OBITUARY: Balarabe Musa, the patriot who pushed for Igbo presidency and knocked northern govs over almajiri

Many tongues are moving in fervent prayers for AbdulKadir Balarabe Musa. Families and friends are mourning, and giving thanks for the 84 years he lived. His remains will be prepared for the infinite journey and a Janazah prayer will be held for him to send forth his soul. While this is “his end”, Musa lived a long and impactful life. We cannot know or tell of everything of the man he was, but from his birth on August 21, 1936, in Kaya, Kaduna state, till his death on Wednesday, we recount the little of his memories and ideologies that we can.


Musa was elected governor of Kaduna state in 1979 on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), a party founded by Aminu Kano. As governor, he had a stand-off with Kaduna state house of assembly, which was dominated by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) members. Musa was unable to form a cabinet for refusing to nominate NPN members and the house refused to ratify his candidates. The house impeached him in June 1981, making him the first Nigerian state governor ever to be impeached.

He would later argue that he was impeached because he planned to have the state open small and medium-sized industries, and this would deny the NPN members the opportunity of establishing their own enterprises. But that was not the end of his political career. He was the PRP candidate for the 2003 presidential election. He remained active in politics until August 31, 2018, when he quit active politics due to health issues.

The patriot


In an interview with TheSun in June, Musa proposed that Nigeria be divided along regional lines if and when the country is restructured. According to him, this would solve the country’s problems.

“The request for restructuring is valid, but those people who are supporting it should then make it clear to Nigerians what restructuring constitutes; is it ethnic nationalities problems because some of the people are thinking that it is about creation of more states,” he had said.


“As far as we are concerned, our restructuring idea is that, we have now seen the problem of weakening our regional government. When we had regional government, we had more responsible leadership and we had more progress. Let us go back to the regional arrangement, where we had Eastern Region, Northern Region, Western Region and later, Mid Western Region, and we saw more sense of responsibility in the leadership and we also saw coordinated progress, so, let us go back to that arrangement.


“Let us restructure the country and go back to the regional arrangement, and so, should abolish the states and go back to regions; instead of the 36 states, we should have six or seven regions. Let each regional government decide how many states and local governments it wants to have and finance.”



Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of governors, mostly in the north, have been returning Almajiri children to their home states.

Commenting on the situation, Musa said Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb, faulting northern governors and the federal government.

“What is happening to the Almajiris is a sign of irresponsible federal and incompetent state governments. Let the government institute free and compulsory education from primary to secondary level and the Almajiri system would end,” he told BusinessDay in May.

Musa with Shehu Sani, a former senator, who defected to his party from APC



“You would recall that the Boko Haram started this way, most of them were young except for then commanders who were above 25 years. Don’t the government realize the implications of what they are doing, they would turn against the system and the country and it would be a problem for us all.”



In 2018, Musa wondered why the south-east has never produced the president. He proposed that the presidency be “donated” to the region in 2019–which was not.

According to him, the Igbo are more committed to the unity of Nigeria than the two other major ethnic groups.


“Igbo are more Nigerian than the north or south-west in terms of their commitments to the unity of Nigeria. And this is right from 1950s. They are more committed to the Nigeria project. Let’s even talk of tribe; the Igbo are more committed to national unity,” Musa said.

“The Igbo are more competitive than the Hausa and the Yoruba. The Hausa and Yoruba bourgeoisie are afraid of this, in particular when there is so much to share in Nigeria. They are afraid of the Igbo because they are not competitive. Igbo are more competitive because they don’t have inhibition.”



Commenting on Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary in October, his last public stance on the state of the nation,  Musa said it was disappointing that the country had not fared well.

“Honestly, the country has not fared well at 60. It is very disappointing that this is where we are,” he said, adding that “things can be better; we can still achieve the dreams of the founding fathers if we all play our role in nation building.

“We need to restructure the country politically and economically. We need to ensure that power actually resides with the people. The economic and political models we are currently operating only empower a few. Governments must be structured to impact positively on the masses.”

He also expressed pessimism in the kind of leaders that the country would produce in the future.

“A worse leadership has been the trend, and that trend will continue unless something decisively is done by the Nigerian people, we will not see a better situation when Buhari goes in 2023; we will see a situation worse than during Buhari,” he said.

Balarabe at a programme with Wole Soyinka

In 2017, Musa said he was not completely fulfilled at 81 because the Nigeria of his dreams was yet to take form.

“At 81, I will say I feel great and I thank God for everything. But, I am not completely fulfilled because we are yet to have the country of our dreams. We are yet to have a country where there is equity and respect for rights and dignity of all citizens,” he had said.

“We are yet to have a country where the governed are good followers and leaders think first think about the people and not the other way round. I desire a better Nigeria where everyone will feel the impact of governance that is my birthday wish for the country.’’


Shehu Sani, ex-senator representing Kaduna central, described Musa as the best governor to have presided over Kaduna.

“Balarabe Musa was the best governor that has ever presided over the affairs of Kaduna State.He was one of the few governors and politicians released after the collapse of the second republic and declared innocent of any wrongdoing,” Sani said on Wednesday in a statement on the death of the elder statesman.

More tributes are pouring in for the man who came, saw and conquered.

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