From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna
Saturday October 08, 2011
Photo: Sun News Publishing
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Russian trained medical doctor, Junaid Mohammed is one of the very few fearless northern politicians around. He speaks his mind without minding whose ox is gored. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Sun last Saturday, in Kano, he disclosed that even though the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was not his idea of a Nigerian president, he was “10 million times” better than President Goodluck Jonathan. He said that Jonathan is not fit to govern Nigeria.
While insisting that Nigeria was overdue for a revolution, Mohammed said: “Am not sure Nigerians will be happy with what I have to say, but I will say it nonetheless. The way and manner this government cowardly refused to celebrate our independence anniversary is a massive and disgraceful climb-down. It is, in fact, a submission to evil and to darkness; it is also an admission by them that they are not fit to do the job. They are not fit to lead this country, because I remember that even at the height of the civil war, from 1967 to 1970, Nigeria never missed the opportunity of celebrating its own national anniversary, because it is like a birthday to us.
“Even if you don’t celebrate with funfare, you celebrate it with prayers. This is a disgraceful regime, a disgraceful presidency, a disgraceful government brought about by a disgraceful party. May God shorten their stay and may God shorten the agony of the people of Nigeria. I urge Nigerians to pray for deliverance from God and to allow this country to restore itself, restore its honour and occupy its own position in the comity of nations. That is all I can say. But I see no hope of peace in this country, as long as this government, this INEC; this security service is in charge of our destiny. May God disband them and the sooner, the better!”
He also spoke on other issues of national interest, including the move to bring back Gusau, as national security adviser (NSA).
Did you, by chance, listen to the President’s October 1 speech?
No; I didn’t bother.
It’s owing to a number of reasons. One, you have to believe in the legitimacy of a government and a leader before you really spare time to listen to what he has to say. If you believe, as I do, that this government is entirely illegitimate, as it came as a result of rigging and massive abuse of power by the party, the PDP, and the security services, you will know that this man, who is president today, and the man he succeeded as well as the one his predecessor succeeded have no business to be in government and that is why I did not bother to listen to his speech.
It is surprising to hear you say that the government is illegitimate when observers, both local and international, adjudged the 2011 general elections as one of our best so far. What, therefore, is the basis for your conclusions?
Well, first and foremost, you have to be privileged to witness more than one election before you adjudge one as one of the best so far. Many of the observers that you are trying to talk about were never present in the previous elections in Nigeria; so, how can you say, on the basis of what they have told you, that election was the best we have had in this country? In the first place, who is the best judge of free and fair election among the foreign observers, who came here for one week or two and the people of Nigeria, who are here? I have been a participant in this game long before Goodluck or anybody who is in government today and I can tell you that election we had was the worst in the history of this country. And no matter what the America, the British, the Europeans or the EU says or anybody else, I know, in my own lifetime, there was no election that was as bad as the last 2011 elections. So, take my word for it.
Why should I take your word when other notably Nigerians have also adjudged the election as one of our bests?
Well, it will interest you to know that I am first, a political leader of a national party, registered by INEC, PSP; I have been a participant in politics. I have led parties that have won elections in Nigeria. I have observed elections in other countries, not only in Africa, but also in other parts of the world. Am telling you that the observers were nothing but sham. The assessment was a disgrace. If you bother to look at what was behind their own approval of the election, you will find out that, in fact, everyone of those countries who came out and said that the election was free and fair was merely echoing the national interest and pronouncement of their home government. EU countries knew that the election was a sham. In private, when we discussed with some of them, they admitted that the election was full of lapses, but in public they tell the world that it was the freest election in the history of this country. And when you ask them, how many elections they have observed in Nigeria, they keep quite. So, the whole business of election observation is nothing but a sham. It is a fraud in which we are cheated and the citizens of their own countries are also cheated because it is a multi billion dollar business in the name of democracy.
Now, if we in the country are not happy with the election, if we in the country notice our own people died, who is a foreigner, an American or European, to come and tell us that the election was the freest or the best? How many elections are worth the life of one individual? And how many thousands of people were killed in the cause of the campaign, in the cause of the election itself and the tragedy, which followed after? Go and tell the people of Kaduna State that the election was the best in the history of Nigeria and see what you get. About 17 governors today cannot live in peace in their own state capitals; they are living in Abuja, and you are here telling me the election was the best and the freest.
Now that you are coming to specifics, what were those lapses you noticed that perhaps, some of us are not aware of?
Experience in government has shown that you win or lose an election or you have a free and credible election when you organise a good registration system. The INEC registration system was a disgrace. It was incompetent. It was supposed to involve machines, which were, in fact, unconstitutional and when they did, you find out that almost all the machines failed everywhere in Nigeria. If you don’t have a credible voters’ register, you can never have a free and fair election. Secondly, the first election was so bad, so riotous, and so useless that INEC itself was forced to cancel it. In cancelling the election, they did not think that it would have effect on the subsequent elections and that they would not have enough time to conduct the first election, then allow a lapse of seven days before the next election. They had to rush and bring the election forward, in a way that would have been unthinkable because having conducted one election, and then coming another three days to conduct the next election is nonsense, especially in a country where the vast majority of the people live in the villages and they are illiterates.
So, so much for your incredible election often applauded by your so-called foreign observers, because when Nigerians who are educated talk to me about foreign observers, I detect a sense of inferiority complex. Who are they to declare your election as free and fair, when you yourself know the situation? And after the election itself, you know what happened in places like Kaduna and others. After that, we are now seeing the result of the collusion between the judiciary and the PDP. You the media will tell us that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But now, the Nigerian judiciary is the worst in the world. It is only in the Nigerian judiciary that you see judges, from Supreme Court, down to other courts, go and solicit for bribes from two sides in litigation, I mean from the complainant and the defendant. So, what are you saying?
To have free and fair election, we need more than a credible register; we need more than a credible INEC. We also need a good judiciary that believes in the rule of law. Not chief judges, including Supreme Court judges, who are accused of taking bribes. So, for the 2011 polls, there was no prevailing background that allows for free and fair election. It is not the seven-day event. The exercise must be conducted according to certain rules. Democracy must be respected. There must be respect for the rule of law before you have a credible election. And don’t ever believe that anybody who comes here to observe election is doing so because he loves you. He is here because he is protecting his own national interest. They are only after our oil and other resources.
Away from 2011 election, Nigeria is 51. You were an active player in the second republic. Looking at the North, what do you think could have gone wrong, putting side by side the politics in the Second Republic and what we have today?
Why must you single out the North for comment?
Well, I want to look at the North first before we look at Nigeria. You are a leader in your own right. Your comment on this will not be out of place.
Well, I think the North was shortchanged in more ways than one. Firstly, the North was victim of its own naivety that politics can be played in a very holistic manner, that we can provide the necessary nucleus for building a greater and better Nigeria. This was the dream of our First Republic leaders, the Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka and so on. But what has become clear is that the hope of our northern leaders was misplaced and a number of the people who are supposed to have been participants in the game took a lot of things for granted.
What are those things they took for granted and what do you mean when you say the North is shortchanged?
You do not play politics unless you know who you’re dealing with. If you don’t know the character of the person you are playing politics with, you are bound to be disappointed. Now, the North started the struggle for independence at a comparative disadvantage, with a very few schools, very few so-called educated people. We were left behind because the missionaries did most of their works down South and the Middle Belt and we didn’t want to give the impression that we wanted to delay independence for the country because we wanted to hold back. Now, when independence came, we decided to adopt an attitude of live and let’s live, allow the southerners occupy those areas where they have comparative advantage; we also believed that they will be sensible enough to realise that the country cannot be built if other sections of the country are marginalised or are disadvantaged.
So, our attitude was to do whatever we can to make sure that the country is a fair playing field for all. And that was where we were greatly mistaken. And the same mistake continued repeating itself.
When we came to the Second Republic, it was the northerners who insisted that we will have this system of rotation and zoning, which was then the main mantra of the NPN. And they practised it. Unfortunately, when it came to the PDP, which is a bastardised version of both the NPN and NPC of the first and second republics, the party was able to attract some of the worst characters, the most unfavourable characters in our national life; people who have no sense of honour, people who came into politics because they want to make money. People who don’t care about the next party, their neighbour or even the next zone; they are only after themselves; people who are not ashamed to lie and people who are northerners but believe that the South has advantage because the South has this ‘safe’ money, and that when you get into politics, the first thing you do is to take care of yourself and your relations and all that. And through nepotism, you will take care of your own children. You will steal government money and then you lie to the people.
That is the operating mantra of the PDP, as a party today and these are people who call themselves democrats. If you are not in the same cult with them, nobody expects you to win a free and fair election or to be participant in a free and fair election process. I know nobody in the PDP who can be described as a democrat. These are people who want power and they want to get it at all costs, no matter the price to them, to the country or the people. This is the kind of thing we have. Now, if the northerners had played the kind of game, which is prevalent in the South – power for themselves and what have you – I can assure you that Nigeria would have been history now.
The northerners played fair and at the end of the day they were very badly rewarded. Now henceforth, or in another dispensation, I don’t believe anybody can convince the North that some of the people who are playing politics now are trustworthy. Nobody will believe that. And if northern leaders, who are to come, play that kind of game, they are going to be rudely shocked. The coming of Obasanjo in 1999 is a major chapter in our history because Obasanjo could never have won an election and he still cannot win an election. Our generals brought him in: Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, TY Danjuma, Aliyu Gusau and Abdulsalami Abubakar. He couldn’t have organised a party. He couldn’t have won any form of election. They brought him, used their own resources and the resources of the treasury of Nigeria to form and fund a party called PDP. What is happening today is the direct result of that terrible tragedy of their own action. I think the four of them owe this nation an apology for the way they brought out Obasanjo from prison and gave him a comprehensive pardon and formed the PDP and used resources from the treasury to finance the PDP. Here is the result.
Now, talking about northern leaders and the rest of us, one of those you said should apologise to Nigeria is being touted as a possible replacement for the current NSA. What do you think, especially as it amounts to recycling northerners in government?
Now, this brings me back to what I asked you when you talked about the North. What you are talking about the North recycling old leaders applies to the South also. I recall vividly that the people I knew or read about during the First Republic are still active and they are still the movers and shakers in the politics of the South. So, what makes you think that we can be different when we are doing politics in the same country within the same constitutional borders?
Now, to come back to the question, I call it recycling garbage. In the first place, the people we are talking about did not get their first appointment on merit; they got it from purely political and nepotistic considerations and for every time they got recycled back into government, the logic behind it wasn’t merit, wasn’t because national interest was at stake, but it is because somebody has a brainwave, to say so and so is bad and only so and so person is competent to fix it. That is an insult to the people of Nigeria. You cannot tell me that in nation of 150 million people, only one person of mediocre disposition is the one who can be the National Security Adviser. That is utter nonsense; it is counter-intuitive, and it is against justice to reappoint one person to a particular position six times.
Supposing this man drops dead tomorrow, because he is already over 70, does it mean that there would be no individual to help tackle the security challenges of today? And are you telling me that if we are in this mess today, and he is a member of the governing party, he has served in this administration, then he leaves and nobody else can do his job? It is wonderful how you people in the media too argue over this issue. Is it sane to argue that only one man has the answer to our security challenges? I think it is sickening. And I want to use this opportunity to call on the media too, to please help us raise the level of the debate.
At any rate, when he served previously, was he any different from the others? This is, however, not to say that the current National Security Adviser is doing any better. If anything, the man is a national disgrace and an international laughing stock. He is a man with the lousiest track record in the army when he served and now you make him the National Security Adviser only because he is an Ijaw man; he comes from the same tribe with the President. Is that not the most irresponsible way to pick a man who will help confront the challenges of today? When you give appointment to somebody who is your own tribal man, not because he is competent, then you can see why we will never have a peaceful situation in this country.
Now, the job of National Security Adviser in the country has nothing to do with domestic security, the man deals with international security; that is the security of the entire nation. He has nothing to do with police or Boko Haram or OPC or the militants in the Niger Delta. See how the office has now been turned into a joke. It’s a thing for serious concern. I say so because the office is now seen as money making outfit; if you want to make money easily, go and be the National Security Adviser or get involved with the SSS or the police. It is only in Nigeria you can get this kind of nonsense. Most of the people who do the job in Nigeria are people who are basically illiterate, at least those who occupy that position cannot write a single paragraph in English and when they relate with other security personnel at that level, their foreign counterparts, they will laugh at us. Most of them, who had occupied that position, with exception of one fine General, don’t read newspapers; they don’t watch television. They are not literate with the Internet, in this day and age. They rely on rumours and that is what has now been elevated as national security policy.
If you decide to recycle garbage six times, good luck to you, because nothing will improve as far as good representation is concerned. These people believe in money and they are there to be rich, own hundreds of houses in Abuja and other parts of the country, have plenty of money, both in naira and foreign currencies, with which they also settle potential trouble makers. How they operate is, if Boko Haram is making noise, go and find half a million dollars, give them and they will keep quiet; if Gani Adams and others are making noise, go and give them money, they will keep quiet. If the boys in the Niger Delta are making noise, go tell them ‘look under amnesty, we will buy houses for all their leaders in Abuja, pay the school fees of their children and make sure they have fantastic homes and they will drink Champaign to bed every day;’ that is what happens.
But when you have a determined enemy, the one that is determined to make trouble, this kind of appeasement will not work. Those who are determined, who are educated, will not be bought. There is always in every society, someone who cannot be bought and I believe those who are making trouble in Nigeria today cannot be easily bought.
If you were in the president’s shoes, will you keep all the security chiefs you have?
My dear friend, the president was never forced to appoint the people he appointed. I don’t think any nobody is forcing him to keep them in the positions they are now. When you are making political appointments based on sentiments and not on merit, you also live with the consequences of failure. When you look at the history of how these people were appointed, we know what I mean. I just mentioned the issue of Andrew Azazi, who was appointed merely because he is a tribesman of the president. The president himself did not know him, but he is an Ijaw man; he was good. Let me look at the other places, and you will appreciate why we are in this terrible mess. The DG of the SSS, the current DG was appointed after nine of his seniors were eased out to make room for him. His qualification: he comes for the Niger Delta and the PDP and the president have made a determination that the DG SSS must come from the Niger Delta, whether the Niger Delta has a good candidate or not. So, if you remove the nine most senior officers in addition to the other DG, the former DG, to make room for one man, who is the most junior out of the lot, just to have somebody from Niger Delta as the DG, SSS, you can see why we are in a mess.
Next, we move to the police. The IG of the police comes from nearby Jigawa State, but they had to retire six DIGs above him, one of who comes from the same town with him. Some of the other AIGs, who were senior to him were also given the option to retire; you can see if we had also allowed that, there would have been at least nearly 20 people, all of who are senior to the IG who have to serve under him or retire. Most of them chose to go. Now are you surprised that the police are in a terrible mess? That is the real issue; the competent people have been eased out and that is why we are where we are today. The Chief of Army Staff was appointed when we have over 30 generals ahead of him. His qualification is that he is married to the first cousin of the first lady; this is the only qualification.
Is Jonathan the only one guilty of the picture you are trying to paint?
No, don’t get me wrong. You know I will not spare any of them. The previous one, Dambazau, was appointed over and above a more qualified person, also a fellow northerner (name withheld) who is his senior. Yar’Adua appointed him. When Jonathan came in, he also appointed even the worst candidate from further lower down, who was a Brigadier General and here is what we have today. Are you surprised that we are in the mess? You didn’t appoint people on the basis of their ability to deliver; you appointed them because you had in mind the forthcoming election. That is how the appointment was made. The DG SSS, the Inspector General of police, the Chief of the Army and the Air Force and some of the heads of paramilitary were appointed based on this. So, who is fooling who? We are behaving like children, my dear. You know something you don’t want and you sit on it and then when you see war, you now start crying like a baby.
The president himself said the system has collapsed. The question you are supposed to ask him is who presided over the collapse? Under whose watch is this collapse evident? Yar’Adua was not my idea of a president for Nigeria, but my dear, Yar’Adua was 10 million times better than this character we now have as president. At least we know Yar’Adua was an invalid, with his blind ambition and that of his wife, which caused them his life. If I were in the situation Yar’Adua found himself, I would have refused to be president. My personal feeling is irrelevant, if you give a job I cannot do, I say my friend, I cannot do this one. But, there are people in Nigeria who prepared to eat and die. If you provide them the opportunity to make money, they will do that, even if it means keeping the money for others to enjoy or to be stolen. That is the tragedy of our country. And it is not something that can be undone by one man. Even if the president wants to do it alone, he cannot do it.
The appointments are made on a kind of conspiracy between the governors and the president. Governor nominates the candidate; he gets an appointment, whether he is fit or not. Majority of the ministers today are people who cannot deliver as local government chairmen. So, why are you asking this? While they were being nominated where were you, the media?
Look, don’t get me wrong, Yar’Adua was not better. He appointed a boy who could not pass through the Economics department in Bayero, Kano here, a department that was adjudged the weakest then, as Economic Adviser. I mean he was expelled from Bayero. But I insist, as bad a Yar’Adua was, he was 10 million times better that this character we have now.
In all of these, what is the way out?
First and foremost, you have to clear the present government and clear the PDP, the ruling party. But next time you get opportunity to form party, allow them to be formed naturally, with the people who belong together. With the kind of madness and insanity we have in the PDP, where no two people speak alike, no two people think alike, no two people care about the country, you can never run a country. If it means suspending our democracy at least for a number of years, so that we can have credible party system, let us begin from there. Nigerians must learn to be patient, not to be patient with corruption, which is the argument being advanced now. We have to be patient, to make sure that we have parties, which have ideologies, which have core beliefs and when we have those kinds of parties we can play politics. At the moment, we have nothing of the kind.
About a week or so ago, some Ijaw leaders put an advertorial in the newspapers accusing northern leaders of using Boko Haram to destabilise the Jonathan’s government…
That is nonsense. In fact, I will not even dignify that with a comment. If one wants to destabilise Jonathan you need more than just a bunch of those boys. Mark you, the North is over 90 million out of the 150 million Nigerians. So, I don’t know what is there to destabilise. As far as I am concerned, Jonathan is presiding over a discredited system. He does not need to be destabilised. He will destabilise himself together with the PDP. The PDP did very well to destabilise this president, so nobody needs to bother him. They don’t have a party; they don’t have a government. The pillars he thought were going to be useful to him to emerge as the president and to run the government successfully are nowhere to be seen; it’s everybody unto himself, God for us all; that is what the PDP is all about.
They have their own phobia, and that statement may just have come from the Presidency itself, because underground they have their ways of doing some of these things and making them look as if they are coming from the outside.
Earlier, you talked about getting rid of the government…
(Cuts in) yes! I repeat, get rid of the government.
Including through revolution?
Anyhow; In fact, I will welcome a revolution in Nigeria, because we are overdue for revolution in Nigeria. By definition, Lenin said, a revolutionary situation ‘is a situation whereby those who are governing cannot govern and yet they are unwilling to make way for those who will govern.’ That is what we call a classical revolutionary situation. Clearly, this government is incompetent. They are in no position to run this country. Only God is maintaining this country. And not only that they are incompetent, and cannot govern; they don’t want to give way to others to come. This is a classical revolutionary situation. When we have situation like this, the question is who will bell the cat? Who had the guts to organise the young men because I am old now. I am 62. I am no more a young man; so who will organise the young men to demand their right and if they don’t get, they bring down the government.
We are overdue for revolution. If you are afraid of revolution, maybe you have something to be afraid of. I have nothing to be afraid of about revolution, even though I know, again, in the history of revolution situation, many people who are innocent get killed and that is what a revolution is all about; some people will die, but the vast majority of others will have their freedom and the country will have a new and fresh start and tackling its own problems, including the security challenges we are talking about now.
So, there is nothing wrong with revolution. Countries that I respect have had revolution. The British have had revolution. America has had revolution; the French too and many others. What is wrong with us having revolution here? Unless, of course, you belong to those who are stealing government money or you have something to hide, then of course you should be afraid of revolution, because after the revolution, there is what we call revolutionary justice; they will get you and shoot you and there are many people that if we shoot in Nigeria, Nigeria will be a better place. In fact, if you shoot 500 people, Nigeria will be a much better place and God will forgive you.
There was serious mistrust over 2011 election, between the North and the South. As a northerner, what do you think about 2015?
Again I don’t like you labelling me a northerner. Am I not a Nigerian? I am a Nigerian, please, mind your word. Look, there was too much mistrust as a result of the dishonourable conduct of the PDP, especially Obasanjo and the rest of the people, as a result of this zoning of a thing. In the first place, I never believed in zoning, or rotational politics. So, if they get themselves into cull-de-sac, good luck to them, because the country will be better off, by allowing all the sections of the country to elect their own leaders. The country will also be better off if the PDP, as a result of zoning and rotation policy collapses. Nigeria will be better off tremendously if the PDP ceases to exist as a political party, but that is not the issue.
Now, whether there is mistrust between the North and the South, between the East and the North is not my business. First, we have to create the institutional framework for the conduct of free and fair elections and make sure that those who are good emerge as the leaders of the country. I don’t lose sleep because of zoning or rotation policy.
I told many northerners in the PDP, who are my personal friends, that this thing cannot last; they thought I was joking. Here we are today. Where is the zoning policy? Dead! Where is the rotation policy? Dead! So, what makes you think that Nigeria can only be governed only on the basis of zoning and rotation? It will never be governed. So, if they feel they can go ahead and bring some tricks out of the bag with which to govern Nigeria, or they think that once they have zoning and rotation policy, they can go ahead and be good party and bring good governance, good luck to you. But those who emerge as a result of zoning and rotation have delivered nothing from 1999 to date. The country has been walking from one crisis to another, from economic crisis to security crisis.
Even before 2015, Goodluck has announced that he wants one-term Presidency of seven or six years, after he has finished his turn. Don’t tell me he has promised; everybody in the PDP has promised lies. So, definitely if you make a promise with the PDP, you should know that that promise is meant to be broken. Now, Goodluck wants to contest in 2015 and he also wants six-year single term. He has already had three years plus four, making seven and another six. Now, even if we have a system of inheritance, whereby you are born to be the king of Nigeria, I cannot justify having this man as Nigeria’s leader; a do-nothing leader, a know-nothing leader and he wants 13 years. How will this country be after 13 years of Jonathan Goodluck?
What would you tell Nigerians on the 51st independence anniversary celebration?
Am not sure Nigerians will be happy with what I have to say, but I will say it nonetheless. The way and manner this government cowardly refuses to celebrate our independence anniversary is a massive and disgraceful climb-down. It is, in fact, a submission to evil and to darkness; it is also an admission, by them, that they are not fit to do the job. They are not fit to lead this country, because I remember that even at the height civil war from 1967 to 1970, Nigeria never missed the opportunity of celebrating its own national anniversary, because it is like a birthday to us. Even if you don’t celebrate with funfare, you celebrate it with prayers. This is a disgraceful regime, a disgraceful presidency, a disgraceful government brought about by a disgraceful party. May God shorten their stay and may God shorten the agony of the people of Nigeria.
I urge Nigerians to pray for deliverance from God and to allow this country to restore itself, restore its honour and occupy its own position in the comity of nations. That is all I can say. But I see no hope of peace in this country, as long as this government, this INEC, this security service is in charge of our destiny. May God disband them and the sooner, the better.