Buhari’s still a dictator in civilian attire –Junaid

The Nigerian political space on Thursday, lost one of its most ardent critics – Dr Junaid Mohammed, to the cold hands of death. Junaid, a medical doctor and politician, was a member of the House of Representatives where he was the Minority Leader, representing the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) during the Second Republic. Since the rebirth of democracy in 1999, Junaid has been on the sidelines of politics as a social critic. He could be regarded a nonconformist as he remained a thorn in the flesh of every administration. He was usually fierce, brutal and unsparing in his criticisms of government policies, actions, decisions and programmes. In this impromptu chat he had with ONWUKA NZESHI, two Saturdays ago, he was in his natural elements and bluntly spoke truth to power. It is arguably the last interview he granted to any Nigerian newspaper before his demise


What is your reaction to the nomination of the just retired ex-service chiefs as ambassador designates?


Democracy is literally nothing without due respect for the rule of law. I am one of those who can admit that President Muhammadu Buhari has the prerogative to appoint any Nigerian as an ambassador. But in a democracy, it is not just being in power that is important but when in power, you must respect the rule of law. Secondly, you must also respect public opinion.


Thirdly, there must be a decent interval from the time a service chief or any other top military officer disengages from service to the time he accepts or is given a political appointment. In the United States of America, if you disengage from active service as a general, whether you were a Service Chief or Chairman of the Joint Service Chiefs or whatever, you have to spend seven years before you’re given a political appointment.


If for whatever reason, the President finds it necessary to appoint you before you exhaust that time limit, you have to go to the Congress to get a formal waiver which comes by way of a joint resolution of the Senate and the House. This happened twice in the last five years.


The first Secretary of Defence under the Trump administration was a gentleman called Gen. James Mattis. Because he had spent less than seven years after retirement from military service, he had to go to the Senate and Congress to get a formal resolution before he could be appointed and sworn in.


Secondly, the current Defence Secretary under the Biden administration, a gentleman called Lloyd Austin, an African America. He is a four-star general and was nominated to the post of Defence Secretary.


Again, he had to go to Congress to get a formal waiver because he was also less than five years and had not done the mandatory seven years break after military service.


Could it be that it is because there is no law like that in Nigeria that the President has chosen to act this way?


In a country that believes in democracy and the rule of law, you don’t go and appoint anybody just because you have the power to do so. What is technically right, may not be morally proper.


The first consideration in the case of the just disengaged service chiefs has to do with the necessary nexus between democracy and public opinion.


Yes, Buhari is the current President of Nigeria but that does not mean that Buhari is above the rule of law. It does not mean he can go and take diabolical decisions and decisions that are against the overwhelming opinions of the people of this country. The idea that you can simply move somebody from one position to another or appoint people into positions immediately after they just finished serving in another position is faulty.


Why do you think it is faulty?


Supposing there is some fraud or scandal in the position he has just vacated or there were things he did that were not known when he was a service chief, what do we do? Supposing that some persons or a court of law decides to bring up the matter?


Does it mean he should not answer to the issues because he is an ambassador? No. So, as far as I’m concerned, while he (Buhari ) has the power in theory, his powers cannot be above the rule of law or public opinion and I believe that he should not be allowed to get away with it.


What you think Nigerians can do about the matter?


What can be done now is that the service chiefs themselves who have been nominated can voluntarily withdraw from the nomination because all of them are billionaires already and they don’t need the position unless there is something which they and Buhari want to cover.


Secondly, the National Assembly should seize this opportunity to pass a law along  line of the kind of law that they have in the United States of America that after disengaging from service, you must spend a certain number of years without getting into any political position.


It is even curious to find military officers who just left service wanting to become diplomats because they were not trained to be diplomats; they were trained to kill.


They must put in a minimum number of years as private citizens after leaving public office or military service. They can go and do businesses and live their lives as other citizens in the country.


After all, like I said before, all of them are billionaires. But it is embarrassing for the President to assume that because he is the President, for whatever reason, he can do what he likes. Nigeria is not his father’s farm.


The President has already written to the National Assembly to screen and confirm them.

What advice do you have for the parliament?


As far as I am concerned, the National Assembly should be honourable enough to refuse to ratify the appointment or nomination of these ex-service chiefs as ambassadors.


If they can’t do that, then the minimum they can do is to pass a law to ensure that those who are going to be appointed in the future must pass through some stringent criteria and they don’t assume that because they have been military generals, they can just be made ambassadors for whatever reasons.


With decisions like this and others taken by this administration, some Nigeria are beginning to raise questions about this government’s change mantra and claim to being progressive. What do have to say on this?


Well, of course you know that I have never been a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC); I have never been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or any of the other political parties that are relevant in the polity.


But I think that we have been in the habit of, you know, bandying around all sorts of names, titles and slogans. Some call themselves progressives whether or not they know the definition or meaning of being a progressive.


The essence of being a progressive is that you believe that the power vested in your government can be used for good so that you can make life a little easier and the burdens of living a little lighter for the people over whom you have the privilege to govern. But if that is the definition, there is nothing progressive about the APC or about Buhari.


In fact Buhari has never told himself or any other person that he is a progressive. The term only started from the South-West in the days of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others.


Of course during the Second Republic, they made a lot of noise about nine progressive governors and so on and so forth, but that doesn’t mean anything. In fact, you cannot be a progressive unless you believe in the rule of law.


The fact that you can take the people’s properties, their assets and what have you and turn them into personal fortunes shows that you don’t even know what you’re talking about in being progressive.


As far as I am concerned, if you don’t listen to the voice of the people you cannot call yourself a progressive person. What is being pushed around now as progressive politics or progressive party is nothing but a ruse.


It is sheer deceit which begins from Buhari himself down to some of the noise makers in the Presidency. I know that whenever people try to tell them that certain actions and decisions of the government are not good for the people, they don’t want to hear it.


As far as I am. concerned, nobody can be a progressive if you don’t listen to the wishes of the people and does not care about the concerns of the people when taking decisions.


Buhari is not a progressive and has never pretended to be a progressive. In fact, he was a dictator the first time he came to power in December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985 and he is still a dictator in terms of his mind set.






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