Why Buhari can’t move Nigeria forward – Junaid Mohammed
…Says, un-elected close aides of president are clogs in the wheel
Dr. Junaid Mohammed, firebrand public affairs commentator, currently vice-presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, has expressed the fears that Nigeria cannot make the much-desired progress with the kind of aides President Muhammadu Buhari has surrounded himself with.
Mohammed, who was a member of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, in 1976 under the leadership of the late Mallam Aminu Kano, saw those aides of the president and governors, who wield power without being elected by the people, as the ones misadvising governments at different levels. He describes them as clogs in the wheel of progress. He contended that with them continuing to wield power and influence, the country would continue to be worse off.
“And unless Buhari takes the courage to get rid of the corrupt, be they friends, cronies, relations or in-laws of his, he will never see things in his government because they are the ones, who are making the policies and he doesn’t have access to alternative opinions.” Mohammed also spoke on other national issues.
First of all, what can you say about the current case between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, and the Presidency. There have been divergent opinions on the matter. What do you think?
Well, first and foremost, in a functional democracy, you try as much as possible to de-personalise issues. Rather you concentrate on the programmes or otherwise of the institutions of state.
And I believe that what has been in between Justice Onnoghen and the Presidency is not a quarrel between the two arms of government per se, that is the Presidency and the judiciary but was seen as some of the consequences of the loose ends and the assumptions, which we have made about the functions of democracy and the rule of law.
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It was seen, because primarily, it was assumed, and I dare say, wrongly that you can put democracy on an auto-pilot, that once you have democracy everything will move smoothly and there will be no problem.
But we have seen in previous governments and republics that the case is not so. But then it wasn’t as glaring as it is now. This is simply because the actors in the previous governments and regimes were more cautious and much more detailed in their approach to being caught out.
When they are being caught out they are ready to admit and submit to the rule of law. Now the position is different.
Secondly, people have been making a lot of noise about the relationship between democracy and the rule of law.
Now people are getting to understand that this is a very serious connection. And they are now getting to realise that once the judiciary is dysfunctional and actually corrupt the way the Nigerian judiciary is, we are going nowhere and nothing can be done.
No amount of noise making or pillaging; no amount of preaching about the independence of the judiciary or the common sense of those at the top of politics and the Presidency can work unless there is sincerity on both sides and I am convinced there is no sincerity on both sides.
Is it not now clear that there is the need for a total overhaul of the Nigerian Constitution since people now exploit the lacunas therein to escape justice the way it is and…
(Cuts in) Now, let me say this. Every constitution in every country of the world has lacunas. Ours is not an exception as far as lacunas are concerned.
Besides, constitutions everywhere, especially those written, are drafted by men and they are subject to correction by men.
When you have constitutions written to suit a certain purpose in certain era, you must also have at the back of your mind that someday, some of the issues for which you are legislating, the words might not be adequate.
That is why there will be lacuna. Or may be issues might arise that were not foreseen by the drafters of the constitution.
A lot of what we are seeing from 1999 till today were not foreseen by Chief Rotimi Williams and the 49 wise men, who drafted the constitution in the first place. It is to be expected.
Now to be realistic, I think the constitution itself has provided provisions that allow for an amendment of the constitution and doing so without triggering a constitutional crisis.
But what we have realised is that, relying on the common sense, the common decency of the political actors is not enough to allow the constitution to be amended instead of plunging us into crisis each time there is something to be done.
Besides, there are issues, which do not belong to the constitution which have to be legislated outside the constitution.
For example, we have a very skewed revenue allocation formula, which brazenly favours certain people. That revenue formula was put inside the constitution by the military government, we are still quarrelling with it because it makes development as we know it impossible. If we must be together, there must be some measure of rationality on how you spread out resources and how you prioritise resources, not on geography and not necessarily on other factors but you must act right on the basis of individuals.
What does it take for an average Nigerian to have a decent education, health care system?
And what does it take to invest in the economy such that it would be impossible to diversify our economy to make sure that people have the chance to live a decent life rather than having to rely on oil, such that any time there is a hiccup in the oil market our economy is in a shambles? You cannot develop an economy that way.
Let’s go into the core issues of politics and because you were a key player in the First and Second Republics it would be nice getting your assessment of what is politically on ground at the moment. I want you to take a look at the two main contenders for the presidential election of February 16, and what you know about them from the campaigns so far. Do you think they understand where the world is going and how our problems can be solved?
No. They don’t. I hate to say this because I don’t want to be personal, but the impression I have is that the two main contenders or the two principal persons in the contest hardly understand the essence of power in a democracy because democracy is very much linked to the issue of the rule of law.
And unless the rule of law itself is being honestly canvassed or adjudicated upon there can be no democracy and, therefore, whatever is said about the constitution or about the rule of law in the constitution will become absolutely useless.
If I get a little bit personal, for example, Buhari has been a military leader, a General, but beyond being a military General he knows next to nothing.
But it is not the fault of Buhari that we are in this situation today, but it is the fault of his advisers.
This is because in life generally, a government, not the leader, is as good as the people who are handling the leader because they are those handling real power.
The emergence of Buhari today to us that he is the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in addition to about six of them, which he holds uniquely and nobody else does we have to be very careful because unfortunately, at the beginning of this administration quite a number of people were smart, who swept themselves in with all sorts of subterfuges, lies and base sentiments to get to positions whereby they have access to Buhari to advise or misadvise him.
We are still living with the consequences. And unless Buhari takes the courage to get rid of the corrupt either friends, cronies, relations or in laws of his, he will never see things in his government because they are the ones, who are making the policies and he doesn’t have access to alternative opinions.
And when you are talking about law or medicine where I belong, every person is entitled to his own opinion.
People will now go and put pressure in Aso Rock and come and tell him lies and when decisions are taken they turn out to be perverse and they are the ones who we must blame first, because the man is acting on the information available to him. So, you cannot see a government, not only in a developing country, in a fledgling democracy like ours, which is being headed or advised or misadvised by the likes of Mamman Daura, a nephew, Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who claimed to have gone to some universities outside the country.
These are the characters, who are misadvising the government itself and taking some decisions, which are based on high-handed policy making, not anything rationale that any educated person will respond to.
And this thing goes on and on and on. And let me tell you, unless Atiku himself takes care of his axis, he is likely to be moulded and manipulated the way Buhari is being manipulated by those surrounding him. You can see there is no redemption.
We have to be very careful, because while it is all well and good to say the chief executive is the president at the national level and governor at the state level, how many decisions does the president or the governor take on his own and what is the role, for example, of those who are elected and those appointed and those who wield powers without being appointed.
Mamman Daura does not have a single piece of paper, indicating that he has been appointed by anybody into any position. But the man today has as much power as the president of the country.
So, this is how we are managing our democracy, which is not accountable to anybody. You can see our democracy does not have a future.
How injurious are these traits really when some of the president’s aides are tying their personal ambitions and future to the president and yet others are doing horrible things in the manner you have just mentioned?
Deadly injurious. It is not only injurious but also deadly because if you take a policy decision without having all the information at your disposal and those decisions affect lives, property and families, peace and people, security and the economy of the country, then you are really, really taking quite a handful on your hands.
And they are really injurious, because if they had been right, you and I will not be talking about them now.
A man who wakes up and decides that somehow certain policies mostly borrowed from the IMF or the World Bank are going to be imposed with minimal communication, in fact, with no consultation, even with the National Assembly, which claims to be representing people.
And you look at the calibre of the people in the National Assembly, quite a number of ex-rogues, people who have been jail birds and so on and so forth.
They are the people who are supposed to advise and give consent. If the president himself is misadvised and the National Assembly is aware, because most of the time they are busy travelling out or collecting huge amounts of money, which cannot be justified.
Come to think of it, a legislator in Nigeria earns more than the President of the United States of America, the man who controls nuclear weapons.
Now, these characters, some of whom are basically illiterates, are the ones who will determine our fate in the way they interact with the president, while he is being daily misadvised, including his wife, then you can see we have very serious problem.
Anybody with the best of intentions, who comes to advise the government, especially at the presidency level, is in trouble because he would be sabotaged.
If you look at the troubles we have gone through in Nigeria and the problem of Boko Haram under Yar’Adua and the problems of the Niger-Delta and you know what is happening now with bandits in both North Central, Benue and Plateau and, of course, Zamfara and Kaduna axis.
If you look at it, you can see the footprints of some people whose interest is being served and not national interest. They take these decisions and don’t care to defend themselves.
But the president said he has fulfilled all his promises, that is economy, security and fight against corruption…
I hope you appreciate the fact that I have been in politics for well over 40 years. Please if you want to assess a politician… Tell me all the promises he made and the ones he has fulfilled.
As far as I am concerned I remember him promising to crush Boko Haram, not only in the North-east, but also in the Niger-Delta and bandits in the North-west.
Has he done that? I am asking you a question, has he done that? He has not done that. Let us not deceive ourselves. So don’t talk to me like a politician. It has not been done.
Anytime they come out from the presidency and make noise about this and that, within 24 hours the Army had been attacked. There is a very serious issue of corruption within the Armed Forces, especially the Army about financial misconduct, about payment to soldiers, about morale, about how Boko Haram goes to snatch foodstuff, farm products and fish from ordinary people.
At the same time, the Army does that. So what are you telling me? There are people in the North-east today who will tell you in confidence that somehow they prefer Boko Haram dealing with the Armed Forces and we have a Chief of Army Staff who has overstayed his welcome, exposed himself and his incompetence.
He has a house in Dubai. If you are fighting for Nigeria and you want to live and die in Nigeria, why are you buying a house in Dubai?
Allegedly so because he has denied that he owns the house and…
(Cuts in) My friend, this government has a habit. They always deny things several years after. One Amina Zakari whose husband I knew. We grew up together. In fact, the last census of 1963 or 1964, I think, we did the census with him and I said she is related to Buhari, it took us three years to now come back and realized the consequences of what they did and denied it.
So what are we talking about? If denial or pleading not guilty is enough defence for anybody who is guilty, then nobody will go to jail because 99 percent of those in jail today when they were first caught pleaded not guilty. So please don’t give me that.
Haba! I am telling you about people I knew since childhood and whose parents I knew, their mothers and their fathers. I mentioned that she is niece to Buhari, nobody said anything until last month.
So everybody knows that the war in North-east is not going well. Everybody knows that banditry is now a threat to governance in the North-west and North-central.
So please, let us be serious. If we want to fight the war, if we want to keep the country together in peace and harmony and grow the economy so that the overwhelming members of our people live in peace in any part of the country without let or hindrance different parts of the country let us do the right thing.
In the case of Buhari, I repeat blame his handlers, not Buhari and I will repeat their names, Mamman Daura, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Babagana Kingibe, one character Musa Bello whose son is now the Minister of FCT, even though he was a card carrying member of the PDP until Buhari won the election under the APC.
And look at the issue of Ambassador Oke, somebody EFCC stumbled on information about some money in an apartment in Ikoyi, about $20 million was found.
Later some additional money was traced to his office in NIA. Today, the money, which is being searched for and not yet accounted for is $258 million.
Parts have been recovered but somehow the handlers, the same dangerous advisers, the Kyaris, Mamman Daura, Babagana and co. went and got a new director of NIA who was not going to play ball with them in stealing the money they sacked him in no time.
They brought another person who now cooperated with them and nobody now knows how much has been recovered and how much is yet to be recovered.
Oke has been let go because he was trying to make noise that he would spill the bean. He is now in London. Can you imagine a country like that moving forward?