By Femi Aborisade
Adieu, ABM, as we fondly called him in the left circles in the late 1970s.
ABM was the first elected Governor of Kaduna State. He was sworn into office in October 1979 and was impeached on 23rd August 1981. ABM told me that the members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly asked him to allocate land to them in a choice area of Kaduna State so as to avoid being impeached.
According to him, he told them they should go ahead and impeach him as he was not prepared to grant their request; that he was not afraid of being impeached since he was not born a governor. He explained that as at the time he was governor, he was just paying mortgage loan with which he was financing his house.
He said his worldview was influenced by the late Aminu Kano, and that apart from financing the education of his children and having shelter over his head, he did not have any other ambition. Hence, his needs were limited.
I can say without any iota of doubt that ABM was the only former top political office holder who held the position of governor and died a poor man, in terms of material possession, even though he enjoyed nationwide goodwill among the masses throughout his lifetime. He never looted public treasury. Though he was a certified accountant, he did not use his influence to take professional jobs that could compromise him.
Until he breathed his last, ABM remained uncompromising, focused, principled, honest, transparent, and above all, motivated by one dream – the dream of realising a socialist Nigeria within a socialist world. In spite of all obstacles within his political party, the Peoples Redemption Party, and in spite of the difficulties of building a formidable coalition of left forces, ABM never despaired. He was always optimistic that someday, the masses would rise up on their feet and into the streets to shake off the shackles of oppression and establish a new social order built on egalitarian principles. ABM was a reliable fighter and dependable soldier for the cause of socialism to the end.
Why did the party that controlled power at the centre – National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) – impeach ABM?
Apart from the issue of land allocation mentioned above, the pro-masses or pro-talakawa policies and actions of ABM during his brief tenure as governor were responsible.
As an unapologetic Marxist-Socialist, ABM was absolutely committed to the emancipation and political empowerment of the talakawa – the poor. He implemented the following policies and projects, among others:
- Establishment of newspapers, published in both Hausa and English, and distributed free to the masses with a view to facilitating political awareness and effective mobilisation. These included ‘Yancin Dan Adam’, meaning ‘Human Freedom’. The editorial mandate of the paper was to expose the atrocities of traditional rulers and the powerful to the talakawa. The other was ‘Kakaki’, meaning ‘Trumpet’. The key editorial policy of ‘Kakaki’ was to educate the talakawa to understand and fight for their rights under the law. The newspapers played major roles in emboldening the talakawa to resist Haraji (i. e. Community tax) and Jangali (cattle tax).
- Abolition of anti-poor taxes – Haraji and Jangalii – immediately upon assumption of power in 1979, ABM not only mobilised the talakawa to resist Haraji and Jangali, he also abolished these taxes by executive governmental policy declaration without involving the legislature since the State House of Assembly was hostile to policies concerned with reducing the burden of the masses. His expectation must have been that the masses would rise up to defend the abolition of the obnoxious taxes by executive action.
- Mobilising and supporting the talakawa to resist forced labour in the agricultural estates owned by traditional rulers in Bakori, Malumfashi, Zaria, Jama’a, Birnin Gwari and elsewhere.
It was clear that ABM was not a political opportunist who was interested in playing politics of surviving his position as governor. He defined his goals in public office. It was either he impacted the lives of the masses positively or he got out to continue to mobilise along with the masses, outside the State House. He chose being faithful to his ideological convictions rather than bribing the legislators not to impeach him or arming thugs to attack the legislators and cause mayhem.
Alliance and collaboration building
ABM was a humble man, always advocating and ready to build coalition of radical forces for change, on a national basis. In the late ’70’s, and when he was governor of Kaduna State briefly, ABM worked with the late Comrade Ola Oni and provided modest resources in building hard core socialist forces under the Socialist Workers, Farmers and Youth Party (SWFYP).
In 2003, ABM joined forces with the National Conscience Party (NCP) under the leadership of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi in forming the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) to resist the obnoxious and unconstitutional regulations put in place by INEC to stop parties of poor people from being registered. Those unconstitutional conditions were successfully challenged in Court by Chief Gani Fawehinmi in the landmark case known as INEC v. Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt. 806) 72. The political mobilisation for the case was carried out under CNPP of which Balarabe Musa was founding Chairman and my humble self as founding General Secretary.
Until he breathed his last, ABM remained uncompromising, focused, principled, honest, transparent, and above all, motivated by one dream – the dream of realising a socialist Nigeria within a socialist world. In spite of all obstacles within his political party, the Peoples Redemption Party, and in spite of the difficulties of building a formidable coalition of left forces, ABM never despaired.
He was always optimistic that someday, the masses would rise up on their feet and into the streets to shake off the shackles of oppression and establish a new social order built on egalitarian principles. ABM was a reliable fighter and dependable soldier for the cause of socialism to the end.
Adieu ABM! As long as we live, we shall never forget you!
NB: Alhaji Balarabe Musa (ABM) was born 21st August 1936 and died 11th November 2020.