Junaid Mohammed’s bombshell: Rig election, break Nigeria
•Labels Jonathan irresponsible president, Buhari colossal failure
• Alerts of northerners’ readiness to begin protest
Dr Junaid Salik Mohammed, one of the vocal voices in the Second Republic legislative arm, is angry again. He can no longer control his emotions over what he described as the woeful failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. In this interview with Sunday Sun, Mohammed who was throughout the Second Republic government the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) Chief Whip and Parliamentary Party Leader exhibited extreme emotions to let out his anger. He was particularly piqued over President Buhari’s insistence in seeking re-election in spite of resistance from some prominent Nigerians. Mohammed, therefore, warned: “If they want to rig the election and, of course, they have the wherewithal, the means of violence, the armed forces, the police, the para-military and what have you and they want to rig the election, I want to assure you if they rig this election there may not be Nigeria again.” If anyone is in doubt of the seriousness in Mohammed’s warning, he speaks more on the potential risky and damaging course of action.
You are one of the critics of this government and you have been unrelenting. Why is this so? Why are you opposed to this government?
First and foremost, I am a democrat and we are living in a system, which is supposedly a democratic dispensation. We have a right to support a government and a right not to. And even after supporting it we have a right to change our mind. And I am taking advantage of that principle of democracy. People have a right to choose; they have a right to have their votes counted and they also have a right to change their mind along the way. There is nothing sacrosanct about voting a man and I have also noticed in my over 40 years of politics that there is a very serious misunderstanding among many Nigerians, especially the so-called elite about the essence of voting for a government. Many of our elite assume that once you vote for a government you should simply roll over and play deaf. You should not bother looking at what they are doing, how they are doing it, whether it is right or wrong, whether it is in the national interest or not. But my idea is that voting for a government is only one step, but one very important step. The rest, civil society, people who are members of political parties, those who are not members of parties and the rest are to keep an eye and to be vigilant so that government does not treat them shabbily.
But beyond the democratic norms that give you the freedom to criticize any government, what are your experiences with this government, frustrating moments that have given you the credentials to express disapproval with it?
First and foremost, you knew the Buhari administration and his APC so-called government came at a very difficult time for this country. So, in all fairness one cannot blame him, his party or the cabal around him as being entirely responsible for the situation we find ourselves…
Is the cabal around him the main problem?
(Cuts in) Hold on. Yes, it is one of the main problems because there is no person who can govern by himself alone. So, yes if you blame a man you must also blame his coterie of advisers or mis-advisers around him, most of whom are ignorant, most of whom are not there on merit either as politicians, technocrats or professionals. They don’t know what they are talking about. So, my experience is that one, to Buhari what matters most is that people he put in certain positions must be his relations, his in-laws, blood relations and also most importantly be members of his inner circle. So, this idea of nepotism; this idea of prebendalism; this idea of giving a man an appointment only because you know him and he is your friend is something I find terribly objectionable. This is the worst government in the history of Nigeria that I know of since 1914 to date.
(Cuts in) Some other people would say…?
Hold on, hold on. As long as he continues along this way I will criticize him because it is my privilege and right as a Nigerian to do so. And what he does with our money…it is not just his personal money because he didn’t come from any super rich background. So, it is the Nigerian money he is abusing and the Nigerian privilege given to him as a candidate and now president that is being abused and anytime there is an abuse of office in Nigeria or any other country he is in a very serious trouble and that is why we are where we are today. No progress, too much motion, very little progress, very little movement.
You have said this government is the worst government, but some people would say it is the best government since 1999 when we started this new democratic experience as is being mouthed by his appointees and some Nigerians?
What do you expect his appointees to say? They are now a product of the system and there is this skewed idea of punishment. If you are part of the system even if you commit murder you will get away with it. Those who are also not so close or not so privileged because at the slightest problem they get taken to a court and then they are either given bail or some of them are outrightly jailed. As far as I am concerned you are saying nothing new. This is what every Nigerian knows and especially those who are holding public office. It is a very, very dichotomous relationship between him and the people he appointed within the party and those outside the party. So, as far as I am concerned there is nothing new in what you have said. Saying that one government is the best can only be done if you have the full context. For example, how many governments have we had and how many governments are we going to have? So, I don’t know on what basis they are pronouncing this government as the best government. What is best about this unless you are one of those who glorify incompetence, illiteracy, irresponsibility and, of course, skewed manner of prosecuting war against corruption. If that is your own way of assessing a government, good luck to you.
Can all these things be attributed to one government?
No, no, no. I didn’t say so unless you want to be mischievous. What I am saying is simply this. As far as I am concerned, when they came and that was my take when I started this discussion, they inherited a very bad situation because by any standard, Goodluck was a very irresponsible president; he was in the habit of allowing all those who supported him political leverage to abuse their offices and amass wealth. That have been publicly proven and it is no more something secret. But I feel the situation would have been a lot better if on assumption of office in May 2015 Buhari had put together a team to help him man the government. He allowed six months after winning the election without appointing his cabinet. And the appointment of cabinet is not something you do because you like or you don’t like. It is there in the constitution. He refused to appoint his cabinet and so the problems he inherited were magnified and he suddenly found things blowing on his face. When you assume that civil servants know everything you are making a very serious mistake. The system of public administration we inherited from the British provides that there should be a cadre of civil servants who are non-political, but on top of them there must be elected representatives of the people or those who have been appointed and where the need arises they are cleared by the National Assembly into office. You cannot avoid that. But as far as I am concerned he made his own bed and he should lie on it.
This government was three years old on the 29th of May, what is your assessment of the government, sincerely? Would you say Nigerians are better off now or worse off?
Well, I will answer your question, but I will prefer to turn the question back to you and ask you to be sincere and tell me between you and your God whether this government has done well? My own impression is that they have not done well at all. The way you assess a politician…take away all the pretenses of integrity or achievements, his banner has nothing. It is nothing but void. Let me tell you; you assess a politician by what he says he would do. Buhari promised to deal and finish off Boko Haram. They are very much alive. As a Nigerian who lives in this country because I don’t know if you have been living overseas. I have been here and I have not traveled out of Nigeria since 2005 when incidentally I took Buhari to America and Britain. Now, I want to assure you that I cannot say that within the last three years my lot has been bettered. Things have been worse, poverty has been a lot more and by the evaluation of the United Nation Development Programme, World Bank and IMF, poverty has become a lot more since Buhari became president and indiscipline has become a lot worse. The corruption he claimed to pay lip service to is now much higher and is greater in the presidency where he resides and it is among his cronies, his friends and relations. We have wonder boys who are multi-billionaires who have houses all over the country and outside the country. So, if that is what you call a better Nigeria then good luck to you because to me, I knew what my standard was and what it is now as I am talking to you. So, Nigeria is a lot worse, less secured and a lot more corrupt. The military itself in the fight against corruption has become so compromised. He has now deliberately, whimsically and illegally extended the tenure of the top Generals now because some of them are his friends in whatever they are doing. And we have a situation whereby three generations of Nigerian military Generals who are trained with huge amount of money either to take over the command of what is happening in the North-East are not given the opportunity because their seniors are busy staying and most of them are redundant, irresponsible and corrupt. Postings are now determined by whom you know and are determined by how much you are willing to pay. And then a lot of crimes we accuse Boko Haram apply to the Nigerian Armed Forces. They go to villages and take over farms and fish farms. Some of the fish are transported to the South and some to where I am here in Kano and they make money out of it. So, the fight against corruption has been politicized and commercialized and it is now in the interest of these top Generals to continue with this fight indefinitely because they are making money out of it.
In this case, how much damage would you say has been done to Buhari’s charisma and integrity because it would seem these qualities are being challenged?
In the first place can you mind if you go into sociology or psychology. It’s a very ill defined term. You can win an election through perception of charisma, but at the end of the day what determines your success or failure is not charisma. What defines your success or failure is how you perform in the job. I have never been taken in by Buhari’s charisma and I have written him a note through the late General Malu in which I warned him against this idea that he has charisma; therefore, he can go and do nothing; be a-do-nothing president and imagine he would succeed. He still has a copy. I told him he should be very careful because some of these sycophants around him have been telling him that he has charisma. You need more than charisma to run a country of more than 200 million people. Clearly, he has not done well and that is why you can see his charisma has completely vanished. And if he cannot improve his act and I cannot see how he would do it in less than one year, I cannot see that charisma remaining in place. It has vanished already. It has vamoosed; nobody is talking about charisma now.
I mentioned charisma and integrity. What about his integrity?
Very good. Integrity is a holistic term. If you have integrity, it means those around you, including members of your family, your cronies and friends must also be seen to have share in that otherwise they have no business sharing in the glory of your integrity. Now, clearly, some of the closest people to Buhari have been found to be corrupt.
(Cuts in) Can you confirm that? This is a mere allegation by you?