Second Republic Lawmaker, elder statesman, Junaid Mohammed in this exclusive interview with a team of PlatinumPost Editors said he doesn’t believe in rotational presidency instead the Presidency should be strictly on merit. Mohammed bares his mind on other sundry issues.
“I have never believed that any part of Nigeria has an inborn or divine right to continue governing this country. I don’t believe in that, but I also know that nobody has the right to foist mediocre, non-achievers, benchwarmers, corrupt scoundrels, on us indefinitely in the name of zoning or rotation.”
On agitations for power to shift in 2023
Well, first and foremost, both of you must have been in aware, you have known me for one and a half or two decades that I have never been a believer of zoning or rotation. When the talk started, with the original national movement which later metamorphosed into NPN, I was very vocal about not going this way in solving our problem because neither zoning nor rotation will serve as a solution to any of our problems. The NPN did only one term, then soldiers came, of course, the idea was buried. When they were given back power in 1999, one of the parties that were the beneficiary of state money decided to include zone rotation in their constitution. That has not solved any problem, it has not stopped the agitations. When the crunch came after the death of Yar’adua and the emergence of Jonathan Goodluck as the vice president to become president, when the time came for him to vacate the presidency, he refused and attempted his tenure elongation which failed. But even before then, Obasanjo had tried in 2007 to do also a tenure elongation which also backfired. So as far as I am concerned, the agitations for where the president will come or which zone or which political region will produce the president, is misplaced. A lot of this is mischievous and political opportunism. Politics is a very serious matter to me because I sacrificed my career to go into politics and I didn’t go because I had one thing in mind to be president, to be a minister or to be this and that even though of course my opponents have used some of these allegations against me which also I denied by the very people in whose names it was involved. As long as I am concerned, a government that won election in 2019 has no business getting involved with either the agitations or response to the agitations of who becomes president in 2023. Certainly, a party that has not accepted the spirit or the mantra of zoning and rotation between whoever, North and South, East and West, has no business getting itself messed up now but what is happening is that there is a much agitation within the APC as a party. There is so much agitation within the APC as a party on who succeeds Buhari and who produces the presidency. They are not doing it on the bases of zoning because they understand may not appeal to the vast majority of the people who voted them into power, 2015,2019. But all is not well in the APC as a party. Also, the PDP which is a successor in terms of ideology or non-ideology, because I don’t know the ideology of any of the parties, they are now saying openly that come 2023, zoning or rotation notwithstanding they are going to put up a northerner as a presidential candidate. Then the question I ask is who is fooling who? If those who adopted zoning as a principle mantra of government in politics, are now running away from it and you hear this from the chairman of the party, governors of the party, even those who are coming from areas of the country where the agitation is utmost that they want the president to come from their ethnic group or their area, you hear some of them saying look they are in politics to win and when the time comes, they are going to put a Northerner then you begin to wonder and reason who do you believe and who is fooling who? So as far as I am concerned, it is easier and better for this country to please involve criteria for chosen heads of states and heads of government in Nigeria and find a way of consolidating or consoling power and making sure that certain people are appropriately rewarded for their performance in the political party in the success of the party. If you don’t do that, you are going to get nowhere and you have more and more confusion. I have never believed that any part of Nigeria has an inborn or divine right to continue governing this country. I don’t believe in that, but I also know that nobody has the right to foist mediocre, non-achievers, benchwarmers, corrupt scoundrels, on us indefinitely in the name of zoning or rotation. So when you hear people saying oh, after all, it is not the turn of A or B or C, you begin to wonder, with whom do you negotiate that? I think it was the American president, Houston, who talks about open covenant, openly arrived at. If there is no covenant among the vast majority of Nigerians on how we produce the president. The party in power today has never accepted the principle of zoning and rotation, who has the right, the guts to come and tell us next time around, it will be somebody from outside the mainstream of the APC support that will produce the president or do we play politics only to reward failure? I don’t believe in doing that. But I also have had people who are very serious people from the areas that the agitations are coming fast and furious. Some people who have been in a very important position and some are still in important positions, have said that look, don’t mind them about this noise we are making, our target is the vice presidency. I say why don’t you come out and say this is what we want and this is our candidate. On this trip as I am talking to you now. And I have heard people say these are not people or pushovers in the South-East. In all fairness, the South-South has not gone too far agitating for the presidency or even the vice presidency which is a very sensible way because when the time comes, and somehow somebody emerges by accident the way Goodluck emerged, he is not going to confront some of the challenges other people have confronted or are going to confront during the next election.
But I remain convinced that the government that won our mandate in 2019 must discharge their mandate to the satisfaction of Nigerians and not imagine that from day one, we are talking about who will be the next president when we have nothing on the ground. That is not my idea of politics.
Do you think the APC will have a chance of forming government again in 2023?
If they don’t do well from now. For example, I am not interested in what they have done so far from the last election, 2019 to date. But this is a very wonderful country where it can be normal to reward people who fail woefully and we may have people who may emerge in the presidency or certain positions who are woeful failures, who are elected not on any rational basis simply because they come from somewhere or they worship a certain god or whatever or the way they worship their god but if we have to continue with that, 60years plus after independence in 1960, then you can see that any meaningful development in Nigeria is all but ruled out.
Why has the presidency eluded the South-East geo-political zone?
First I think you are not exactly right. The first Nigerian president we had was an Igbo man, he took over from the British government as governor-general and later became the president of the country. So, if even within the term president, you have started disambiguating saying even if we had president, he was not an executive president. You can see that these are not politicians, these are crooks and petty traders because they are many people who are prepared to serve in that honourable position as president even if they have no power or so other than to go and declare one building open, dedicate a bridge or a cemetery. Those who are in politics for politic’s sake, are there to have power for good and you don’t have to be president or a minister or whatever to influence policy. At least in two governments in Nigeria, and I know I belong to that government; one was a military government, I can say with due respect, I was able to influence policy positively without having to be in the ruling party or the military. So, if you believe in politics and you believe that politics is better than dictatorship and that you need to move forward to advance the country, you don’t have to be obsessed about being a president. But if you are here of course for the pepper soup and you are here for the money, so we have to be very careful about what we do and what we say otherwise we will find ourselves in a mess.
What’s your take on the removal of fuel subsidy, is it justified, will it serve the country any good?
Ordinarily, I would have said the subsidy removal can be justified to the extent that if we have done our homework and if we have done our cost-benefit ratio analysis. Nigeria is normally an oil-producing country. Normally, if we have invested in refineries, there won’t be any cause for alarm but unfortunately, refineries have all been mismanaged and most of them are not functional and where they are functional, not one of them that I think of, is producing up to 20% in its full capacity. So, you can see there is not much of a difference between Nigeria as an oil-producing country with countries that are not producing at all, for the simple reason that we have mismanaged this investment like we have mismanaged several investments in strategic infrastructure. But having said that also, the government of the day must be judged by what it promised when it was canvassing for votes in 2015 and 2019.
General Buhari is on record, before he became president, and using the experience he had as a one-time oil minister, that on arrival at the State House that he was going to reduce the price of petrol and he was very specific about it and he gave these figures unconditionally. Maybe at that time he did not factor in, or his advisers or whoever it is he has been working with, he has not factored in the possibility of inflation getting out of hand, the possibility of us getting our oil refineries and selling it at a certain pump price. Then, of course, he never in his entire career, in his entire work, his entire career in the oil industry, he has not spoken about the issue of the template because when you buy something, you also put additional lever, an additional value on what you buy. It is assumed that if you are going to add, at least make a profit and the price level you have is going to be dependent on the template and of course that template will have to be dependent on how much you will pay for the crude oil because you are importing it the way you are importing several things you need but don’t produce. So, it is unrealistic for the government to maintain crude oil at a certain definite price level. It is clear also that the government cannot continue, arbitrarily raising the price without making any explanation to anybody. When Nigerian workers and ordinary people complain, what we have from the spokespersons of the President are insults. You don’t insult people who have as much stake in the country as you have for their complaining about their deteriorating standard of living. That is why the problem is what it is and that is why the problem has become and is gradually getting out of hand and it has become enormously intractable. So, I have no problem with the increase, but it has to be reasonable, it has to dovetail to the general economic situation of the country. If that is not done, oil is so important as an engine is to a vehicle. it’s a matter of national economy. Anytime we want to play politics, crude politics, we will price oil, we will not find ourselves in the kind of situation we find ourselves now. So I sincerely hope if they still can do some thinking and marginally consider, they should reconsider. The fact that Buhari is in his last mandate unless he wants to do a tenure elongation, which is not beyond the characters we have here, they should please look at the situation in the country and see what are the cost-benefit ratio analysis and see how they are going to make life easier. Secondly, there is an inherent contradiction here. On one hand increasing the price of crude oil, on the other hand, you are also removing subsidies from I think fertilizers and some categories of foodstuff. Now that, of course, depends on the fundamental attitude of the economic thinkers of the government that is assuming any economic thinkers are advising and whose advice is being listened to. I am not sure there are and if they are, they must be very frustrated, but that being the case, one has to admit that there must be non-negotiable minimum sincerity within government and that the government of the day, whatever its persuasion, whatever its ideology although you don’t talk about ideology in this government or any of the previous governments in Nigeria.
It must be on the level with the people of the country. Tell the truth, that is the non-negotiable minimum. If however, the government imagined that it can lie its way through every problem, what happens is that it will find itself being in problems, one after another, finding itself becoming massively unpopular because of lack of credibility. There is nothing that destroys a government more than a fundamental lack of credibility, lying and corruption and other issues. And where a government has made a mistake, it should come clean and tell the people the policies we adopted were based on certain parameters and those parameters are no more relevant or admit that they made a mistake in the evaluation of the parameters themselves. I think this is very important. I have not seen evidence of that and I sincerely hope that somehow, they will come to their senses. The issue of lack of credibility among the people who voted the government into power, and I have never doubted the fact that Buhari won his two-election fair and square. Lack of credibility or loss of credibility is a very serious matter because it leads to the issue of non-performance and legitimacy in a democracy or even in a dictatorship. Totalitarian dictatorship must depend on performance. Where a government fails to perform, it should not expect people to simply blindly and slavishly follow it.
Human nature is not like that and the issues of which the government is failing. For example, security, economic management, the issues of subsidies which are all connected, and of course the incessant lying and rudeness of some of the people who are speaking on behalf of the government is such that Nigerians have already been put off and they believe that this is not the government with associates which listens, which understands the problem. so we are running a system where the elites who happen to be privileged and part of the system are failing. There is a knee- jerk reaction to support the government over the majority of the people, the government is shortchanging them daily. And even within the political class, you can see those who are doing well are those who are related to some people or know some people or who are married to certain members of certain families. This nepotism has not done the government any good in the last six years, it will not do this government any good even if the government lasts another 600 years. And let me tell you, the legacies on which every politician, every public person is assessed, is entirely dependent on delivery. If they don’t deliver, your legacy is as good as finished. There is only one area I am prepared to concede to Buhari a positive legacy, that is the issue of fighting corruption. But it should be remembered here with a massive qualification that Buhari did not create the war against corruption and Buhari did not create, it was not under his watch when EFCC was created. EFCC came as a lot of several a conjunction of several issues; one being the insistence by foreign countries and the members of the London club, Paris club, to whom Nigeria was indebted to and could not pay, we could not even pay interest at some point. During Obasanjo’s time, the issue was raised. And they said look, we are prepared to forgive part of Nigeria’s debt under the program they called HIPC I and HIPC II. But we will only do so if we see a determined effort on the part of the government of Nigeria to fight this monster of corruption and ensure the country has a level, decent playground, bureaucracy and political class who are conscious and who are responsible but we are not going to throw our good money after bad, we loaned you money and you did not make proper use of the money, and you are now asking us not only to forgive the debt, the interest, but you are now asking us to give more money so you can now try and pick the economy. I must concede despite several objections that Obasanjo tried his best but that does not mean that we can continue indefinitely mismanaging our national economy and imagine the international community is going to intervene, they will not do so. They have their problems and they also need money.
The centrality of the position of the dollar and don’t forget that our oil money is paid in dollars. It is such that the dollar now determines what happens to our economy internally and how we perform in the global scheme of economic affairs. So that should have made us a little bit humble and should have also dictated that we put the effort in personnel management, we put square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round holes with what has been happening and this is clear since 2015 when they came into power till date. Whenever a major appointment is made, merit is never a consideration, most of the people appointed not even based on service or loyalty to the political power in power. Now with this kind of reckless nepotism, this kind of irresponsible attitude towards public opinion, and this idea that you can do whatever you like if you are in government when people object, you simply unleash some barking dogs to abuse them, is a recipe for disaster and that is why even in areas that voted the APC, even aides who seemed to be well represented in government, there is still massive dissatisfaction and if the country is continued to be run this way, I want to assure you that anything can happen and the fact that quite a several people including those who are now serving in government, if you put them to one corner, you hear what comes out of their mouth, you will be surprised. I have heard ministers who have castigated the government, permanent secretaries, heads of other ministries, departments and agencies. Now if these people who are now part of the ongoing system are not happy, I can’t see how you can ask the average man, a peasant farmer or somebody who depends on monthly wages/salary to be happy with the status quo. And a government that believes it knows everything and nobody else knows. They can change their minds on any issue without having to explain to anybody, is a dangerous government. The kind of government that can throw us into a movement of disaster.
Is that why the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo said that Nigeria is drifting toward a failed state?
Before I agree with Obasanjo or anybody else, I want to have my terms define. I think it was the Greek philosopher, Socrates, who said always define your terms. If he says Nigeria is a failed state, he should tell us what are the parameters of a failed state and how does Nigeria meet these parameters? Give us solid reasons. You don’t simply stand and say I am Obasanjo, I declare Nigeria a failed state and it becomes a failed state, like some kind of a joke. Agreed there are very serious problems in this country, don’t make a mistake about it, the government is not doing well to handle those problems, the government does not have honest advisers, there is massive corruption, the war against corruption is all but over with the sacking, humiliation and travails of Magu. Mind you, I don’t see Magu as an angel but I say, I haven’t seen any intention on the part of the government to simply pretend to continue with the war against corruption without somebody who is a substantive head of EFCC and who equal or do better than Magu. There is no evidence of that. Secondly, if somebody like Magu can be blackmailed despite the position he held, then you can see that no Nigerian is safe. Thirdly, when EFCC act came out, I raised objections: I said if the EFCC is to function together with its twin brother ICPC, the Act that established these two organisations must be amended or must be streamlined to make them directly responsible to the president. And I said given the way attorneys general are appointed in Nigeria, is either they are politicians, some of them who are not politicians, are worse than the politicians because they don’t have the necessary seniority to be given this assignment and many of them are routinely appointed because they are lawyers not because they have any competence or because they have distinguished themselves. I remember vividly in describing the appointment of Abubakar Malami the current Attorney General and I still maintain that because I just see him as charge and bail lawyer even though he claims that he is SAN and he was even threatening me with juju. The way he handled sensitive matters of national input, aside from that he has been confirming my impression of him and I have heard very senior lawyers that everything I said about him has come to pass and everything I said was also the impression of the overall known majority of senior lawyers in this country. And I have had judges from the supreme court, court of appeal and some of the other courts, judges telling me that they agree with me entirely with my evaluation. Thirdly, no matter how competent the Attorney General is if he comes through by way of politics, he is bound to be a politician. We now have evidence, serious evidence of corruption, with mansions in kano that not even Kano he has similar mansions and Kano most economically robust cities in Nigeria. A man who came into Kano to start work, living in a rented house, is now telling us that he has always been a very prosperous businessman, he can tell that to the marines they can believe anything but not to the average kano man and certainly not the average Nigerian. And Kano people have written and spoken about it. We haven’t heard anything from the president, from the presidency, or the BAR association or anybody else. This is the tragedy of the nature of the appointment. I hope they are going to amend the EFCC act, and not amend it along the lines Malami wants it amended, along the lines of the national interest. And this Attorney General is the least competent, the least honest, the most incredibly quacked and we want to continue deceiving ourselves that we are fighting corruption. And was it the Justice Salami Kangaroo panel again in the presidency? It is becoming clear that the days of the EFCC as functioning anti-corruption agency is over. Secondly, whatever they do to Magu, there is going to be a massive backlash from the international community; European Union, the Americans, the United Nations system and other Non-Governmental Organizations and foundations who have been the ones providing the massive funding for running the EFCC and also for the paying for the insane charges of some of these so-called senior lawyers. if these people who have been trying to subsidize the activities of the EFCC, if they are put off, they are going to withdraw their money and that is the end of the story. in addition to withdrawing their money, we are going to have an additional problem. Our credibility has never been high in terms of anti-corruption, it’s going to get a lot worse. And you will find out that our cavalier way of handling the anti-corruption war is going to sip into so many aspects of our international trade, into the way we are seen by the outside world, into the way our trading partners deal and interact with us. That is going to tell also in the way we do business and in the way we can borrow from the international money market. And all these will snowball and dovetail into additional suffering for the common man. So, I sincerely hope, that if Buhari is still serious, and if he still believes his anti-corruption war, he should quickly rectify the unnecessary damage he unleashed or he was persuaded or misguided to unleash on Magu and the EFCC and make sure that we have somebody who will now come and do the job, otherwise the country is doomed and Buhari legacy is wiped out even before he finished his tenure.
What is your take on Nigeria’s rising debt profile?
Well in principle, I believe anybody who is in business, has to borrow. There is nothing inherently criminal in borrowing money but the big question is when you borrow, what do you borrow for? And if you want to invest the money you borrowed, where do you invest in? how do you prioritize the areas you are investing money, your own money and the money you borrowed from outside. Until these questions are answered honourably, I can assure you, our debt profile is going to keep on rising and we may have no explanation to offer in telling people to borrow us more because we are going to manage the money and perhaps pay the interest but the principle. I have seen no evidence of that. Also, we been working on the assumption that oil is the mainstay of our national economy, it is not going to be. Those countries that are better endowed with oil and other cherish commodities, you can see are working very hard to diversify the economy so they can become least dependent on oil because you can see the present glut in the oil market. The current American administration blames the Russian with the destiny of so many oil producers because they now have surplus oil and they want to sell that oil and they are ready to blackmail even their partners and their allies in Western Europe and elsewhere to have to buy their oil and their natural gas at a very high price simply because they believe they can use force, power of blackmail and brigandage by their president to have an advantage over some of us who are living from hand to mouth in terms of our earnings from oil and natural gas so we need to be very careful. The issue is so basic that unless we are sincere in diversifying our national economy, nothing will become of our economy. Those we assume will lend us money, will not continue lending us money or they may stop lending us money or when they do lend us money, the cost of borrowing will be much higher than what will normally be paid by other countries, so we have to be very careful. Those who are advising Buhari, are doing this country a great disservice and at the end of the day, when he comes to realise the kind of characters he has around him, I think he is going to cast those characters and he is going to have to lose his temper no matter how much he tries to be in control.
On the over-dependence on Chinese loans and the fear of our sovereignty
Here, we have to be very careful. Firstly, we go to the Chinese and accept their loans because they give terms which the average African leader is prepared to accept, they don’t ask too many questions and that is why for example part of the propaganda used against Adesina at the African Development Bank was his intimate connection with the Chinese. People like late Abba Kyari and the minister of Aviation have been known to be too close to the Chinese to the extent that people were beginning to ask whose interest are they serving, in the ministries or departments they are working. But no matter what objection we have to Chinese loan, if they are prepared to make the loan available, we should now sit down, first, prioritize the areas we want to invest in, make sure that the terms we can get from the Chinese such that they will serve our national interest, our economy and the payment terms are such that they are gentle to the national economy. Because if we take a loan at any cost, the conditionalities are such that when we come to pay, we have lots of problems. There is also the quality if you are investing in infrastructure. Then we have to look at the quality of infrastructure they are prepared to pay because it is Chinese money, and it is Chinese companies who will come and do the infrastructure. I have seen what happened with the airport, the international in Abuja here, which started cracking by itself as if we threw in a grenade. if that is the kind of infrastructure the Chinese companies are involved in, then we can take the money on reasonable terms if we have scrutinized but then get other international companies who can do this thing because we are still going to pay, whether we use Chinese companies or Chinese money, we are going to pay. So, these are very important things. Ordinarily, people have taken loans from the Chinese and they have not been complaining. But because of the terrible corruption here, in this government and this country, people are suspicious and they are justifiably suspicious because when you look at the characters who are behind, playing a leading role, in some of these Chinese contracted loans and the companies that get the loan, you begin to wonder. And many of these companies who are in Nigeria today, or who are planning to come to Nigeria especially in Road construction, Railway construction, ports and dams and what have you, these are companies that have done similar infrastructure elsewhere and the quality of the infrastructure has been not as much as anticipated but most importantly the contractual terms in the loans have been scandalous and some of them have been publicized.
But with all that I said, I still don’t believe the West Europeans have any moral authority or the Americans or the Japanese, have any moral right to tell us don’t borrow from the Chinese because they are neo-colonialists, no, the Western countries and of course their cousins across the Atlantic, Canada and the United States, they have been with us for hundreds of years, what have they done? And the world Bank and the IMF, have not in any reasonable way being of assistance to countries with a large population like ours, with very serious challenges, insecurity, in the economy and some other areas. So, we need special concession in terms of our borrowing and the cost of borrowing by Nigeria and if they don’t want us to go to the Chinese, then they should give us better terms, we are prepared to do business with you. But whatever it is, our sovereign national sovereignty dictates that we always diversity our sources of funding and we also diversify in the states of origin of the companies we do business with. And at any one time, we must make sure that we get the best that we can get and that any country can offer. I vividly remember during the PRP administration in the second republic, the PRP administration then borrowed money in the name of Kano state, and it was widely acclaimed to be one of the best terms we were able to negotiate and people were saying we did such a wonderful job just because we put the right people in the right place and we made sure that they also are being observed. Not a whip or a smell of scandal came out of those loans and we paid those loans and the infrastructure is there in Kano. So, this is the kind of thing we do. But of if course you bring your son-in-law or relation or somebody and make him a minister, then you get what you deserve. But I still believe we will continue and we must continue to diversify not only the economy but also our sources of funding. We must prioritize areas in the national economy in which we invest and here I have in mind infrastructure because, without infrastructure, there is no way you can have meaningful wealth creation.
On the formation of middle-belt peoples forum
first, I am not a member of the ACF, that question to the members of ACF, I am not. Secondly, I am old enough involved with the Northern Elders Forum of late Maitama Sule but you can see for the last 1year, I have not been participating because I have not been well. Secondly, I also believe that if I want to belong to something, it has to be worth belonging to. If we find ourselves today, where we have some kind of alliance with Pandev, Ohaneze, Afenifere, a faction of the Afenifere calls itself Afenifere revival group led by one abusive fellow, Ayo Adebanjo. We have to be very careful who we are discussing with. None of the organisations that claim to be representing the South-South, South-East, South-West, Middle -belt forum, and of course the core North, none of them have the mandate strictly speaking to represent those areas. When you are forming even this essentially non-governmental organisation and on the surface purely amateurish organisations. you do so always in the context of a democracy. Even if it is not necessarily a political party. The context, the background of democracy must be enshrined in the ethics, the practices, the norms, the guidelines in the constitution of the group. The idea that some big men will be perpetually in power, they will negotiate with their fellows across the Niger as they say. It is totally undemocratic and utterly irresponsible. Because unless you have won the election, you have to the joy or the pain of winning/losing an election otherwise you have no business coming to dictate to people or the government of the day what to do and what not to do. I believe people who have soiled fingers in politics like Obasanjo, TY Danjuma, and others and who are now coming round to behave as if they are above politics, they are above the nation, that whoever is in government must be controlled by them by their remote control and misleading themselves and deceiving themselves. Anyone of them who wants to exercise political power should go through the medium of politics and political power/authority. Afterall a political party is there to one; crystalised, aggregate and articulated policies. But nobody should sit on his farm or call his friends into a meeting and tell us what to do and what not to do. And when the going was good with Obasanjo and Buhari, I was not sure I ever heard him calling Nigeria a failed state. And I am also aware that he was the one who brought Yar’adua who I must admit did well in some areas. But what of the total disaster that became Goodluck? what happened to the extent that he was abusing Obasanjo openly calling him a motor park tout because it is convenient for him to bring as many people as possible to the confront Buhari. that is not my idea of politics because this is brazen opportunism. This promiscuous lack of principle is not my idea of politics because if you want to rule the nation, you have to have a mindset that is intellectually better for the country and that sees to coordinate, harmonize and build. The idea that anytime you are not happy with the going on in the country, you simply sit down, co-up people and issue a statement abusing the government, is not my idea of politics. I attended I think the last meeting and I didn’t say a word because I realise, it was not worth my while and the idea that you want to condemn some of these tribal or religious organization or groups which are funded by identifiable sources when it suits you and when it does not suit you, you move away and start exchanging abuses. That is not my idea of politics because how many people in PANDEF, in Northern elders forum, the middle belt forum and what have you. When you look at the situation in the middle belt or Northcentral, whatever they call themselves, it is a purely religious organisation that seeks to isolate people away from them to drive political advantage. The leader of the middle belt forum, whatever he calls himself is from the North East, I think he is a Margi or something. How do you qualify somebody from zuru? Are you saying that he is not from the North West? otherwise, look at Northcentral itself, the people they claim to represent, the overwhelming number of whom are Christians in the Northcentral itself, out the six states they are only two who are the Christian majority (Benue and Plateau). So what basis do we form an organization if the majority of the people don’t belong to the identity you said you formed the organization. You said it is a Christian organisation essentially, can you deny somebody from Borno? can you deny somebody from Adamawa? where the Fulanis are a minority, can you deny somebody from certain part of the North West or are you saying somebody who is not from a Christian from Kwara is denied the privilege to be a member of the organisation? So, you can see, we are all in a lot of confusion. A lot of political opportunists are coming in, people who neither know politics nor do they know their history, are coming to create a problem.
Do you think the 9th assembly under Senator Ahmed Lawal is living up to the expectation of Nigerians?
They have lived not lived up to expectation and they are not going to live to any expectation. These are people who are errand boys of some people in the presidency and in the executive branch. They were brought in not because they have the capabilities, not because they have the necessary experience/exposure (national or international), they were brought there because the people who brought them, want them to be errand boys, benchwarmers, people who rubber-stamp whatever the executive plans to do and now they are on the way to bringing in if care is not taking, a national disaster because this their plan to go and amend the constitution using parameters which are outside the constitution is going to a major disaster. After all, they have no right to do that. The ways and means of amending the constitution are contained in the constitution themselves and within that constitution provision, I know there is no provision for a referendum. from the way people behave, from their body language, from their mannerism, you can know whether they are in control of their destiny or whether they have a sense of destiny in what they do or they are just there because they are errand boys of some people. Already within a year of having the 9th assembly, there are rumours that the president of the senate is desirous to become a president. And there is the next speaker who wants to become the president or vice president. Are these the kind of people who can convince you to part with a privilege you may have or in fact to hold those in power accountable? That is why the whole thing is like a joke. This is not my idea of the 9th Assembly and I certainly do not respect the group under Bukola Saraki, nor for that matter did I respect the group under David Mark because David mark ran the place including Bukola Saraki, they ran the place like some thin god dictators, village headmasters. If these kinds of people are going to be put in the place by the ruling party in the two chambers, we are going nowhere, nothing will happen.
What is it that the lawmakers ought to have been doing?
Nobody says they should go and confront the presidency the way Bukola Saraki decided to, but at the same time, nobody is asking them to become errand boys of some characters in the presidency because there are people in the presidency who are exercising political power, executive power who have not been elected to do anything and who have never been appointed to do anything. So, you can see the irresponsible and reckless lawlessness which attains political culture in Nigeria. So, when next you become president, you move in with your uncles, your nephews, their girlfriends etc and then you bring people who are your classmates and give them important positions. You can bring the children of your cousins and what have you, the husbands of your daughters and give them important positions. This is not the way to go. No nation with this primitive idea of wielding power has ever moved forward and we are not going forward unless we change our ways.