First published in New Telegraph in May 2017 where the author was a senior editorial executive, this article espouses an even more authentic Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa who died November 11th, 2020 that it is, arguably, the deepest insight on the man
By Ibraheem Musa
Perhaps, no past or serving governor has been as consistent, principled and focused to a cause as Alhaji AbdulKadir Balarabe Musa, the ex governor of old Kaduna State. In fact, the left wing politician and social crusader, for over 38 years, has been canvassing for a new social order in Nigeria. In 1979, he was impeachment from office but undaunted, he soldiered on with his crusade. The removal, rather than diminish him, burnished Balarabe’s image of incorruptibility. Consequently, when the military struck in 1983, Balarabe was given a clean bill of political health while his traducers were sent to jail.
In 1990, he joined the Social Democratic Party, (SDP), a political party formed and funded by the Babangida administration. The party, by political inclination, was ‘’a little to the left’’ and like a magnet, that phrase attracted Balarabe to SDP. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Mikail Gorbachev, the 8th and final president, resigned from office as he created the Commonwealth of Independent States. Regardless, Balarabe still stuck with socialism and till date, the octogenarian hasn’t renounced the ideology. Right now, politics has become cash and carry but Balarabe still plays politics of principles and conviction.
Significantly, over the years, Alhaji Balarabe Musa has transformed from a politician to a statesman whose obsession is nation building and not winning elections. Severally, he has intervened to resolve national crises, irrespective of partisan or ideological differences. In 1993, he opposed the annulment of June 12 presidential election on principle. The election, according to reports, was won by Chief M.K.O Abiola, a southerner and a millionaire businessman. However, Balarabe rose above class differences and denounced the injustice done to Abiola. Balarabe, Chief Emeka Ojukwu and retired General Muhammadu Buhari, ideological strange bedfellows, protested against the flawed 2003 election results in Abuja. Largely, the mass action was successful and the arrowheads went their separate ways afterwards.
In 2012, nine years later, he joined forces with labour leaders and political activists, including retired Col Hameed Ali, the current Customs boss, Comrade Shehu Sani, now a serving senator and Barrister Festus Okoye, a human rights lawyer. At that time, the Jonathan administration jerked up fuel prices and all over Nigeria, people came out to protest the hike. In Kaduna, Balarabe and the aforementioned, were in the trenches with the masses, ‘’fighting the anti people policy,’’ as he put it. Severally, he has been at the barricades, protesting, agitating and denouncing the establishment over unpopular programmes and policies.
Ironically, Balarabe Musa is a product of the establishment that he rails against. In fact, he is a blue blooded aristocrat, having been born to the District Head of Kaya, a Village in Giwa Local Government, in 1938. At birth, he had all the perks, privileges and affluence of the local bourgeoisie but he sided with the masses. Similarly, Balarabe has never been an ‘’aluta’’ chanting, goatee bearded and angry unionist. By 1953, when he finished secondary school, he was among the first set of northern educated elite, with all the attendant privileges. That year, he joined the Northern Civil Service as an Accounts Clerk. Thereafter, he was sent to England, along with Alhaji Aliko Mohammed and others, to study by the regional government. Subsequently, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant and with that qualification, he moved to the top echelon of the Civil Service. Balarabe, at various times, was a lecturer at the Institute of Administration Zaria, the precursor of Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU). Similarly, he was Company Secretary and Chief Accountant of Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria, (BCNN), as Radio Nigeria Kaduna was then referred to. In 1979, he retired from service and joined politics, culminating to his election as governor of Kaduna state. Subsequently, he was impeached by the House of Assembly, according to reports, due to irreconcilable differences with the NPN-dominated legislature.
In spite of his pedigree, political antecedents and his accomplished public service, Alhaji Balarabe Musa has gained nothing in any material sense. Specifically, a three bedroom bungalow, a monthly pension of N741,000, a 1,200 acre farm and an old jalopy are his only possession. At 80, the old man still drives himself without a police orderly. Above all, no government monument, public building or even street has been made after Balarabe Musa in Kaduna state. In an interview with New Telegraph, he explained how he acquired the bungalow and three mud houses, one in Funtua, a town in Katsina state, and two others at Hayin Banki and Badarawa, all slums within Kaduna metropolis.
Actually, the bungalow was built by Northern Nigerian Development Company(NNDC), as part of its ‘’Home Ownership Scheme’’, Balarabe told our correspondent. Basically, the Scheme aimed to help Civil Servants own houses and 11 of them were built along Aliyu Turaki Road. Elsewhere, NNDC have built similar houses in other major towns in the north and were selling them in 1972. At that time, a three-bedroom bungalow cost N20,000 but prospective buyers, according to Balarabe, were expected to make an initial deposit of N1,500. Balarabe wanted one of the bungalows but couldn’t afford the deposit, even as Company Secretary of BCNN. At that time, the top management of NNDC were his friends. ‘’So, they arranged to rent the house to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) for two years,’’ Alhaji Balarabe recalled, that the cost was N2,400, that is N1,200 per annum”. Out of that amount, he paid the deposit but instead of pocketing the balance, Balarabe gave the N900 to the Tax Authorities. That action, according to him, brought down his monthly Code Number, ‘’so that the deductions will be within the limit that could allow me to have enough to sustain my family monthly.’’ Similarly, he bought the Funtua mud house for his mother, the Hayin Banki and Badarawa ones to accommodate his relatives and house helps. The bungalow and three mud houses, according to the former governor, were the assets that he declared when he assumed office in 1979 and they are still the properties that he owns about forty years later.
Significantly, the bungalow is a modest accommodation and in these times, even a Councilor can boast of a better abode. Clean and Spartan, the building is weather beaten as the paint has faded and a few disused vehicles strewn the compound. In particular, the sitting room is not befitting of a man of Balarabe’s status. The rug is threadbare, the settees are old and dilapidated and the single ceiling fan is creaking. Similarly, old pictures of Malam Aminu Kano, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and former comrades-at-arms dot the walls, so are photographs of his student days and his official portrait as governor. Generally, the house is of an old design, with furniture and fittings fit for the museum. In contrast, Balarabe’s successors live in opulence.
Specifically, Alhaji Abba Musa Rimi, the man who took over from him, lives along Ohinoyi Road, a high brow neighborhood in Unguwar Rimi GRA. In addition, Alhaji Dabo Mohammed Lere, the second civilian governor, lived at West Jabi road, opposite President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal office in Kaduna. Similarly, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi’s palatial mansion is located along that road, adjacent Buhari’s office. In addition, his other house is at Sambo Close, a quiet haven near DITV/Radio station. Similarly, his country home at Makarfi, by local standard, is an eye-popping edifice on the town’s outskirts. Likewise, Architect Mohmmed Namadi Sambo, Makarfi’s successor and former Vice president, is tucked away at Camp Road, an elitist enclave around where Col Abubakar Umar, (rtd), another former governor of Kaduna state, retired General Buba Marwa, ex governor of Lagos state and several political big wigs and business moguls live. However, the family of late Patrick Yakowa, Sambo’s successor, lives in a modest bungalow at Imam Close, Unguwar Rimi GRA, about 1000 metres from the former Vice president. Similarly, Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero, lives around that neighborhood, especially at Lamido Crescent, close to President Buhari’s personal residence.
Significantly, all these former governors have monuments or edifices named after them but Balarabe Musa has none. In fact, there is no major road that is named after the most popular governor Kaduna ever had, in the entire state. However, his fellow governor in the second republic, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, named a street after him at Ikoyi Lagos. Clearly, this is a classical case of a prophet not being honored at home. But Balarabe is none the least disturbed. According to him, ‘’when you are involved in politics of principles, things like this happen.’’