- Buhari should resign to save APC, Nigeria
Dr. Junaid Mohammed was born in the tiny community of Sankin in the old city of Kano, now in Dala Local Government Area. He had his primary and post primary education in Kano before proceeding to the Soviet Union in 1969 for a degree in Surgery, Internal Medicine, Gynecology, Hygiene and Public Health at Kharkov State University. He graduated with First Class Honours. Not done, he went for his Post Graduate Certificate at London University Institute of Neurology, with specialization in Nervous Diseases in 1978. In 1979, he took up a job as a lecturer in Neurology at The Royal University of Hong Kong. Junaid also worked in different capacities as both medical practitioner and academic at different institutes and organizations in the old Soviet Union. He began his foray into politics when he returned to the Nigeria in 1979. He was a founding member of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party, PRP on which platform he was elected into the House in the first and second segments of the Second Republic. From 1979 to 1984, he was the National Director, Research and Party Education of the PRP, during which he also doubled as the Kano State Secretary of the party. Throughout the Second Republic government, he was the PRP Chief Whip and Parliamentary Party Leader. From 1980 to 1984, Muhammed also served as the Deputy National Secretary-General of PRP, reputed as one of the best opposition parties ever in West Africa. At the inception of the House in 1979, Muhammed was nominated as the House Chairman, Foreign Relations Sub-committee on International Organisations, International Economic Relations, and Socialist Block. He was made a substantive chairman of the Committee in 1980, a position he held until the military struck in 1984. One of the vocal voices in the Second Republic legislative arm, Muhammed was member, House Committee on Selection; Finance and Appropriation Committee; Committee on Health; Committee on Science and Technology; Joint Committee on Intelligence and National Security. During General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s military regime, Muhammed at one time, served as Chairman, National Orientation Agency, NOA, and Commissioner, Business and Commercial Transactions of Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission OMPADEC. In this interview with AKINJIDE AKINTOLA of The New Diplomat, Junaid in his no-holds-barred manner, spoke on a number of issues ranging from the cabal allegedly running and ruining the country to President Buhari’s health, growing disillusionment on the APC government and the recommendations of the national conference held in 2014.
At the moment, Nigeria is like a ship lost at sea without a Captain. How do we save the situation?
First and foremost, we have to be a little bit more concrete because talking of doldrums or no doldrums will not in any way save the situation. My understanding of the situation is simply this: This country is in the throes of very serious crisis. There is very serious economic crisis which pervades every aspect of our lives; it touches the young, the old and all our institutions of government – the Presidency, the Parliament, every arm of government, the security services, the armed forces and of course it affects very fundamentally, our capacity to co-exist in peace and harmony. All these have been affected by the very serious situation we find ourselves in.
Now, I would not directly blame this current government, nor am I prepared to go along with the current government in blaming every problem on the previous government. What I know in Nigeria is that Nigerians know some thieves, there is anger in the land, there is insecurity in the land, people are distrustful of one another, there is a national recession in the country, we are not being trusted by our trading partners. All these combine to make us look increasingly like a banana republic. There is no law and order. No trust internally or internationally. We are not being respected by anybody. As a matter of fact, this government which came on with the promise of improving the national economy and particularly tackling the issues of security and corruption has failed woefully and has made the situation worse. In addition to the ordinary situation we know, we have a serious problem of cronyism and nepotism. We now have a situation where people who have never been elected into any office in their lives are now running the country as if it is their own personal patrimony. This is a very serious issue.
Can you be more specific about this unelected persons?
Yes, the most powerful person in Nigeria today is now with the President in London or wherever. He is one Mamman Daura. Mamman Daura has never won an election in his life. He has never, never voted; I’m not talking of being voted for. Most people who know him well, better than me, say he has never registered to vote. Now, the man who has no faith in democracy can never be made to acquire such enormous powers. And he exercises these powers as if he was the elected president of Nigeria. Now, everybody, anybody who will tell you the truth will tell you that the de-facto president of Nigeria today is not Buhari that was duly elected fair and square. Rather, it is one Mamman Daura who has never won an election, has never voted or ever been voted for. This is a very abnormal situation and I think we have Buhari to blame for this quandary — he is directly responsible for what we have in the country today.
However, we must give Buhari credit for the manner in which the armed forces have been able to reduce some of the menace of the Boko Haram terrorism. But in terms of the other terrorism in the Niger Delta, nothing has been done to tame it. The miscreants are very much alive and doing very well for themselves. This is possible because they are in cohoots with certain powerful elements in the Niger Delta. It is always a problem to fight a war on two or more fonts and even the best armed forces in the world with the greatest amount of money and facilities at their disposal and the best trained officers find it very difficult to confront several fonts at the same time. We are doing that, but in doing so, the corruption among the officer corps in the armed forces have become a lot worse. Now billions are being lost in fighting a war in which nobody will see the end and this country cannot afford, with our meager resources, to divert most of the resources into fighting Boko Haram or the Niger Delta miscreants simply because the President and those in charge at the national level are lacking in the necessary political sagacity and political savvy to bring us out of this unnecessary crisis. The current crisis can be resolved if there is political will and if they resolve to allow common decency and common sense among those people, whom we have elected to lead us. But sadly, that is not the case. And in the armed forces, the President is becoming more and more institutionalised.
What’s your take on the war against corruption so far?
There is this issue of people who are well connected to the President who have been linked to some corruption cases or misdemeanour and they are not being prosecuted because they are very close to the President or their relations. And some are actually their in-laws or blood relations. That is not good enough for a country like us.
One single crisis – a security crisis – is bad enough for a country like us with its complexities. But when you have security crisis, combined with economic crisis, political crisis, you have very serious crisis on your hands. What is happening today is that there is political crisis in all the political groups – the two leading parties. The PDP, Peoples Democratic Party, the ruling APC, All Progressives Congress, are in crisis. In fact, in the case of the APC, the initiator of the crisis, the man who created the crisis, who is also the one putting fuel on the fire of the crisis in the APC is no other person than Buhari himself. His authoritarian manner, his dictatorial manner of running both the government and running his own party has run the party completely prostrate. And I can’t see how this party could recover itself and become a reasonable democratic political party in the context of a multi-party system as we know it elsewhere. And we are in serious trouble because he is not a democrat, he does not know how to run democratic system; he has nothing but contempt for politicians even though he tries as much as possible to present himself as a democrat. But his own nature is to be undemocratic, to be a bully and that is very dangerous for a dispensation like ours which is still very young and trying to get itself together.
You spoke about Buhari’s vacation in London. It appears similar to the case of late President Umaru Yar’Adua when Nigerians were kept in the dark about what was happening to their President. What does this portend for Nigeria and the North?
I will start by saying I have never been known to be speaking for the North. I’m a northerner and come from a distinguished family in the North, but I have never, if you check my record, claimed to be speaking on behalf of the North. As far as I’m concerned, the crisis which Buhari and Buhari’s sickness have dragged Nigeria into is completely avoidable and it could have been avoided if she, his relations, blood relations and those who are running the Presidency of Nigeria have been honest and sincere.
A national political crisis or a national constitutional crisis is a very traumatic thing for any country. A constitutional crisis is the last thing we want for ourselves. But in spite of the fact that we had an unfortunate example in Yar’adua’s sickness, apparently, neither Buhari nor his relations have decided it’s not a family affair and they are running the government with their cronies who are there because of the cronysm and their total planlessness. All that matters to them is to win now and to win at the current moment as long as they are making money. And they have been involved in corruption which have now become common knowledge. And as long as they are shielded by Buhari from being prosecuted by the EFCC, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the other anti-corruption agencies, for them, the game can continue.
And there is a slight difference. In the case of Yar’Adua, Obasanjo knew damn well that Yar’Adua was sick, but he still went ahead in a convoluted manner to ensure that Yar’Adua emerged the next President after him. If PDP had been indeed a really democratic party, this would have been resisted because quite a number of people within the party knew that Yar’Adua was very sick. But Obasanjo bamboozled himself, bamboozled everybody and his party and installed his own Putin. And of course, the man continued to be sick, his health continued to deteriorate, that is now history. By the last six-eight months of Yar’Adua’s reign, Yar’Adua was not in charge of anything. It was his wife and a few big boys who ran the show. Nobody could challenge anything, there was no institution or platform to challenge anybody. At the end of the day, Yar’Adua died and there was no constitutional mandate, there was no constitutional way forward as given by the constitutionality and the rule of law. So, some smart lawyers had to be paid hundreds of millions to produce what they called Doctrine of Necessity.
They just found a way to pick the Vice President whom they had at first overlooked because they thought a civil war may break out. That is the situation we are likely to find ourselves currently. In the case of Buhari, at least some form of communication did arrive from the office of the President to the office of the Vice President. At least that is clear, but with regard to the attitude of the Senate or House of Representatives or the attitude of people, especially some of the hardliners from the North, to what should happen, only God knows, and I’m not prepared to make any guess. As far as I’m concerned, in a normal democracy, if the President is either dead, died in any way or is incapacitated or if he had been declared missing, the normal thing to do as has been provided by the constitution is to appoint an Acting President and from then on continue with what the constitution has said. Anybody who contests any election should know that the possibility of death or incapacitation or infirmity is there because we are dealing with ordinary human beings.
In a way too, APC in crisis resembles PDP in crisis. The APC leadership has been found to be completely useless like the PDP during the time of Yar’Adua. What is happening now is that nobody in the leadership is even discussing the issue in the APC — people like Oyegun and other frontline leaders who are quarrelling with each other like Buhari himself, Tinubu, Bisi Akande and others. Nobody is prepared to tackle APC leadership and take this country out of the unnecessary crisis that is self-made, man-made, particularly by Buhari. So, the party can be declared completely defunct, it has no say in government. Buhari does not give even audience to leaders of the party. For him, he wanted a platform to win the election, He won the election; that is the use of the party and that has been put to rest. It’s a vey unfortunate situation and I sincerely hope that Buhari will be the last General to contest election in any form in Nigeria.
As you can see, we have difficulties in making them think and behave like democrats and that’s a major tragedy. So, as far as I’m concerned, these combination of crises – economic crisis, constitutional or political crisis, crisis within the political parties and general crisis in the country — coupled with the security and economy; that would be too much for anybody to handle. I sincerely hope that Buhari would do the decent thing by simply resigning because even if he suddenly becomes well tomorrow, having gone through what he went through — because I know for a fact that his sickness did not just start from May 29, 2015, Buhari has been sick for at least 18 months before he became president. I had the opportunity to raise the issue with at least one or two of his relations, raised it with one or two of his confidants, and I told them that ‘this is a sick man; you better do something about it’. I’m not sure that they understood the implication of being sick and contesting an election as a sick man, as an invalid. But Buhari is not the type of person you can advise, he listens to what he wants to listen to. Advice or no advice, he does what he likes. That, to me is not a democratic spirit.
You spoke about the PDP and APC being in crisis. But the PDP is teaming up with some other parties ahead of 2019 to upstage the ruling APC. Do you think the PDP can beat the APC?
My concern is simply this: what we will have at the end of the day will depend on the integrity of the process. For example, I’m willing to stick out my neck and say the last election of 2015 was a reasonably free election except part of the South East and South South. But that was a credible election in the sense that a number of areas which voted, their votes were allowed to count and that is very important. But will there be a credible election come 2019? Yes and no. Yes, if Buhari does the decent thing by resigning now and allowing his party the time to pull itself together to re-energise itself, rejig itself in preparation for 2019. They can still have a fighting chance. As far as I’m concerned, the PDP is not yet a major threat to APC, but if Buhari deliberately decides for his own selfish interest and other considerations to concede to his relations and friends and cronies who are in government and making huge amount of money, and decides to stay in power even when he is completely incapacitated, then he is going to go down together with APC itself.
And the APC itself is not being honourably led. Because, I, for one, do not see why Oyegun should remain the chairman of the party when young boys like the publicity secretary are not taking orders from him; they are busy fighting one another. I’d rather be a follower than be a leader who is not respected and cannot command the overall majority of the issue in the party and that seems to be what is happening with Oyegun. And right or wrong, the unanointed leaders of the party can come out openly to oppose him, so what is he doing in that job? Can’t he eat without being the national chairman of the party? What does he add to the APC as a party? Democracy does not only mean voting or participating in elections, it means we must also have what is called a democratic spirit. He must know that winning an election is not war; it’s not a matter of life and death. There have been leaders before and leaders will come. As far as I’m concerned, there are certain principles in a democracy which a democrat must abide by. From all indications, neither General Buhari nor Chief Oyegun are true democrats — in my view. They should resign if they want to be seen as democrats. And they would do themselves enormous good and do the country and their party enormous justice if they said yes they are leaving, and we will say- ‘bye bye, goodluck Nigeria’.
But if they insist they will stay because they are indispensable, then we are going to have a serious constitutional crisis and that crisis will consume them because nobody is immune to this kind of crisis.
And personally, I don’t believe they have done anything. Look, today, the North admires leaders even after their death. Many Nigerians still admire General Murtala Mohammed. Murtala Mohammed was in power for only 200 days and today, he’s being respected, he’s being mentioned at every occasion; he’s a classical man, conscientious and served to the best of his ability until he was gunned down by assassins. I don’t know if soldiers like him or other leaders who claim to be great leaders or wonderful democrats are prepared to abide by what democratic tenets should be or should have been. Murtala took over power because the military leaders whom he had put in power in 1967 refused to vacate power in 1975 as promised Nigerians. General Gowon was in power and said 1975 or 1976 was no longer realistic. Murtala overthrew him and took over power. And even though Murtala was assassinated, the man who took over power after him, General Olusegun Obasanjo and his colleagues insisted on having a new constitution, running elections and handing over to a newly elected civilian government. That to me speaks volumes and I sincerely hope that there would be honourable men and women within the context of politics, not within the context of coup making who will come and resolve some of the crisis we are now confronted with in Nigeria.
Is it not time for true progressives like you all over the country to come together to save Nigeria from crumbling?
Now, the so-called progressives had their moment in 1976 during the All Progressives Conference in Zaria which was attended by quite a number of titans of the progressive movement in Nigeria. The likes of the late SG Ikokwu, Bola Ige, Bala Usman, my humble self and quite a number of other people. I believe from the outcome of the conference in Zaria, it was possible to have used that confab as a launch pad to have a truly democratic and truly progressive political party in Nigeria. Unfortunately, typical of anything about the Nigerian elite and their lousiness, after the conference and what we agreed to do at the conference, it was very much distinct; nobody was going to declare Nigeria a Socialist State, we were not about to go and start nationalising individual assets or re-nationalising other assets. We just set the minimum as the requirements for Nigerians in terms of free education, free health services, diversification of the economy away from oil into other sectors and a lot about agriculture. But the moment people left that conference, they went back into their tribal shell. Everybody now forgot it, paying lip service to progressive politics, they went back to their individual tribal chauvinism and irredentism. Of course, imagine what we would now have, from 1976 emerging opportunities that were lost. I don’t know about the current crop because a number of them are dead now — SG Ikokwu is dead, Uche Chukwumerije is dead, Bola Ige is dead, quite a number of people are no more with us.
Now, my concern is: are there enough people ,still alive and still political active like Tunji Otegbeye and others who are still prepared, who, despite old age and infirmities are prepared to go back to the battlefield because the redeeming message of progressive politics is very much alive and well. The necessities, the imperatives of progressive politics are still very much with us. But we need sensible people, not people who go about sloganeering about progressive politics. Yes, it can be done but until we have people who are prepared, sincere and determined to do it. And until we have people who are also prepared to get converts into the cause of progressives politics not those who want to remain progressives in the name of their tribes or their regions or their political zone which is sheer nonsense. But what is good for anybody in terms of war against poverty, in terms of diversification of the economy, in terms of having a coherent national mantra and doing something about quite a number of issues related to poverty like health services, education and meaningful maintenance of peace, order and security, they are as necessary today as they were in 1976 and earlier. And I believe something can be done if Nigerian elites are responsible and of course, I don’t believe Nigeria elites have been responsible so far.
Many people are of the view that a way out of the crisis is for President Buhari to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference, but he has turned deaf hears to calls for this. What’s your take on this?
Well, above all other things, you know I participated in the Constitutional Conference. But unlike many other people, I’m not a noise maker. Both at the conference and away from the conference, I participated and I represented Kano State which is like three states today, then and now. As far as I’m concerned, the Constitutional Conference was put together in bad faith. A constitutional conference like the one we had in 2014 was supposed to reflect on the nation itself. So, when you have conference of such nature, it was supposed to be a microscosm of Nigeria. Now, from day one, we got bogged down because in the turn out, the majority was made the minority in the composition of the conference. So, you can see clearly, nobody was opposing anybody. The majority of Nigerians and their allegiancies and their indentities were made surbordinates and were made the minority at the conference.
So, you can see clearly that nothing was going to happen. In addition, in the unfortunate dichotomy between the so-called North and the so-called South, the South was in far greater number than the North. And there was no attempt to justify that anomaly until the conference ended. Sadly, when the conference finished its deliberations, some people were put together by the Presidency in cahoots with the chairman and deputy chairman, Idris Kutigi and Bolaji Akinyemi. They were put together to write the report. A lot of the things they put there were not agreed to at the conference. So, you can see that is not the type of credible conference anybody should rely on. So, if you are going to implement, what are you going to implement? Some of the things they are agitating to be implemented were rejected at the confab. But they were put there through the backdoor by the report-writing committee.
So, if you look at the composition of the membership, the composition of the staff, even the composition of the labourers working at the confab, everything was lopsided. If you want that recommendations to be implemented, on whose mandate; who gave you the mandate? The confab was somebody’s idea; they held the confab because there was a lot of noise about it in order to win the election. They held the confab and produced the result yet did not win election, so what are we talking about. To be fair to Buhari, in spite of my reservations on a number of issues, Buhari from day one, even before he won the election, said he was not going to implement the recommendations of the confab. You cannot tell a man who said he was not going to implement the recommendations of the confab and who now has the mandate to run the country that he must make a u-turn and implement the recommendations of the confab in spite of the significance of the faults I’ve enumerated even in terms of participation.
Buhari did not participate, but I participated at the conference. And if Buhari were to attempt or this government of his to implement the recommendations of the so-called 2014 conference, there would be bloodshed! Because it is nobody’s mandate. If anybody wants to implement the recommendations of the 2014 confab, let them put it to a national referendum and let’s see how they will get away with it because it will be gunned down in a jiffy. They just want to waste our time. The issues confronting us today are beyond the recommendations of any confab and we’ve had so many confabs from 1952 to 2014. None of them has solved one inch of our problems, none of them has advanced the cause of Nigerians, none of them has added value to the process of governance in Nigeria. So, don’t let’s get carried away by noisemakers and opportunists.