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2019: NASS has no constitutional powers to alter polls order — Junaid Mohammed

Senate Plenary, 30th March 2017

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By Levinus Nwabughiogu

He was once a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari yet he can also be said to be the most vocal of all the president’s critics. Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a Russian trained Medical Doctor and Second Republic member of the  House of Representatives, spoke to Vanguard on some contemporary national issues ahead of the 2019 general elections.

What is your take on the National Assembly’s altering of the election sequence, putting the presidential election last, an amendment President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to assent to?

First and foremost, I have never in the life of this 8th senate supported anything the senators have done because I regard them as  nothing but bunch of criminals, scammers and rogues.

Dr Junaid Mohammed

But then, on a very rational basis, I have with the help of my friends, who are lawyers and my own experience in the Parliament, gone through the electoral law, I found no place in the electoral law, which provides for senators to change the sequence of an election.

I believe that is the initiative and the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The senators have done nothing in the interest of this nation since they came. They came in with crisis by first trying to upset their party with a criminal behaviour.

Some of them are before a court and on bail for criminal offences. These are not the type of people who will now decide what is good or bad for the country because they lacked the morals.

As far I am concerned, the power they claim was not given to them by the constitution or electoral law. Anyway, I have no business with what the President does but as bad as he is, he is better than any senator in the Senate.

The power to either give or withhold assent to a draft law is vested in the president, so he did not breach any law.

Who to you is a credible Nigerian if among the 109 senators you can’t find any?

If you add 109 senators plus everybody who is a member of the cabinet plus the president himself and other appointees, what’s the percentage from the population of Nigeria? They are less than 000.1 percentage.

So, I have faith in the overwhelming majority of Nigerians who are at least 180 million that there are people of character, people who are credible and above the temptation of corruption, nepotism which are the hallmarks of the Buhari administration.

How would you appraise the state of the nation. There are killings everywhere. It appears that the country is in turmoil.

The country is in turmoil. The country is essentially ungovernable. The country has no leadership, politically, economically or otherwise. And the appearance, unfortunately, as it was, through free and fair election of the Buhari government in 2015 has now turned to be an unmitigated disaster. We have a president who is horribly limited, no ability.

The military establishment has not told us why some people with so obvious limitations rise to become Generals.

In addition, we are having a man who in terms capacity, leadership is the worst we have had in the history of this country and a leader who believes that his job is to make noise about fighting corruption but in actual fact, making the fight against corruption be to the benefit of himself, his immediately family, extended family, in-laws, relations and friends. That is the Nigeria we have today.

Now, anybody with knowledge about contemporary history and in fact global history knows that what the Buhari administration portends is a recipe for national disaster.

And I am not surprised that his governance has turned out to be the biggest disaster in the history of this country. So, whatever you say doesn’t deny the fact that we are in serious trouble because we have the wrong leader, we have the wrong group, we have the wrong party.

And nobody seems to know what is the way out because it is bad enough to be in trouble, it is totally bad to be in this kind of mindset whereby nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow and nobody has the answers because the president has no clues and I don’t know of anybody around him who has any clues.

Some of the worst corruption in Nigeria today are happening in the presidency and in a circle that is composed of a cabal which is composed of his relations, friends and in-laws.

We are heading towards the Latin American experience whereby a whole country is governed by a few families. And that is what is happening in Nigeria today whereas in other countries of the world, nepotism and corruption are done by some people who have at least some proof of appointment, some amount of legitimacy.

Very many of the people who have exercised some of the powerful influences in the Buhari administration don’t have a single letter of appointment appointing them into anything.

And there are so many of them like that who are exercising maximum influence without even any means of democratic legitimacy.

We have a president who we can safely say has some political pedigree. As head of state, he fought corruption to a stand still by introducing War Against Indiscipline, WAI. Are you saying he has changed from who he was in 1984?

You are at liberty to say he has changed. Those of us who had, in a very misguided manner, believed in what he stood for had since abandoned him since we found out, even during his first time, it wasn’t him who was the fighter against corruption.

It was Tunde Idiagbon and some of the middle level ranking Generals who really did the job. But then, you must give him, in all fairness, the credit because it happened under his watch.

Now that we have seen the real Buhari without the constraints of either a military establishment or the constraints of a political party, which is the real party, he is nothing but ordinary noise maker who believes that somehow by saying little, he believes that people are going to like him because he is Buhari.

Now, Nigerians are a lot wiser. We don’t trust him. We don’t believe him. Everything he has touched instead of becoming gold has turned out to be dust.

So, as far as I am concerned, Nigerians behaved rationally by giving him the benefit of doubt when they chose him in 2015 to be the president of this country because they were watching for what we perceived to be his characteristics with the so-called integrity, which has turned out to be nothing but rubbish.

Now that he has failed miserably to govern the country, he has abused the security of the country, and aggravated inter-communal relationship.

He met the economy in bad situation then it was plunged into recession; we have seen that he’s not that kind of person to lead the country under normal circumstances, but the circumstances are abnormal.

There are so many challenges. The Boko Haram thing has defied him. He has failed to do it because the army has now become a business. Nobody is fighting the Boko Haram people.

When you look at the issue of the economy, of course, this is the least, the most ignorant president of this country on matters that pertain to the economy. So, I don’t expect this kind of person to run a national economy of the size and complexity of Nigeria.

So, I am not surprised. When you look at the issue of fighting corruption, he only fights those he perceived to be enemies while at the same time letting go free people who have been caught with evidence. The worst people are the ones closest to him. You can not tell me you can fight corruption with this kind of double standard and hypocrisy.

One would expect that you would give the president some credit having fought Boko Haram and insecurity because the bombs as we used to know are not going off again especially in Abuja. It is now confined to the North-East…

I take the whole of Nigeria as important enough for me to be in peace. Is it because bombs are not falling in Abuja, it is now right for bombs to fall in the North-East or elsewhere simply because you want me to give Buhari credit. I will not give him credit because when he fought and won the election in 2015, he did not tell us that only Abuja is his constituency. The North-East voted for him and is legitimately his constituency. But whether they voted for him or against him, he is the president of Nigeria. He is the father of all.

He is responsible for the security of every Nigerian wherever he is in this country. So, don’t deceive yourself. If you want to buy into his propaganda, you are welcome to do so. But I am telling that the welfare, peace and security of people in the North-East is his responsibility and not those of you who are living in Abuja and are comfortable because Abuja is safe enough for you.

The President said he responded swiftly to Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction than how the former government handled the Chibok schoolgirls. How would you react to this?

He is yet to define for us what swiftly was. At the time the people came and abducted those girls from Dapchi, Dapchi and Maiduguri where we have Air force situated, ready to go, is 15 minutes flying time.

Tell me, when did the aircraft take off from Maiduguri to Dapchi? And anyway, how many people have been apprehended? It took nearly a week before they started flying when all the girls had gone. And anyway, how are you sure that there was no collusion of the Nigerian armed forces and the police because less than a week before these girls were abducted, the army was withdrawn. Nobody has asked the generals to tell us why the army was withdrawn from Dapchi.

So, there is nothing spectacular. Yes, he fought and started doing something a few days after the abduction of the girls whereas Goodluck stayed for nearly two weeks and to add insult to injury, Jonathan did not even want to believe that it happened.

And because the international community shouted, condemned Jonathan’s actions, that was what explained the reaction of a government which should have done more to protect everybody especially those girls who were left undefended. It happened almost in the evening. You can say almost in broad day light.

So, who is fooling who? And anyway, comparing himself or his reaction with Jonathan’s reaction shows that his level is very low. The man has nothing to offer if all he can do is to compare himself to Jonathan despite the enormous mandate he has from the people of this country.

Could you say the two abductions were mere coincidences happening just a year to elections?

Let me be honest with you. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. If you want to tell me something and you want me to believe in it, give me the evidence.

When the President visited Benue State, recently, h said he was surprised that the IGP he sent to the state didn’t spend 24 hours there? What do you make of that statement?

Need I say anything? We are talking about a president who’s not in charge of anything. So, if the presidency is like that, you should not in anyway be surprised that his orders are being countermanded on a daily basis.

And I started to warn about this two years ago when I said his nephew sitting in the presidency gives orders and also challenges orders of the president. It shows you that we don’t have a president. Nigeria’s problems will never be solved as long as Buhari is the president. He will never be able to govern this country because he has lost it.

But Nigerians still love him and are clamouring for his return in 2019…

Excuse me! Let me tell you. Nobody can tell me that all other Nigerian leaders, no matter how you categorise them, were not loved by some people.

So, he must have people who love him. No man is entirely evil and I have not said that Buhari is entirely evil. But what I am saying, and I repeat is that he is  completely ill-prepared for the job he is holding now and I do not believe that a man who is too lazy to read, too lazy to read even a three- page memo and takes months to act on it can be a successful leader for this very complex country.

Even if he is loved by people, the whole world can be misguided not to talk of people. O yes, people love him but they can’t love him for reasons which are rational. I am talking about competence, performance and result.

Aren’t  you very critical of this government and the person of the president?

Is this the first time? In fact, for your information, the first time I exposed the nepotism and the corrupt people they appointed into government, his spokesperson said oh yes, I have the habit of criticising every government.

If you are a president, you must be criticized and those criticising you need not be your enemies. I am sure I am closer to Buhari than any of his spokespersons. And I have known him since 1967. And he cannot deny that he has been my friend. I have travelled with him, written his speeches sometimes. And I have listened to quite a number of people who he finds today useful and I challenge him to say no. In fact, what’s wrong with criticizing him? Is he God? He’s not God.

What if he invites you to work with him, would you go?

No, he wouldn’t and I would not. And let me tell you, there are witnesses for the kind of question you just asked. I have had series of meetings with the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Ganduje in which he suggested to me that I am wasting time in Kano, that I should belong to federal government or establishment. I told him I was not interested.

I would never serve under Buhari. We had four meetings like that. I told them that if the president who is the president of Nigeria invites me for a talk or discussion, I will be duty bound to go and see him.

But I said I will never accept any position and I don’t want anything from him, neither position nor contract. But I will talk to him and I advised them that in the event of my going with them to see Buhari, I will advise them to go out and leave us alone because there are certain things I will tell him which will embarrass him and  them.

2019 is almost here. Who would you be telling Nigerians to vote for?

First, I only know one candidate so far. That candidate is Muhammadu Buhari. And I know none of the parties, major or minor, has so far produced a candidate, so asking me to predict, I don’t know. I am not a soothsayer or a fortune teller. So, when everything is in place, I will tell you who my preference is and if I don’t have any preference among them, I will be very honest to tell you I don’t approve of anyone. But at the moment, it is only Buhari who’s going round under the guise of condoling people because of Dapchi or Chibok schoolgirls, but actually he’s going round campaigning which is against the law.

The president should have the confidence to go on his own record and say this what I have done in the three years I have been in the office. Or better still, this is what I said I was going to do, and this is what I have done.

Would the North not give him bloc votes?

Let me tell you, you are deceiving yourself. You know the so called North contains 19 states. The North has never had the reputation of giving anybody bloc votes. Go and check. Even when we had the North of the past, one regional government, we had NPC; NEPU, which had alliance with NCNC; UNBC, which had alliance with Action Group.

So, how did you come with the idea that the North will give anybody a bloc vote and how are you sure that northerners like incompetent people and therefore going to vote for them blindly because they come from the North? Can you guarantee me that Buhari will win in Benue or Plateau?

Or are they not parts of the North? Okay, supposing every northerner votes for him, will that enable him become a president? Look at the law and the constitution. We have 36 states and so to be able to win, you must score a certain minimum in at least 24 of the states. The northern states are 19 which is less than 24, so without the support of the South  he will not be able to be president.

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