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Balarabe Musa: My Life as poorest ex-governor

He just finished paying the loan he took about 40 years ago, to buy a house of his own. But for the loan facility, former Governor of old Kaduna State, late Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa whose death was announced yesterday, would probably have been without a house today until the joined his ancestors. With his extremely frugal life style, there was no way he could have been able to afford one.


Balarabe Musa to Buhari: Bring those behind June 12 annulment to book
Late Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa

However, each time he went down memory lane, he was forced to relive the maltreatment meted to him by the then military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari who had him incarcerated for two years without interrogation or trial. 

Alhaji Musa who was the National Chairman of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) told a team of Sunday Sun, comprising Ismail Omipidan, Noah, Ebije and Sola Ojo in Kaduna that, having given deep thought to his ordeals in the hands of the then no-nonsense military leader, “I realised that if I was the Head of state at that time, I would have done the same thing, but probably with greater care and caution.”

He also spoke on other national issues including his support for former President Olusegun Obasanjo during the 1999 presidential election, his views about radical social reconstruction of Nigeria, his displeasure at Muslims and Christians who hide under religion to marry more than one wife, and his life as the poorest ex-governor in Nigeria.  Excerpts:

Nigerians have read a lot about your radicalism, but only very few people know your background.  You are an ex-governor who used to drive one old Mercedes Benz.  Do you see yourself as the poorest ex-governor in Nigeria?

That is for you to say.  All I know is, I live a modest life, and this is not surprising given my origin and orientation, which has always been radical for progressive and socialist ends.  If you understand this about me, you will not be surprised at any aspect of my life.

How do you feel when some Nigerians refer to you as the poorest ex-governor?

It doesn’t matter. What does that mean? What is wrong in calling me the poorest ex-governor in Nigeria? It is more honourable to call you the poorest governor than to call you the biggest thief.

What informed the type of lifestyle you have chosen to live?

As somebody committed to socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, the greatest influence is my religion, Islam.  From the way I understand it, it is a proletarian religion. That I understood from the beginning, and it is still what I understand now in spite of the misuse of the religion.

How have your wife and children been able to cope with your unique lifestyle?

It is not easy for them. It is not easy for me either.  It is a matter of commitment. I am committed to what I believe in; they are committed to tolerating me and my conditions.

Nigeria is a country where individuals take advantage of their parents’ social standing for socio-economic and political gains.  Your name, can open doors of favour for your children, but it is not likely you would like that kind of thing and that would mean depriving your children of some opportunities. Have they ever complained to you over issues like these?

They raised the issue in a small way.  In the case of my children, none of them has the guts to approach me directly on that.  One of them is as old as 60 years, and he retired as a Permanent Secretary, yet he doesn’t have the courage to come and confront me on the issue. The only person who has the courage to confront me is my wife (laughter). And I am happy that it was very easy for me to explain to her because her father too is of noble origin, and there was nothing extravagant or corrupt about his life. He retired as Grand Khadi in Katsina State. He rose just like me. While I rose as a descendant of a village head, he rose as a descendant of a Mallam (an Islamic teacher).  You can see a similarity in our origin. And we approached life in the same way.

In the past, we know government takes care of former public office holders. In Kaduna, we know there was a time they tried to uplift the standard of living of ex-governors.  They bought them vehicles, but we have never seen you with such vehicles. What is the problem?

Ex-governors are being catered for in Nigeria. I doubt if there is any state government in Nigeria that doesn’t care for its former governors, but it is just that the level of care varies. In some states, the care is more than others. Because of the history of Kaduna State, particularly the radical orientation, they don’t spend much like other states do.  For instance, our pension is equivalent to that of a retired permanent secretary, maybe a little less. In other states, it is unimaginable.  In Kaduna State, an ex-governor gets, I think, N741, 000 pension per month, all consolidated, including everything. But I understand that in some states, ex-governors get at least N12 million per month, and palaces are built for them.

In Kaduna State, there is no palace built for anybody. This is my house.  I acquired it in 1972 through the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) loan scheme. But in neighbouring states, palaces were built for ex-governors.

   There was a time the news made rounds that they shared vehicles for ex-governors in Kaduna?

No. Certainly not in Kaduna State; as I said, it is N741, 000 per month, consolidated, it covers everything.

Talking about the house, how did you acquire it?

I acquired it through NNDC through what we called owner owned scheme in 1972.

How much did it cost?

You can’t believe it. It was built for less than N20, 000.  It is a three-bedroom bungalow. I furnished it wall to wall with about N2, 000.  Nowadays, a window blind alone cost more than N2000. I paid the loan over a number of years.  I think I finished paying about a few years ago.

You finished paying the loan recently?

Yes, I finished paying the loan about six years ago.

What happened?

There were too many problems. My earning – earnings from my farm, from occasional benefits as a chartered accountant, and so on, could not carry it. It wasn’t easy.

How much was the total loan?

I can’t remember, but it was less than N20, 000.

And you just finished paying that sum five years ago?

Yes, because the condition then was not like those of today when people now steal.  I couldn’t have bought the house but for my friends, who assisted through the loan then.

How many are you in your father’s family?

I can’t remember, but we must be very many.

You are what number in the family?

I can’t say either because I belong to a big family.  Imagine a family of a village head; that is where I come from. My grandfather was also a village head.  According to our ancestral history, we established the village where my grandfather and those before him became the village head. Till this moment, the tradition has been kept. One of my younger brothers of the same father and mother is a district head of an area called Kaya town in Kaya District, Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna state which used to be Zaria Province.

Let’s look at your marital life, how many wives have you?

I never wanted more than one wife at a time in my life. This is because of my belief on what Islam prescribed, and also because my nature as a social being is such that I should limit conflict as much as possible. With more than one wife, there is bound to be conflict, and I tried to avoid it. So I have two reasons for not marrying more than one wife; one is my belief in what Islam prescribed, and secondly for my own convenience. Islam prescribes four wives with conditions.

First, marriage to four wives is not obligatory for a man. Secondly, you marry more than one wife under strict conditions and the conditions are such that it is impossible for men to fulfill and Islam says so, but it is only abuses that make Muslims marry more than one wife mindlessly. Like it is even in Christianity, only one wife is prescribed, but most Christians marry up to 100 wives. But in Nigeria, the number is large; I think the proportion of Nigerian Christians who marry more than one wife is higher, compared to anywhere in the world. I don’t know anywhere in the world where Christians marry more than one wife than in Nigeria. If they find problem with one wife as Christians, they invoke traditional beliefs so that they can marry more than one wife, particularly when they are chiefs.

So you married more than one?

I married three times in my life, and I have children with each and every one of them, but I have never married on the basis of modern practice of girlfriend and boyfriend. No. I always marry on the basis of tradition-introduction, the two are introduced and within a short time they make up their minds in one way or the other and then marriage takes place. For instance, my first wife was introduced to me by my friend. My second wife, I married her because my son and her father were students of the Imam of the institute of administration, Zaria and when she was prepared for marriage, someone in the family felt that I was a suitable person and I was contacted and I agreed. My present wife, the third wife I married her in 1975. It was the senior brother of her mother who was my professional friend; we were also students of a developed Islamiya school in Kaduna, so it was through my contact with him that led to introduction of her as student at a Teachers’ college, here in Kaduna and we got married. So you see, in the case of Hausa/Fulani Muslim, they marry through introduction by parents.

It is only in the case of the Igbo who are republican that you can have something different from introduction by parents. Igbo are more republican than the Yoruba and Hausa. In the case of other ethnics in Nigeria, I am not quite sure of their practice.

What happened to your first two wives?

Well, you know the normal thing that happens with marriage; marriage breaks for one reason or the other, and it is not only in Nigeria; it is worldwide. I can only say in the case of my first wife that we were both too young, I married when I was 20, and she was 15, and we lived independent of our parents, far away from parents. For instance, we lived in Kaduna and Zaria, a long distance from our parents. In those days, it was a long distance; even though it was 40 miles, it is not like today. And we had no guide, so it was like we were suffering from youthful exuberance.

What of the second wife?

The second wife, virtually it was the same story with the first wife, but I think it was the pressure of my commitment, not so much political commitment, but I have always been in search of education since I left school in 1952, and that attracted my attention. I combined so many things; I was studying, I was working, to some extent I was already a political activist, I was farming. For example, in the case of study, I was studying to have my GCE which was then the minimum qualification to enter into university.  And I was managing with very little resources, so the pressure could lead to frictions and things like that, and care and caution that I exercise now. I couldn’t exercise then. I was still under 40.

So your first two wives divorced you?

You know the traditional thing; it is just like what happens in Yoruba land, either you go to court and seek divorce, I think that was the general thing.

How many children do you have now?

I have nine children from the three wives. The first two wives are still alive, but they are married to other men now. All my children are alive.

How would you describe your present wife?

She is the lucky one and the most tolerant wife. She is lucky that I have stabilized; the fear and pressure I had then have been reduced, except political pressure which of course is part of our lives. When I had health crisis which led me to travel overseas for medical treatment, and when I rushed to the doctor, and after examining me, the doctor said, the reason I had for my health was pressure, I just laughed, and then he asked why I was laughing in spite of the seriousness of my condition. I said pressure is part of our lives, pressure is part of my life as a politician, but pressure is now part of life of every Nigerian because of the negative state of the nation. The doctor agreed with me. My present wife was my wife when I was the governor of Kaduna state. We met in 1975 and I became governor in 1979, but the practice of first lady was not there.

Now, let’s talk politics, what motivated you into politics?

As I said earlier, I have been a politician all my life, from my origin.


I told you I grew from a village head family. I can remember this about my father, who sees kingship as anti Islam, even emirship.  Kingship developed after the jihad of Shehu Danfodio, and because of its class nature, it was anti Islam.  I knew this even before I started serving. I knew it since I went to elementary school for my first education. I knew this about my father.  He was opposed to his own father being a village head for this reason. He protested and established his own compound in protest against his father.  He was against class division and feudalism.

Tell us briefly how you were nominated as the then candidate of PRP?

In the first place, I became a registered member of a political party, NEPU, in 1953, at the age of 17.  NEPU was announced in 1950, and I immediately identified with NEPU and became active. When I became incompatible with the civil service, I decided to join politics, not for the purpose of aggrandisement, but for the purpose of changing the system controlling all developments in the country which was based on self interest ahead of public interest.  I decided this at a very early stage, so when PRP came and took over from NEPU which I belonged to, I did not find it difficult to identify with PRP. At that time, I had become more intellectual, more economically independent.  So, I easily identify with and campaigned for the PRP. In 1979 when there was difficulty in choosing a governorship candidate for the PRP in Kaduna State, Mallam Aminu Kano stepped in, stopped all arguments, and said that I should be the candidate.

The Sun has singled you out for The Lifetime Achievement Award, how do you feel about it?

I am happy about The Sun Lifetime Achievement Award.  I am happy that there are Nigerians who can assess the relevance of leaders in this country. As symbolic as this award is, it is impossible in some other countries, not only in Africa, even in Europe to exercise their conscience and identify those you think are relevant.



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