Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed has said the recent EndSARS protest in the country was purely political and has nothing to do with security. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the outspoken Northern leader stated that the agenda of Ohanaeze and that of its National President, Chief John Nwodo will never see the light of the day in the country even as he accused Nwodo of nursing an ambition to be Nigeria’s president in 2023.
What is your opinion on the recent EndSARS protest and the lesson the nation could learn from it?
I don’t support the idea of EndSARS agitation and I don’t believe the reasons adduced were actually the reasons behind the demonstrations. First, the SARS is a unit or an initiative within the Nigerian security system, particularly the Police. It didn’t start with the present Buhari administration or the three previous governments. I think it started during Shagari administration. The first Police Commissioner, Fulani Kwajafa, who created it, gave it the name and commenced the training and indoctrination of the unit within the Nigeria Police Force. He has been my friend and I was surprised when I saw him on television speaking. He had his education in Kano; his ethnic group is partly in Borno and Adamawa states. He was a very serious police officer, very well trained by the British. He is a disciplinarian and a stickler for details. I can’t imagine if he were to be in charge that he would have endorsed any act of judicial killing or any violence against innocent people. He believes strongly in the principle that every suspect is innocent until investigated and found guilty. When found guilty, it is not the police that should proceed to do the prosecution; it should be the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP).
EndSARS was a mess and it became bigger mess because politicians simply took over and wanted to really cut the nose of the government in order to spite it, and of course, people with individual and sectional agenda joined in and are making demands, which they have been making and which have nothing to do with the so-called excesses of the SARS or the police. So you can see why certain people abstained and they didn’t want to come for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the Nigeria police has been very terribly corrupt; you need to go out of town or any major or minor road, you see the police openly demanding and getting money and there are instances of police killing people for being unable to service their corruption. This is unacceptable in any civilized nation. They are in trouble the way they have been and Nigerians don’t seem to come to their aids because they have become a very serious major public nuisance.
Secondly, there are groups who would like to undermine the country by undermining its security services, particularly the police who are nearest to the civilian population. They believe that they must have state police that is going to be politicised and also going to do the biddings of the local politicians in power in each of the state. They believe that if the Nigeria police remain intact under the same Act of Parliament and the same rules and regulations, they would not have the opportunity to use state police or Amotekun to harass innocent people and they believe that it would be easier for them to use formation like Amotekun during elections and nobody can challenge them. If there are Nigeria police, the Nigeria Armed Forces and other paramilitary, they know rigging election or persecuting people who are opposed to them politically will be impossibility and they are not prepared to accept that.
There are groups of people also who see an effective law and order regime in Nigeria as threat to their political ambitions; they want a state, they want restructuring, they want a new revenue allocation formula and agitation and blackmail is the way to achieve their political agenda. Again, they see the police as the weakling because they cannot go and attack the army; they don’t have the means, they cannot challenge the federal might by using some of the people they have. I have this in mind; one is IPOB, which is led by Kanu and financed by some of his people in the country and in the diaspora and we have the Ohanaeze. The leader of Ohanaeze, John Nwodo, who said that if they don’t get their way, they were going to join IPOB and Kanu in order to make trouble and make sure they break Nigeria. It is on record and he is not a man of any humility; he has never known to be consistent. He said they would not accept any constitution, which was not promulgated by elected government, but the same John Nwodo was political adviser to Shagari during the Second Republic. The 1979 constitution, which brought Shagari into power was created and decreed into force by a military government. After subsequent changes and the civilian government was overthrown and the June 12 thing, and Abacha’s death, the same Nwodo, was appointed as a minister of Information, in addition to that, because the Foreign Affairs Minister was not himself, Nwodo virtually took over the functions of the minister of Foreign Affairs, so he was having two ministerial posts during the regime of Abdulsalami Abubakar. Again, the 1999 constitution, which brought Obasanjo and later amended to make room for interim administration and subsequently takeover by Abacha, and of course the death of Abacha and the succession by Abubakar regime were all military affairs. Nwodo saw no contradiction in serving military and being a political opportunist. The same Nwodo said the present constitution must be disbanded and should not be allowed to hold because it was illegal and a creation of the military. These kinds of people are never satisfied and they simply want an agenda, which must be accepted by the country. I dare say they will never have their agenda accepted.
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) raised the fears of religious war springing up from the EndSARS protest. Do you share their views?
I don’t. The reason is that they represent nobody. The so-called Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs is headed by the Sultan of Sokoto. How many people elected the Sultan of Sokoto? It’s only very few people. How many times has he won an election? Never! Who does he speak for?
The NSCIA and other religious organisations are not democratic institutions; they are religious institutions. Religion and democracy are different; they have nothing in common. The considerations, which make a religious organisation include dogma, high priesthood- certain things you cannot do and certain things you must do and the fact that you have to accept those decrees purely makes it impossible to call them democratic organisations.
They themselves are also involved in politics; many of them are taking money from politicians, some of them exercise political power in the states and at the national levels even though nobody elected them. A lot of what they say has nothing to do with the vast majority of the people who are adherents of the religion they claim to represent.
If however, Nigerians in their own madness decide to follow the people either in NSCIA or CAN to prosecute a religious war, they are welcome. In that war, there will be no winner; all of us will be losers. Secondly, there have been instances where purely political or ethnic or regional issues were converted to religious issues and that led to violence and quiet a number of unfortunate development and everybody regretted it. Those who are now trying to invoke the possibility of a religious war or mayhem should better be careful of what they wish for. Because those who they imagined they represent may not be the winner and quiet a number of people who are innocent and stationed in other parts of the country doing their legitimate business and earning a living are the people who will be victims. Those who are here in the North are likely to be massacred ruthlessly and the Northerners who are in the South, particularly in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Onitsha, Uyo, Lagos and Abeokuta are the people who are likely to be slaughtered. There is a precedent to this, when we were living in the unfortunate interval after the coup of January 1966 and later the revenge coup and other mayhems in different parts of the country, some people decided to organise a pogrom against Northerners in Port Harcourt, Enugu, Onitsha and other places. This was unfortunately carried by the BBC Hausa Service, which was monitored in Cotonou and spread to all over the North. Of course, you can imagine what happened as Northerners decided to pounce on other people who more often were different from them. This is not how you run a civilized society or country. We must be very careful of what we want and do. We should be pursuing what we want legitimately through democratically means and not through agitations and blackmail. That blackmail whether it’s being engineered by IPOB or Ohanaeze; they are essentially together even though they make noise. When it suits them, IPOB is the military wing of Ohanaeze. How many of the leaders in Ohanaeze can claim to be honest and say they are speaking on behalf of their tribesmen. I have my doubt. Everyone of them in addition to the collection agenda of both IPOB and Ohanaeze, has his own personal agenda, which serves only his own personal interest and the interest of his family. Nwodo has never hidden his personal ambition; he wants to be the president of Nigeria and if you don’t make him the president of Nigeria, he is going to lead mayhem. He came here before the 2007 election, and we had a meeting with him at the house of a former military administrator, he went on his knees begging we should make him the president. In all that he said, he said nothing about what was going to be his agenda and the reason we should make him the president except that he wants to be a man from his own tribe to be the president of Nigeria. He will never be the president.
Now they are combining with Obasanjo in some shadowy organisation to say that Nigeria is a failed state and that we should balkanise it or do the bidding of Obasanjo, which is to allow him handpick the next president of this country the way he handpicked Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. He has somebody else he wants to impose. If he doesn’t do that he will make the whole place hellish for Buhari. I don’t mind if he is making hell for Buhari because Buhari has not been able to fight corruption he promised to fight about and he is nepotistic. He only knows not his tribe, not the North, but own relations, cronies and his in-laws.
Some people in the North see the EndSARS crisis as plot to frustrate Buhari, and probably remove him from office. Do you agree with them?
I don’t believe in that kind of conspiracy theory. If Buhari were to be removed, it will be due to his incompetence. If Buhari were forced out to leave Aso Rock and leave the presidency of Nigeria he will blame nobody but himself. Whoever it is that is propagating this theory must have done his homework. I don’t know and I cannot point anything Buhari has done for the North since he became president five years ago, and getting to six years. The road to Abuja from where I am in Kano has been a death trap even before Buhari came to power; it is about 450 kilometres. For the past three years or thereabouts they only brought hired plants and equipment littered along the road from here to Kaduna in particular and no work is going on whether they have not paid the contractors or perhaps there is no political will. Even if they have no money in the treasury, they have been borrowing money from Chinese banks and cutting beef for some ministers and particularly the late former chief of staff, Abba Kyari. So they are now building railway even though they have no passengers or haulage to carry from Port Harcourt, Calabar, through Kaduna, Kano into Niger Republic. Who will that railway serve, who are the people who will be benefiting from it? None! We are going to be in debt for years to come and if you cannot service the debt, of course the Chinese will take over some of the infrastructures to recover the money borrowed from their banks. They did that to Sri Lanka, they are now holding all the ports and other facilities in Sri Lanka because the Sri Lankans borrowed money from Chinese and could not repay and could not service the debt. That is what will happen to us, but we are being told through massive shameless propaganda from the presidency and from the government that this is the development we were yearning for. But I don’t see any development that permits us to borrow money and put into useless white elephant projects; these projects are not necessarily revenue yielding, and cannot even service the interest of the loan, which we are now borrowing. We have been warned by the World Bank and IMF, even though I’m not a respecter of World Bank and IMF, but what they are saying about the rate of our indebtedness matters.
When Obasanjo, in spite of his shenanigans, inherited billions of dollars of debts, part of it has to be forgiven and part of it has to be paid in a staggered manner after several negotiations. The amount of debt Obasanjo inherited has now been tripled. So, where are we going to get the money to service the debt because we are a mono economy, we are dependent on oil. The crude market has crashed. For the past one week, the price of Brent crude has crashed from $47 to about $30 per barrel. If the oil market doesn’t exist and we don’t have alternative means of export to service our debt, what reasons do we have to say the government is doing well economically, when it is actually a disaster.
Of course, you see what is happening with the EFCC. They allowed or encouraged the Attorney General to remove Magu illegally. They did not allow due process and they went and set up ridiculous presidential panel, which sits secretly in the presidency and as I’m talking to you now the deadline given to them to complete the job has come and passed a number of times, the report is not out and in fact, there is no agreement within them. That has not happened and now they have reached a dead end and they don’t know what to do.
If this government is being threatened by anybody; by any forces internal or external, I will not lose any sleep. I will not lose any sleep; if they fail, it is because they have failed. There is a concept in politics and political science, called ‘performance legitimacy’. No matter how you come to power, if you are not performing you lose that legitimacy. The Chinese call it, ‘mandate of heaven’. You lose that mandate of heaven if you are not performing. As a far as I’m concerned, I don’t know about those conspiracy theories, but perhaps it may be a better thing for the country because the country is simply sick and tired of the non performance of this fellow; sick and tired of the corruption and nepotism in his government. But I’m not one of those who said we must get Buhari out or create problem and in the process kill some people, or do I believe any of the ethnic groups in Nigeria has the right to simply say, get rid of Buhari, it is our turn to be president. I have never believed in zoning and rotation and I will never accept it.
Do you see 2023 plot in this EndSARS crisis?
Yes. It is a fact. It was not only openly mentioned; EndSARS movement even though it’s purely political and has nothing to do with security, the organizers don’t have the gut to say we are pursuing a political agenda, but every idiot knows that they are pursuing a political agenda. The agenda is to be co-opted by those who have political ambition. You can see, it is because of 2023, some people who are perceived to be in the race for 2023 were being attacked and their properties burnt in Lagos and in other parts of the country, but particularly Lagos, and I think one of two incidences in Abuja. Their business premises, their houses and even the banks in which they do business were attacked. They went and attacked in broad daylight the Oba of Lagos, one of the prominent traditional rulers in the Southwest. The identity of those who formed the vast majority of the EndSARS demonstrators in Lagos and in Abuja are the identity you know and the preponderance of certain ethnic group is also very well known. If people should identify these people, target them you can see where we are headed.
Of course, before now, some governors from Southwest went and waylaid Buhari in the presidency to allow Amotekun to be set up. It has been set up, and it is supposed to be a security outfit, but we have major breakdown of law and order and we didn’t hear a word from Amotekun in spite of the Toyota Hilux vans they have been buying and flashy uniforms, they all disappeared into the air. Kano and Lagos about the same population and have a lot in common are the two states that cannot afford this joke of state police because Kano and Lagos people are traders; and traders are not into police and if they are allowed on their own they cannot police themselves. Why are we creating problem because somebody wants to produce the next president that is why we must destroy the country. It doesn’t make sense because traders are not known to be policemen; they are not good policemen. They look forward for protection from the police and other paramilitary for their merchandise. This crisis is the litmus test of state police and it has not worked. Up till now, I don’t know who is the commissioner of police or equivalent of state police in Lagos.
The Southwest people that make the most noise are the ones who are pretending to own the media, and they are behaving as if nothing has happened. One of the leaders of Afenifere went public and I read it on the newspapers, he said if the governors fail to establish Amotekun that they were going to incite people against them. So you can see it is a government by blackmail, and Buhari can’t do anything.
Governors El-Ruffai and Fayemi, last Saturday, at Arewa House at 50 canvassed restructuring of the country as the way forward. What do you expect in this direction?
I said it before, people should be careful about what they want. People who have political ambition have a way of creating mountain out of anthill and that is what we are observing. In the first place, they should tell us what restructuring they want. Some of them want to reap where they have not sown. This type of loose talk is what led to the Nigeria-Biafra war. They told the Igbo that if the East goes, the West will also follow. When the East left, the West simply went on and took over their business premises. What is the end game of that restructuring? You begin to wonder what the criteria are. How did the people talking of restructuring come about it? We should be told what it is because you cannot even restructure your village without letting the people who have the stakes know.
For the good part of his life, Fayemi wasn’t living in Nigeria so what does he know about the country’s history. Some months back, he was on television talking about Fulani herdsmen and this stupid initiative, RUGA which emanated from the presidency and he said nobody should take Ekiti land. I want to ask him where the land in Ekiti is because 72 to 75 per cent of the land in Nigeria is in the North; where is the land he is making noise about?
I met Fayemi one day in Lagos when I went with Kano State governor, Ganduje and we had lunch at the residence of Lagos State governor, and he said, ‘you have been attacking me’ and I said, ‘I don’t personally like your policy; it is a matter of policy. That for the fact you are a governor doesn’t give you the license to lie; where is the land? It is not only you, but I mentioned you by name and it was deliberate. Look at Lagos today, where is the land to make RUGA; the biggest beneficiary of this country is you people because you have the wherewithal and you can afford to eat ten times a day, but don’t tell lies in order to enjoy cheap political kudos.’ He kept quiet. We greeted and parted. The governors of Kano and Lagos were witnesses to this at Lagos House, where the prime minister used to live by the Marina, which was inherited by Lagos State government. Let there be restructuring, but we want to be told what it is, what it entails and its end game. Anybody can go and rig an election and become a governor and claims to be making statement on behalf of the country. After making noise, the two of them want to be president and vice president or they want to decide who will be president and vice. They believe it is automatic. No, it is not.
Why are you hard on the Ekiti governor?
In the context of Nigerian politics, tell me what in the history of this country, and in the political development of this country that Fayemi has got to offer me; or what has he got to teach me or what does he know about this country?
Not only Fayemi, El-Ruffai also emphasised on restructuring?
You are not going to hear me criticize my younger brother on the pages of newspapers. El-Ruffai is a younger brother to me. So what belongs to the family should be handled by the family. In our culture, he cannot criticize me publicly. Until his time is over, I cannot criticize him. Whatever political motive he has in mind is not going to be satisfied by relating with Fayemi or Aregbesola for that matter. He is right to have an ambition and I will encourage him. When he sits down to work, he can do very well. He did well as FCT minister; he equally did well in the Bureau for Pubic Enterprises. I do not condemn people for being ambitious but what I want to make crystal clear is that if you want to make a suicide pact, make sure you do it with somebody who hereafter you want to welcome him by your side. I’m not in their party; I regard the APC as a lousy party and the PDP, a nasty party. Both of them don’t mean anything to me.