Nigeria is currently facing a lot of challenge of insecurity and even the government and ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is also embroiled in internal squabbles. In this interview, Dr Junaid Mohammed, medical doctor, politician and critic examines these challenges and tells ONWUKA NZESHI that the government might be toying with fire if it failed to heed wise counsel
The action taken by the President during the emergency National Executive Committee of the APC is generating a lot of criticisms. What do you make of the allegations that he went beyond the bounds?
In a presidential system of government, the position of the President is very unique. First and foremost, he is the de facto leader of the party and he is also the head of the executive arm of the government. In other words, he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the executive branch of the government, the Chief Security Officer of the nation, the de facto, de jure Commander of the Armed Forces and the Operational Head of the Police. The President is also the Chief Diplomat of the country. Whoever is the Foreign Minister is just representing him and carrying out functions and responsibilities delegated to him. The real Chief Diplomat of a country is the President.
In addition, the President is also what you call the Moral Head or Moral Authority of the whole country. In the American system, the French system and some other presidential democracies, the President is also seen as bully pulpit who will normally, through words and deeds, be an example for the whole citizens to follow. So when speaks on any issue, the whole nation stops and listens.
So from the foregoing, you can see clearly President Muhammadu Buhari has enormous responsibilities. As the de facto leader of the party, he is supposed to handle the affairs of the party with the greatest possible integrity. But where the President fails to exercise these envisaged responsibilities in an impartial manner, he will certainly face some criticisms.
Similarly, where certain positions in the party and government have been given without due consideration to the principles of merit, fairness, justice and contributions to the party, there will a surely be in trouble.
One thing that damages an organisation, no matter the type of organisation is nepotism. The moment people begin to see that the leader is nepotistic, that is the end of that organisation. No matter how long it survives, it is just surviving on borrowed time. As far as I am concerned, APC is an abnormal party because of the way the party came into being.
Nowadays, what is in vogue is to blame somebody but I must give credit to those who bent over backwards and accommodated Muhammadu Buhari and virtually gave him the Presidency and leadership of the party even when he didn’t ask for it. He will be doing his party and this country a great service if he respects such people.
They may not have the kind of mass support Buhari enjoys, but the fact was that without these people coming to him, after one or two attempts in the past, and made sure that they convinced him and re-presented him to Nigerians on a credible platform, Buhari would never have been the President of Nigeria. Now people are being paid to go and start abusing these people as if what they did amounted to nothing.
If this is how politics is played, then nobody will like to support anybody in politics. But what do we have today? Many of those that are playing important roles in the government were never members of the APC. None of the members of the cabal was a member of the APC. Many of the young people you see talking down on people because they work with the people in government were never members of the APC. They were simply hired as attack dogs who are meant to bark and abuse people. How come these kind of people would now go and issue a statement that there has been a super legal consultations which allows those who want to take certain actions to do so?
What they are saying is that if you feel aggrieved by the decision you can go to court. The whole thing is embarrassing. There is also the quality of leadership in APC. In every organisation, people are made leaders in order to lead which entails taking decisions. Where people are incapable of taking any serious decision, I think there will be problems no matter how big that organisation might be and how long it has been in existence.
What is the ideal way to form a party?
Where a party was formed with the best of intentions and with the best of ideological commitment and foresight, the party can outlive its founder or founders. I can give you one good example – David Ben Gurion was the Prime Minister of Israel and was the one responsible for the formation of the Labour Party. He served as a minister a number of times, but somewhere along the line he had a disagreement with the party and had to leave.
But because the party was so well formed with a constitution, principles and clear ideology, the party outlived his presence. Although during the turmoil in the party, they managed to terminate his political career, the party survived the crisis.
The same thing happened to Mahatma Ghandi in India. He and Nehru formed a party but before he was assassinated, he disagreed with the party but the party survived and it is still surviving.
So if a party was well formed, even if the leaders of the party leave because they feel that it is their wisdom or charisma that contributed to the party winning an election, such a leader could be gotten rid of and the party survives.
In the case of the APC, what is happening is that the party is going to dissolve; some of the leading persons who formed the party are most likely to go somewhere else, maybe join another political party. If that happens, only God knows what will happen to the party after 2023.
Are you saying that the President’s intervention which sacked Adams Oshiomhole and his NWC won’t resolve the crisis in the APC?
No way! No way! Tell me, who among the members of the new Caretaker Committee can on their own, independently deliver their wards to the party? There is an inherent value in a political party and that value is there whether that party is in government or not. All these crises are driven by personal ambition including personal ambition of those who are relations or close to the relations of those who are in the Presidency. Nigerians did not vote for that when they elected the present crop of leaders. So we have to be very careful. I can’t see how the party will survive and be a credible electoral force come 2023.The same thing applies to PDP
If these two parties fail to put their acts together, Nigerians will be forced to do what they have been avoiding which is to form a political party based on clear principles or ideology.
The idea that opportunists will just take us on all manner of motionless movements cannot be allowed to continue. The days of politicians forming a political party and giving themselves high positions and doing nothing to improve the lot of the masses is about to be over.
Are you foreseeing the emergence of a third force to fill the gap created by the two major parties?
Third Force is nothing but a slogan. I don’t like the expression third force because it means nothing to me. What I am talking about might come in the form of a new party or some existing parties might coalesce to form a bigger party but I have no doubt in my mind that the present situation with the two major political parties is not sustainable.
There are speculations that the current crisis in the APC is nothing more than a proxy war ahead of the 2023 presidential ticket. Do you share this view?
Of course! Of course! But if the party were really a party; if it were a party in its true sense and the way parties are supposed to be historically, these wars would have been unnecessary because a leader will emerge from the system. A leader would have emerged by performance, acceptability and balance of public opinion nationwide. All this talk about this is our turn, we want you to concede the Presidency to us because of fair play, is all nonsense. In politics and democracy, such opinions or rhetorics don’t hold water. Nobody will give leadership on the basis of fairness or justice or whatever. I don’t know what is justice anyway? In democracy majority will always carry the day while minority will have their say.
Do you also think that the current crisis is between the Buhari/ CPC elements and the Tinubu/ACN elements in the APC?
Let me tell you the basic truth. From the word go, the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) was never a political party. It was a personality cult built around Buhari and it was not even the beginning. There used to be what is called The Buhari Organisation (TBO). What was their performance? Zero. The CPC came as a party and ran elections in 2007 and 2011. What was the result? They only managed to win one governorship seat which was in Nasarawa State which is not up to Kano Municipality of about four local government areas.
I do not know much about the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) but Tinubu is a personal friend. As far as I am concerned he may have support and definitely as a former governor of Lagos State, he has his base there and I think he is a very astute politician.
I do not believe that the current quarrel is between the CPC and ACN. You can see that at least Tinubu has a base in the South -West. I believe he has supporters in the North here. Some of these supporters are genuine people who want to follow him wherever he goes but some them who claim to be his supporters also have their own ambitions and they look forward to the day Tinubu will become the candidate and one of them becomes his running mate and quite a number of key positions will be allocated to them.
So with the current scenario in APC, you think the party is heading for the rocks?
I doubt if the party will survive. Even if survives up to 2023, immediately after that it will collapse. It is just like what happened to CPC, immediately after the elections in 2011, it collapsed.
What is your view on the N50bilion suit filed against President Buhari and his government by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum?
As far as I’m concerned, everybody has the right to sue and be sued. If they sued him because of allegations of lopsided appointments, it is in order. But if we must question what Buhari has done in terms of federal character and appointments, we have to go backwards by conducting a proper investigations of all the appointments made by him and other former political leaders in this country.
We need to go back to 1999 and see the people who got these appointments under contention now. What were the zones, regions or local government areas? Then of course the litigation can continue.
But we have to define federal character and not treat it as something else. The constitution says that the Federal Character principle must operate on the basis of states. So it will be interesting for us to know which states have been shortchanged. So I have no problem with the suit as long as we take the investigation back to 1999.
What are your impressions of the growing insecurity in the North and the level of response the challenge is receiving from the government?
The government has not responded well to the insecurity in the North. President Buhari and his service chiefs have mishandled the situation very badly. Above all, he has refused to take the right decision on the matter. Their failure is due to the fact that certain generals whom he appointed not based on merit or competence have been putting some dangerous ideas into his head.
They keep telling him that they are the ones protecting him from a Coup D’etat. But none of them can prevent a coup if those who want to stage a coup really decide to do so. Nobody ever heard of General TY Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff until Buhari picked him and his performance in the North-East is shameful. It clearly shows that this is not a General that other Generals and other officers in the Army can follow to battle. The man is nothing but a financial opportunist and a crook.
Immediately after he was appointed and reports came that he owned properties in Dubai showed that you were not dealing with a general but we were dealing with either a money launderer or some kind of crook in uniform. He should have been sacked right there and then but Buhari lacked the balls to do that and we are seeing the consequences.
All the service chiefs have had their tenures extended by more than twice or thrice. Now if you are talking about making the Army effective, you must follow the rules. In fact an institution without rules or principles is not an institution.
Now, we have had problems and we are still having problems of insecurity. Every political and economic segment of Nigeria have come out openly to tell Buhari to sack these people but he has refused to heed that advice. Even when the insecurity hit his state, he couldn’t respond to the cries of his people.
Members of the National Assembly who were democratically elected (House and Senate) have passed concurrent resolutions asking him to get rid of them and till today he has not listened to them.
Yet some shameless people have come out to tell us that we are succeeding against Boko Haram because the terrorists are not holding any territories. When they made that irresponsible statement sometime last year, the Boko Haram were still attacking communities Borno, Yobe and other places. They were not only there but are in control and are collecting taxes from the locals. They were the de facto government in these places.
But if that is how he is going to run the next three years or whatever time he has left for his government, then we are stuck with this problem.
It is no longer restricted to the North-East, it is now also in the North West and don’t forget, the man (Buhari) comes from Katsina. Today, Katsina is the least peaceful state not only in the North West but in the entire North. So if indeed, he is behaving like a politician, of what benefit is his politics to his people?
What could really be preventing him from sacking these people and getting other people with fresh ideas?
Clearly, Buhari is being blackmailed by the service chiefs he appointed. So you would want to know why they are blackmailing him. Before now, they were doing it through Abba Kyari and now that Kyari is gone, who is their link man with Buhari? Who are they telling that they are preventing coups?
Some youths have staged a protest in Katsina and given the Federal Government a-14 day ultimatum to address the insecurity of face mass action. Do you think this threat would help the situation?
It may not necessarily help the situation but it won’t make it worse than it is already. In any case, if they decide to come out and protest, it is their democratic right. The other day they protested, some overzealous police officers went beyond the law, arrested their leader and took him to Abuja. When they could not establish anything against him, they had to shamefully release him.
The law in Nigeria allows you to hold any demonstration. All you need to do is to inform the Police and the DSS that you are marching to the Government House or anywhere in the city. There is no law that says you cannot stage a demonstration against the policies and actions of the government that you think is wrong. The Police have been humiliated over and over again on this matter.
What do you think is the solution to this challenge of insecurity in Nigeria?
Effective governance. Unfortunately some of these attacks you see are being sponsored from outside the country. There are also some that are being sponsored from within the country. I also know instances in the North West where the bandits are being supported by some people. I also know of an instance where some traditional rulers in the North West were implicated and arrested in the banditry in Zamfara State. The governor, Mattawalle said he was going to arraign them before the law courts but a retired General from Zamfara went to him and begged that he should allow them go because they are his people. This means that either the general is also implicated in the banditry in the North West or he is doing something to black mail Buhari or trying to settle old scores with him because he and Buhari never got along.
What is your take on the demolition of diplomatic quarters at the Nigeria High Commission in Ghana?
It is unfortunate and goes to tell you that we don’t have a government that is respected outside the shores of Nigeria. Are you telling me that if we had the lines of Murtala Mohammed or Olusegun Obasanjo, such a thing would have happened to us? It could not have happened. Many of our neighbours and Heads of State and Government in Africa have nothing but contempt for Buhari. When they come here, they may praise him to high heavens or call him whatever they call him but in terms of considering national interest, none of our neighbours and other ECOWAS leaders think seriously of him. I have no doubt that if we had a leader who is respected by Nigerians, by our neighbours and by the world, what happened in Ghana couldn’t have happened. So it is bad, annoying and disgraceful, but then you don’t blame neighbours who took advantage of him. It is like you taking Valium (sedative) to go to bed while you throw your doors and the gate of your house open. If a thief comes in and burgles the house, you can’t blame him.