Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a controversial Second Republic House of Representatives member, in this exclusive interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the state of insecurity in the nation, calls by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Fulani herdsmen in the South to return to the North, and other issues of national interest. Excerpts:
It is almost five months that President Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner of the 2019 presidential election. Having been inaugurated almost two months ago, he is yet to constitute his cabinet. Are you worried by that development?
I am worried not because I am a member of the APC. In fact, I have never been a member of the APC but I am worried because in a democracy, the outcome of an election has very serious consequences and after election, the incoming government is not only the responsibility of the party which won an election, it is the responsibility of every Nigerian because we all have a stake in the democratic outcome and we will also be affected negatively or positively by the outcome of the election and the kind of people who are now being invited or co-opted into the new democratic government. If the government takes too long to take shape, we are likely to have quite a number of unhealthy rumours; we are likely to have infighting within the party and within the National Assembly which has the responsibility of confirmation and recommendation of the people. So, I find it very difficult to understand the rationale behind the delay in the constitution of the cabinet. Even if there was a rationale and that was acceptable, I think Nigerians who are the real owners of the government, national assembly and the political institutions should be told why there is a delay. By so doing , nerves will be calmed and people will now believe that the government takes them seriously and that the government also believe that the concerns being raised about the formation of the cabinet are genuine.
Don’t you think the current state of insecurity in the country calls for concern from Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, religious or political divides?
Every true Nigerian must be worried because the primary responsibility of any government is the maintenance of law and order, to make sure lives are protected, people have a feeling in them that somehow, if push comes to shove, they can always raise their concerns to the people who are governing them and are elected in a democracy. But even in a non-democratic dispensation, government has to maintain law and order and institutions of government such as the judiciary must be seen to be working. So I am worried because clearly, we are into a very unhealthy situation whereby we have a country, but we don’t have a government and that is very dangerous. If there were to be a government, everybody will ask, ‘Where is the government? Who is in charge? Don’t mind what this current Chief of Army Staff, Buratai has been saying.
Why should we ignore the Chief of Army Staff?
Every time he wants to make noise about the state of insecurity in the country, he says Boko Haram has been completely decimated and destroyed. Anytime, he makes that noise, it seems he is coordinating his reckless statements with Boko Haram themselves. This week, he said those who are talking about Boko Haram are playing politics and that the issue of terrorism has been taken care of. Only yesterday, there was a skirmish in which a Colonel, Captain and some army officers in the rank and file numbering about 20 were killed. So, it is clear that Buratai is not a man to be relied upon. He is a political soldier who believes that he can make claims and get money from government. That is the tragedy we have. So, Nigerians have a right to be worried about the security situation in the country. When we talk about insecurity in the country, we are not talking about Borno and Yobe alone, what of the North-West? What of Katsina where President Buhari comes from? The level of outrage and banditry in Katsina is now worse than that of Yobe and Borno states and that is the home state of President Buhari. In fact, his in-law, who is also a District head in one of the districts in Daura was also kidnapped. So, this is a very serious matter and I appealed to Nigerians not to play politics with it. Right now, some irresponsible people like Jerry Gana said he and some others have already concluded that Nigeria is going to break up and they have already determined where they want to be when that happens. He claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Middle Belt and according to his own definition of Middle Belt, everybody who is a Christian and not a Muslim belongs to his Middle Belt and he speaks for all of them. So, you can see how irresponsible some Nigerian elites are and this is the kind of situation that will lead us more into disaster. Yes, the government must be alive to its responsibility and ensure that we have good, responsible people who will assist Buhari in running the country. As far as I am concerned, it is in the interest of the party and the government to rein in on some of the irresponsible statements being made by some elites in the country. If you listened to statements being made by a former Minister like Jerry Gana and former President like Olusegun Obasanjo, then you can see clearly that we are heading for disaster.
Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been raising alarm over the debt profile of the nation. Do you think Atiku can get justice at ElectionTribunal?
I have been going through the proceedings at the Tribunal. Every time I see what happens at the Tribunal, I laugh. I laughed because when Buhari’s government was really in tatters towards the end of the first term, I issued a statement in which I said it can be argued that Buhari’s government has failed especially on vital issues like managing the economy, terrorism and banditry and of course the way the country went into recession under this government and how we managed to come out of it. Also, the growth of the national economy has been unsteady. As I am talking to you now, the growth of the national economy has not been able to catch up with the growth of the population. So, I said that even if Buhari has failed, Atiku is not the kind of person who will manage the country. I said while Nigerians should reject Buhari at the polls, Atiku is not the man with the right compassion, competence to make the country live harmoniously. I also said if Buhari is reelected, we are going to have serious problems and I still stand by that. On the Tribunal, this talk of computer server by INEC from which he drew his own figures has turned out to be a joke. And if you look at the caliber of lawyers he has, he brought in Prof. Ben Nwabueze who is 87 years old. Can such an old lawyer go through rigorous court processes, submissions and cross examinations and challenge INEC, Buhari’s lawyers in order to affirm that it was Atiku who won the election? Secondly, there is an attempt to waste a lot of time. Some people who did not even participate in the last election like Buba Galadima who for a long time has been in APC now wants to give evidence for PDP in court. How is that possible? They are also talking about 20,000 documents in addition to the ones they have submitted. So, you can see that the whole case is nothing but a joke and a stunt. I hope it is not this abracadabra which is happening in government that is delaying the formation of government. As far as I am concerned, Atiku and PDP are goners as far as the 2019 elections are concerned. Maybe he wants to contest in 2023 but I believe Atiku does not have what it takes to be the President of Nigeria. Look at people like Jerry Gana and Atiku’s former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, who has never won an election in his own ward, local government or state. So, what value does Obasanjo add to Atiku that he went to beg him for forgiveness? If a man cannot win an election at his ward, local government and state level, how can he help you nationally?
There are talks that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is scheming to succeed President Buhari in 2023. Do you see him succeeding especially given your statement that the South should forget the Presidency in 2023?
Let us not waste our time. I have been reading in the media that there is some political games going on and that Tinubu is hoping to succeed Buhari in 2023. The question people are not asking is ‘what of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state?’ Fayemi has presidential ambition in 2023 and that is why he has been busy making reckless statements saying that for example, no outsider will take Ekiti land for Ruga settlement. How many land does Ekiti have? As I am talking to you today, 72 percent of the total land mass in Nigeria is in the North. So, if somebody who can only be president for the Yoruba race is talking about Ekiti not giving their land to outsiders, where is the land? 72 percent of land and good water resources for farming are in the North.
So why is everybody focusing on Tinubu?. I am not ashamed of him even though he is a very good friend of mine and I have no apology for that. In a democracy, it is not a crime for one to be ambitious. If Tinubu wants to be the president of Nigeria and he asks for my advice, I will say go ahead because I will rather have Tinubu as president than have some of the people in the South- East who are also ambitious and who want to blackmail Nigeria into ceding power to them. I know that no matter what happens, even if Tinubu were to be drunk, he will be a better President than Goodluck Jonathan. I also know that he is better than Fayemi. The mistake people are making in the Southern part of the country, they imagine that they can ignore a section of the country when it comes to the issue of the presidency. You cannot ignore any part of the country. Tinubu has more goodwill among Northerners than Fayemi who is a crook and has criminal records in the United Kingdom (UK). It is not a crime to be ambitious and I have no problem with anybody’s ambition, I have problem with anybody who because of his ambition wants to introduce confusion which can lead to mayhem and bloodshed. I don’t want that.
Some Nigerians Tinubu is the one controlling the Presidency with Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps. What is your take on that?
Those who are saying Tinubu is the one controlling Buhari are making a mistake because even though I don’t talk with Buhari, I can’t even remember the last time I met him until the last EFCC conference in Abuja, but I speak regularly with Tinubu. Those who think Buhari is Tinubu’s puppet are making a grave mistake. There are some people who are advising Buhari today and I don’t think Tinubu is one of them. All I know is that nobody can force Tinubu or any other candidate on Nigerians. I don’t believe that nobody forced Buhari on us,
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi recently called on Fulani herdsmen in the South to return to the North. What is your perspective on that?
I don’t like taking issues with my friend in public because Prof. Ango Abdullahi is a good friend of mine but I have not spoken with him about his views for asking people from a section of the country to move. But from what I have seen, what is happening among some of our elites is nothing but shakara. If Nigeria breaks tomorrow morning, the way people like Jerry Gana is demanding, all of us will be diminished. All African countries will also be diminished. Those talking about Nigeria breaking up no matter what section of the country they belong to are just talking nonsense because there will be no opportunity to know who belongs where. The moment war starts, everybody runs for his dear life. Those who have cows and grains will leave them behind.
So what advice do you have for our leaders in the wake of these challenges?
We have to be very careful and mind our utterances. It is easy to start a war but it is not easy to stop it. We all saw what happened during the Biafran war even though a lot of people who went through that experience have not learnt anything like some of the leaders of Afenifere. They have been making provocative statements in recent times. People’s lives are determined partly by their culture. These people are noisemakers and if there is war today, they will run away because most of them have houses outside the country. They make big, big noise but some of the real fighters who will fight until death don’t even talk about it. We shouldn’t allow these lousy people to lead us to war. War is not good. I want Nigerians to be careful because if the chips are down, these people will not be available to fight. They are calling for war, let the war starts and we will see who will run first.