• ‘People are wasting their time talking about insecurity in the North’
• Says God cannot be deceived by those who pray after stealing Nigeria’s money
By Olayinka Ajayi
Alhaji Balarabe Musa, an activist and a former governor of old Kaduna State, speaks on issues in the polity. Excerpts:
What is your opinion on the differences between northern governors and northern elders over who becomes the next Senate President?
There is nothing unusual about it, it happened in 2015; secondly, the politics in the country has been debased to the level where the deciding factor is not the welfare of the people or the development of the country but selfish interest. So why should this be surprising when everybody is concerned about himself first? What do you expect from animals in the bush? That is what we are experiencing now! The disabling level of corruption, stealing and wasting of the nation’s resources has destroyed every value in the country! When money and power are the deciding factors in our politics, how do you expect anything to be orderly? We got what we asked for. We asked for it because many voted not based on principle but on the basis of money. In the 2019 general elections, we saw the worst we had ever seen in the form of scientific rigging. We saw it now more than we ever saw before. After the 2019 elections, we even saw something more scientific in voting which led to mere writing of results. This is the worst we ever saw since 1950.
So what are elder statesmen doing to save the situation?
It is not a question of elder statesmen, it is a question of the social, economic and political system of the country and the political leadership the system has produced. The system and political leadership are based on selfish interest first, public interest second; that is what is happening today!
But is this the Nigeria our heroes past foresaw during the pre-independence struggle?
Absolutely not! Even in 1950 when party politics started, money was not the deciding factor of elections and politics but now things have changed. Money is presently the deciding factor of everything. In fact, we now have leaders who are thieves and have infected Nigerians to the level that virtually every Nigerian is a thief except two sets of people. The first set include those who never had the chance to steal at all, while the second set include those few people who, by nature, would rather die than steal.
These two sets of people still exist in Nigeria, they are, however, the exception and their population is 000.1 percent. So we expect the worst to happen in Nigeria but it is a question of when? When the nation was being prepared for independence in 1956, people of good minds asked how it will happen, but nobody believed them; nobody believed that those leaders of 1966 would not live forever and it was a sin to even say something would happen and they would leave office but it happened! And what was not expected happened in 1966. Now we are destroying ourselves and, still, we want peace. It is not impossible because you have to work for peace before it exists!
How do you juxtapose this with the staggering insecurity that is ravaging our country after the general elections?
The consequences (of general elections) are enormous and they include insecurity. Recently, a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria accused some traditional rulers of conniving with Boko Haram, herdsmen and other criminals, but what did the Federal Government do about it? Has the government taken any step towards addressing this allegation in an open way? This government will not do anything until it faces a balance of terror against it by which time it might be too late. Balance of terror is either a military coup or civil rebellion like it happened in Sudan and Venezuela. So this government is waiting for the balance of terror. In other words, they are waiting for forces that are more terrifying than they are before they do something.
Do you think Venezuela’s ordeal is good for us as a nation?
How can such be good for this country? But what will happen in a situation where the end of the road has been reached? There is no law and order and this disabling level of corruption and everything negative is happening. We are just waiting to see what will happen next. Those who are religious are saying “may God bring better days” but before you can pray to God, you have to make sure that you are clean yourself. How can a thief pray to God? But that is what most leaders in our country are (thieves) except those who are the exception rather than the rule?
But with this disabling state of our nation, do you foresee better days?
Yes, absolutely after a constitutional evolution or do you think things would change in Nigeria just because you are asking for it? For things to change for the better in Nigeria, there has to be a constitutional revolution, which means a peaceful change of the system without divide, but if this fails, as it happened in other countries, other forces are likely to take over. For instance, Iraqi is not at peace, Libya is not at peace, even those who have lesser problems like Sudan and Venezuela are not at peace. So what would make any Nigerian, who has commonsense, think that what is happening in these countries will not happen in Nigeria where human dignity does not exist, national development doesn’t exist and only deceit and vote-buying win elections? God cannot be deceived.
What about those clamouring for restructuring, especially the Yoruba, Niger Deltans and Igbo, as the way out of our problems?
Forget about the unnecessary clamour. Whatever government you have, as long as there are no free, fair and legitimate elections; as long as the system controlling the development of our nation is not based on public interest but self-interest, the clamour for restructuring and confederation is all rubbish. Those who talk about restructuring and true federalism, if you ask them, they have nothing to justify it than talking about ethnic nationality; they are not talking about real national issues like unity, like democracy and development in the country. They are not talking about issues that compare us with developed countries in the world; they are talking about things that compare us with the worst people. Nigeria, with her resources, should be compared with one of the five most blessed countries in the world. But these so-called leaders are busy talking about voting into office this useless person or voting out that useless person into the presidency, into the legislature or into the government house at the state level, without demonstrable credibility and experience. That is all they are talking about.
What about the disabling insecurity in the North?
People are wasting their time talking about insecurity in the North. Immediately after the civil war, when the Federal Government obtained the instrument of surrender from the Biafrans, armed robbery started in the East. Before that time, I used to travel from Enugu to Kaduna, from Lagos to Kaduna. I would drive in the night peacefully and arrive in Kaduna. I was doing this all over the country as a civil servant and nothing happened to me. But immediately after the civil war, armed robbery started from the South-East. Most informed Nigerians were warning the Federal Government that the rebels had surrendered but there was a problem and that if government did not do something about it, the problem would get out of hand.
It was not the problem of the South-East due to the civil war and not a problem we should be happy about because the Igbo had got what they asked for as a consequence of the war! It was not a national problem but we said it could spread throughout the country, and government did not listen. Years after, there was an armed robbery in every village in Nigeria. The same thing applies to Boko Haram when people were deceiving themselves that it was a North-East affair. Also when the herdsmen problem started, people were calling it a northern problem. But the consequence of all these is the failure of the government to meet its responsibility to the people in the areas of addressing poverty, unemployment and the get rich mentality to the level that people are engaged in kidnapping in virtually every local government and every ward in Nigeria.
In fact, someone you know is connected to someone that abducts you. As it is today, nobody is safe for anybody to travel in Nigeria, even outside your village because of the fear of being abducted for ransom. So, we are deceiving ourselves. Instead of taking national measures when issues arise, we are taking sectional measures until the whole problem overwhelms everybody. As it is, nobody is safe today! A cleaner is not safe, the President is not safe; who then is going to save Nigeria? Did you hear of the abduction of an Islamic cleric in the North whose speciality is the reading of the Quran? Why did the abductors do that? Because they believed that if they abduct such a person, even if he doesn’t have money, there are others who would pay the ransom to free him and this is exactly what happened. So, nobody is safe because the system and the leadership have produced only thieves.
But how did we get here as a nation?
It is a long history. We can talk about that to only those who have time to listen! In the 50s, despite the level of poverty and limited opportunities, these problems didn’t exist because there was the obedience to law and order. For instance, when I started work in 1953, nobody can steal a kobo of public fund and get away with it, whoever you might be, you are going to get punished according to the law. But, today, you can steal one third of the budget of the country and get away with it as long as you are the surrogate of the President, a governor, a minister or someone in authority. We had a case of a minister who stole N83billion and it was proved in court; he was jailed for two years only. Now he is a hero in his community, a hero in his state, a hero in his political party and a hero in Nigeria. This type of thing is what makes it difficult for us to deal with the disabling level of corruption and waste of resources in the country because everybody wants to be something when he or she has such opportunity.
Do you think these challenges justify the call for true federalism?
True federalism and restructuring are different things entirely. Those who talk about true federalism, in reality, are talking of true federal system of government where power is shared between the centre and the states and various units. Those who are calling for true federalism and restructuring are honest but the issue is the problem of the regions.