The level of insecurity across Nigeria is rising by the day and many Nigerians have been expecting the Federal Government and the security forces to halt the ugly trend. In this interview, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a medical doctor and former member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, x-rays the various dimensions of the crisis and tells ONWUKA NZESHI that nothing will change for the better under the current administration
How would you assess the problem of insecurity across the North-West of the country?
The current insecurity in the North West is not an isolated issue. It is part and parcel of the incompetence in the governance of our country. Nigeria has been afflicted by bad governance for a very long time.
When the Boko Haram terrorist phenomenon arose in the North- East, 11 years ago (2009) under President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, we thought it was an isolated event and that the phenomenon was going to fizzle away in a matter of time.
Unfortunately, it turned out to a much more dangerous and prolonged affair. The fact that we are living with it today shows that our initial analysis of it was not scientific. Clearly, the knowledge that we had did not help to solve the problem.
The underlying issues which normally give rise to this kind of insurgency the world over were there all the time. The North-East, followed by the North-West is poorest are worst governed zones of the country.
They have the highest rate of poverty and mis-governance because the political elite in those two zones are the least receptive to the problems that affect the common man. Most of the people living in these areas are farmers.
They are not even modern farmers that work with combined harvesters and other equipment to enhance their performance and productivity. These are peasants or subsistence farmers who have to survive in their poverty condition.
We have a situation whereby anybody who holds a political office or an appointive office, sees himself as a tin god. Sooner than later, the political consciousness in these areas of the North will definitely go higher and people will start asking questions.
The moment people start asking questions and they can get answers there will be problems. But what I thought was that we were going to assess the situation in a much more intelligent manner and that we were going to be truthful to ourselves. But this we have not done well.
But many Nigerians though that President Buhari’s military background would help matters…
Whatever you think towards President Muhammadu Buhari or towards his government and towards the party he leads, the fact remains that he is a very incompetent leader.
Basically, he is a myth. He used to be a friend of mine because I knew him since he was a second lieutenant. Whatever you say about him, you have to agree that he has been a monumental disaster for the country.
The idea that he was elected because he is an ex- military general and supposed to be familiar with security matters has been defeated. The man has turned out to be a disaster instead of being a star and a knowledgeable person in the security sector.
The fact that he was a governor of the old North-East State during the regime of General Murtala Muhammed, would have been an advantage and people would assume that he knows the terrain.
But the reality is that he knows nothing about the realities on the ground in that region or any other region of the country. People are still living from hand to mouth in the North East and he has not given any impression that he knows what is happening there.
And the anti-graft war?
In terms of fighting corruption, he has turned out to be one of the worst. Apart from being incompetent, he is a man who will always want to pick his friends, relations, in-laws and cronies in important positions of power.
Meanwhile, all of them that he appointed are corrupt and he is very much aware of this but doesn’t have the will to do anything about it.
Apart from the man he put in EFCC (Ibrahim Magu), the rest are corrupt. Remember, EFCC was not set up by him. It was set up by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo under the pressure of some Western countries. He was lucky and made the correct choice in Magu which is very rare for Buhari.
Unfortunately, his own idea of giving somebody such an important assignment is for the person to look at his face and ask him what he is supposed to do and not what the law says he should do.
This is the reason Magu is suffering today. Buhari expected that some people who are supposed to be arrested and prosecuted for financial crimes by the EFCC should not be touched because they are above the law. Magu refused and that is the beginning of his problem till today.
What is your view about armed banditry in the country?
The escalating armed banditry in the North -West is the biggest item of shame of the Buhari administration because it is happening in his home state of Katsina and the neighbouring state, Zamfara.
The two states are very contiguous and the notorious forest which has been used by the bandits traverses old Kaduna and Zamfara states.
But somehow, he has not been able to mobilise the necessary security resources to secure the people. These bandits are going about with sophisticated weapons, most of which were smuggled into Nigeria from Libya after the fall of Gaddafi.
These bandits have been going into people’s farms, stealing people’s farm produce and killing or aiming the people when they resist.
If the man cannot maintain law and order, if he cannot maintain some modicum of peace in his own state and the neighbouring state of Zamfara, what are you going to tell me that he knows about security?
How do you see the tenure of Service Chiefs which now seems almost endless?
We also have a situation whereby he alone believes he can violate the rules and provisions that have been made in the Nigeria Armed Forces Act which states that you cannot stay beyond a certain number of years in the service unless of course there are special reasons why you should not be eased out.
Since he appointed the present Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai and the other Service Chiefs in 2015, they have failed woefully. People have told Buhari that these Service Chiefs have run out of ideas and are incapable of running the services, but he has not listened to anybody. As long as he continues to extend
the services of these people, he is making it impossible for younger military officers with better education and exposure to come up and try their hands in finding solutions to the security situation in the country.
You are also making it impossible for many military officers to advance their careers because since those on top cannot move, those following them cannot also move. Buhari’s idea is to simply remove those below and retain those ahead of them because he does not have confidence in any other persons.
So far, I think there are six generations of military officers who have been taken out with given the opportunity to serve as either Service Chiefs or other top positions in the military. I don’t see how this can be justified. With the worsening level of insecurity those that he has kept as service can never justify their pay and can never justify the kind of money they have been collecting as defence budget.
Apart from the normal budgetary provisions, the way money is given to these Service Chiefs is unprecedented. I have never seen a national army being funded this way. In spite of these huge funds being expended, the war against insurgency has comprehensively failed in the North East. It is also failing in the North West and the people across the country ate very angry against this incompetent government.
The greatest problem is that he believes that whatever he does is right and that he is not bound by any provisions of the constitution or the Act which established the Army, Navy, Air Force or the Police. This is the situation we have found ourselves.
It has gotten to the extent that soldiers who risk their lives to go into battle thoroughly demoralised. It is not surprising.
Remember that a few years back, some of the soldiers were so demoralised that they shot at some of their generals and superiors officers. Now when it comes to that level of frustration, then you can see clearly that we are heading for disaster.
As long as Buhari remains the President and he maintains his idea of retaining the Service Chiefs, whom he appointed not on merit, then certainly we are going to have this security problem over and over and over.
For a man who you can’t be too sure of his competence either as a soldier or as administrator but who thinks that whatever he does must be right, we are in trouble. I believe that if Buhari does not change these people, some circumstances will connive with his incompetence and force the country to make a move to change him. Already, I think it is already running out of time.
There is a concept in Political Science which we call Performance Justification. No matter how you came to power, if you are not performing, you have no business remaining there. Even if you came to power by coup d’etat or popular uprising, if you perform, that performance will justify your stay in office.
General Murtala Muhammed was never elected within the military or in the country, but today he is still remembered even though he died in 1976.
We are still talking about him with nostalgia because we believe he meant well and performed well during his tenure. Now look at Buhari with two mandates and we have nothing to show
What is your impression about abduction of the Kankara Boys?
I don’t share the view that it was stage managed by Buhari and his men because they are not even that smart. I am only sad at the state of hopelessness that the incident brought to the country. If a man is not performing, he is not performing but for those who think that the recent abductions were the hand work of Buhari and his cronies to give the impression that they are working are giving him too much credit.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t believe they are smart enough to play such games. They are so corrupt and they are prepared to do anything for money. Most of the people around him have no right to be there. This is one government that I have known in my whole lifetime that has failed so woefully on its primary responsibility of securing lives and property.
In fact one of the presidential aides even denied that there was an abduction of these Kankara school boys. Then later he said no, there were only ten boys abducted and this was after the governor of the state had said that over 300 boys were missing. It took the same presidential aide to come back and admit that he goofed.
So you can see that the whole response is amateurish, selfish and designed to confuse the people.
How do you see the management of the Zamfara Gold mines?
The issue about the gold in Zamfara State is also part of the pathetic story. These are potential assets for the country. But like other assets which we are wasting, Buhari and his government can never transmute the gold or solid minerals into revenue in our treasury or public finance.
So they will continue to watch it waste away. Before the setting up of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, the sector was handled directly by the Ministry of Mines and Power. At the moment, the gold in Zamfara is not being exploited by Nigerians only. There are people from Niger, Chad, Ghana and even some Chinese who are involved in what is happening there.
Some of these foreigners like those from Niger are able to fit in because these are people who have had experience in the mining of uranium and other solid minerals in their country.
These people will continue to exploit the lapses in our system because we have a leader who does not have the competence to govern the country.