A northern leader of note, Dr Junaid Mohammed, is a critic of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government. In this interview by Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE, the member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic speaks on the implications of the gale of defection from major political parties across the country and issues affecting the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vis-a-vis the 2019 elections.
What is your take on the gale of defection across the major political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the country?
What I can see as it relates to the issue of defection is uncertainty. Uncertainty for the country and uncertainty for the political parties means uncertainty for democracy itself. Again, this goes back to what I have been saying over the years that for political stability, you need stable political parties that are based on ideologies, core values and beliefs. That has not been the case for political parties in Nigeria. Even those that are supposed to be big, in terms of size or in terms of coverage, APC and PDP, are nothing but a combination of people who are in for the money they would get or the positions they stand to get. Unfortunately, the money they would get is for their personal ends; it has nothing to do with the country. So, I am not surprised that the two political parties are in a mess and they are going to continue to be in a mess.
A couple of days ago, Senate President Bukola Saraki defected from the APC to the PDP. What do you think is the likely implication of this defection for the leadership of the Senate?
Well, it all depends on what we are talking about here: Are we talking about politics or we are talking about opportunism? From the word go, Saraki won election in 2015 and then bulldozed his way to the position of the Senate President. That, to me, is an issue and clearly, it was improper. I believe that the majority party in the Senate, whether it is written in the constitution or not, must always produce the principal officers. If they want him as a result of alliance with the other party and yet they are able to produce the majority, the party with clear majority must always produce the principal officers and the President of the Senate. But that is not the case. I think it is a complete misunderstanding and, in fact, mischief on the part of those who imagined that anybody who can put together a majority of people into the Senate has the right to be the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If you win an election, the election as the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives must be among the people who are in the Senate or in the House. But then, they did not get there by themselves; they were put there on the platform of a political party. So, even if you have the money to spend around, it must be the party that must nominate and indicate to its own members who have won election on its platform who and whom are going to be the principal officers of the party.
By the dynamics of the election itself, it will determine which areas are shortchanged, which areas gave the party enough votes and how the party is going to be fair to all those areas it won votes from in terms of representation. That is how politics should be played. But if you play politics with your honour and you believe that you can be an armed robber and then sneak yourself into the chamber and, of course, pay people to come and vote for you and when you are there, you now pretend to be a genuine, bona fide President of the Senate, that will affect the issues at stake. And that is why it will be very easy for these artificial presiding officers who have been elected only because they paid their way and they made promises which they have no right to make and that is why it is very easy to remove them.
Bukola Saraki has gone through a lot but, frankly speaking, I believe that he caused all his misfortunes and he should realise that, in the long term, it is always better to be honourable than to be ambitious. I can’t see how he is going to survive his present predicaments, even among members of his former party, beginning from Adams Oshiomhole, who is another opportunist. So, Saraki should resign, but I don’t think APC has the number to remove him. Even if they make the attempt to remove him, this in itself is going to cause instability within the party and within the Senate itself.
Mark you, as I am talking to you, I think the Senate has not been sitting in the past one week. That means that, for about eight months of the year, we didn’t have a working legislature and they have not made any single important enactment expected of any legislature. What I am saying is that money which has not been appropriated by the National Assembly cannot be spent. I understand that we have an additional Bill which is requesting for more money for the elections  and some other things and I begin to wonder how the system can survive. There is too much pressure, too much hypocrisy, too much greed and I can’t see how the presidential system can survive.
The APC National Chairman and some others are calling on the Senate President to resign. But do you think there is any moral justification for this?
In a normal democratic system, yes there is a justification for such a call. But don’t tell me that ours is a normal democratic system because it is not normal. Secondly, there must be a certain sense of decency and morality in everything we do. There is a Code of Conduct, even among armed robbers, but the Nigerian politicians are those I believe do not have a Code of Conduct. If Saraki were to be a decent politician in a decent political system, he should have resigned. But then, it is absurd that there is a demand from APC that Saraki should resign. There have been other people who have been defecting from some of the other parties to the APC. APC has never said those people should first resign from the seats. Why now? Is it because they are now at the receiving end as most of them are now defecting from APC to the other parties?
I think, to have decency and sanity, we must change this system of government to make sure that the constitution is appropriately and suitably changed to make it absolutely clear that whatever is the reason for a person deserting or defecting from his party. He must instantly resign, even if he is taking the matter to court. That is how the problem can be solved because a lot of what is in the constitution has been based on assumption that people who are true senators or honourable members of the National Assembly would be behaving as distinguished gentlemen and honourable people. But what we have are people who are not distinguished or honourable and they have not, in any sense, covered themselves with glory. Now we have to be specific that, ‘if so and so happens and somebody decides to defect, whatever happens, he must leave’. And, unless the constitution is specific, we will continue with this confusion in the system.
But none of the two main political parties [APC and PDP] is reliable or responsible. They are all corrupt and all the people who have won seats on the platform of the two parties, APC and PDP, are also corrupt and these are people who should not represent us. The government itself is full of scandals. So, it is time for us to have a serious constitution. It is ridiculous the manners in which people who have defected from a political party are retaining their seats.
A day after Senator Saraki’s defection, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and some other major players also left the APC. What do you think this portends for the party ahead of the 2019 elections which are just about six months away?
Let me be honest with you here, Governor Tambuwal is a friend of mine and he is like a younger brother and I am aware, to a certain extent, of his frustrations within the party. But the primary reason, and he said this in his declaration, is the incompetence and hypocrisy of President Muhammadu Buhari himself. Anybody who will want to make a positive impact as a politician will not want to follow Buhari; the president has failed woefully. He lies about fighting corruption. He selects those he doesn’t like or those who are not members of his family and the cabal in the government is made up of those who are busy further destroying the economy of the country. So, anybody who feels strongly about all these will not want to be involved in this government.
Governor Tambuwal is in a different situation, compared to the members of the legislature, either the Senate or the House of Representatives. A governor has one community. Number two, even if he deserts his party, he still remains there until the end of his term. But whether the constitution should be changed to also include the governors, I don’t mind, frankly speaking. But the constitution stands as it is, and Tambuwal is a lawyer and he thinks there is nothing stopping him from leaving the party. I think Sokoto State stands to gain by Tambuwal remaining in his post until the end of his term. He is just a one-term governor; he will now show his popularity and acceptability among the people of the state when the elections come up in February, next year. So, I am not bothered about that.
But I am bothered about the members of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate and the House of Representatives because they have the main responsibility when it comes to the passing of the budget as we cannot do without money. We are now in the eighth month of the year. We cannot run the country like that. The country is in a major crisis, but Buhari decided to go to London on leave. Is this right time to go on leave?
Tambuwal has been an APC governor for three years. Is it just dawning on him now that the president is not performing, hence he has to leave the party?
I want to be very careful and I want to be balanced in my responses. You know my view about this government since Buhari was sworn in in 2015 and I also know that Tambuwal has been consistently talking about the non-performance of Buhari. So if somebody [Tambuwal] decides to go and run for and he wins an election and somehow finds himself in the midst of a lot of a confused and incompetent people imbued with corruption, nepotism and what have you, and he has been taking his time to see if things would improve, you cannot blame him for taking a decision to leave the party now.
Again, it is worthy to note that in different countries on earth, the bulk of the people who are involved in defection do so on the eve of a general election. So, it will be a matter of morality the moment you feel you have lost faith in either the leader of a party or the party itself, and then you feel it is time for you to leave. That is what Tambuwal has done. Now, what are your options? Sieve them out and see other people who are of the same mind. Let me tell you this; the majority of the people in APC, including members of the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly and even the governors, are not with Buhari in this journey. They have long lost faith in him and they know that he cannot do the job. He is not fit physically, emotionally or mentally to be a leader of Nigeria. So, they think the greatest thing he can do for the country and Nigerians is for him to resign from the government. He does not have the power, the education and the stamina to lead the country. So, he should get out of that office.
What is your view on the leadership style of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole since his assumption of office as the APC National Chairman?
Oshiomhole is just a gangster. He practises unionism in the party, just like when he was in the trade union. He calls for strike action and tells people to stay away from work. They come to work when they want and will force you to leave your job. This is the kind of practice he has brought into the leadership of APC. I want to make a forecast: I cannot see his future, but I want to assure you that Oshiomhole will not leave the chairmanship of APC and leave a better part behind. Rather, APC is going to be a lot worse as a party. From what we are seeing now, there is going to be a lot of problem for APC.
The president just went on leave to London. What do you have to say about this constant travels of the president, especially for medical treatment abroad?
If you have really been reading or following what I have been saying in the media, including the traditional and social media and international media organisations like BBC, VOA and Radio France, among others, I have been very clear that the man has no business in government. In fact, the right thing for him is to leave now. About his competent, he has no business in party politics because he knows next to nothing about it. He is a complete economic mistake. He is a dysfunctional leader in so many aspects. He is not well and he does not have the stamina to hold the office of the president and he is mentally and physically devastated.
In a realistic world, in countries with true and functional democracies, this man would either resign or would be forced to resign. He should have been impeached before now and the provisions for his impeachment are there. Even his ill-health is enough to warrant his impeachment. In addition, there are several ways in which he has been flouting the Nigerian Constitution and these are enough grounds to draw articles of impeachment against him. Sadly, the man does not know anything called justice. You can see from the way he made his announcements on appointments. He gave three key ministries to an individual; this was not tied to performance or the ability to make the ministries to work, but as long as you are supported by his family or his cronies in the cabal. So clearly, we are in trouble. But because they are enjoying what is happening now-they are getting money and contracts and what have you-the rest of the country can go to hell. But people are complaining and we cannot continue to run this country this way.
You earlier said neither APC nor PDP is a desirable or responsible political party. Are you in support of the coalition of forces against the APC and President Buhari, spearheaded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead the 2019 elections?
First and foremost, I had taken a decision to associate myself with one of the political parties, but on the clear understanding that we are not going to run this party the way PDP or APC has been creating the rot in the system. I said, we have to be a brand new political party, based on clear-cut ideologies. We can now have new wine in some old bottles. Some of the people who are now going to create either a new PDP or some of them that are saying they have some reformation of APC actually came from PDP. So, if they come from PDP, why did they leave and why are they going back now? Nothing has changed about PDP. Let me assure you; anybody who dreams that the people of Nigeria will trust PDP now and go in droves into the party against the government in power is making a fool of himself. If they [government] rig the 2019 elections – and they can use and also manipulate the security forces – There may be trouble. So, they will have to identify what they want; whether they will allow a free and fair election.
What happened in Ekiti State is a national and international disgrace. I don’t know what will happen in Osun State next month. So, we have to be very careful because the idea that people can now use money and control of the security service chiefs and what have you to create a diabolical mess for the country is gone and Nigerians are not going to take it anymore.