On 2015: `The problem with Jonathan/Sambo ticket’
Dr Junaid Mohammed, a northern leader, was a member of the House of Representatives in the second republic, Mohammed, in this interview, speaks on the ceasefire the federal government was said to have agreed with the Boko Haram Islamist group, the 2015 presidential contest and the ripples generated by the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, from the ruling PDP to the opposition APC. By Lekan Bilesanmi
You have consistently been a critic of government. Is it that there is something that you see that other people who don’t criticise government don’t see?
l have occasion where people will say it to my face that I am a pain in the neck, not rudely though. Sometimes, people will say ‘you are troublesome, or you are too much of a critic. Once in a while I laugh it off. Well, I like what I do. Whether you like it or not, unfortunately, there is little or nothing I can do about it.
However, what makes me happy and fulfilled is the fact that I have done my best as possibly as I came for the country because I believe that Nigeria is an important enterprise. And I think all of us including the civil society groups, should put our differences aside, including our primordial considerations, so that we can make this enterprise called Nigeria a success. Of course, it is not yet a success; that is why I am still actively involved, otherwise I should have retired because, everyday, new issues come up which can make you hit the roof and ‘say what is happening?’.
In hitting the roof, you hit at personalities too…
I think personalities are only relevant when they affect the issue being discussed, but I don’t go out of my way to hit personalities. As a matter of fact, I am not interested in personalities but issues, but when issues touch personalities, then they will be legitimate targets. But if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. You have no business in public life if you can’t take a punch or two over the belt or under the belt. But I think to be able to survive in public service, you must be able to have a thick skin and I have thick skin and I expect all in public service to have very thick skin. I don’t think I have gone out of my way to be offensive to personalities. During the just concluded National Conference, Chief Olu Falae, a fellow member, said to me: ‘People who only read about you would think you are an offensive person but frankly speaking, I find you good to be with’.
What is your take on the crisis at the House of Reps triggered by the Speaker’s defection and subsequent withdrawal of his police details?
I find that very difficult to accept; I find the attitude of the Inspector General of Police who I see as a friend condemnable. I think what he did is a disgrace to his uniform, a disgrace to the police service.
Whether Tambuwal had the right to defect to another political party, to me, is not an issue. My concern is, if any public officer changes party, it is not the duty of the police to interpret what the law says. It is not healthy for a supposed independent police to be seen openly taking sides with the government of the day and trying to win favour from the government. That is despicable. Many people see the action as trying to please the President. Besides, when the police force tries to interpret the law like it is doing, it is simply breaching the Constitution. The Constitution puts that responsibility in the judiciary. Let the court determine Tambuwa’s action. Let the police do its work so that our environment can be safe for our children to go to school, play; so that Nigerians can move freely and earn a living.
Besides, Tambuwal is a lawyer and has been Speaker for more than three years. He is supposed to know the issues; he has been in the parliament two times. So I think it is cheeky and, frankly speaking, it is arrant nonsense for the I.G. to do what he is doing now. The issue of saying the I.G too is a lawyer does not hold water. The Constitution does not allow the kind of action he took against the Speaker.
I think at the end of the day, he may have himself messed up the way Mbu messed himself up in Rivers State and still messing up in Abuja. I think his action is not in the interest of the service. He should look beyond being I.G. He should be concerned about the State of the service after he is gone while he is still there.
President Goodluck Jonathan has picked his nomination form for second term. Do you think he deserves another mandate from the people?
Whenever a politician is campaigning for votes, my attitude is usually based on what he has promised and assess his performance in office via-a vis the promises he made. Besides that, the responsibility of government is the maintenance of law and order. A government must protect your life and mine, your property and mine, these are fundamental responsibilities of government. And when government fails in that rule number one, that government ceases to be a government that one should associate with.
Are you saying the president has failed in that regard?
Absolutely. He failed woefully. We have, right now, a very nasty insurgency, carried out by few terrorists in the name of Boko Haram in the North-East which has been deserted. As we speak, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Alex Badey, has his village in Adamawa being run down by these Boko Harm elements. That does not portend credibility. I am worried because if the Nigerian armed forces today are in no position to protect your life and mine, then we are in very serious trouble – the presidency has not been able to do anything to protect our lives. The situation is a lot worse than it was when he came into power. All he has been able to do it to make us more angry, intolerable.
Talking about cease fire, the Federal Government said last month that it had reached an agreement with Boko Haram only for the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, in a video, to say they had not had any agreement and that the Chibok girls had long been married out. What is your take on this?
The Federal Government has been economical with the truth for the past 200 days these girls were abducted by this sect. The world has been outraged and expressed maximum concern. Instead of government confronting the issue, what they have attempted to do was to turn the whole matter into a political issue. They wanted to use the lives of the girls to play political football. Everyday, they tell you the president is working hard, very had to the sure the girls are released.
None has been released so far, those who escaped by miracle came to tell stories of how they had been raped, gang – raped; some of them forced to convert into Islam which is a terrible thing. I don’t know where these rascals in the sect learnt their own Islam. The whole thing about Boko Haram being an Islamic thing is a scandal, because these are bunch of illiterates, from Yusuf, its leader, to now Shekau – they know they cannot defeat the Federal Government. At the same time, this Federal Government has no will to take on the insurgents and defect them. There are people who are very sinister within the presidency who are advising government to use the issue solely for political end. I don’t believe the Federal Government can handle this insurgency,
Can this be substantiated?
I have been long enough in this game. I don’t have reputation for being reckless. I choose my words with care. A former army chief (name withheld) is a war criminal and I challenge him to sue me. I challenge other generals who served with him, some of whom are still serving. They have been involved in stealing billons of naira. And that’s why the insurgency is not under control. And they are not answerable otherwise they would have long gone. Foreigners and foreign governments have been insisting that the army chief must have his day at the international criminal court at The Hague.
You said the president does not deserve a second term, how about his vice?
Under the presidential system we operate, some of the facts that have to be assessed in who decides a vice president? I think there are antecedents. Whatever might have been the consideration for Goodluck to have picked Namadi Sambo is a miscalculation. And as far as I am concerned, it is evident from what we know that there is nothing to prove that Namadi Sambo to be president himself when opportunity presents itself.
I can justify my verdict with the way they have been handling the power issue in the country when they came to power, Nigeria was generating about 5,000 megawatts, and today we are producing about 3,000 megawatts. There is really nothing to show for it. So if you have got it, show it if you have something, prove it to me, if you have got it, flaunt it.
There is nothing to prove that this man has the capacity or insight to be the vice president of the country and when you have a very weak president and supported by an incompetent vice president, then it is a national tragedy. For all I care, those two have no business in the presidency, they should go and eat their humble pie and leave so that others can come and try.
If Jonathan wants to lose the election, let him run with Sambo I don’t know the consideration behind that statement but, frankly speaking, I think what they are saying albeit in coded language is that this vice president has not added and he is incapable of adding any value to the presidential fortunes of the man nominated.
So if the president insists on carrying on with him, that is his cup of tea. I don’t see Namadi Sambo adding any value to Jonathan and he is not capable or has the capability of doing that. I think we owe ourselves the truth. Jonathan, with a liability like Sambo, has not helped this country in anyway. I think this man should be jettisoned.
With a northerner as presidential candidate of the APC, do you see the party doing well in the next election?
Yes, I think APC will surely do in this coming election. I agree that APC will give PDP a good run for their money. In fact, PDP can be upstaged. But my concern is if there will be credible election. I won’t be bothered about who emerges. I am interested in the process that would bring about a good leader. And I am worried that PDP has shown the capacity that it does not believe in elections at any level – it is more interested in having a consensus candidate. So if the two major political parties do not believe in elections, then we are in a very serious trouble because there is fundamental difference between what they believe as democracy and what democracy is in reality.