As President Muhammadu Buhari looks up to his inauguration for second term in office on May 29, most Nigerian are waiting for the release of the list of people that would form his new cabinet.
In this interview, Mohammed Fawehinmi, a legal practitioner, and son of the late legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, has warned the president on blunders he must avoid in choosing his ministers.
According to him, Buhari’s present ministers were the major cause for his poor performance during his first term in office.
Fawehinmi also spoke on the president’s anti-corruption drive, why he seems not interested in being involved in his late father’s political platform – the National Conscience Party (NCP) and several other national issues. Excerpt:
Your father, Gani was renowned for his anti-corruption stance. If he were alive today, do you think he would be impressed with the achievements of Buhari’s war on corruption?
Ah no! Honestly, if Gani was alive today, he would most likely score this government 40 per cent. He wouldn’t be impressed at all.
What about you, how would you rate this government?
Well, for me, I’ll score this government 60 per cent. I’ll give PMB a pass mark because he is an old man, and he really means well for Nigeria, but he does not have the kind of support from the other arms of government to succeed. Again the ministers he chose are his major undoing. Despite that many of the ministers are men of experience, yet they are the biggest disappointment in PMB’s government. Many of them performed woefully in their respective ministries. Many of the governors have been totally abysmal. And there are some I have a distaste for, and believe should be prosecuted immediately they leave office. One of them is Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State. He should be stripped of everything he has stolen from the state. He collects security votes every month, yet he lives in Abuja. His state has the highest amount of killings in Nigeria, and he kept giving us useless excuses. It took Kadaria Ahmed to come up and call him out. That’s the same governor that told us every governor should have a private jet. What are you doing with a private jet? What kind of governor collects security votes yet you can’t fund a vigilante to protect your own people, and stop the banditry? Illegal mining is allowed to go on because the governor isn’t functioning. The governor was more interested in fighting Oshiomhole who by far was a better governor than him. If a man like Yari is not prosecuted after May 29, then we’ve lost all our credibility as a country.
May 29 is few days away, what is your expectation as the president gets ready to commence his second tenure?
I expect him to change his cabinet and bring in younger people who are cerebral into the cabinet. The president should bring in a professional that can fix power within a short time. Because once you fix power in Nigeria, you’ll be surprised at the miracle that would follow to transform this country. However, if old politicians are to be nominated, they should be made to face a committee where they would be interviewed to know what they would be bringing to the government before they’re moved to face the Senate.
One major criticism against this government is the way they’ve treated the judicial arm of government. Some say PMB is out to witch-hunt the judiciary, while others argue that PMB’s government only wants to sanitize the judiciary. For you, as a legal practitioner, which side of this divide are you?
I support this government’s effort to sanitize and cleanse the rot in the judiciary because no matter what, the executives are the ones that execute and implement whatever policies that emanate from the other arms of government. When we were young, when my father was in full and active practice, we had judges of distinction, like Justices Kayode Eso, Otutu Obaseki, Teslim Elias, Madarinka, Barhi Braimah, Jimodu, Maman Nasiru. Back then we had Justices you won’t find any speck of indiscretion with them. But look at what was exposed now that Buhari came into government, even if we call it a witch-hunt. But look at what PMB has been able to uncover on the kind of judges we have now. We have judges with millions of naira, thousands of dollars, pounds and other foreign currencies, all loaded in their houses. Even guns were retrieved in their houses. What is a judge doing with a gun? However, with due respect to some judges who I have special affinity for like Justice Ajumugobia Ofili, she’s one of the female judges I have so much respect for. But in her case, with all due respect to her lawyer, the evidence that was brought against her is so overwhelming. Now, I blame the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) for the degradation noticed within our judiciary. The NJC is a body that appoints and dismisses judges. They should be responsible for the scrutiny of different judges, but they’ve been too flaccid. Most of what Buhari was discovering on his own should have been discovered by the special task force of the NJC. It should not be Buhari’s job. So, the NJC has to up its ante, and re-strategize, because there are too many complaints of judges being bribed, having overwhelming assets and monies in their account. The NJC needs to wake up and start working. Also, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should work towards purging our profession from bad lawyers. Now, I’ve heard of lawyers that are even Senior Advocates of Nigeria, becoming notorious for bribing and transporting monies from the clients to the judges, in other to win a case. So, there’s a need to work towards sanitizing the judiciary. And I won’t blame the president for making his move.
Your late father was recently celebrated at his 81years birthday posthumously. Can you recall how you and the rest of Gani’s family coped during those moments he was being picked up and locked away by security authorities?
In those times when he got arrested, everybody in the family braced up for the situation. And our duties in the house changed. My mum as the first wife stepped up and became the overall decision maker in the house. She spearheaded the moves to get in contact with senior lawyers and to file the necessary papers to compel the authorities to produce him. She attended to media men that called for updates on Gani’s condition. And for me, I stepped in to administer the house, and attended to relatives, and people that Gani had promised to assist in one way or the other.
Then when it comes to things like paying for our school, my father kept enough money for that. Most times after he criticized the government, he envisaged that they would come to arrest him at any moment. So, he packaged our school fees and gave that to our mother. So, whenever the government comes and detained him for long, our schooling was never affected. My mother and my father were very close. They understood themselves. And I’m sure if they could return for 10 generations to come, both of them would still end up marrying themselves.
Again, God was with Gani even in all his detention centres and travails. I say so because sometimes when he got locked up in prison for weeks or months, few days after he was released, there would be an epidemic outbreak like cholera that would claim lives of a lot of inmates. Also, he was the first to come out of Bauchi Prison alive since 1820 the prison was built. It was such a terrible dungeon. The four walls of that prison were strewn with dead bodies. And for nine months Gani was in detention, he unknowingly slept around dead bodies buried in shallow graves. At a point, he became so ill that he almost died in detention. But somehow he escaped death and came out of the prison alive.
Why haven’t you taken much interest in the activities of the NCP, the political party established by your late father?
I’m still praying to God. Because there was a time I was urged to put myself up for chairmanship of the party. But I declined because now I want to worry about my health. I still believe that there’s a medical or spiritual answer to the medical condition that I’m battling with. I’ll need to get back on my feet first. I am a workaholic, that’s why I love going to courts. I hate seeing injustice meted against the poor. I hate governors like Yari. They should never be in politics. But I believe I should be very active before going into politics. You shouldn’t be sitting down at a place. You should be able to move all over the country. I love Nigeria, so if I’m going to serve, I must know which area I’m going to come in. If I’m to come in through my dad’s party, the NCP, then they’re going to have it tough with me because I wouldn’t condone a lot of things. I have an interest in my father’s party because I can’t say it’s being run to its optimal level. Although the present Chairman, Tanko Yunusa is a gentleman, he has done his best, but if I come in to lead the party, my approach would be much different. I’m an eccentric and a mad person, and I won’t tolerate god-fatherism under any guise.