Elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, in this interview, speaks on the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protests and other national issues. Excerpts: felix nwaneri reports
What is your take on attacks on some public and private properties in Lagos as well as widespread looting in parts of the country as a result of the #EndSARS protests?
First and foremost, I condemn in its entirety the motivation or the reason for the people who carried out the attacks. No matter what one’s attitude towards ex-Governor Bola Tinubu, one cannot justify the attacks on him verbally, attacks on his property physically and I believe that it is not a crime to be in politics. Tinubu has done a lot for Lagos State in terms of developments and he has also done a lot for the South-West geopolitical zone. Even those who are not from his ethnic group cannot deny the fact that there is a difference in the development in Lagos before the Tinubu era and after his era.
Do you think the attacks on investments linked to Tinubu were politically motivated?
I am not a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but the fact of the matter is there is nothing wrong in Tinubu aspiring to be anything. As far as I am concerned, it is not a crime to want to aspire to be the president of this country or to occupy any elective office. It is also a shame that those who have nothing to offer are now targeting people who have done a lot for the country. TVC is a private broadcasting channel; nobody is forced to watch TVC.
Clearly, the whole attack is purely politically motivated. Whether it is motivated against Tinubu’s person or his ambition for the presidency in 2023, the fact of the matter is, Tinubu, like any other person is entitled to try his luck and throw his hat into the ring because as a Nigerian, he has absolute right to do so. That right is undiminished by whatever anybody will say or will do.
No amount of attacks can deny him that right to aspire for the highest office in the land There is the issue of the people who participated in this thuggery which they called #EndSARS protest. People are saying that they are from one ethnic group or another ethnic group. I arrived Abuja few days ago and I heard that some of the people are from the old ethnic group that doesn’t want Tinubu to achieve his ambition.
If they don’t want him to contest, they are being extralegal, they are going against the law and they are trying to play God. Only God can stop that ambition and no amount of abuse or attempt to incite the people in the South-West in particular, those who are of that ethnic group or those who are living particularly in Lagos and Ogun states against him. That will be a very dangerous game.
Why do you say so?
I say so because if Tinubu were to come down to their level, he has enough resources, goodwill and enough people, who are prepared to follow him to do battle with his enemy. Anyway, if they are against Tinubu because they don’t like him for any reason, what of the attack on the Oba of Lagos; is he also going to contest election in 2023? What was his offence because as far as I know, he is not a member of any party? If it is because he is a friend of Tinubu, well I am also a friend to the Oba of Lagos and I am not in any of the political parties.
We have to be very careful because, apparently, there are people who are prepared to heat up the polity ahead of 2023. We have been escaping catastrophes in this country from the time of the civil war and the end of the civil war. If they want to go back that way, they shouldn’t blame anybody.
If Tinubu decides to contest the presidency, there is nothing anybody can do. If Tinubu were to emerge as the president, it should not be because his own ethnic group like him or some people in the South don’t like him.
It has to be due to factors beyond our control. Obasanjo is a Yoruba man but everybody knows that the election in 1999, which was the only election he contested and won as a civilian in a democratic election no matter how faulty it was; he didn’t get the support of his ethnic group but he won the election and he was in power for eight years.
So, we should be very careful and I have no time to waste trying to counter the argument of people who are utterly irresponsible, antihistorical and who are really upset about the survival and welfare of this great country.
There is the belief in some quarters that inciting statements by some people, especially, by some Nigerians outside the country also contributed to the mayhem. Do you share that view?
This is not the first time that has happened. If you are old enough like I am, you will know that this was the typical statements they have been making before and after independence. Everybody knew what some of them said. I remember that one of their leaders who said that ‘domination of Nigeria by the Igbos was just a question of time.’
Secondly, it was also clear that the coup of January 15 1966 was a tribal coup. It was carried out overwhelmingly and over 95 per cent of those who participated in that coup were from that ethnic group and most of the people they killed were from other ethnic groups, particularly northerners who were Muslims and Christians. Out of those who were at the centre of the coup, about 15 of them were from the old Mid-West but they are called Western Igbos.
So, a lot of water has passed under the bridge but this people still believe that they have a divine right to produce the president of Nigeria by simply allowing the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and hypocrites like John Nwodo in Ohanaeze to believe they can blackmail 200 million Nigerians in giving them the presidency on a platter of gold.
Let us see how they will do it. Besides, those who are now claiming that they want restructuring because the 1999 Constitution was a military constitution, but the same Nwodo served as adviser to late President Shehu Shagari under another military-decree constitution of 1979 and then after 1999, the same Nwodo served in a military-decree constitution of 1999 and now he was shameless to go to Chatham House of London and said that Nigeria must be restructured and the current constitution must be destroyed because it was a military one.
The question is: Why was he not ashamed to serve in a military decreed constitution? Everybody knows what Nnamdi Kanu has been saying; he wants to incite civil war but he is a coward because he doesn’t want to come back into the country and face the consequences.
Let him come back and lead the war. We have the same problem because Emeka Ojukwu, who volunteered not only to defend the consequences of the tribal war that Aguiyi Ironsi and others carried out, but when Biafra was collapsing towards the end of 1970, Ojukwu ran away to Cote D’ivoire. If you want to listen to these kind of characters, we are going to continue to languish in mayhem and this country is not going to develop.
Those who imagine that the only way you can make progress is to have zoning and rotation and that this time around in 2023, it is the time of some people to produce the president of Nigeria, let us see how they will produce the president. I really feel bad and angry at the way my friend Tinubu was treated and I also feel bad at the carnage which cost some people their lives, including security agents.