Second Republic member of the House of Representatives and Russian trained medical doctor, Junaid Mohammed has given a damning verdict on the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, dismissing his ministers as incompetent.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun from his base in Kano, Mohammed said not a few of the ministers expected to deliver the change the administration promised Nigerians were square pegs in round holes.
He said besides being incompetent, some of the ministers lacked integrity.
He also carpeted the judiciary, stating that it had become irredeemably corrupt and shamelessly partisan. He spoke to BRUCE MALOGO, SaturdayEditor, The Sun Newspaper.
Looking at all the corruption fight going on, and the talk about huge sums having been misappropriated, how do you feel about it?
I feel very strongly about it. I believe from my heart of heart that the Economic Financial and Crimes Commission (EFCC) is doing an excellent job, but the issue has to do not only with its conduct but also the comportment of the people working with the anti-graft agency.
My primary concern is a coherent government policy aimed at one, making a prudent and judicious use of the monies that are being recovered and the second, which is very important, is that what we do is within the rule of law. Thirdly, in doing what we are doing we make sure that we don’t create an impression that somehow in doing some of the things the EFCC is doing, we are not creating grounds for some of the people who are in government now to be taking this nation for a ride, and I’m very concerned about that.
What do you mean by ‘taking the nation for a ride?’
First and foremost, I’m aware that some of the appointees of this regime are already corrupt. I’m far from being impressed by the performance of the so-called ministers.
When they were appointed Nigerians hailed them as the most articulate set of people, and, of course, it took the president many months to assemble them. Why is it that you said they were burnt out even before they started work?
If you have a bit of money in this country, and you are prepared to part with that money to buy good or cheap publicity you can have your name, your performances and antecedents raised to high heavens. I have been long enough in this game, and been in politics for up to 40 years, non-stop, I have seen enough of these jokers, who come like meteors and then collapse in no time.
As far as I’m concerned, first and foremost, the most important thing in a ministerial appointment is the capacity to perform; and the capacity to perform is closely linked with the quality of judgment of the person who is being appointed. Now, you may be the best Ph.D. in Management or Economics or in anything you are doing, or you have done, if your judgment is faulty for whatever you say or the media that is paid to say something about you, as far as I’m concerned, you are a failure.
Secondly, the president himself spoke about putting square pegs in square holes. From the performances of the ministers, I have not seen the evidence of that as at now. Sadly, they are people who have always taken decisions, which are clearly contrary to national interest. I give you one example: the attorney general of the federation, as far as I'm concerned he the chief law officer of the country, but he is not the chief negotiator on economic or even legal interest of the country. I’m aware that this joker, the attorney general who had been practicing in Kano – he was a charge-and-bail lawyer in Kano; he took it upon himself through some subterranean connection to link up with MTN and literally attempt to quash the fine imposed by the government regulator, the National Communications Commission. As far as I’m concerned, the attorney general has no right to go simply and intervene in a matter that is before the court of law. If he wants to do any part of his job as a solicitor, he can only do so when the matter is referred to him either by the president or by the Federal Executive Council or by any other ministry, department or agency, but he didn’t have the right he imagined he had to go into that matter, which in fact isn’t a criminal matter, but it is a matter which interests are being contested between a foreign body and agency of the government, NCC, the regulator.
Now we knew what happened, and we also knew that he was so bloody rude in wanting to intervene in a matter, and he didn’t have the courtesy to contact the minister who has the supervisory responsibility for NCC, that is Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, who is the minister of communications technology. You cannot go and interfere in a matter when there is a substantive minister who is in charge of supervising NCC.
Besides, the cost of multifarious implications of NCC versus MTN matter, diplomats will be involved as well as the foreign ministers. It is only when the minister of communications technology and the foreign affairs minister decide in their wisdom to refer the matter to the president and the president specifically solicits for legal wisdom if there is any because I don’t see the legal wisdom in the attorney general, and whatever he does, he has no right to negotiate with MTN and it is only when a decision has been made by the president that he can then go and negotiate with the MTN and not just carry his collar and go start negotiation with a foreign company. What happened was a major embarrassment to the government, the president and the country.
I said about three or four days ago in Lagos that this man should be sacked if he doesn’t have the moral decency to resign. I stand by what I said that the attorney general must resign.
Secondly, he has made a few trips to London. Rumours have it that he has met with one of the fugitive ministers in London and something happened. We would like that to be investigated.
While we are fighting corruption and asking those who stole our money, to return our money and face the law, it will be embarrassing for him to be going around playing games with our destiny and with our own resources.
You talked about ministers, can you be specific now because it is very important for Nigerians to know?
When the time comes, I will let Nigerians know. I can assure you. I fear nothing; I have spent the best part of my life. I have sacrificed a career, and I fear nobody.
Does it mean that for now you don’t have confidence in this cabinet?
I don’t have confidence in many members of the cabinet. I find them incompetent, and most importantly I fault them on integrity. I have no doubt in my mind, but for Buhari’s integrity, there would have been no Buhari administration now.
People have been saying that all around the PDP, the anti-graft agencies are picking those who served in the government under former President Goodluck Jonathan. And we know that everybody reported to him. If they are picking his people, why not pick the former president and ask him questions?
My concern in this matter is simply this. I’m concerned about the calibre of people, not the identity of the people that served in the past. My concern is this, whoever that was responsible for the so-called transition from Jonathan to Buhari should take note of the fact that many of the people that this administration was going to inherit are dubious, many of whom have no integrity, and very incompetent and don’t have the delivery capacity, which is needed for a new dispensation. In spite of that, they still advised that the transition should take so long, and after taking so long, we still ended with this bloody mess. Then it shows that even the transition itself was a joke.
None of the advice they gave was being realized. And most importantly, politics is not a game for sentiments. Where an individual no matter what his antecedent or what he did in the past, in this dispensation if he is unable to deliver, he should be asked to pack and go. If he is able to deliver, he should be allowed to stay. As far as I’m concerned, integrity and delivery should be the two watchwords, no matter their relationship with the president or who their parents were. That is neither here nor there. The fact is that if they cannot perform they should pack and go.
As I’m talking to you now, I haven’t had light in three days. I’m just wearing my pyjamas; I am holding this handset on my right hand, and holding a small fan, which I use to fan myself and you are telling me that…no matter the qualities my friend, Fashola has been advertised to have, the fact is that he has not been able to solve the problem of light. I’m not dismissing the problem of people who are sabotaging the light; I’m not disputing the fact that quite a number of the people inherited were not on the change in this administration. I do not deny that, but the bottom line is that there is no power in Nigeria.
Even now they told us that half of the power supply has vanished, but then tell me how can the party in charge be said to be competent or that whatever he achieved in Lagos can now be said to be wonderful or great. That to me is not an idea of performance.
At the end of the day, can you say that this government has not performed?
They have not, they have not. The only area they performed is in the anti-corruption fight. And that again is half a fight, because the corruption in the country’s judiciary is such that whatever the anti-corruption agencies do, the Nigerian judiciary is the most corrupt in the whole world. All that the EFCC and ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) can do is to arrest and prosecute. Given what happened in some of the election tribunals at the highest level of our judiciary, anybody who believes that this judiciary can deliver on the anti-corruption fight must be very …I don’t believe that the war is about to be won or would be won. We will cross our fingers and pray to Almighty God because this judiciary is not patriotic or one that is guaranteed to be incorruptible. As you know, bank accounts and monies are being mentioned, and nothing is being done.
In one word, how do you feel about the Nigerian judiciary?
The Nigerian judiciary is irredeemably corrupt. Shamelessly partisan. In other countries, it matters how they are recruited and trained. How the members of the Nigerian judiciary are promoted is the most opaque. Nobody knows the criteria; nobody publishes the criteria. The names of people are just releases, either appointed as judges or promoted to the Court of Appeal. Nobody can tell you the criteria, and you tell me that there can be decency or integrity in this kind of thing. No way!
*Interview first published in the Sun newspaper