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Balarabe Musa, a former governor of Kaduna State, says that Nigeria’s major problem is the North and South-West

Balarabe Musa, governor of Kaduna State in the Second Republic.

An interview with a former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, with Ayodele Adesanmi, as seen on Tribune Newspaper.

Mr. Musa was the governor of Kaduna State in the Second Republic.

According to him, Nigeria’s major problem is the conspiracy between the North and the South-West region.

Read the full interview below (as seen on Nigerian Tribune Newspaper);

LOOKING at the Nigerian system of today, it appears that the system is not working right now. Why did it work in the past?

Those days, it was public interest first. Public interest is the primary condition for any all-round development in any society. It was public interest first because public interest is superior to self-interest. Public interest means collective security and welfare. Self-interest means survival of the fittest. But there is no nation which exists on survival of the fittest. That is what we have in Nigeria today: survival of the fittest through the so-called privatisation, commercialisation and deregulation of life in the country.

Looking at the Nigerian which has evolved over the years, would you agree that the nation needed to be redesigned or reworked as it is?

Yes, it can help. People are talking about restructuring. Yes, restructuring is very important. I am in support of restructuring. Once we can determine what restructuring is and what restructuring we want. At the moment, everybody is just pushing his own idea of restructuring; some of the ideas are advanced while some are backward. Return to ethnic nationality is backward. Return to a system whereby the human being matters more than anything is advanced. Now, what we are talking about restructuring in Nigeria; some are talking about the most backward form of restructuring, that is ethnic nationalities, while others are talking about the most fundamental and most advanced structure, for instance the leading role of the state in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and even development of the whole country.

For instance, restructuring as far as I’m concerned is made up of three or five components. The first is, are Nigerians reconciling among themselves to accept that they are one nation, to accept that let us have a system in which every Nigerian has the capacity to participate in the affairs of his country? Let us have a country where we can have unity and so on. To bring this about, you have to reconcile. We have to sit down at a constitutional conference to agree amongst ourselves how we can treat each other and live in peace. This reconciliation needs to be promoted by the government in power. But we don’t have the government in power that can do this.

Are you saying the present government can’t reconcile the people?

No they can’t do it. It is part and parcel of this political conspiracy. For instance, let me tell you unprintable truth about what I think about this government and the party that brought about the government. I think the APC government and the presidency are the product of political conspiracy between the Northern section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and South-Western section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie.  The government and the party were brought about by this conspiracy between this two power blocs: these two sections of the Nigerian bourgeoisie. In terms of power, they are sidelining their counterparts in the Eastern section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and the South-South section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie. I will give you an example; we are now talking of marginalisation.

No government in Nigeria can marginalise the South-Western bourgeoisie or the Northern bourgeoisie for more than a few months, but you can side-line the South-Eastern section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie or the South-South section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and get away with, maybe for months or even years. So, you can see the conspiracy that brought about this power situation we have: conspiracy between the Northern section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and South-Western section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie. 

These two sections of the country are more powerful than their counterparts in the South-East and South-South. I give you an example, a careless government from anywhere in Nigeria and you know you can have a careless government, a mindless government no matter where it comes from, you can have it if it is made up of this conspiracy between these two. It can marginalise everyone and everything and get away with it for years.  I’m not saying forever, for years and get away with it. But can you imagine any Nigerian government that marginalises the South-Western bourgeoisie or the Northern bourgeoisie and get away with it for more than a few months? It’s not possible because of the power structure.

Let us correct this structure by returning to the regional arrangement as we had under the 1963 constitution and create three more regions or even four regions with the Mid-West later. Let us have six regions, each of which can be viable. For instance, it became impossible when we had the three regions or even four with the Mid-West to marginalise anyone of them because each one of them was strong enough to stand on its own. The worst thing you could do is what another conspiracy between the regions did and that was to conspire to create the Mid-West, because that was conspiracy.

Tell us how the conspiracy played out?

In the first place, the Mid-West was created against the wish of the South-West and the wish of the South-East, but particularly the South-West. 

You said the incumbent government in terms of power structure was a conspiracy between two sections…

Conspiracy between the South-West section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie and the Northern section of the Nigerian bourgeoisie. If you read, you will see what it is. You will see the truth.

But we can say you were part of the conspiracy because you openly showed your displeasure with the Jonathan government. Didn’t you support the coming of this APC government? 

The PRC supported the PDP for the presidency in 2015. We preferred to support the PDP in spite of its incompetence, rather than support the APC which was clearly fascist. 

How do you mean?

But we saw, first of all, the composition of the political leadership that created the APC. We also saw the bringing back of a former military dictatorship with fascist tendency to the presidency and we said it clearly. 

People have always laid the problems of Nigeria at the doorsteps of leadership. Looking at the leaders so far, which of them can you say is a true leader who governed with the purpose of delivering the goods?

Relatively, I will say Tafawa Balewa. Though he controlled a class system, he was a decent person, a credible leader. No matter where he found himself, he was a credible leader. If not because of the credibility of Tafawa Balewa, the excesses of the leaders, particularly from the North and from the South-West would have destroyed the country by that time. But because of his dignity, his sense of responsibility, the semi-feudal North and the secessionist South-West; the South-West was secessionist right from the beginning.

The next one is Yakubu Gowon. Gowon did very well. He had two particular achievements in the first place. He was able to fight a civil war without too much rancour and without submitting to imperialists. He succeeded without fighting the war with foreign debt. Secondly, he was able to obtain a credible surrender from the Biafrans and immediately instituted a policy of reconciliation, reconstruction and the others. That was his two particular achievements. He fought a civil war without depending on foreign imperialism and in particular without incurring foreign debt. Secondly, he brought about a system of reconciliation of Nigeria after the civil war. His policy of reconciliation, if that policy had been continued, we would not have the situation we now have today.

The third was Murtala’s regime. Murtala did exactly what Gowon did but with but with more radicalism and that was why the ruling class would not allow him more than six months which he got. After these three leaders, I wouldn’t say we had any leader we could say or we are proud of. 

What about Obasanjo who ruled as both military and civilian head of government?

Obasanjo was a rascal. In terms of political leadership, he was a rascal. I wish he were a leftist. If he had been a leftist, he would have done wonderful because of his rascality. You remember all these power blocs? He told them off as military head of state. He told them off. 

What of Shagari?

He himself admitted that he didn’t see himself being anything more than a local government chairman. When they wanted him to be president of Nigeria, this is what he said. He didn’t see himself as being anything more than a local government chairman. For example, he had the opportunity by 1979 of reconstructing Nigeria, because every section of Nigeria wanted unity. Every section of Nigeria wanted unity and advancement. They didn’t want a return to divisions, and so on, of the past encouraged by the military.

They wanted a return, so that we can have national unity and so on. But because he was not capable of doing that, he allowed the situation to be what it was. For example, the starting point was that in spite of the tremendous support he had constitutionally and morally, he allowed the legislature to do what they wanted. For example, all the governors of Nigeria gave him support not to allow the legislature, the National Assembly, to fix their own remuneration because it was immoral, unconstitutional and the economy could not cope.

They gave him one hundred per cent support. But he let them down by secretly giving the legislature through the Senate President—Joseph Wayas—what they were asking for. The governors sat in the National Economic Council under the chairmanship of the Vice-President to negotiate a reasonable remuneration for all public officers. They found that Shagari had already given the Senate what they wanted.

When we were at the National Economic Council Meeting under the Vice-President, [Dr. Alex] Ekwueme discussing and recommending to the president a reasonable remuneration for all public officers, including the legislature and so on, we went to his house after we had taken the final decision supporting the president for not allowing the legislature to take their own remuneration. We were having these standing meetings. All the political parties were there.

The process involved all the political parties and all the political parties supported the president not to allow the legislature that power. When we were meeting, Jakande was sitting next to me and then I saw something happen. Wayas came into the meeting and Wayas was smiling and he was joking, something like that. So, I asked Jakande why Wayas did that. He was Senate President and he was treating the meeting with these jokes and so on. Then Jakande laughed and said ‘Abdulkadir—that was the name he called me—what is happening is that we are wasting our time. I think Shagari has agreed to everything that the Senate had asked for and, in fact, Wayas is here only to collect the cheque.’ And that’s how it was. From that time, the floodgate of impunity, corruption and stealing was opened and that is what we are suffering from, up till today. 

Was that one of the things that led to the military coup against the government of Shagari?

Well, so many things. Incompetence. Yes. He was not able to lead. He himself said he was not capable, but the system, the class forced him to take that position. Ordinarily, he is a nice gentleman. But he was occupying that position under the control of the forces in the system, in particular the semi-feudal conservative North. 

Let’s go back to what you said you said that the western region was secessionist…

Yes, it was secessionist. The Western region had always demanded for Oduduwa State. But Awolowo was a little patient. Awolowo never campaigned on the basis of Yorubanism. But you know he was a product of the Yoruba nationality. But he never extolled war even though he wanted Oduduwa State. He didn’t want it in a way that will scare other regions. He had moral restraint and political foresight, unlike leaders today. In the case of the North, they have always regarded Nigeria as a kind of forced relationship by the colonial powers.

The Northern bourgeoisie, which was more feudal and conservative, didn’t regard, in spite of their lower education – they didn’t consider the rest of the South, even the Yorubas with whom they have connections—they still regarded themselves as superior and they will be better with a government of their own, rather than a Nigerian government and they demonstrated it in many ways. The enlightened ones among the Northern leaders didn’t like it—Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka and so on, but they were forced to be opposition. They didn’t like this superiority complex and they didn’t like disintegration or secession.

They wanted Nigeria to stay, simply because, first it is a larger political unit, a larger economy. Secondly, in the case of the North, which had a lot diversity, with the south, this diversity would not lead to explosion because they would have to be a sense of compromise. If the North remained as the North, being immature before others, they would insist on a Muslim State, which Tarka, even though a Christian and Aminu Kano even though a Muslim, didn’t like the idea, because there must be accommodation of everybody for Nigeria to be in peace and prosper and so on. But the vast majority of the North, outside the like of Tarka, Aminu Kano, Waziri Ibrahim and their like, the vast majority made up in those days of emirs and chiefs felt that a Nigerian unity was inconvenient.

They were thinking just like their counterparts in the West. So, secessionist tendency has been there in the South-West among the Yoruba and in the North among the Hausa/Fulani Muslims, Hausa Fulani, Kanuris and Nupe, because they are the product of the Jihad of Shehu Danfodio. 

When you say the West and the North were secessionists, what are you going to say of this IPOB?

First of all, let me conclude. The East always called for Nigerian unity. The Igbo man has always wanted a united Nigeria and you know they first supported a political party with Nigerian interest first. The Igbos were the first to support the NCNC, even though the NCNC as a political party was created by Herbert Macaulay. But because of its national unity structure, the Igbo who are republicans embraced it and it became eventually stronger even among the Igbos. Later, the party became so strong that the reactionary Yoruba bourgeoisie destroyed it. Remember what happened there was a time the NCNC was the strongest political party in the South-West among the Yoruba. When the Action Group came through Awolowo, they systematically planned to destroy NCNC and that was even the root cause of the problem in the South.

The East has always stood for one nation and they have said a number of things which makes one, if one is to be fair, trust them on matters of national unity, more than the North and the South-West, because the Igbos have been clear in their honesty about the unity of Nigeria, more than the North or the South-West. The Igbo man has expanded all over the whole of Nigeria and has invested so much through his enterprise over the whole of Nigeria. Recently, in the case of the North when the ultimatum was issued, the Igbo said they would not leave the North because they had investments worth N45 trillion in the North, which they could not abandon. Do the Hausa/Fulani, the northerners in power the courage and the honesty to say what they have in Nigeria? Do the Yoruba have the honesty to say what they have in Nigeria? The Igbo have the honesty to say we have N45 trillion in this North and that they would not sacrifice it.

Secondly, the Igbo have come out quite clearly and said their territory was not enough for their expansion; that they needed a bigger territory like Nigeria. Have the Northerners the honesty to say this? Have the Yoruba the honesty to say this? The Igbo came out and said it honestly. For instance, look at what is happening with IPOB, all these militancy groups in the East. Have the Northerners been honest enough to say this about their own groups or have the Yoruba been honest enough to say all these about their own groups? All the South-East governors came out against IPOB or whatever it is. They came out openly and talked against all these secessionist groups in the East. Have the North been that honest? Have the Yoruba been that honest?

For instance, when the OPC came, how many respectable Yoruba came out against it? They came out against it only when they were killing Yorubas. But when they were killing other Nigerians, did they come out and talk about OPC? They didn’t. So, in terms of national unity, the Igbo or the Easterners are more reliable than others, particularly the North and the South-West. 

But the North has not supported the Igbo to produce the president in spite of all you have said?

It’s because of the conspiracy between the Northern ruling class and the South-Western ruling class because by number, by resources, they are more powerful than the East and they always prevent it. For example, let me tell you and I’m being frank with you; publish it. The first tragedy that can strike a feudal Northerner is to have an Igbo president. And in the case of the Yoruba, it’s more than a tragedy to have Igbo president. 

Let us look at IPOB, the way they are agitating, are they not looking for another war?

Well, I don’t even think they know the consequences of what they are doing. It’s just like the Igbo people, who because there was competition between them and the rest of the country in which they were losing out publicly, took a kind of rash decision, a kind of adventure that caused the 1966 coup. If they had thought very well, they wouldn’t have done so. But they did it. Now they have created people like IPOB who are adventurous and as I told you, you can talk to a Northerner about something. You can talk to a Westerner and he will listen to you because he has this inhibition.

The Igbo man has no inhibition. For instance, anybody, once he acquires some wealth in the East, he is something. Even education is secondary. But in the North and the West, you won’t have wealth if you don’t belong to the tradition. If you don’t belong to Islam, you don’t belong to Christianity, you are nothing. Go to any palace and you will find the same thing. So, we in the North and the West have inhibition, which stops us from doing even the right thing and at the same time, from doing the wrong thing. But in the case of the Igbo, he is a free agent. He does what he thinks, whether rational or irrational.

So, that 1966 coup was not just a fight at all?

No, it was not just a fight. It was an adventure by the Igbo man who felt that he had arrived, why be restrained by the inhibition of the Northerner and the Westerner? What is good for Nigeria, let’s have it. Change leadership at any price. Now, the Northerner and the Westerner have inhibition. He will not go to this rashly. For instance, if he is a Northerner, he goes to the mosque or to the Imam or Emir or somewhere. If he is a Westerner, the same thing; he will go to something, the Oba or somewhere. The Igbo will not. That’s how they did it with the 1966 adventure. This IPOB knows the reality that they are the products of that youthful adventure. You can see almost every other Igbo group has rejected them. But it’s still there.

If you look at that coup and the civil war, do you think they were avoidable then?

The civil war was avoidable. The Igbos planned it. They made a mistake. They were betrayed, in fact, by the South-West because the South-West intellectual bourgeoisie at that time was part and parcel of the conspiracy to get rid of the feudalism, the domination of the North. The Yoruba were part and parcel of that conspiracy. But the Igbo, either because they realised it is too late or simply because that is the nature of people in politics, still went ahead. Remember what happened, when the killing recently came, did the Igbo take part? Now this time with IPOB, it is the same adventure. They also rely on the conspiracy of the South-West. For instance, in the Northern part, the Igbo are disowning IPOB with vigour. But is the South-West doing the same thing with the same vigour? They are calculating what they will gain from the quarrel between the North and the East.

Let us look at our political structure since independence. Why have we not gotten it right?

The system, the structure, economic and political system controlling all development in the country and the political leadership inevitably produced by the system are based on self-interest first, public interest second. Nigeria from the beginning till today was based on the basis of self-interest first and public interest second. So, how can it succeed?

At what point did we miss it? Was it that coup?

Nigeria inherited the system from western countries. We got it wrong when we became independent. We didn’t look at this method seriously and come out with something that can unite the country and develop the country. Some people were concerned about this, they saw it, but because money power had taken over even at that time. For instance, Awolowo, even though he was a Yoruba champion, had campaigned against disunity. He campaigned for equal right and he demonstrated it by bringing the Yoruba up to standard. Without the Yoruba having Awolowo, would they have reached the position they have reached now in terms of education and development? Awolowo, right from the beginning, brought about free education. In those days, he was competing with the East, because until the 1966 coup, the East was leading in educational development. The Igbos, were leading everywhere. When Awolowo came, he began free and quality education to bring Yoruba, to the level, which he succeeded.

This issue of restructuring, why are the Northerners, apart from only a handful, against it?

Atiku said something which I agree with. He said Northerners, and in this instance, he is talking about the elite in the North, are against restructuring because they are lazy. I agree with Atiku. Let me tell you, we are now talking about North and South.  We are now talking about the three Northern zones and the three Southern zones. We are now talking about them, North and South, isn’t it? Now, if you take the North and the South separately, who has more God’s favour in everything than the other? When you take every other thing that matters into consideration, God has favoured the North with more than he has favoured others. Take for example, the North has been cooperating for virtually 1,000 years.

Take any tribe like the Jukun; they have related with the North for about 1,000 years or more. In the case of the South, is there any society that has related with the South for more than 200 to 300 years? Oyo Empire has done the same but on a very small scale. In the case of the East, there was nothing like that except the Onitsha people. In the case of the South, they have related with one another, known one another only when the British came, that is 100 years ago. In the case of the North, for 1,000 years, they have lived together. Now, who has the favour of God to know how to live with one another than they? Are the Northerners demonstrating this ideal of living with one another peacefully?  The North has been together for over 1,000 years.

The South has not had that benefit. The South had very small communities, not even up to a ward, until today. The ones that went beyond that was the Oyo Empire and the Oyo Empire was riddled all the time with wars. What about the East? Nothing like that, because they have always been Republican right from time. So, who has God’s favour how to live with others better than Northerners? Are they demonstrating this whatsoever? Let us take size or territory. The North is three quarters of Nigeria in terms of territory. The South is only one quarter. Is that not a favour? In those three quarters, they are bestowed with God’s favour with agriculture and other natural resources.

Three quarters of the natural resources are in the North. Are they developing them? No. But they have this advantage of territory. When you take into account the economic resources of Nigeria, even with oil, it’s in the North. Three quarters of it is in the North. Is that not a favour? Now, when you have people who have been this favoured by God and they become the problem of the society, who do you blame? You blame them. If you want answers, first blame the Northerner for having not benefited from this God’s favour. You have larger territory, you have long history of coexistence, you have more economic resources.

When you come to political power, the North has been in control of political power itself. Who can win the presidency without the North? You Yoruba never wanted [Olusegun] Obasanjo to be president, but the North wanted him and he won. The North has this power. So, if things go wrong in Nigeria, who do you blame first other than the one that has all these favours of God? You blame the North first and the others.

So, what Atiku said was true. The Northern ruling class doesn’t want this to be outside. He doesn’t want to lose this favour by doing something concrete. He wants to retain the favour just for that without fighting for it. So, the solution is don’t talk about the North or South.  Don’t talk about the Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo. Talk about the dignity of the human being. Build systems based on the dignity of the human being and you will succeed and that is what is possible only through a constitutional revolution or a social revolution. Let us Nigerians take the one we want.


Last week made it the 57th celebration of independence of the country and some people argue that independence has not really given Nigeria what it is looking for. Do we still continue to celebrate independence?

We have nothing worth celebrating. This independence was the result of the work of the colonial masters. Why don’t we create something as a result of our own indigenous work? We attempted it but destroyed it. For instance, the election of Abiola was the most significant step freely taken by Nigerians to subordinate all other irrelevant considerations, and go for the best consideration. Let people be empowered to elect who they want and that was what was done June 12. But we bastardised it by annulling it, annulment by a military dictator and allowing him to get away with it. Up till now he is still alive and is still claiming to be relevant, but we can’t force him to tell us what was behind this annulment.

Any hope for Nigeria?

There is no hope. As I said, if you talking about political power, no hope. There is no political power that can perform.

What of at the economic front?

The same thing. Nothing will change from PDP which was bad to APC which is worse. For instance, the fascism of APC is not so arrogant. We may one day end up with an arrogant APC or arrogant party which will even be more fascist than we suspect it can be. Now why is this? Because the basis for deciding how to get the right type of person has been destroyed by the role of money power. Money power plays leading role in politics and election in Nigeria. You cannot have a President in Nigeria as it is today or even a Local Government Councillor who is not a thief or is being supported by thieves. For instance, you are above 40, how can you be President of Nigeria in spite of your knowledge without money? And this money that you can easily come about is money that is got through either stealing or made available by a thief who is hoping to recoup. So, as long as you cannot have a clean system producing a clean leadership, how can you get away from the problem? You can’t?

What message do you have for Nigeria at 57?

With the system as it is, which is controlling all development and the type of leadership we have, if it continues and presently there is no evidence that it will not continue, we will have the same thing as we have been having in 2019. Then there is no possibility, of a fundamental change. There is nothing to show hope in the next presidency because we will continue to have a situation where money power is the deciding factor in politics and election. Unlike during the Second Republic and sometime even after the Second Republic, when we were to have an election, we could say out of the candidates aspiring to be president of Nigeria, this candidate is better than that.

We are now in 2017. Can we say that? For instance, the person who is now the president, with whom we are not satisfied with, we don’t think he is performing. He is not correcting anything that went wrong. But from all honesty, can we say those who are now waiting to take over from him in 2019 are better, anyone of them? You know those that are being speculated. As bad as he may be now, there is nobody that you can say categorically that is better than him. So, Nigeria is in trouble.

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