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Balarabe Musa: An ex-governor’s unbelievable Spartan life

•Lives happily in his 3-bedroom home built in the early 70s
•Owns 3 tractors, one car
•Has no security guard or personal aide
•Gate remains open morning till midnight
•Three graduate children unemployed

‘I’ve achieved my life ambition which was to have a family, own a tractor, a house and pay my hospital bills’

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor

There is a house on 25 Aliyu Turaki Road in Kaduna metropolis that is very popular and unmistakable. This simple weather-beaten three-bedroom bungalow is known to even children in the area on account of many factors. First, the gate of the house is always flung open as early as 6am and will not be shut until midnight. Again, the owner of the house is one who comes out freely to associate with his neighbours any time of the day.

ex-Governor, Balarabe-Musa
ex-Governor, Balarabe-Musa

He has no restriction for those coming to see him and has no fear of going out to see others in the neighbourhood. One thing is however certain about the house. Almost on a daily basis, visitors troop in from many parts of the country to see the man, who is about to clock 80 years but still is waxing strong and remains a firebrand on local and national issues.

He harbours no evil and fears no evil. But he has undying passion for politics and good governance and has paid dearly for playing politics, having tested the prison in 1983 when the military struck. His name is Alhaji Balarabe Musa, first civilian governor of Kaduna State. He is now fully into farming and family life.

As this reporter finally found his way into the house through the help of children playing around the vicinity, the old man, welcomed the team with a broad smile and ushered us into his sitting room, which looks more like the home of a local chief.   Conspicuous in the ‘parlour’ are broken cushion chairs covered with Aba-made fabrics, which can at best sit 14 persons in all. The door to the sitting room is made with metal frame while the windows are festooned with outdated louvre blades.

What is supposed to serve as a centre table in the sitting room is a small rickety wooden stool sitting dangerously on a fabric that is difficult to determine whether it is rubber or rug carpet. It has been in that position for many decades. The sitting room does not have any air conditioner but some ceiling fans that have been overworked and need replacement.

Some of the ceiling boards are hanging loosely from the frames and threatening to drop, giving an indication they need urgent replacement but receiving no attention.

The entrance to the small compound is ‘paved’ with stones, which partition it into two equal parts. But there are lush green arcades with some sitting platforms. This gives the place the ambience of a village square, or a museum of some sort. But it is nonetheless the family house belonging to a man, who is supposed to have been swimming in opulence and relishing in the ambience of a multi-million mansion given the role he once played and continues to play in Nigeria.

It is not that many people, including his loved ones and political associates, have not made effort to transform the house, which he built as a young man in the early 70’s. And it is not that his children are not able to change this home of a national figure. The fact remains that the man himself is the main obstacle to any attempt to transform it to befit his status as a former governor and a man who deserves a better life, given his role in society.

He has always opposed any move by any person or group to retouch the house. In fact, a member of the family confessed to our reporter that several offers made to him by close friends and top government officials to renovate the house or even expand it have been rebuffed by Musa.

Despite the condition of his home, Balarabe Musa is very happy with his attainment in life and does not harbour any ill-feeling against any person. He lives a simple life, devoid of the trappings of a former governor. In fact, he boasts that he has accomplished all that he set out to achieve in life.

Musa is elated to have served as the first civilian governor of Kaduna State from October 1, 1979 to December 31, 1983 without tampering with a kobo from the public purse.

Musa insists he is a happy man. He maintains himself with a monthly pension of N300,000 since Kaduna State does not have a mouth watering severance benefit such as is obtainable in most states where a former governor or deputy is expected to be given a princely monthly sum of money, palatial homes in their states and Abuja in addition to a lifetime medical care and personal aides.

Balarabe-Musa's house
Balarabe-Musa’s house

“In terms of Naira and Kobo, I don’t have Kobo in the bank until my pension is paid. I earn about N300,000 a month and that is what I use in managing my life and family.” Asked why he lives a Spartan kind of life in the midst of opulence, Musa, insists that his life pattern is influenced by his fundamental beliefs as a socialist.

“First, I am a Muslim, second, I am a socialist and I have got all I want in life. What I have today is exactly what I wanted to have in life since when I was 17. I never imagined that I would have more than what I have now,” the former governor said.

He confessed that the monthly stipends paid to him as pension by the Kaduna State government was enough to keep him going since he sometimes get some additional income by engaging in consultancy jobs as a chartered accountant. He revealed that he once helped someone to get a consultancy job and was paid for his effort but nothing much has since come out of that direction.

On the condition of his house, Musa says he is comfortable with it and does not want any other thing to be added to it. According to him, he never wished to have anything more than what he has at the moment. “Not that the state government never said things to me. If they try to change things I won’t agree because I feel comfortable. For years I never wished to have more than I have right now.”

The house has remained as it was since he bought it in 1970 from the New Nigerian Property Development Corporation, NNPDC. It does not matter to him that as a former governor, three of his children who are university graduates are not employed and it does not worry him that as a former governor nothings comes on a platter of gold. As a result, four of his six male children are still staying with him; one is employed and lives on his own, while the rest are still searching for jobs.

Some of his children are doing well. He has nine of them. One is still in the university. As the interview with him was going on, his little grandchildren were milling around him, with some taking something to him and going away in ecstasy and he relished the moments, as a man, who has seen it all.

“Some states could have other things but we don’t have them in Kaduna State. After the pension, that is all. In some states they have but here we don’t want to build beyond what we already have now,” he says. He maintains that as far as he is concerned nothing really bothers him any more, having achieved his set goals in life:

“Well, as I told you, at age 17 I had already determined what I wanted in life. First was a family,  Second, the ability to educate myself and my children, then a house, a farm, a tractor, the ability to pay the cost of my health services.”

But Musa has been very lucky with his health. In spite of the fact that he is nearly 80, hardly does he fall ill. In fact, in the last 12 years, he has only been taken to the hospital once for a major medical attention. Then, he reluctantly accepted the intervention of an unnamed top government official, who offered to help bear the cost of the medical treatment.

He confesses: “The only sickness I suffered from was 11 years ago and it was a heart attack and I came out of it and I haven’t had even headache since then because I had a thorough examination paid for by a number of state governments cutting across the north and south.

“That is the privilege I enjoy from the government, including my own state, Kaduna state. Although such assistance is not statutory, he believes that if he has any health challenge, the governors would come to his aid. The former governor says although he cannot retire from politics, he has been into full time commercial farming. Farming was on his mind from the age of 11.

He concentrates on producing grains from his farm, which is located near the main army cantonment in Kaduna. He only recently added 64 cows to the farm, but the cows were stolen by rustlers, despite the proximity of the farm to a military zone.

But what could have made a man who has attained a powerful and influential post in life to choose to live the life of a peasant? In trying to justify his disposition to life the former governor said he could not betray his socialist background, adding that the condition prevalent at the period he was growing up, also influenced him immensely.

“From the beginning I have been a socialist and what influenced me was my background and the situation around me in terms of where I stood, where I lived and even the time I was born at a time of the anti- colonial struggle. “I was born in 1936 and by 1939 the Second World War started which went on till 1945 and by 1943 I was in elementary school and I knew something about the Second World War.

“ I witnessed the suffering of the people during the Second World War and eventually that experience enabled me to understand the meaning of colonial rule and living under colonial rule, so it was an education.

“I joined active politics by declaration in 1950 when the NEPU was established on the 8th of August 1950. I formally became a registered member of that party in 1953 and since then I have been in active politics since I left the civil service in 1975 but even before then I was always participating in political activities.

Beyond that, the lessons Musa learned from his mentor, the late Aminu Kano, who championed socialism in Nigeria, also influenced his socialist leanings. He said he imbibed the lessons of honesty, steadfastness and qualitative leadership from the late Aminu Kano and does not want to deviate from it till he’s called home. That is why he is against capitalism. It is something that should not be mentioned where he is.

In spite of the fact that the Peoples Redemption Party has been de-registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, his small compound is still littered with the relics of the PRP while his mind is still fixed on the socialist mantra. He believes that one day; the party will rule Nigeria and enthrone good governance and free services for all Nigerians.

“We will remain, whether we are registered or not; whether we can contest election or not because our purpose is to enlighten Nigerians to know about the state of the country and to struggle for a fundamental change in this country. “I am not interested in amassing wealth but in liberating the people,” the former governor said.

 

 

 

 


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