SIX-YEAR SINGLE TERM: NORTH CAN'T TRUST JONATHAN-JUNAIDU
That the National Chairman of the Peoples Solidarity Party (PSP), Dr Junaidu Mohammed, calls a spade a spade is not in doubt. In every debate, he presents his views with an uncommon passion. Long before the birth of the current democracy in Nigeria, he had been unsparing of the presidency and its occupants for their failure to meet the expectations of Nigerians.
In this interview at his residence in Kano, he bares his mind on President Goodluck Jonathan's single tenure proposal for president and governors, the quality of the federal cabinet, corruption in high places, the return of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Finance Minister among others. Excerpts…
What is your take on President Jonathan's proposal for a six-year single tenure for the president and state governors?
I would have taught that before you ask me my views on this, you should have given us the benefits of what were the reasons advanced by the man making the proposal and whether these reasons are in fact, germane, whether they are adequate, whether they are appropriate for a polity like ours and whether there are any lessons which are to be learnt from somewhere. Now, telling me as a Nigerian that you want to jettison an entire political system on the basis of cost and cost alone, or on the basis of the convenience of the ruling class sounds to me, dangerous and stupid; and it tells you that the Nigeria's political elite are still in the game of taking us for a ride. This is one more additional diversionary subterfuge to take the country for a ride.
But this whole idea was mooted by a committee and not just Jonathan's idea. And it has been argued that this idea has always been around and suggested by others.
First and foremost, I understand that he went through the rigmarole of printing people's names in the papers and claiming that the idea came from them. I spoke with one of those, whose names appeared on the papers as a member of the said committee and he said that first, it is a lie from the presidency and second, the context in which the proposal was in fact mentioned in their meeting had nothing to do with the present intention of the president to propose this to the National Assembly.
In addition, the same person whose name was listed by the president noted that when the proposal was mentioned, the president, then as a vice president, refused to associate himself with the proposal. And as far I am concerned, in politics, you hold a man responsible for what he said he is going to do, pre – election. Throughout Jonathan's campaign, there was never a time he mentioned that one of the proposals he had in mind was some kind of constitutional tinkering, some kind of societal adjustment aimed to change the way we are being governed, away from the present constitution into something else.
Secondly, what are the agenda of this current president if I may ask?
So, are you implying that the four-year tenure is appropriate for Nigeria?
What I am saying is that I want politicians to be true to their beliefs and to their concepts. If he had foreseen this as a problem and he had two and half years to prepare for elections, he should have highlighted it and told us that one of the things he intends to do, if elected, is to send a bill to the National Assembly for the purpose of amending the Constitution to make provision for a single tenure term.
He did not do that. So, what makes you think that a president or any political officer should not be held to account for his promises? What makes you think that because he is the president, because he won a controversial election and the conduct of the election was so fraudulent, it led to violence and so many other unspeakable tragedies, we should now come and look at the Constitution itself.
Let us focus on the cost of election, the tension and violence it generates, and the insufficiency of a four-year tenure for policy implementation. Are those not germane enough to amend the present Constitution?
I appreciate the fact that you want to be a PRO to President Jonathan. And I don't care! You can be a PRO to the president. But the fact of the matter is that the problems of Nigeria are not just the problems you have enumerated. The problems of Nigeria, as I said before, are problems of nation building, poverty, lack of infrastructure, unemployment, corruption and so many other problems.
These are the problems I want to see tackled. Not these kinds of peripheral problems. If Nigeria wants to go on politicking day in day out after every four years, every five years and every seven years, good luck to them. But let me make it absolutely clear that what he (Jonathan) is now proposing will not solve any of the problems that you have itemized yourself on his behalf. I don't believe that the single year tenure will cut the cost of any elections in this country. I don't believe it will reduce the tension in our national politics and three, I don't believe that it will, in fact, make the elections legitimate.
Some people have actually recommended that the single tenure term has the tendency to fasten the pace of power to move round to all directions and regions of the country.
Why don't you go ahead and suggest that we break up the whole country and we stop wasting our time? Because as far I know - and I have been in this game for 40 years – power as I know is meant to be for public good, it is to enable and to empower those who are aspiring into the office to do well.
The president has picked his cabinet. We will like to know your impression about the team in terms of how they will strive to tackle the nation's problems of corruption, unemployment, power and others.
In the first place, no matter how good a minister is, no matter how competent or the support system he has in the government is, if the government itself, that is the president and the presidency is not sincere about fighting corruption, nobody can do anything about it. In addition to the wasteful debate we are now going through about single tenure, we have another debate, disgraceful enough, between the Attorney General and the chairman of the EFCC. The boy (Adoke), who is now the Attorney General, who nobody knew, who nobody heard of, is determined to destroy what remains of the efficacy of the creditability of the EFCC and the ICPC.
And nobody in government has asked him to stop simply because what he is doing is really the agenda of Jonathan Goodluck and others. Secondly, you can never fight poverty unless you can create new employment for the people. Today, our university system and secondary school system are bringing people into the job market for jobs which are not there. And on the contrary, there are jobs which are there within the national economy but our educational system is too incompetent, too irresponsibly run, to bring the calibre of educationally qualified people to fit into the systems which are now in existence. Nobody is talking about that. If we mention the problems of power, I don't know. B
ut I know that I don have power right now. And I rarely do have power in my house. If the president were sincere about doing something about these problems: Infrastructural deficits, poverty, unemployment, corruption, failure in the educational and health system and security, then he should have picked a different cast of people to come and be ministers. We already have an Attorney General of the Federation who now wants to take on what remains of the EFCC and the ICPC and rubbish them publicly.
Then, you can see that we are in a very serious trouble. He cannot do what he is doing without the full support and permission of the president of the country. And as I see it, the next four years of Jonathan presidency, he is going to waste his time and nothing will be done. We will continue stealing the oil money and stock it abroad for other bankers to grow on it and create employment for their people. Nothing will happen.
But he made it very clear that he was personally excluded from the single tenure.
See it this way. The man came to power as a result of the principles of zoning and rotation. He killed the principle of zoning and rotation. You are telling me that a man who has gone out of his own free will to rubbish what is written in his party's constitution is the kind of person you and I should respect, simply because he promises not to contest election in 2015. Then please go ahead and talk to somebody else. So, you mean I should trust the PDP.
You mean I should trust an Obasanjo's hireling, I should trust Jonathan? You are wasting your time. I know no Northerner of consequence, I know no Nigerian of conscience who trusts the words of this man. Please, don't push me into saying a lot of harsh things. You simply assess a man by what he says and what he does. This is a man who has been lying about zoning and rotation from the very day he came into public life. What makes you think I will take a word he says for its integrity and believability? What makes you think so? You go out of your way to insult people and you think that people should just roll over and play deaf.
You have just mentioned the crisis of ICPC , EFCC and…
As an example of the irresponsibility and unreliability of the Attorney General, who is one of the people you asked me to comment on. I knew about the Attorney General because he had been there before. The others (Ministers), I don't even know them. They were just picked from nowhere. Most of the women that are there were picked not because they have been in politics. They were picked simply because they are wives of somebody or that they are daughters of somebody.
A process is not pre-ordained by God. It is a man who designed it for ordinary people who are together with him in any endeavour. When he became president, I understand that he asked each governor in conjunction with the party in the state – if it is a PDP ruling state – to submit 10 names to him. Almost all the list submitted to him in conjunction with the party was simply thrown out. And later, he set a personal process of picking for himself who he wants to be a Minister. And he was asking people for whom he had good relations to also submit names for people to be made ministers.
Now if you are talking of a system or a process, fine! Follow the process. But if you don't want to follow the process, do what you think is right. Now, we have been served very badly by what he did. One, he did not allow his conscience to dictate to him those who are round pegs in round holes. At the same time, he did not allow the party, in some measure of democratic dispensation, to have a say in his appointment. And so we have the worst of both possible worlds.
The situation is that we have the worst group of ministers in my whole lifetime. I don't know of anybody that I can say that so and so in this ministry is competent to do what he is supposed to do. The case I mentioned of the Attorney General is a clear example. This is a boy recommended by some Supreme Court Judges and he is doing their bidding.
What is the way out in the current face off between the office of the Attorney General and the chairman of the EFCC?
In fact, the National Assembly is partly guilty of the present situation. The enabling law initially envisaged for the EFCC provided that they should have automatic fiat, they do not need the fiat of the Attorney General to take people to court and that the Attorney General should not see the EFCC as a parastatal under his office and the EFCC too should not see itself in that light. The National Assembly watered down that provision and they left it and they went out of their way to be silent.
But the EFCC, if I may ask, has it been following due process? Is it not the duty of the Attorney General of the federation to ensure due process?
You are talking about due process. Right! Those who stole the country dry have they followed due process? Those who stole Nigeria's money, have they followed due process? You have a way of being, frankly speaking, uncharitable to Nigerians. You are telling me that somebody who has stolen our family silver, for whom due process did not exist when he was stealing the money, that we should now follow due process in arresting him. You are really joking! You are really wasting your time!
Are you now recommending a process of arbitrariness in solving our problem?
What have we been doing all these years? Have we been following due process? Are you telling me that the government of Nigeria today is a result of due process? If you want to go through due process, you should not have appointed or constituted the EFCC at all. I know that a judge of the Supreme Court had said that we should dissolve the EFCC and the ICPC and go back to the police. Do you support that? So, why are we wasting our time. You are trying to satisfy your own pre -ordained notion of what is just and what is not. As far as I am concerned, if you steal, you should be brought to book. We should first take away from you what you have stolen and then later, we should worry about due process.
You have just talked so well about the EFCC as an institution and the need for it to be strengthened. But surprisingly, there are a number of high profile cases still pending.
Very good. Let me tell you, there is no way you can fight corruption in Nigeria unless you have an absolutely super powerful EFCC. An EFCC which is not apparently under the presidency, where the president calls in and says please, release the matter on bail or please leave it in abeyance. And every president of Nigeria, from Obasanjo to Jonathan, has been guilty of doing that.
That is not an EFCC that would work. So in the first place, the EFCC was never meant to work. Let me tell you. I played a role in making sure that the EFCC's original decree was passed into law. Because our trading partners in the West had threatened to put Nigeria on an economic sanction and I was given the unpleasant message to go deliver to Obasanjo. And I delivered it to Obasanjo. He, in turn, said that it was not his fault, that I should go and talk to Ghali Na Abba and I did. Both of them are alive.
Go and confirm. So, from the very word go, the EFCC was never, in fact, never originally a Nigerian affair. It was forced on us by our trading partners on whom we depend to sell the oil from which we steal the country blind. So, in the first place, if they had passed the original decree the way it was supposed to be passed, fine. Or if we have a culture of restraint whereby those who are involved do not get involved in operational matters of an organization, or to tell them those whom to arrest and those who they are to prosecute. Yes. As long as EFCC is the way it is now, no matter who we have as the leader, be it Farida Waziri or Ribadu or anybody else, as long as we have it being subservient to the president and his appointees, there would be no genuine reason to fighting corruption and in fact, there has been no such reason.
The CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido is in the storm in certain parts of the country because of the proposed introduction of Islamic banking. What is your view on this?
As the Nigerian legal system stands today, it is not what you mistakingly or misguidedly called Islamic banking, which is not an Islamic banking as such. You don't know anything about Islam. I can give you books about capitalism and Islam. In any case, whatever you call it, is there a law today which said that it should not be practised? When it suits you, you are talking about due process and about procedure, but when it comes to an argument, which perhaps you seem to have an interest, you are now telling me differently. Is the law of Nigeria as it stands today against the so-called Islamic banking?
Yes or no? If it is not against Islamic banking, then what is it that people are opposed to? I remember very well that Cardinal Okogie, who I otherwise respect very well, was so much against Abuja being the national capital. He gave a press conference in which he said that architecture in Abuja is Islamic architecture. I don't believe that Okogie, then or now, has ever read a single page about anything Islamic architecture. Now, can you look at Abuja and say it is an Islamic city or it is made of Islamic architecture?
What is the difference between say Abuja or Jeddah? Because the man who drew the master plan in Abuja had a hand in the master plan of Jedda in Saudi Arabia and so many other cities. The banking system we are operating today is capitalist full and true. Shameless, lawless capitalism. Then you are telling me that because somebody wanted to allow certain brands of scoop or products in the system, you are saying that we want to Islamize Nigeria. Who wants to Islamize Nigeria? I will never ask you as a friend to come and become a Muslim. I don't want you to become a Muslim unless you want to become a Muslim. And if you decide to become a Muslim, you do it for yourself, definitely not for me. I gain nothing by you becoming a Muslim or a non-Muslim. So what is all these noise about?
Recently, Sheikh Datti Ahmed exploded that Muslims will shed the last drop of their blood in the fight for Islamic banking. It is generally felt that this is one statement too far. What is your reaction?
When the Christian Association of Nigeria has been making the same kind of reckless statement, has anybody said the statement being made was a statement too far? Datti was speaking perhaps as an individual or on behalf of a group of the Sharia implementation. If he said so, why don't you go and ask CAN who started this kind of irresponsible debate about Islamic banking, calling it a design to Islamize Nigeria? I was a living participant of Nigerian politics when the issue of Nigeria membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference arose.
I played a role by explaining to our Christian brothers that many Christian countries with Christian majorities, with virtually non-Muslims are members of the Organization of Islamic Conference; that it is just like a club. We raised a lot of dusts and unfortunately for General Babangida, he attempted to appease those who are opposed to the idea of OIC by recognizing Israel and sending an ambassador immediately to Israel. And we have been in an observer status of the OIC for over 30 years. For one reason or another, people are saying that we trying to Islamize Nigeria. Yar'Adua didn't bother himself. When the time came to attend the Head of States meeting, he flew out to I think Ivory Coast or Senegal and attended the meeting.
Today, I don't know of a single Nigerian who was converted or a single institution which has been converted as a result of that amendment or regularizing our stay (membership) in the OIC, where we benefited and we are still benefiting. So, tell the people who are making the reckless statement that they don't have monopoly of raw language. Other people, also, can repeat that language in kind. And mark you, if some people imagine that they want to hold Nigeria to ransom, or Nigeria must be governed the way they want it to be governed, otherwise they are going to blow it. I charged them to go ahead and damn the consequences. If we have nothing in common to live for, let us go our separate ways.
I would not loose any sleep if Nigeria breaks up tomorrow. Because at the moment, we are in a situation of no war; no peace! And some people would think that they would take us for a ride. You cannot take people for a ride. You rig an election, you brought in an incompetent person to be the president of this country, you have been economically undermining a certain section of the country and you are telling us that when an individual speaks, he is going too far. Let them go to hell, those who said that he has gone too far. In fact, you have not heard anything yet.
You cannot condemn nearly 100 million people and say they are nothing, calling people illiterates and all sort of names and you think they should not react. Datti is one of the first graduates of the University of Ibadan. He is a medical doctor of repute and he comes from the royal family here in Kano. If a nonentity abuses him down South, do you think that he doesn't have the right to abuse them back? Who are there?
You just talked about Ministers and the President's team in this dispensation. What is your take on the second coming of Dr. Ngozi Iweala as the Finance Minister?
All I can say is she was a fairly decent minister for Nigeria and given where she is coming from, I haven't heard anybody saying that Ngozi tried to be overtly tribalistic or overtly partisan. She ran the ministry as a technocrat, which she is and I think she handled the country's finances with a competent, even hand and I certainly applaud her for that. Now, as per her coming back a second time, it is an indication that the country is not moving forward. It is moving backwards.
I don't think she was certainly keen about coming back. My understanding is that she is coming back to prepare her for contest into the position of the Managing Directorship of the African Development Bank. And given what she went through the last time, her name was proposed as the Deputy Secretary General of the bank, Obasanjo, out of malice, struck off her name. She wants to make sure that she is now back to contest for the headship of the bank, which is in Tunisia, when the time comes. And I think that as a Nigerian, she is entitled to that aspiration. In fact, Nigeria does not have a better qualified person now for the job and Nigeria is the biggest shareholder of the bank.