We will not spare anybody who does not contribute to the solution to the problem, particularly someone who is not honest with the people.
That being the case, can you score Buhari using those criteria?
It is not me to score him. His closest friends have scored him low; those he is working with have scored him low as far as the state of the nation is concerned. But for me, I dare say that the state of the Nigerian nation is even worse than it had been because of incompetencyeof government. Even during the civil war, government showed more competence than now.
Sir, how do you mean it has never been this worst even during the Biafra war?
I mean incompetence on the part of government now, and government inability to tackle and solve the problem of poverty and insecurity in the country.
You just said that closest friends of Buhari scored him low in terms of performance, can you mention their names?
He knows them, we also know them, but we don’t want to be personal, Nigerians know them. The only person I can mention here, because he is a fair game, is former President Olusegun Obasanjo because few months ago, he was in the forefront praising Buhari, but today, the same Obasanjo is attacking, and even condemning Buhari. He is one of his friends, and I mentioned him because he is a fair game.
About this time last year, President Buhari appointed his ministers amid great expectations. One year after, the question is, have they met these expectations, or some of it? In other words, what is your assessment of their performance so far?
The question is not about the ministers; it is about the Presidency itself, because the Presidency appointed the ministers, and so the failures of the ministers reflect the failure of the Presidency.
You mean the Presidency is failing?
Well, many of the problems in the country are being addressed and being solved.
Quickly sir, former President Jonathan visited Sokoto recently where the youth sought his return to power. Does this make sense to you?
(laughter) Well, APC leaders themselves foresaw this. Few months after the President was sworn in, they said what drove away the PDP can as well drive away APC, with even more consequences. So this is what we are being reminded about (by the action of the youth).
After sections of Plateau State, the issue of herdsmen and famers seems to have shifted to Kaduna State, specifically, Southern Kaduna. What is your reading of this and what can we do stem it?
It shows incompetence and failure on the part of the government. All these criminal activities from terrorism to insurgency, armed robbery, kidnapping and mindless criminal violence, they show completely, without any doubt, incompetency on the part of government. Nigerians should be protected by the government. We should remember that under the 1999 Constitution (As amended), the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Chief Security Officer of the country. Somebody who is virtually in charge of the whole system cannot protect the citizenry? This is a reflection of failure. Did we have this type of situation before? Yes! What is happening now is the result of the contribution of Jonathan’s misadministration and the ones before it. And under the present charge, what we are seeing, instead of correction, we are experiencing a greater maladministration.
Having laid blames, how do we deal with these crises?
We can get out f this situation by continuing to oppose the incompetence of the federal government, and state government affected, and probably, even criminal conspiracy to commit crime. So unless we expose the conspiracy of government to the general public, the herdsmen will continue to perpetuate these criminal activities. It is not something that is so difficult for government to solve. These herdsmen are known in the locality in which they live. Sometimes they don’t even hide their activities; we know where their towns are. Why can’t the federal and state governments deal with them effectively and decisively. The Federal Government can deal with them because it is in control of the Army and the Police. And the Federal Government is aware of their activities, why can’t it deal with them decisively? The Federal Government is even negotiating with the herdsmen. Now how do you negotiate with criminals; they are clear criminals, there is no doubt about it. We are not talking of agitators who are making case against government neglect, which is a moral issue.
Should Federal Government negotiate with cattle rustlers who are criminals?
This is despicable; it is mindless on the part of this government. It is incompetent.
Following from that, almost the North is boiling on many fronts – Boko Haram, Shiites clashes, Fulani herdsmen versus farmers to Hausa/Fulani versus minority Christians. Why have these become rampant in the recent time? And what is the way out?
Whoever wants to destabilise Nigeria has to start from the North because there are so many advantages in the North. This is what we are seeing, and believe me, there is nothing we can do to solve the problem of Nigeria other than to fundamentally change the social, economic and political system and the leadership produced by the system. This is because both of them are based on self-interest first; public interest, second. Before 1966, before the Army emerged in the administration of affairs of Nigeria, did we have this type of thing? No. This is because at that time, the system was relatively based on public interest first and self-interest second. We didn’t have what I will call “survival of the fittest”. And if we really want to change the negative state of things now, we have to change the system and the leadership that comes from it.
How do we change the system and the leadership that comes from it, as you put it?
I know Nigeria’s situation, it is impossible to have free, fair, credible and transparent election leading to democratic mandate. We need a revolution, we need peaceful democratic revolution or otherwise to bring about the condition that will bring about free, fair, credible and trans¬parent election that will lead to legitimate leadership. Let us be objective, elections to¬day are decided by three factors. First, money power; second, incumbency and now we are facing the third one: balance of terror. That was how elections were decided recently in some states. The ruling party can do and undo with the people’s votes. So, revolu¬tion is the answer, whether peaceful or otherwise.
There are various types of revolution, I can tell you. First, there is moral revolution, where Nigerians decide to have free, fair and trans¬parent election and protect their votes. But is it possible in Nigeria? Can you use moral persua¬sion to change things in Nigeria? The second one is constitutional; let the National Assem¬bly enact laws that can lead to this. But can the National Assembly do it?
The real one is social revolution. People in Nigeria should stand to protect their rights in a revolution. It has happened in other coun¬tries and Nigeria is not unique. What is unique in Nigeria that we will say what happened in other countries cannot happen here?
Now people are saying that because of the money power of these political parties, we cannot have free and fair elections. We say no, people can change their positions.
State of the nation is all about nega¬tivity. However, one thing that is impor¬tant today is that we still have one Ni¬geria despite negative things happening to it and the citizens. Many things are wrong in our political system, and it is not possible to change the government even in a free and fair election because of moneybags who use whatever they can to be declared winners in the elections.