Firebrand political war-horse, Dr Junaid Mohammed has taken Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah to task, saying he knew little of what led to the deposition of the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
“To invoke the lies and the shameless attitude of the former Emir of Kano is unfortunate because I have known him for the past 40 years. I knew him; I knew his father and mother. I also knew his grandfather. So, you should be very careful about what you say otherwise you will push some of us to go public with what we know he exemplifies because I do not believe he has any right to assume that seat and I don’t believe he can be something holier than thou simply because you are shameless and can open his mouth and talk and abuse other people,” Junaid Mohammed, an elder statesman and Second Republic federal lawmaker averred.
He also spoke on why the North should not be held accountable for the woes of the country after 60 years of independence and 21 years of unbroken democracy. Excerpts:
After 60 years of Nigeria’s independence and 21 years of unbroken democracy I want to find out from you whether it is too much talk, little action because there are Nigerians who have equated the country as a giant with clay feet. They say they are tired living in a country people continue to call third world country and that countries that were on the same level in the 60s like Malaysia have all moved on with something ground breaking and we are still moving in circles. Why is it so difficult for us to maximize our potentials in order to attain the kind of strides that others we started with have achieved?
Well, frankly answering this question alone will require not just a few paragraphs, but may require a whole book and unfortunately also in replying quite a number of people may have the tendency to bring their attitude and prejudices to bear because for those who believe that the country is not on the right path or that our progress is a modest one must be very careful in making comments because those comments are mostly personal. I can only say this. One, I believe that in assessing the progress or lack thereof in the progress of our country we have to look at a number of circumstances. For example, I want to believe that the Malaysia you have just mentioned was very lucky in the kind of leader who led the country after they expelled Singapore out of the Malaysian federation. Dr Mahathir Mohammed who resigned to go back to government, but has now been booted out; I think he has been an outstanding leader for the Malays and for Malaysia as a country. They have their background and ethnic problems, but by and large the country has been able to make tremendous progress. Now, Singapore can be brought in and, of course, their leader, the late Lee Kuan Yew whose family has become the ruling dynasty in Singapore is also another success story, but then we have to be very careful because Singapore is a small Island state compared to Nigeria with over 200 million people. Also in terms of ethnic configuration, Singapore and Malaysia are like near images. They are Malays in both countries only that in Singapore the Chinese are more than the Malays and I think in Singapore the number of the Malays cannot be ignored. There are also Indians and other ethnic groups in Singapore and the same thing is repeating in Malaysia, not necessarily in the same proportion. So, if issues arise you can also bring in Korea. In 1957 when Ghana attained independence, Ghana has the same population and the same GDP with Korea; but today, Korea is about the tenth largest economy in the world and Ghana is still where it is even though in some areas you could say they have done better in terms of having some national harmony where Nigeria has not been able to have. I am a democrat not because I have any special interest towards democracy, but because I believe democracy is a better system of government when you consider the other variables and possibilities. Democracy is about the only system that allows nations to be potentially and I emphasis the word potentially, be governed and at the same time opens up the possibilities of the country being reasonably prosperous, peaceful and harmonious. Most other systems are simply advantageous over certain periods of time. Such countries have been able to find their prosperity, peaceful coexistence through merger of authoritarianism or outright dictatorship. In democracy you have to come to power through elected means and that is the main advantage. But that advantage has also compounded democracy with a lot of complications because if you are a democrat there are certain constraints which you have to take cognizance of otherwise democracy itself can blow up in your face. So, ours was not what I call a particularly successful story. In fact, the lack of success of our democracy has to do with the dishonour and irresponsibility of the Nigerian political class. One, they don’t even want to admit that they are encumbrances to our problems. Yet, this is a huge country of over 200 million people. In addition we have a very peculiar situation whereby an elite political consensus is virtually impossible in Nigeria. Every time you hear the Nigerian political elite making noise they are making it on their behalf or on behalf of their in-laws, children, friends and cronies and democracy cannot work that way. And each time people insist that their interests which they regard as democracy… because democracy as we know it does not always adhere to their selfish interest and greed or hostility, then we have a very serious problem on our hands. I also believe that the country was particularly unlucky because the attempt to change the government of the day especially the coup of 1965 very badly backfired because people carried out a tribal coup and started saying they have carried out a progressive coup and that the people they overthrew and killed without the benefit of judicial process were bad people. And there is no way you can kill somebody without the benefit of due process and then calling him names after their death. Our independence was not particularly spectacular because frankly speaking apart from the revolt and workers’ strike ours wasn’t a titanic struggle. We got that independence on a platter of gold. We inherited a remarkably resilient and well groomed civil service. Yes, it was to a certain extent corrupt, but the civil service and later the political party and, of course, the military which the British bequeathed to India was the same thing they bequeathed to us, Malaysia and Singapore. It has to be admitted that the other countries have done marvelously well, but Nigeria has not done so. Now, I always mention India because in spite of their confusion and differences India has managed to become one country today with a population of 1.3 billion and the economy is moving in spite of the COVID-19. India is still a powerful country even though you may not like the leader they have now because it is more like Fascism, the fact is that India has remained one country in spite of fighting a war with Pakistan about two or three times and then Bangladesh and other neighbours; Chinese to the North it has remained a single country and it is becoming powerful industrially. Agriculturally, they are self dependent, they can feed themselves. We cannot feed ourselves in Nigeria in spite of the enormous advantages we have in terms of good land, water resources and the diversity of the agricultural potentials that we have. We have not been able to diversify our agriculture or our economy and frankly speaking, we have a lot of problems and I can’t tell you that in our democracy whether from 1965 or from 1979 or 1999 whether it is a success story. It is not.
Maybe a quote from Bishop Matthew Kukah’s interview with a television station recently might be instructive to you. He said: “The former Emir of Kano, my good friend and brother, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has paid the price, he has lost his throne; but that is also a statement of the level of preparedness by the northern oligarchy in dealing with the problems it has generated by its inability to govern effectively and efficiently. No part of this country has produced military or civilian as many presidents or Heads of State as northern Nigeria has done. The North still insists that it wants to hold on to power at all costs, yet it has lacked the capacity to translate this power into a meaningful and useful impact on the lives of even its immediate constituency. Even the thieves who steal from other parts of the country behave in a much better way than the thieves from northern Nigeria and they steal as much as everybody else. But everybody who steals you can see evidence of most of the thieves in Nigeria have either built clinics, they have tarred roads, have given children scholarships, built schools and have done all kinds of things. But you cannot find in northern Nigeria in 99 percent of the constituencies of the northern elite any evidence of a thief who served in Abuja or elsewhere passed here. I call the northern elite, therefore, to account for why we have saddled the rest of Nigeria with this excess baggage.” What do you think?
Well, first and foremost, Bishop Kukah is a friend, but I don’t have to agree with what he said. Secondly, I think he knows very little about the circumstances which led to the deposition of this character, Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano. His appointment wasn’t done on merit; it was done on the basis of the power of cash and to the extent that northerners have been in power; the former Emir of Kano has been in power, he belongs to the same elite like his father and grandfather and whatever he says must be attributed to himself, to me and to the Emir of Kano and I want to be told what role, what clinic, what school the Emir of Kano built? I also want to be persuaded that the Emir of Kano himself is not guilty of the things he has been trying to ascribe to other northerners. Yes, there has been abuse of office, there has been corruption and these are issues I have been discussing with Bishop Kukah for over 30 years. But where I disagree with him is where they will say they are right and they are the only ones who are right and, therefore, they have the monopoly of wisdom, knowledge and of truth. If today Nigeria is in this mess you cannot simply segregate and say it is this part of the country that is responsible. Every part of the country is guilty and every member of the elite class in Nigeria is guilty and that include Bishop Kukah and Lamido Sanusi. Yes, there is corruption and I believe it has to be fought. Yes, northerners have been preponderantly in power; but it is because northerners have not been as reckless and as biased as you would want them to be; that is why the North is in this kind of situation. And I’ll rather we have northerners leading the country and leading the country in some measure of peace and harmony than having people who are prepared to subject the country to enormous catastrophe simply because they want to be seen as the success story in the politics of this country.
You said northerners have not been as reckless and biased as others would want them to be. But as you must have read, PANDEF and Col. Abubakar Umar, himself a northerner talked about nepotism in the governance of the country currently being led by a northerner. Lopsided appointments are not also things that can bring about peace and harmony like you said. Instead they breed discontent and tension. Can we now be speaking of merit here as the GMD of the NNPC said the other day when what seems to be at play is the protection and defense of unearned privileges?
Well, first and foremost, again Umar is an old friend of mine. If you know his history he went to Bayero University here in Kano. So, we have been friends and we are still friends. Umar was a former governor of two states and he was also Sole Administrator of Federal Housing Authority when it was in FESTAC Town. During his time as an administrator, I was invited by the government, the same Buhari government to be one of those who investigated the Federal Housing Authority. Now, I have never denied that there is patriotism in Nigeria, but to blame only the northerners, to me, is crudely unfair. I can tell you, for example, what I read; I don’t know the version you read, was that he was talking of the injustice in denying a lady who is now the acting President of the Court of Appeal her position and I am 100 per cent with Col. Umar because I believe that is a grave injustice. But if you talk about nepotism in this current government I would have mentioned what I had said two months into this administration. I think you are being unfair to me. I have spoken on the issue of appointments by this administration in several interviews that I have granted; but I am not the kind of person who blows his trumpet and tells people what I have said. But I know within six months of this administration I have said what I needed to say. I don’t do much writing as Bishop Kukah does and I may not be a great friend of the Nigerian media because I am not prepared to turn the other way when you hit me; I hit back. That’s my attitude. So, to tell me that they are the only people who have spoken about nepotism, I think it is unfair. To invoke the lies and the shameless attitude of the former Emir of Kano is unfortunate because I have known him for the past 40 years. I knew him; I knew his father and mother. I also knew his grandfather. So, you should be very careful about what you say otherwise you will push some of us to go public with what we know he exemplifies because I do not believe he has any right to assume that seat and I don’t believe he can be something holier than thou simply because you are shameless and can open his mouth and talk and abuse other people. For example, why hasn’t Lamido Sanusi…he knows that I was opposed to his being the Emir; he knows that I played a role in getting him removed, why hasn’t he mentioned how many houses I have? That’s all I will say on that.
You said you played a role in getting Emir Sanusi out of the throne. Why would you do that?
Because I believed he was not properly elected. The kingmakers were blackmailed in electing him the Emir and as a result of his being elected the Emir not based on merit many people died. I don’t believe that the throne of the Emir of Kano is worth the life of any human being. But when he was removed against speculations that there was going to be violence, nothing happened because he was never the choice of the people. He was an imposition and many people died and many vehicles were burnt in Kano. Who is he?
But then what he fought for is now what the northern governors are doing, swapping the Almajiri, getting them off the streets and that’s probably why people are saying he paid the price. He didn’t pay the price because of the issue of Almajiri. He paid the price because of corruption and immorality, messing around; that’s the price he paid not the Almajiri statement.
Those are weighty allegations. Can you substantiate them if you are asked to?
Look, I challenge him to take me to court. I am not only saying what I have said I also challenge him to take me to court.