Alhaji Mohammed Mahadi Shehu, Chairman of Dialogue Group, the world’s largest professional community based groups in Kaduna is a visionary; but he is not one lost in wild imaginations or vain schemes of some anticipated good. He rarely grants interviews but when he does, he drives his points forcibly.
In this interview, Mahadi didn’t disappoint. He is now a personality who is converted from the opinion of a united Nigeria to the need to break up the country for the good of all in view of the prevailing circumstances Nigeria has found itself.
The prolific writer and public speaker, spoke on various national issues.
You wrote about the status and predicaments of Emirs in the North and predicted many things. It is like your predictions are coming to pass. Emir Muhammadu Sanusi has just been deposed. The scenario that gave rise to your article was based on the deposition of Alhaji Al-Mustapha Haruna Jokolo, the then Emir of Gwandu. What more can you say about your predictions now? Is it really that what you said then is beginning to happen or you think more of these depositions are in the offing?
It is not about prediction. It is about going down memory lane. When Jokolo was removed, I wrote an article titled “Deposition of Jokolo: Tears of pain and joy”. In that article, I traced the history of traditional institution, not only in the North but all over the country. I reminded that there had always been a law about appointment and deposition of chiefs and since 1829, more than 50 Emirs, Obas, Obis and all sorts of traditional rulers had been deposed, exiled and banished and that it would never stop till the end of time. There will always be deposition of Emirs, Obas, Chiefs and other traditional title holders. I also told them that there is just no way; the moment you are appointed and you agree to be a traditional ruler, from that day, you lose three most important components of your life. The first thing is that you have lost your right to make a public choice of your political party. You also lose your right to make a public choice of your candidate. You also lose your right to express a public opinion, whether it has to do with politics, economics, socialization or even religious opinion, you lose them all that same day. If as a traditional ruler, having accepted to be one you have not understood that the equation has changed from that day, then it means something is fundamentally wrong with your thinking. There is no way you will be receiving money on monthly basis based on law… the Jeremiah Useni Wise-men Committee recommended during the Abacha regime that five percent of all monies going to the state government should be given to the traditional institution of that state. State governments collect money for the state and local governments; so it says every local government will contribute five percent of its monthly allocation for the sustenance of that institution and monies received from the Federal Government to the state governments and to the local governments are monies appropriated. Appropriation Law is a law that is meant to be respected and to be obeyed. Part of the requirement is that once money is appropriated and given to you, you must account for it. There is no way an Emir who has been collecting money like Sanusi…Sanusi has been collecting N220 million every month from the day he was appointed up to the day he was removed. What is wrong with a state governor, whether you give it political interpretation or not…what is wrong with that governor asking that, that money be audited? There is nothing absolutely wrong with that and I am not holding brief for Governor Ganduje. For me, I have an extreme disdain for Governor Ganduje because he has shown what he is. Let there be an end to his tenure, and he will come and tell the public that shameless and shameful video clips where he was visibly shown accepting money and gratification from contractors. That is the highest breach of trust he has done. That is a topic for another day because he has immunity now. But minus immunity, he would have been in prison by now. But immunity has a time frame. So, there is no way you will not account for local government money. Whatever kobo you spend, there must be a record of income and expenditure of that money. If you are found wanting, the Auditor who is auditing that money has a right to raise an audit query and Sanusi, being a banker, must know that rule more than any other person that audit queries are not swept under the carpet. Audit queries are supposed to be explained to the total satisfaction of the Auditor. If people do not understand these limitations…it seems Sanusi never understood this…it seems he overrated his popularity and importance. He played to the gallery. I will give you an example. Sometimes ago, he was giving a public lecture and he started crying and he was telling the public that he was crying because some days back, while a lady was waiting for his support, her daughter died…the daughter was sick and she was on her way to see Sanusi for a N3,000 intervention to take her daughter to the hospital and he started crying. I call those tears crocodile tears, public deception and playing to the gallery. Why? It is because of N3,000 and he is crying. This is somebody whose total cost of his automobile is over N2 billion. The cost of renovating his palace is over N3 billion. The cost of his Library is over N200 million and he jets out in private aircrafts all over the country and he lives an expensive and affluent life. How can somebody in that state continue to cry because of N3,000? If there is anybody who has contributed to poverty in this country, it is the traditional institution. Each and every time a politician, a president, Head of State or a Governor pays a visit to the palace of a traditional ruler, the first thing they do is to ask government to put in place some poverty alleviation measures when they are the people contributing towards poverty. The total cost of the automobile in the entire traditional rulers’ palaces, the amount of cars they have is over N900 billion. And luckily for us now, they cannot even drive the cars on the highways for fear of Kidnappers and bandits. So, they should surrender those cars for a public auction of 50 percent and raise N450 billion. N450 billion would go a long way in fighting poverty, more so the cars were bought with public funds. The cars belong to the public, so they should be auctioned. But they should stop their luxurious, affluent, wasteful lifestyle if they are serious about fighting poverty.
In his keynote address at the Joint National Conference of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Sanusi sought for a jail term for those who send their children to beg on the streets in the name of the Almajiri system. What really is your position and response to Sanusi’s advocacy?
If the lifestyle of Sanusi and the likes of Sanusi in the traditional hierarchy had been a lifestyle routed in Islamic ethics, decency and morality where you keep only what you need without accumulation, there could have been no Almajiri. Almajiri is a victim of Sanusi and the likes of Sanusi; is a victim of all those people who are living affluent lifestyles and in utmost disregard to the plight of the common man. The Almajiri is a victim of politicians from the local government to the federal level. The Almajiri is a victim of the larger society. In any event, the Almajiri is a legitimate citizen of this country who is entitled to decent life and living which has been denied by the clique, the cartel and the cabal and greedy politicians who had been emptying our treasury for the comfort of themselves and their immediate family members.
There are people who believe that Emir Sanusi is a victim of political considerations. But to you, why do you think Emir Sanusi was deposed?
Emir Sanusi was also appointed for political considerations. He was appointed in the first place to spite PDP. He was removed as Governor of the Central Bank by President Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan is a PDP Chieftain. When he was removed, he was appointed by then Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso to spite the PDP when he left PDP for APC. Today, it is the same APC government which gave him staff of office that removed him. Traditional institutions are no more than an extension of political convenience. A traditional ruler must know that he is nothing than an appendix, answerable to the local government Chairman not even to the governor. He is operating under a state law. The State House of Assembly has a right to make a law a billion times that deals with the appointment and deposition of Emirs, Obas, Obis, Chiefs and other cadres of traditional rulers and everybody in the country. Therefore, they had better understand that times have changed and that there are young politicians on rampage. If you stand on their way, it would be at your peril. They will humiliate you, crush you and life continues and nothing will happen. When Emir Sanusi was removed, everybody thought Kano will go up in flames; nothing will happen. I repeat, nothing will happen. If tomorrow, another governor wants to give an Emir the Ganduje treatment, let him comfortably go ahead and do it as long as he has an existing law and a reason to do so; nothing will happen. They have outlived their usefulness. They are the biggest problem confronting the nation. Their great grandfathers lived in peace because they didn’t know the road to Government House. They did not collect money from government purse. They didn’t ask for favours from governors. They did not talk politics. They had no open affiliations with politicians and they are Emirs, they are Alkalis, they are traditional rulers and they are the fathers of the communities. They combined all these functions. They are even the Imams. Today, how many of the Emirs can lead a prayer in the Mosque. How many of them are qualified, knowledge-based. Ninety nine percent of them are not qualified. Therefore, they have lost that attribute. How many of them are not affluent? None. They are all living in extreme affluence when their subjects are in abject poverty. Their grandparents were not as affluent as they are now. They are now competing when their grandparents were not competing in horses and castles. Now, they are competing in Rolls Royce, in Castles, in Argentina horses, in extended holidays abroad and in posh palaces.
Let’s end that phase of the interview with your advice to Emir Aminu Ado Bayero, his brother Nasir Ado Bayero and indeed all Emirs in the North.
Aminu Ado Bayero and every other Emir should go and dust the history books. They should go to National Archives and Libraries to peruse newspapers, magazines and other periodicals to see what the fate of their colleagues in the past was and what led to that fate. They should be prepared either to learn a lesson from there or they wait for the same fate that would befall them in future. The choice is theirs.
Let us examine closely the question of the Northern elite’s apparent unflinching support for the “unity” of Nigeria. Is it the case that Nigerians from other parts of the country are less interested in the idea of a united Nigeria? What is it about our so-called federal system that the North finds so sacrosanct? Is there something in it that makes it appealing to the North than the rest of Nigerians?
When the amalgamation of Nigeria took place, virtually everybody’s head in this country was not up. In other words, nobody realised the consequences of merging this country. With the passage of time, with the knowledge, with clear daily happenings it was realized long ago that the amalgamation was done in haste, out of mischief without taking into consideration the peculiarities in Nigeria. But before it was realised, it had been done and it had become a country. Events from 1960 to date have clearly shown that the amalgamation was the biggest mistake of that century and there is nothing wrong in righting the wrong once you realise the wrong is wrong. Amalgamation is wrong. Our togetherness had been fused together not through consultation but through unilateral action of the colonial masters and politicians at that time to serve their immediate needs. That was what happened. You will agree with me that from 1966 till date, precisely, it has not been rosy and easy for Nigeria. It has been one form of calamity, tragedy or the other. In fact, now we are at the height of suspicion. We do not trust and believe in each other. We are at each others’ throat and at daggers drawn. Must we allow another war to come before we part? Let us peacefully go on the table, break the Kola, distribute the country for everybody’s peace. If we do not do it now, the future generation will abuse us. It is better for Nigeria to break into smaller, smaller countries as much as possible if that will allow us to save properties, lives, relationships and posterity because I do not see any Angel coming now, in human form, to unite Nigeria. People have gone under the umbrella of Islam and Christianity to advance their political cause only for them also to ride on the same Islamic and Christian umbrella to plant hate and venom in the mind, heart, psyche and socio-economic activities of Nigeria such that today, that unity is no more there. If anybody is pretending that there is unity in this country, he is on his own and God help him. But I am not going to live in denial; all is not well. All will not be well until these divisions are identified or are rather addressed by giving people independence the way they want it. Ask any Yoruba man, 90 percent will tell you he is waiting for the actualization of an Oduduwa Republic. Ask any Igbo man, he is waiting for the actualization of the Sovereign Republic of Biafra. Ask anybody from the Niger-Delta region, he is waiting for the Niger-Delta Republic. It is only probably in the North that there is no agenda of Arewa Republic because of our peculiarities. The Yoruba nations are more homogenous than the North. Niger-Delta and the Igbo are more homogenous but they all have their own internal divisions. But in the North, we have ethnic minorities, other smaller enclaves that are not willing to go with the majority ethnic tribes because of their previous experiences and that of their great, great grandfathers. They have also lost trust in the bigger tribes. The issue of power shift is an interesting issue and that tells you that it is better we divide Nigeria. One example; if you hear an Igbo man clamouring for power shift, if power were to shift to an indigenous Muslim Igbo, ask an Igbo man, because there are indigenous Igbo Muslims there; if power were to shift to say, Imo State and it is shifted to an indigenous Muslim Igbo, if you ask the entire Igbo nation who are not Muslims whether power has shifted to them they will tell you no. If you ask a Yoruba man about power shift, to say Modakeke; ask an Ife man whether power has shifted to him and the answer will be that it is not because it is to his sworn enemy. If people from Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Taraba, Middle Belt who are clamouring for power shift, a minority from them, a Tiv Muslim were to emerge president of Nigeria, Tiv people will tell you they have not seen power and that power has not shifted to them. In Katsina State, the Karaduwa people have been clamouring for power shift to them. Governor Aminu Masari is from Karaduwa. But were that power fallen to an indigenous Christian in Malumfashi, Kafur, Yarabori, Askia or Funtua, the Hausa man in that area will tell you no. Even now as we are talking, Buhari is from Daura, ask any Katsina Central man if he believes power has shifted to Katsina; he would tell you no. So, a country where you feel only comfortable when a man from your Church, Mosque, house or tribe becomes president, that country is gone and it is only a matter of time.
Here is a follow up. When some Nigerians take a look at the psychology of the North, the impression they get is that the North is organised to be against and not to be helpers. Let’s take the issue of Amotekun, for instance. You have a region striving to fight against kidnappings, banditry and other crimes, why would the North be obstructing such an effort? The way the North reacted on this issue of Amotekun was like there is a rival organization coming to challenge their power. What do you think?
The South West initiative to protect lives and property is not anything special as far as I am concerned. It is not anything strange. Where the Federal Government cannot protect lives and properties, state governments have the right to put in place structures within the law that can protect the lives and properties of their citizens. After all, they were sworn in under the same Constitution that the president was sworn in. Chapter two of the Constitution dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy has as a mandatory responsibility the protection of lives and properties of citizens. And for anybody to say that the North is antagonistic to that does not understand the North. There could be a thousand Northerners staying in the South West. Compare them to the total number of South West people that are staying in the North. On clear Arithmetic and population count, there are more Yoruba and there are millions that are staying and earning their livelihood here in the North more than you have the total number of the entire Northerners in the South West. If they intimidate our people there using their private security outfit, they have no monopoly of violence. Our people here will react. And they will be the losers. Eighty percent of merchandise being produced around the South West are being shifted to the Northern Markets because of the population here. Commercially, they will be the biggest losers. Politically, by the time you begin to attack Northerners down there because they are minority there, a minority will become majority one day. If a Hausa man is minority in Lagos, by the time he comes here he becomes a majority. If a Yoruba man is a minority here in the North, when he gets to the South West, he becomes majority. It is a continuous circle but they have no monopoly of violence. They lose more, politically, because it means if they continue harassing and killing Northerners there because they have no state government-backed private militia or private security outfit, it means no Yoruba man should have the courage, guts, audacity and the temerity to come to the North to ask for votes. And we have the numerical strength anyway. If democracy is about numbers, there is no way you can intimidate the North anymore into getting numbers out of threats. It happened in 1999, it can never happen again.
The question now would be: do you still have such numbers when the North has lost its monolithic status?
Go and delete the captured number in INEC. INEC is the only legal authority in the country to determine the number of registered voters. State INEC cannot do it because they are not empowered by law. The only empowered organisation is the INEC and INEC is saying that by the last capture, they have done the figures for the North and for the South put together, and are there for everybody to see. Whether they are concocted figures or doubtful figures or questionable figures is entirely a different story and it has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, not on the pages of the national dailies, not on social media platforms but tested in a court of law.
There is the question of the North and the South problem especially now that you have spoken about the North- South politics in 1999 just so you can explain further. After eight years of Buhari’s administration, some Northerners still want the presidency to be retained in the North. But there is a gentleman’s agreement that, for now, there should be rotation between the South and the North. In fact, it was the North that was vehement about rotation when Obasanjo was in power. That has now been instituted by practice. Again, that is why Jonathan lost the bid for another shot at the presidency in 2015. Are you not seeing any consequences should the North break it in 2023?
We have not broken it. Under APC, there is no rotation. Rotation is not a constitutional issue. It is a party issue. In PDP, rotation is clearly and unambiguously mentioned and they broke it. For 16 years, power was in the South, except for the short period Yar’Adua was president. Therefore, the said rotation cost Jonathan the presidency in 2015 because he breached the rotational provision in the PDP Constitution. Here, if there is any candidate that will come from the North under a party which Constitution and manifesto does not spell rotation, we are not in any breach. It is very comfortable. Show me any provision in the APC Constitution…I am not a member of the APC for your information. Let it be on record. I am a conscious voter who knows who to vote for, who to canvass for at any moment in time. I am not beclouded. I voted PDP and APC at different platforms in elections even during the national election. I am also not unaware of the intricacies in party politics. I know it very well; but at least, I can say I know it even if not very well. Therefore, nobody can just come and pull the wool over my face. If North wants to keep power for ever, if they can justify it constitutionally, so be it. If the South can unite and take power away from the North for a billion years, so be it..
I want you to take a look at the state of the nation. What are you seeing?
I am seeing yellow, blue, black, white, a mixture of so many colours; some of them representing doom; other colours representing uncertainty; many holding on to hope; others talking of everybody for himself, God for us all, survival of the fittest and the devil takes the hindermost. I am not a soothsayer; I can’t predict. Countries have gone through more turmoil than Nigeria and they came out by the grace of God. Whether we are going to come out as a nation stronger or we are going to break is a matter of the future. But the future doesn’t tell lies. It would give you exactly what you deserve.