With the death of Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, former governor of old Kaduna State last week, the tribe of Nigerian socialists has virtually thinned out. He was about the last socialist icon still standing in the country.
It was fitting that there should be an outpouring of sentiments, a mixture of some honest appreciation of his life and times and a hypocritical tradition of speaking well of the dead. Were he to read some of these tributes from some of the important people, Musa would puke in disgust. I am pretty sure of that.
Most of Musa’s former colleagues in the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, including its founder, the late Mallam Aminu Kano, had answered the call no man born of a woman can refuse. Here is a short roll call of the departed: Dr Yusufu Bala Usman, Chief Michael Imoudu, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former governor of Kano State, Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo, former governor of Kano State, Professor Chinua Achebe and Senator Uche Chukwumerije.
Musa remained committed to the ideals of socialism until ill health forced him to leave the political stage a few years ago. He did not do it out of a vain hope but out of a genuine belief that things would not remain the same in our country and that whether we like it or not, revolution was a clear and obvious possibility. Mallam Aminu must be pleased that his protégé kept the socialist light flickering as an important reminder that the exploitative nature of capitalism would always be moderated by the watchful eyes of socialism. Now that the last light has been dimmed with his death, it is not difficult to see that the fate of socialism has more or less a permanent seal on its future in our country. But hasten slowly in writing it off.
PRP, one of the five political parties registered by the generals in 1978, was a small party with a tall ambition. Its core members were men with varied backgrounds but united in their determination to make capitalism give a good account of itself in social and economic development. Or, at least help to usher in a society kinder to its people. The party was a successor to the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU, also founded and led by Mallam Aminu with the same objectives in the first republic. NEPU was a pain in the neck of the exploitative northern feudal system. It railed against royalty and it railed against the exploitation of the masses.
It preached the socialist alternative to capitalism as a kinder form of economic system in which the struggling masses could best survive in a system that moderates wealth and poverty such that you do not have an exploitative economic system of the extremely rich and the wretchedly poor. Socialism was attractive to a raft of politicians in the first republic. Some of its leading lights were Mallam Aminu, the late Alvan Ikoku and the very colourful K.O. Mbadiwe, whose political party offered a local variant of socialism called democratic socialism, in an attempt to marry the two systems. Socialism was, of course, a hard sell because capitalism offers the good life attained, obviously, on the back of the toiling masses. However, in the second republic, PRP proved that capitalism was not impregnable. It wrested two state governments, Kano and Kaduna, from the wealthier NPN and proceeded to institute governments dedicated to lift the talakawa from the bottom and make them live rather than merely survive.
This is where Musa’s comes in. His election as governor of old Kaduna State had the hallmarks of aberration. He was the lone iroko in the NPN forest. Kaduna was an NPN state. The state legislature was entirely NPN. The NPN juggernauts chafed at the loss of the state to PRP. The battle for the full control of the state by the two political parties was joined early in the life of the Musa administration. He had a reputation as a man who was true to his principles and would not compromise them for, if you would excuse the hackneyed expression, a mess of pottage. He was a stubborn man. A less polite rendition of that would be that he was almost crazy. But there was a method to his craziness. He wanted to make a difference by showing that compromise is the enemy of principles and that the worst form of compromise is to leak the boots of the enemy.
Musa knew that he was in a precarious position as governor, given the fact that his powerful enemies were in and outside the state legislature. All he needed to do to survive was to compromise with the NPN by appointing its members into his cabinet as commissioners. He refused. NPN paid him in kind by refusing to consider his nominees for commissionership. Kaduna thus became the only in the federation that had no commissioners. It did not bother Musa. He ignored the NPN and its demands and brought on board some of his own men such as Dr Yusufu Bala Usman, his secretary to the state government. He also brought in younger elements like the late Rufai Ibrahim and Richard Umaru to help him get on with the business of ruling the state. He went on to set up small-scale industries none of which, sadly survived him after he did not survive the machinations of the NPN.
By June 1981, NPN had had enough of Balarabe Musa and decided he must go. That month the NPN-controlled state house of assembly removed him from office. He was succeeded by his former deputy, Alhaji Abba Musa Rimi. Musa’s so-called impeachment was a constitutional travesty. It was reckless. You might think that he lost because he was stubborn or crazy. Another man would have resorted to the pragmatism of stooping to conquer and survived. But there is something to be said for a man who puts principles above personal interests. Had he compromised with the NPN, he would have been untrue to himself. This, he would not do. He lost but at least he stood for something. He did not live to see his prediction of a revolution come true but make no mistake: it did not die with him.
The tragedy of societies, really, is that compromise in politics has become the way of life in our country. No one talks of principles because compromise puts good food on the table; it puts state of the art motor vehicles in the garage and it puts good money in the pocket. What else do you want?