OLA OJO, Kaduna
Erstwhile Nigerian lawmaker in the Second Republic, Dr Junaid Muhammed, has suggested what he considered the best strategy the people of the Southeast could adopt to lead the country in 2023.
He also doubted the possibility of Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, who recently dumped PDP for APC, to deliver his state let alone the entire Igbo nation to whoever becomes APC candidate in that election. He also called on the removal of Security Chiefs, among other issues. Excerpt:
If you have been following the political trend in the country of recent, there have been voices, reasons as groups from the Southeast are agitating for the possibility of having their son or daughter become President of Nigeria come 2023, what is your position on this?
First and foremost, my understanding of democracy is not about the postulation of people who talk about zoning or rotation in democracy. This is because zoning or rotationing is not in any way democratic. There is nothing inherently zoneable or rotational when we are talking about democracy. Democracy is at its finest when we talk about freedom of choice by the people. When you believe that power is just going to be rotational, then it means you also believe that power is going to be abused. But that is not my understanding of power in a democratic contest. I believe democracy should be for good. To advance development, to help the underprivileged, to ensure all people have the opportunity in life and those growing have the opportunity to rise in education, basic health care and, of course, to pursue their legitimate undertakings wherever they are in the country. That is what I mean when I said democracy cannot be dissociated from the rule of law.
What are the characteristics Nigerians should look for in the group coming to power by 2023 and what should be the expectations of the electorate from these individuals?
Anybody who believes in using power to serve his ethnic group, his religion or his ethnicity is not good for the country.
Would it be fair for the North to continue after President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023?
Let me answer your question this way. When Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914 by Lord Lugard, there were only two components – the North and the South. Whether the British were wrong or right is out of point now. The reality on the ground is that two areas were put together which led to the creation of the federation of Nigeria. Of course, the colonial masters who took that decision left the North which is predominantly bigger and created two regions in the South. Later, the Northern region was also created out of Southwest. Beyond that, everything else you see is a continuous effort of the British which we continued with even today. Secondly, when the Army came, they also did the same thing and continued the process of the creation of states. So, every state in Nigeria was created by forces of the political class who came after the amalgamation of 2014. People who are advancing this zoning don’t even look at the advantages of the economic reality of the country today. In the past, the country was depending on natural commodities where you needed to put in efforts – till the ground, get the cocoa to grow, get the hide and skin, get the groundnut and other commodities exported and earn foreign exchange which is good for whatever you would do in return. But, when you look at the economy from after the civil war particularly from 1970, you will see that it is oil dominated as against agriculture and mining. If those people making this demand have anything serious to offer, we can discuss it. But for those who produce nothing for the country to say it is their turn to govern the country, I found that very difficult to understand. Chief Osadebe once said that Biafra misadventure was a mistake. First and foremost, Igbo need Nigeria, but Nigeria does not need Igbo. Chief Osadebe was an Igbo man who came from present day Edo and Delta states. So, if they imagine that they can finance IPOB or Ohanaeze to insult and abuse whoever they want to insult, by so doing, by putting a gun on our head and say that it is now their turn to produce the next President of Nigeria, I tell them to go ahead. Let’s see who will blink first.
What realistic option do you think is available for the Southeast in this cause?
The only option to assume power is to persuade other people who have a stake in that power. Persuasion is the only way. But, you can’t think that killing of unfortunate northerners in Umuahia, attacking them in Port Harcourt using IPOB or hid under EndSARS protest to kill people who don’t have anything to do with shenanigans or who exercise the power of who gets what will give you power. No, it won’t. In a democracy, the only way is to persuade people to vote for you. But if you think you can do it by force we will wait and see how it goes.
Recently, there is a forum called North Central People’s Forum which appeared to be having the backing of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and General Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd). If North Central is cut off from the Northern states which is 19, don’t you think that will reduce the political strength of the North?
Honestly, I don’t know much about this new forum you talked about. However, in a democracy, people have the right to go to all these associations whether political, economic, socio-economic, cultural and what have you and I don’t see anything wrong with it. Secondly, I have a feeling that religion and political class now dominate social media down South and even in the North. If you are talking about the Middle Belt Forum, it’s nothing. When you look at the North Central region, it was not a one-religion region as negotiated by the British. Anything beyond North and South is just an imagination of those who want to use religion to win people into politics. Let for the sake of argument say, what are the states in the North Central. They are states we call Middle Belt: Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Plateau, Benue and one other state. These are the majority of Muslim states apart from Plateau and Benue. Since they formed Middle Belt Forum, and another one called Northern Elders Christian Forum and what have you, how have they used that thing to advance the welfare of their people? Don’t tell me that Babangida or Abdusalami with due respect, is in support and so what? However, I know the position of people in that area. As we speak, Babangida has more friends in Kano than he has in Minna. His daughter got married to a Kano man. His son also married to a Kano lady. I don’t believe Babangida has the power to tell people to go and vote in one way or the other. I don’t know whatever reason that led them to have that choice of name. Those who believe that the establishment of North Central People’s Forum is going to in any way reduce the political advantage of the North may not be correct. At the same time, those who founded Middle Belt Forum which is being funded by those characters in PANDEF, the South-South who have more money to throw around may be the ones behind this new one. Funny enough, those who lead the Middle Belt Forum are not even from the Middle Belt states. The Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum is from Borno State. Look at Yugoslavia and Ethiopia who are using religion and tribal sentiments, see the problems they are having. So, there is more to use power to capture power than to say it is my turn. If we want a pan-identity country, people should forget about this idea of rotation because it is nothing but telescoping crude tribalism and another sentiment into politics which has never helped anywhere in the world.
Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi has just defected from PDP to APC possibly to advance his political ambition. Where do you see this lead him to?
Nothing. I must note that almost all his members in the NASS have refused to follow him. I don’t know what people of Ebonyi want to gain from this shenanigan of Umahi. He has the right to do that. But, I felt it would have been more honourable for him to wait until the time he leaves his position as governor. This move if Nigerians were to be a thinking people, we should be asking correct questions like what is the difference between APC and PDP? If you are abandoning a party for another party, it should be on some solid core principles. Unfortunately, there is no principle in APC, no principle in PDP. The two parties are nothing but the two sides of the same coin. I don’t see how Umahi will deliver Ebonyi votes let alone Igbo votes to whoever become the candidates of APC come 2023. His action was just typical political opportunism in Nigerian political class who have been thoroughly known as an irresponsible political class who cannot see beyond their nose and that is because they are very bad students of history.
Away from that, how can we address the issue of insecurity currently ravaging Nigeria?
There is a massive failure of leadership on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari in particular – both his government and his party. If we want to address the problem of this country, we must begin to accept general incompetence of Buhari, his lousy party and, of course, the lousy government he put together which is made up of his relations, a class cascade of nepotism. That is the tragedy of Nigeria today. The majority of people who voted for Buhari came from the North. They voted for him not because they know he was not competent, but because of religious jingoism, regional sentiment and other northern phenomena. They voted for him and he has done nothing for the North. They are now saying they voted for him because he was their son. The majority of what he did were in Southwest. He brought people from the Southwest who are smarter. From the North, he picked his relations, his in-laws and, of course, his cronies and friends. He has not been a sensitive president. One wonders how he managed to go into the Army and became a General. This is the problem we have. Unless we remove this idea about religion, region, ethnicity and what have you, we are not going to have the right people to lead us. Buhari’s government has failed and failed woefully and I’m not alone in saying this. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was there twice has said so publicly, TY Danjuma has said so, General Babangida has said so. Now, that the chicken has come home to roost, I want to see who will defend him. I agree we are mono-economy and with the crash in oil price, even when we have the best hand in power it will be difficult to manage our economy. Having said that, Buhari is the worst leader we have ever had which is why it is impossible to do anything meaningful to address the issue of insecurity.
Nigerians especially those in the North are interested in how to get out of the current security challenge that is hitting us in the face. What can we do to salvage the situation?
First and foremost, do the ordinary thing which is to change the Service Chiefs. Change the leading Generals, change the IGP, change zonal DIGs, AIGs and what have you and make sure that you don’t appoint people based on religion, region or their names. Pick the most competent people and then confront the security challenges confronting the country. If you continue keeping people because they are related to you or they are your friends when they cannot help you to run the country affairs better, it will be difficult if not impossible to have improved security that can withstand the test of time.
Do you have any Nigerian in mind come 2023?
God did not condemn 200 million people into mediocrity and corruption. Millions of unique Nigerians are competent and we must look for them because many of them don’t go out to relations or political class to say they want to help the country. But if Nigerians find them who are in millions, call them to come and serve, create the right environment for them, they will serve and serve well. Nigerians have distinguished themselves in all walks of life within and outside the country. I don’t believe it is difficult for Nigeria to have the right people who are with the right qualifications, the right mindset and importantly the right education not people who will be queried whether they have school certificate or not.