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2nd Republic parliamentarian warns Buhari on 2019 polls
•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?
(Cuts in) My friend, don’t tell me that. Go and check your facts and come back to me. In fact, if you can get Buhari, tell him this is what I have told you. These are people I have known for decades. It’s not question of confirming to you. I don’t have reputation for loose talks. And I challenge you to go and find out any newspaperman who said I told him a lie and I have been in this game for a long time, long before you went into journalism. So, I am telling you, if your friend is a thief you are a thief. If members of your family are implicated in stealing you are also implicated. So, don’t tell me this cock and bull story. That talk of integrity has vanished. If, however, you claim to have integrity and you pretend nothing is happening and you turn your eyes the other way while there is a lot going on in the NNPC, in the Customs Department, Immigration and in contract awards that are being awarded without due process and in the way and manner certain parts of the country are being favoured in government contracts while others are being underdeveloped you cannot tell me you have integrity. Show me the evidence. For example he claims to be a Muslim, a Hausa-Fulani and a northerner, I challenge you to tell me one thing he did to the North. Do you want me to prove that to you?
Well, he did nothing. That is why I don’t want to waste my time proving a negative in logic. If somebody has done nothing you cannot tell me to prove what he has done. He has done nothing. Tell me what he did. Look at the road from Ibadan to Lagos. Look at the way it is being constructed. So much money is being sunk there over and over. Look at the road from Abuja to Kano where I am staying. I have patched several tyres of my cars and as I am talking to you now I have no light. So what are you telling me? I was in an occasion when Buhari accused me before Maitama Sule and two other people that I cannot be a good Muslim since I am criticizing his government. Now, what has religion or Islam got to do with this? I talked about his performance, which was lousy and still lousy. And if everybody in Nigeria is to go and vote according to the dictates, imaginary dictates of ignorant people like him to assess a leader or to vote for a leader then there will be no Nigeria. I used to support him in the past even though I never joined his party because I thought he was well-meaning. Now I am wiser. The people he made that claim to, Maitama Sule is dead, but two of them are alive. One is Maitama Sule’s last son. If a leader can be so petty and mean as to invoke your religious fate and say that you cannot be a religious man simply because you do not support his politics then you can see the kind of lousy calibre we are dealing with.
If you write Buhari off in this manner, who is the alternative in the North?
Again, I think the Nigerian media are not being fair to Nigerians. You cannot tell me now as I am sitting in my house here in Kano to tell you who will be the next president of Nigeria. But what I am saying is this: once you try something or somebody and you have not succeeded, the rationale thing to do is to look somewhere else and look for somebody. This man has failed woefully; so it will be absolutely irresponsible and catastrophic if Nigerians were to elect him to be president again. And if he decides to rig the election because it is much beyond him; because they have been gathering money from the days he was in PTF and till today they have a huge war chest running into billions if not trillions, 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.
Yes. And let me also tell you something that will surprise you. The crisis may not even begin in the South, it may begin here in the North because northerners have looked and have found there is nothing Buhari did for them. And I challenge anybody to tell me what Buhari did.
What then becomes of this massive support they claim he has in the North?
Oh! You believe in that massive support? Have you ever heard of what they say is a rented crowd? If you give me money, only 10 per cent of what you have been spending for the crowd in the North I can give you 100 per cent more crowd than he has been able to gather. During the last visit he made here in Kano I knew for a fact that people were packed in from Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, nearby Jigawa State and one other state. Is that what you call massive support? Let’s wait and see. All we are asking for is that let there be a credible election and if he insists, in spite of the national interest…then we’ll see what happens because elections have consequences both before and after. Even if he manages to rig the election, we’ll see what happens after the election because Nigeria shall know no peace because clearly his own manner of campaign is to go underground and start inciting tribal, religious and sectional motives and lying to people. I do not think that Nigerians are at that primordial level. I think they have passed that stage.
We are just few months to the APC primary election and some people, including yourself I am sure will say the pillars on which his coalition rest are likely to relocate ambition and support. Do you see that happening to Buhari?
Yes, there is that possibility and I am neutral about it because as far as I am concerned APC has failed, President Muhammadu Buhari has failed. But his failure is a lot worse than that of the APC as a party because if you are a leader in the presidential system like the one we have you are not only the de facto leader of your party, you are also the leader of the government and chief executive officer of that government. You are also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Security Officer of the whole country. In addition you are what they call the moral conscience of the country. What you do or do not do shows whether you are a serious leader and the kind of person to be taken seriously. You also portray an image to the outside world whether you are a joker, a clan, an illiterate or some kind of person. And, of course, what you define as the discerning moments are going to be clear. If it is corruption we will see how you fight corruption; if to fight Boko Haram insurgency and other security concerns is the discerning moment of your time we will see how you do it, not just making noise about it. If you chose to ignore professional economists, finance people, international experts on some of these areas and pick those who are either your relations or nominees of your friends, cronies or what have you to put in government if we have the kind of mess that we have there is nothing to be surprised about. And if you think only those who are close to you are those who know then you are in serious trouble because God Almighty has not confined His blessings to only one family or any group of friends. So, go out and look for the best this country can offer and there are quite remarkable Nigerians in and out of the country who will be willing to come and put their hands on deck to salvage this country instead of allowing some of these illiterates who will come and mess us up more. And they lie about corruption when they are even selective in the pursuit of the corrupt people. They lie about insurgency and terrorism when in fact the very policy they are pursuing in the armed forces, especially among the Generals is one of the main reasons it has become impossible to conquer the terrorists in the North-East. What is even more sinister is that the war in the North-East is now being used as a political and television war. They lie, they go and take some children in, then after some few days they say they have been recovered. But there are some of the Chibok girls who have not been seen. Where are they? Among the girls taken away in Dapchi there is still a girl called Leah Sharibu. We haven’t seen her and nobody is talking about her. Even the last speech that he made on the 29th May nothing was mentioned of either Chibok or the only Dapchi girl remaining. And this is where we are; which means that as long as what is being pursued does not serve political and propaganda purposes it’s as well forgotten. That is a very unfortunate and wrong way to look at the issues.
What would be your response to those who will say the fault is not in Buhari, but in his wrong choice of a team that has created near universal consensus as performing below one that should actualize his vision?
I agree with those who say so because they are right. The facts on ground indicate that neither him nor the team he brought on board has performed. But in a normal democracy and country if you give a man a job and he fails to perform you ask him to go because there is no capital punishment for failing in political assignment. What you do to such people is simply to ask them to go. You can’t kill him and you can’t send him to jail. But where the president himself admitted that the team he put together has failed and promised to reshuffle the cabinet and today, one and a half year into that statement he has not done anything you can see clearly we have very serious trouble. What this indicates is that, one he is not in charge of the government. Two, what his friends and relations, cronies and fellow corrupt people who are in the cabal tell him is more important than public opinions among Nigerians.
Now it is too late to sack them. There was a minister who was going to be a gubernatorial candidate instead of concentrate in campaigning he was allowed to remain a minister until public opinion ruled otherwise. And this is what is replicated all over the country. And now we have a situation where a serving officer, a retired military officer who is now holding a post as Comptroller General of Customs is now openly campaigning for the president and the president does not have the guts to tell him to stop. And then he is getting involved in intricate matters even among professional politicians who are now holding substantive political offices…and this is a man who claims to have done criminology or whatever it is and is now the Comptroller General, not in prosecution and is making statements nobody calls him to order. This is the only country that I know of where democracy is so shabbily and badly mishandled by the few who are ignorant and do not know what they are talking about. And this is not to mention the fact that of all Nigerian leaders he is the least competent, least educated and the least smart and he insists that he has to continue to be our president whether you and I like it or not.
I am sure you know he has the right to seek re-election
I started by saying so, but sometimes in life you are going to do certain things even if you have the right to do so because of the larger public and national interest. I think it would be in the national interest for Buhari not to contest for any form of election until the last day of his life.