Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State, explains to JAMIU YISA and ISA ISAWADE why the country will remain one in spite of the current tensions.
To what do you ascribe the various problems of development plaguing the country?
It is not the leadership that is the problem because leadership itself is a product of something. That something is the social, economic and political system controlling development in the country. It is based on self interest as opposed to public interest. It is that system that says private enterprise should play the leading role in the economy instead of the state playing leading role in the economy. It is that system that produces the leadership, which appropriates it. It is, therefore, the system that is the problem and not the leadership. Leadership is only a product of the system.
For example, during the colonial era and the First Republic, despite the imperfections, the leading role was played by the state and by implication public interest. Self interest or private interest came second. Our problem since the Second Republic is that we reversed the role. Instead of the leading role of the state and public interest, we now have the leading role of private enterprise and self interest. Now, this has produced disheartening problems for the country. These include corruption, stealing, criminal waste of resources, unemployment, poverty and insecurity.
Don’t you think that the leadership we have is what we deserve?
No. Every nation is governed by social and economic systems. In every country and throughout history, since the emergence of the idea of private interest, there has always been a system controlling development in the country. That system always produces a political leadership appropriate to it. So, it is a misrepresentation of reality to say that every nation gets the leadership it deserves. It is the system that decides the leadership, not the other way round.
Do you agree with the view that Nigerians do not challenge their leaders enough?
Efforts have been made a few times to challenge the government. But all the same, the leadership is being challenged.
How do you think we got to this state in which corruption has become very pervasive?
First of all, let me go back a little. This corruption, stealing and criminal waste of resources, which are part and parcel of the same thing, result from the system. This is a system of free for all. Therefore, it inevitably results in this level of corruption and there is no way you can avoid this level of corruption as long as this system exists.
Do you agree with General Muhammadu Buhari that people found guilty of corruption should be shot?
I think you can’t say you disagree with him, but let us not adopt that blindly because we can make more serious mistakes. First of all, let us change the system. If we change the system, we will find out that corruption can even be eliminated and if it still persists, instead of changing the system from one based on self interest to one based on public interest, we can adopt a measure that can lead to the shooting or whatever it is of corrupt leaders.
This is what happens in other countries. But let us not adopt the system of other countries blindly. It is the system and the leadership produced by the system that brings about corruption. If you change the system and the leadership and corruption still persists, then you can have this extreme measure of shooting the thief. If you change the system and the leadership so that you eliminate this survival of the fittest, you are automatically removing corruption. And if you remove corruption, there will be no need for shooting the thief. But it has been said that it has reached such a level that even after changing the system and the leadership, we can still have this corruption. Then the question of shooting will arise.
For example, if you change the system from one based on self interest first to a system based on public interest, will you have this level of unemployment? Will you have this level of poverty? Today, we have between 15 to 20 million unemployed postgraduate students. How can you avoid stealing and corruption under this circumstance? The situation is so bad that it is even virtualy impossible to survive in Nigeria without corruption directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly. Even within the three of us here, how can you be sure that you can survive without some form of illegitimate income source? So, that is the system.
The system has made it such that survival without some form of illegitimate source of income is virtualy impossible. Under this circumstance, how can you avoid corruption? But if you have a system based on the leading role of the state in the economy, based on public interest first, enlightened self interest second, will you continue to have this level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste? Will you have this level of poverty, unemployment and insecurity?
I’ll give you two examples: post-First Republic is one, while the period between the end of the Second Republic till now is another. Did we have this level of poverty in spite of the limited resources available to us during the first period? Did we have this level of hunger? Did we have this level of unemployment and insecurity? No, we didn’t. The problems grew bigger from the Second Republic, when we began to introduce the leading role of the private sector in the economy; when we began to have a system which puts private interest first. Were our leaders during the colonial era and the First Republic thieves? From the Second Republic till today, have we done anything to remove unemployment? No. From the colonial time to the First Republic, we had insecurity, but not of the threatening variety.
But since the Second Republic, insecurity has been a fixture in Nigeria simply because of the reversal of the role of government and public interest. In order words, since the emergence of the free-for-all system, the leaders have become thieves. Everyday, there are credible reports of theft of public funds. A few unlucky ones have been prosecuted successfully. The vast majority of the thieves have escaped. In fact, there is nothing like an anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria. What is happening is a political manoeuvre to destroy all credible evidence of corruption so that when the time comes for proper anti-corruption campaign, there will be no evidence to prosecute the thieves.
Look at what we have experienced with the Farouk Lawan committee. In order to allow the thieves exposed in that committee get away with it, first, the EFCC refused to do anything. They were waiting for the permission of the President through the Minister of Justice before doing anything. But should they wait?
Do you believe that Nigerians are capable of mustering the will to dislodge the PDP in 2015?
Yes. The PDP can be defeated and it should be defeated. I think the time has come to defeat the PDP, but we have to be realistic. The PDP can only be defeated through free, fair and transparent elections. Now, these elections will be contested by registered political parties and there are 57 of them. Of these 56 minus PDP, the only political party that is truly in opposition and capable of defeating the PDP is ACN. We should not have any illusion. ACN controls at least six states. In any system of election, ACN is strong enough to be a credible opposition and an alternative government. Can you say the same of ANPP, APGA, Labour Party and CPC?
The best way to defeat the PDP is to rally behind the ACN. In other words, ACN should be given a role similar to one given to CPC in the last elections. We can’t give that role to CPC because it has destroyed itself so much that it is now in the sixth position. It is behind PDP, ACN, ANPP, APGA and Labour Party. Even Labour Party controls one state, a whole government. CPC has half a government because in the Nasarawa State legislature, CPC has only four members. PDP has 20. So if we really are prepared to defeat PDP, we have to identify the political party that is most capable and rally behind it.
I know they have problems, but we have more problems in PDP. If we can get PDP out of the way, even if our problems are greater as a result than they are now, we will be able to deal with them when the PDP is out of the way. But if we allow PDP to consolidate its power even more, then it means we will never be able to defeat PDP without a social revolution or a military coup before a social revolution. But let us not rely on military coup because the military has always disappointed. Despite all the struggle of the Egyptians to replace the civilian government of Mubarak with the help of the military, now they are in trouble with the military. They are now attacking the military, but all the same, they got rid of Mubarak’s government and the problem is now easier for them.
But do you see the opposition parties coming together for the purpose of ousting the PDP?
Well, they have to because they can’t continue to suffer. It depends on how the ACN plays its role. If ACN makes the same mistake that the CPC made, it will be bad. This time, it is the leadership of CPC that destroyed Buhari’s chances and the evidence is clear. Now we have to look for another alternative platform to rally behind and I think the only alternative, if we don’t want to deceive ourselves, is to rally behind ACN and hope that ACN will not make the mistake that CPC made. It is clear and simple.
How do you evaluate President Jonathan’s leadership style?
There is no style. This man is confused and he’s not capable. He lacks popularity and legitimacy. Look at how he contested the presidency. His party had a provision of zoning. Whatever we feel about zoning, the thing is that it was the policy of his party. You can’t violate the policy of your party on fundamental issues and escape with it. This zoning, power shift or whatever you call it has existed since the beginning of Nigeria, particularly from 1959, and it has worked to keep Nigeria united and to give every section some sense of belonging. It has gone to the extent that it has even become part of our life.
Even in your family you have to take care of how you treat problems among the members of your family, so that no one is aggrieved. Now, with the level of political immaturity, with the level of different contending interests in Nigeria, you can’t impose merit alone. Whether you like it or not, merit has to be tempered. He ignored it, he used incumbency. Incumbency is a big thing in Nigeria and it’s just as bad as corruption. He used incumbency to force his own party to nominate him as a candidate despite the zoning policy. How can you be sure that every member of his party will forgive him for that?
Secondly, he didn’t win a free, fair and transparent election. Everybody knows the amount of rigging that took place. So, he lacks moral base and legitimacy. It is not possible under this system that if you become the leader, then, you become the standard. In other countries, when there is standard, it doesn’t really matter who becomes the president. The standard is there. In Britain, America, Germany and other western countries, competence and experience are important. But the most important thing is that there is a standard that nobody can go below.
In Nigeria, there is no such standard. You become the president, governor or local government chairman and you automatically become the standard. So in such a situation, you need somebody who is clearly competent, who has a record in addition to moral base and legitimacy to succeed.
Do you think that dialogue with Boko Haram will end the cycle of violence we are witnessing?
Who are Boko Haram? Is Boko Haram a legitimate Islamic movement? Is it an agent established for political purpose? Any government that is failing looks for scapegoat. Any government that is failing attempts to take away attention of the people from its failure. It is not impossible that this government is responsible for creating Boko Haram to deal with the opposition or to divert attention from its failure. We saw this with Maitatsine. Maitatsine was created by the Shagari government to deal with opposition in the North, particularly PRP and GNPP.
Maitatsine was doing exactly what Boko Haram is doing now in virtualy the same areas because Maitasine operated in Kano, Kaduna and the North-east. Eventually, its members were arrested and Maitatsine himself was murdered just the way the leader of Boko Haram was murdered. Its members were arrested. Did you hear that they were prosecuted or punished in any court? No. In fact, what we learnt, through the media, was that they were pardoned and released. Some of them were even given pocket money to go home with and they were just as murderous as Boko Haram is. In any case, hasn’t the President himself said Boko Haram exists in his government? If the President, with so much powers, with so much vote for security, knows Boko Haram exists in his government and fails to do anything about it, what inference can you draw from that?.
Nigerians are sharply divided along religious and ethnic lines, most especially with recent bombing of churches in the North. Do you see Nigeria remaining as family?
We have heard this before. Since the beginning of the Second Republic, because of the failure of government, we have been having insecurity arising from ethnicity and religion. The only difference with Boko Haram is that it is more murderous than what we have experienced before except in the case of Maitatsine.
Do you think the country can remain together despite these wide fault lines?
Yes. We have integrated to a very high level. We don’t seem to realise that because of these problems. We have reached a high level of integration economically and politically and we are making progress in social integration as well.
This interview is reproduced from the 16 July 2012 edition of The News Magazine