Junaid Mohammed, second Republic lawmaker, and Convener, Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, and Businessmen, speaks with Tribune's Senior Deputy Editor, TAIWO AMODU, on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the cabal that has held the country hostage. Excerpts:
The state of health of President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be shrouded in secrecy, with his aides giving conflicting remarks. Nigerians are much worried that the present situation speaks volumes about the administration’s claim to transparency. What is your take?
It is unfortunate. Just as the average politician, what Buhari said during the campaigns is in conflict with what he does after coming to power. I sympathise with Nigerians for voting Buhari. Buhari the aspiring politician and Buhari the incumbent president, if you compare and contrast what he says with what he does and from that , you can then draw your own conclusion. As far as I am concerned, a lot of what we heard from Buhari, from his friends, from the leading members of the party was sloganeering and that unfortunately hasn’t helped him. What we are hearing now is an attempt to hide the truth from Nigerians and much more confound his problem. It shows that quite a number of people who are either cronies or friends of Buhari who helped him to government, whatever it is, have nothing to do with the party which is supposed to be the ruling party.
So, they have clearly messed up and I knew they were going to mess up and I said. It is nothing but an indication of the fractured nature and lack of principle of our leaders and it is still the same principle which has encumbered a lot of meaningful intentions to deliver Nigeria.
The media aides have insisted that President Buhari reserves the right to or not to address Nigerians from his London, where he is having his vacation. Do you align with that submission?
I think that is an irresponsible statement from people who claim to speak on behalf of the president. Frankly speaking, he reserves the right to talk or not to talk to the people as Buhari, the person, but not as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He owes allegiance to the people who lined up and voted for him to be the president of Nigeria. This isn’t a personal matter. What Nigerians are asking Buhari to do is what any responsible people will ask their leader to do. If Buhari talks to Nigerians to assure them that he is alive, even if he is frail, he isn’t doing Nigerians any favour. In fact, it is the right of Nigerians to know about their president. If he is living as a private man in his village in Daura or Kaduna, nobody will care. He is today, by the grace of God and, of course, the votes of Nigerians, the president. This cannot be reversed and in fact, it is absolutely absurd for people who haven’t won election, who cannot organise a ward election, whether as members of a cabal,to be making the pronouncement they are making on behalf of Buhari.
Frankly speaking, I find that disgusting and disgraceful and I want to assure you that whether Buhari is well enough to talk or not well enough to talk, from what his conditions are today, those spokespersons cannot claim to speak on behalf of Buhari, because occasionally they don’t have the true picture . I recall one of them saying he has never had any private audience with Buhari since becoming Buhari’s aide.
That throws more light on the kind of president we have. We have a president who doesn’t have a friend, outside the North and that’s a tragedy. Nigeria’s president must be a man who is nationally and internationally exposed, who appreciates people and feels comfortable with people no matter their religion or ethnic background. That’s not the case with Buhari. Though that doesn’t make him a good or bad president, we need somebody who is sufficiently confident of himself, so that the country can move forward.
Are you insinuating that the president suffers from inferiority complex?
I didn’t use those words; those are your words! I am too old in this game . I don’t have problem with that, whether it is an issue of complex or not. The truth is that Buhari as a man has issue relating with people he isn’t comfortable with. People he is comfortable with represents a tiny minority of Nigerians and as far as I am concerned, you don’t have to see yourself either as an Hausa man or a Moslem. None of those makes you eligible for the office because the Constitution didn’t say you have to be an Hausa or a Moslem to be the president of Nigeria. The requirements for being president are there in the Constitution. Go and read them. Being of a certain faith or ethnic background isn’t a qualification for being the president of Nigeria.
Talking about the cabal, would you say the acting president is effectively in-charge, because there has been speculation that he has to contend with a certain cabal within the precinct of the Presidential Villa?
Look, even if Buhari’s own biological son is given the mantle of leadership, he is going to have to confront with the reality of the cabal. The fact is that this cabal doesn’t represent the interest of Nigeria. If you believe you have a problem, the fact is we expect that you are going to do something about it. Now, Nigeria is trapped because the President of Nigeria hasn’t been Buhari, but one man called, Mamman Daura. In his entire life, he has never won an election and the only opportunity he had was when in the old Kaduna State, he wanted to be a senator from Kaduna or Katsina and some people wanted Mamman Daura to pick the ticket. The people in Daura and eastern part of Kaduna said they were prepared to concede that senatorial seat to somebody from Daura, even though they are in the minority, but that they wouldn’t accept Mamman Daura as the person. So, he has never won an election.
Why would somebody like that, who is a relation of Buhari, assume the office over and above Buhari that Nigerians voted for?
That’s the point. Number two, some of the appointments which have now become a disaster made by Buhari , that include the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the Secretary to Government of the Federation. Buhari has made a mistake of conceding sensitive positions in his government to people who are neither politicians nor technocrats. They see their appointment as a life time opportunity and that’s why the cabal is a problem to Nigeria today. It isn’t a problem for Osinbajo; the acting president himself is in a very tricky situation and I don’t know much about him. But from the way he is handling issues and from the way he has started dealing with some of the people who are above everybody, that’s the cabal, then if he succeeds, there is the likelihood that Nigeria will succeed. But we have a precarious situation, whereby the elected president is infirm, incapacitated. He is out of the country physically and he has written a letter to concede all his powers to the vice- president who now becomes acting president.
If we continue with this situation, perhaps some sanity can be brought back, but the plan of the cabal is to bring back Buhari from London. If they bring him back to Nigeria they can do a lot of things in the name of the president and they will be claiming it is the president! So, they are now so desperate to bring him back at all costs even if his condition doesn’t warrant his return. In fact, he cannot afford to come back now as president of Nigeria.
But the SGF, Babachir Lawal, has said his boss is very fit and would be seeking a fresh mandate in 2019.
But we have had this kind of statement before. I remember Chief Tony Anenih said the same thing as regards the presidency of both Chief Obasanjo and Jonathan, but the will of the people must be respected. In fact, there is going to be an election in 2019 and if Buhari were to be in good health and contest, I am sure he will lose and if he attempts to rig the election, there will be violence in this country. So, as far as I am concerned, I won’t dignify the comment of the SGF with any response, because who was Babachir Lawal, until he was picked from nowhere and made the SGF by Buhari? What has been his performance since becoming the SGF and what is the justification for his statement on 2019 presidency? The man has no quantum of experience as a civil servant.
There have been startling revelations from the Senate regarding crude oil lifting. According to its findings, there is no record of crude oil lifting from May 2015 till date. How do you reconcile that with this administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability in governance?
I have said it earlier, that what politicians say shouldn’t be believed unless it is backed by what they do. Apparently, since they have made claim of transparency and with this kind of thing, they should have made frantic move to explain the situation. What it means is that from June 2015 till date, a lot of terrible things have happened. I expect them to react to this, but if they don’t want to respond, then we must be prepared to go through the excruciating process to recover our money, otherwise the country is going to be run permanently prostrate until something happened. We are talking about billions of dollars not accounted for.
Finally, each time you criticise this administration, what is the kind of feedback you get?
I don’t, because the president himself, it is either he isn’t in charge or he doesn’t consider the issue worth commenting on. And when they comment, it is at variance with what you said. What I expect from them is to confront fact with fact, not abusing somebody like his aides do .
They know I am saying the truth and I know what I am talking about. I have been in power in this country since some of these people around Mr. president are either in primary or secondary school. I am not somebody who is an entire outsider.
I have served in the national assembly, two terms and I have served in the executive arm of main stream government and in some of the leading ministries, departments and agencies of government. So, if somebody wants to take me on, somebody who has never worked as a clerk in government, then we are in serious trouble. I don’t see how they can lie their way out of the situation they have now found themselves.
They said the president went on vacation and later they changed the story. I remember what an American president, Abraham Lincoln said, that once a leader has lost the confidence of its citizens it can never regain it. You can deceive some of the people, some of the time, but you cannot deceive all the people all the time.
Now, as far as I am concerned, this government has been lying and they imagine they can succeed in deceiving all Nigerians at the same time. From all indications, their game is over. As I am talking to you, I am convinced that President Buhari’s presidency is dead. He may be physically alive and I wish him good health, but as far as governance is concerned, his presidency is dead and nothing can be done to resuscitate it. A presidency can be alive in terms of a leader, but in terms of programmes and achievements it can be dead and historically forgotten!