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Balarabe

Balarabe and the presidential dilemma

Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the first executive governor of Kaduna State, was one of the few discoveries of the Second Republic.  He was elected under the banner of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the left of centre party led by one of Nigeria’s most famous politicians, Alhaji Aminu Kano of blessed memory.  The PRP was then considered the most liberal party in Nigeria. 

It espoused socialism without shame and advocated egalitarianism without apologies.  Even if it was at home in Kano, which has for generations been a hotbed of radical politics, the PRP stuck out like a sore thumb in Kaduna State, being the regional capital of Northern Nigeria, the centre of Nigeria’s conservatism, and literally the political base of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Balarabe Musa was not therefore expected to win the governorship of Kaduna State, but he did.  The ruling party took it like a slap on the face and decreed non-cooperation, especially since the PRP didn’t win a majority in the House.  The governor was in for a tough time, and he knew it.  He submitted his list of commissioners for legislative screening and confirmation.  The House went through the list and found all the nominees incompetent.  He re-submitted the list but no commissioner was confirmed.  A stalemate ensued which did not alter Balarabe Musa’s enthusiasm to serve Kaduna State.  He improvised with special advisers which was a great annoyance to the House.

The governor was under pressure to include NPN members in his list of nominees.  He resisted.  Opinions are divided, knowing his lack of a working majority; could he have bought some peace by appointing some NPN members to placate the NPN-dominated House?  He apparently did not trust the NPN members, he didn’t want to dilute or infect the PRP with what was then thought to be the NPN disease which was excessive materialism. The NPN of the 2nd Republic was viewed in a similar light as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of today.

The NPN struck in June 1981 when articles of impeachment were filed against Governor Balarabe Musa.  It ended in a short order and he was removed from office.  But he left in a blaze of glory.  His record was that of a man of utmost integrity.  He demonstrated that a politician can be trusted to be fair and just to all sections of society.  He showed that he was a most principled man, and that he was strong and that his strength of character was such that even in difficult circumstances he would maintain his sanity and his integrity.

He returned to his home, to his humble bungalow, and resumed his occupation as a farmer.  A few years ago, he was said to be having a little tug-o-war with the Kaduna State Government over pensions.  The state government had set some really generous pensions and benefits for ex-governors and the problem became that Balarabe would not pick up his own.  The benefits were said to be mouth-watering, such as would have transformed his financial situation.  Rather than jump at the payments, he was said to have invited the officials of the Ministry of Finance to ask them to stop sending the cheques because he did not leave the governor’s mansion ‘honourably,’ that he was impeached, and he did not think it was appropriate to accept his pensions.

Earlier in the week, he made the headlines by saying that “you can’t be president of Nigeria without being a thief first.”  He was exchanging views with Mr. Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, the online newspaper, who has announced that he was running for president. 

Balarabe told him that 99 per cent of Nigerian leaders were thieves and that it was hard to become president of Nigeria unless “you are a thief or supported by one.”  He said there was hardly anyone who could legitimately raise the kind of money required by presidential campaign in the country.

He said he was not saying that 100 per cent of the leadership in Nigeria is made up of thieves, “no there are exceptions, but I doubt if there are up to one per cent who are clean.  For example, how can you win in the basis of Nigerian laws…how can you be a Nigerian president without being a thief first?  Because it is through stealing that you can make it.  Both the political parties and election in Nigeria are based on money power and this money power is equal to corruption.  So this is what you have.”

It was a typical Balarabe candour.  Not many want to talk about it.  Yet everyone knows that Nigeria’s politics is money politics.  It is for the same reason that the competition is deadly and each time an election is scheduled it is like a civil war.  There is no ready solution except a change of system.  The presidential system by its very nature is extremely expensive, even for the Americans, the richest people in the world.  The system is a spoils system, corrupt, in spite of the many safeguards even in the United States.  Big campaign donors often expect something in return. 

The difference is that millions of ordinary Americans also donate money to candidates sometimes enough to neutralize the big money donors.  President Obama broke many records including the fact that he was perhaps the first truly “not rich” person who became president. 

President Bill Clinton, too, was not rich.  Indeed, Clinton became rich only after he left the job.  American political funding is totally different from that of Nigerian, and that is why most Nigerians want a return to the Westminster system which demands very little money and whose structure allows even the truly poor to emerge. 

The Westminster system has very short electioneering duration.  The presidential system demands at least a year’s campaigning.  President Buhari has already named his campaign chiefs.  To pretend that the campaign has not started is not only fallacious but false.  Governing has taken a back seat.  Balarabe knows what he is saying because to run for governor, the least estimate for a campaign sounds like N10 billion.  To run for president N100 billion. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has few mechanisms to check electoral expenses.  Those who contribute these funds consider them as investments which must be returned one way or another and invariably through underhand methods.  This is one reason the fight against corruption is Sisyphean.

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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