By Yinka Ajayi
Second Republic governor of Kaduna State, and a leader of the Peoples Redemption Party, (PRP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, passed on last week. In his last interview with Sunday Vanguard published in July 2019, he spoke on the state of the nation at that time. Excerpts:
Absence of national unity is the main cause of the 1966 two coups. Unfortunately, the problem has remained with us 53 years after and it is like we are jinxed as a nation. What do you think?
What happened in 1966 was that there was a problem and the leadership was intentionally detached from the problem. For instance, if the young military officers who staged the January coup had consulted the nation’s leaders like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Aminu Kano, Osadebey and so on – the situation was very bad in the country – maybe they would have found the 1966 coup unnecessary. We may have the same situation now because where are the leaders equivalent to Awolowo, Zik, Osadebey, Aminu Kano and even Chief Joseph Olawoyin? So, anybody can think for himself and do what he likes.
The situation on ground, like it was in 1966, is not good. Drums of war are sounding all over the country. Are we safe?
It does mean we are repeating the issues of 1966. The 1966 coup didn’t arrive just like that. The state of the nation encouraged separatists of all sorts. In those days, northerners and south-westerners were largely the separatists. Before the coup, the Igbo were at the centre of national unity. It was the same thing with the present South-South, which, obviously, had synergy with the South-East. They (Igbo) really stood for national unity, but that unity was shrunk by the North and the South-West and there were no voices other than those of Zik, Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Osadebey. But these individuals were careful not to come out as a group. Today we have no alternative than to come out as a group. This is what prompted me to have a joint press statement with rights activist Femi Falana on national issues in 1999 or thereabouts.
If these people I’ve mentioned had come together and made an announcement about the state of the nation, those young soldiers would not have staged the 1966 coup because those people were more relevant. But the fact that, that didn’t happen made them to stage the coup and that started the present negative state of the nation. Now that we know better, there are people who have a pan-Nigerian position—we know them. Why not bring a process where the pan-Nigerian elements will intervene and stop the repetition of what happened in 1966?
So what is the way forward?
Whether we like it or not, we have a government in place. That is the reality; and we have to recognise that. I urge government to be careful, in particular, with these separatists. I made that call several times before. There are separatists everywhere in Nigeria today — you have them in the North, in terms of Northern Elders Forum; in South-West, we have the OPC, Afenifere; in the South-East, we have IPoB, Ohanaeze and so on.
They do not believe in Nigeria’s oneness, even those of them who pretend to believe in national unity, they want things done on their terms: Northern Elders, on their terms; Afenifere, on their terms; Ohanaeze and Biafrans agitators, on their terms, whereas it should be on the terms of collective Nigerians. Let me give you an example with this controversy on RUGA.
The ordinary people from the South, irrespective of what the governors said, irrespective of what the separatists said, made it clear, “We are not going back to the South; we are going to stay in the North. This is where we belong “. It is the same thing with northerners in the South. They dismissed all these separatists calling for them to go back to the North.
They are telling them, “We will not go anywhere! We are going to stay where we are.” Some of them have even gone to the extent of saying, “Look! My father is Igbo, but my mother is Hausa”—they have gone to that extent. Now, let us use this to build a solid pan-Nigerian system.
That means there is light at the end of the tunnel?
The standard of our public expectation is so low that some other people will expect something higher particularly as far as the quality of life is concerned. With all the things I have said, what do we expect?
What do we expect?
I mean how do we expect peace, how do we expect justice let alone democracy which is the sum total of peace, dignity of human life and progress when what we have now as democracy is mere civil rule instead of military rule?
When we deceive ourselves like this, how do we prepare for fundamental changes in the lives of the people and the progress of the country? Americans, Russians, Chinese, British, among others, have high expectations from their systems but we have something much lower. We have just the peace of the graveyard. I think we have a lot of work to do. We have the population and the resources, so we can do what others did.
For instance, we in the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, believe that within 20 years, Nigeria can be one of the five leading economies, developed countries in the world. We should have overtaken Britain with our human resources than the situation we are in today. If we combine three things with our material resources, we would be among the five leading countries in the world which is now the position of Britain when we have the resources Britain doesn’t have and will never have. Britain rode on the back of colonialism to arrive at where it is today.
But does this position not align with former President Obasanjo’s point that we are heading into anarchy?
For Obasanjo, you just have to listen to him but dismiss what he said because he has no moral authority to say so. In other words, morally, he is not credible enough to say so because, after all, he participated in the negative state of affairs. Who was Obasanjo when we campaigned for him in 1999? We campaigned for Obasanjo to be President in 1999 in every part of the country like what we did for the late MKO Abiola in1993, but Obasanjo messed us up and messed the country up. Obasanjo is just a raging provocateur agent for the West. I am sorry for referring to him like that but I don’t like the role he played when he was in government.
What about Alhaji Atiku who said June 12 is not Nigeria’s priority because Nigerians are hungry?
Forget about Atiku. Was Obasanjo not the one that brought Atiku as his Vice President? Obasanjo messed us up by bringing Atiku. So he made Atiku what he became.
But are Nigerians not hungry?
They are and they are showing it. Go to the villages and see what people are going through. Civil servants cannot afford to send their children to school because they can’t make ends meet. A Director in a Ministry can’t even educate his children beyond secondary school.
What in particular is the way forward?
The solution is to change our socio-political and economic system , and the political leadership the system has inevitably produced, because it is based on self-interest first and public interest second. We should change it to public interest first and self-interest second. That is the starting point for the social reconstruction of Nigeria and that will jump-start our economy. Then we will have peace, equality, justice and progressive development. Let us work to make sure that voters decide the fate of political parties and election candidates. In other words, let us have free, fair and credible elections that will lead to a legitimate government at every level.
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