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We’ve shown the world we’re banana republic – Lai Muhammed

By Kenneth EHIGIATOR

Alhaji Lai Muhammed is Action Congress (AC) National Publicity Secretary.  In this interview, he speaks on the killing of his party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 elections in Ogun State, Otunba Dipo Dina, and the vacuum created by the refusal of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to transmit power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, as he undergoes treatment for his ailment in Saudi Arabia.

Considering previous high profile killing of politicians in the country which are yet to be resolved, do you think killers of Otunba Dipo Dina would be found?

Frankly speaking, not many Nigerians will be optimistic on the ability or the political will of the police to find the killers of Otunba Dipo Dina and that is not because we have no confidence in our police but that is because of the antecedents of the police.

We have at least five high profile political motivated murders in our hands that are begging to be solved for five six years now; we have that of the late Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige,  I mean if the Chief Law officer of the country can be so brutally murdered, and no body is apprehended, then what is going to happen to lesser human beings? 1 think that happened in the Christmas of 2001, that’s close to a decade now and nothing has happened.

We have that of Harry Marshal, we have that of Dikibbo, Funso Williams and we begin to wonder whether the police can solve this one. And common sense will tell you that for a high profile murder like Dina Dipo, there must be some serious state backing, I mean no common criminal will walk up and go and attack a politician without assurance or backing from the highest quarters just like it happened with late Pa Rewane and co and already the police is on a smear campaign.

I was reading this morning in the papers that the lady who was in the vehicle was on a spiritual cleansing mission. Now, does that justify his being murdered in that brutal manner?

It would be difficult for you not to link Dina’s death with his political activities and crusade. It’s for the police to convince us and I believe they are going to have a very uphill task.

But Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has given the IG a week to submit to him preliminary report of investigation into the murder, does this not inspire some confidence in you?

Absolutely not. They always all talk tough. Most times, you hear the IG relocating from his office in Abuja to the scene of the crime, I am not impressed.

Where does this lead us ahead of the 2011 elections?

You don’t need to be asking about 2011, shouldn’t you be asking about 2010? Today Nigeria is facing a constitutional crisis, in the likes it has never faced before in over 50 years of existence. Today marks the 64th day that Mr. President has been away from the country and all we have is diversions and entertainment and some clowns taking the whole country for a ride.

You see, when you tell one lie, you tell five others to cover that one lie and another ten to cover that five. Why can’t we do simple things? My friend Aandooaka will tell us, as if we are stupid that the constitution does not make provision for a superhuman being, what has super humanity got to do with what we are talking about?  Any body could take ill, the problem in Nigeria today is not because Yar’Adua is ill, it is the management of the illness, management of the information, the impunity that they are treating all of us and the absolute disregard for the constitution that is the problem.

Nigerians are the most docile and trusting people but these people have cruelly abused our confidence, our docility and our goodness. Our president is ill and because the constitution knows that a human being can be ill, Section 145 says that when the president is going for vacation or he is not able to discharge the function of office, he should transmit a letter to Senate President and to the Seat of House of Representatives transferring power to the vice president and when he comes back, another letter will say that am back, am in office.

Now, he has been away for 64 days and all manner of people are insulting our intelligence, first was the Aandooaka that said that the President can rule from anywhere.  Why is it so difficult for Mr. President to write that letter if he came into power through the constitution, and you swore to uphold the constitution? Why are you picking now to choose which part of the constitution you will obey?

If they do not want Jonathan to be the acting present, why did they pick him as Vice President? We, generality of Nigerians are not interested in the North-South dichotomy or the arrangement within the PDP. We are saying that for 68days we have had no leader and look at the kind of voodoo jurisprudence that they are doing? They went to court and arranged and the judge came and said yes, the VP is already acting as the president but is not an acting president.

They were citing section 5.1 and Section 148 of the constitution.

Therefore FEC is not competent to even kick-start the process of finding out whether the president is sick or not, but that is not the issue. Why must it take a court action for the minister to know that they have a duty to the nation? That’s why when this crisis started, our party said that there is a need to amend several parts of the constitution especially 144 and 145.

You see 144 which gives responsibility to the FEC, is inappropriate because it’s difficult to make the appointees to kick-start the process of terminating the job of the appointer because they will be terminating their own appointment too.

That responsibility would have been given to a neutral party. Section 145 which says whenever the president is going for a vacation, he should transmit a letter; they should just remove that part of transmitting a letter so that automatically, when he is going on vacation, or leaving the country, then it becomes automatic, then we will not be in this kind of nonsense.

But I tell you, the PDP, in particular at the rate we are going will truncate this democracy.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, told the senate last week that the president wrote a letter to the National Assembly to the effect that power be transmitted to his vice.   What do you make of this?

Where is the letter? Who was the letter given to? We don’t ask questions in this country. Is it 60 days after, the Secretary to the State Government will tell us there was actually a letter? You see, this is the only country where you see the disconnect between the government and the people and am not surprised because half the people that are there never won election, so they are not responsible to us.

These people do not have the interest of the country at heart, because they are a cabal, the longer the president is away the more money they are making. The PDP doesn’t want him to die but they don’t want him to get well either. They are all presidents of their own, the minister of aviation is the president of aviation, no checks, no balance.

What if there is a coup d’état?

You see ,I am more disturbed that we have shown the whole world that we are a banana republic and disturbed by the fact that for 68 days today, we can continue this kind of charade. Now for God sake, where are the men or women of honour in this country?

Why are we selling ourselves so cheap? Do we expect anybody to take Nigeria serious as a country today? Everybody should be worried about a coup because no matter what anybody thinks, the worse civilian government is better than the most benevolent military regime.  We should be worried that we are doing things that ten years ago would qualify us for a coup but we must all never wish for a coup. You can only know the beginning, you cannot know the end. Let us put the blame squarely where it should be, the PDP.

The House is going to Saudi, to do what when the problem is here? What are we going to do in Saudi Arabia, if we have a serious National Assembly? This is the only part of the world where we treat power as a mistress, something, we would not want to share with anybody, not even with a friend. We look at power as if it is our wife, and we must sleep with her.

There are some people today, who have access to power, and they are afraid that if the power moves to Jonathan, they will loose that access.

Why do you think it is difficult for the president to transmit power to his vice?

Number one, this is the only part of the world we keep power as mistress. The only thing a friend will not share with his friends is his mistress. We look at power as if it is our wife and only I must sleep with her. Secondly, there are some people who today have access to power and they are afraid that if this power should move to Jonathan, they’ll lose that access.

They are the real problem.  The people who are exploiting us are Christians, Muslims among them. They are from the North, from Niger Delta and from South West. They will never quarrel as long as there is enough for them to share.   I do not think Mr. President if what we hear about his illness is true, I don’t think the man cares a hoot for power. There are those who are closer to him who know that if power should go to the Vice President, they are shut out of circulation.

They are the ones who are running helter-skelter, feeding us with all kinds of theories and insulting our intelligence every day.  That is why I don’t call it North–South dichotomy. I do not believe in it. We have crooks from every part of Nigeria but we should all be worried and honestly even the PDP as a party should just come out and tell Nigerians what is going on so that we can get on with our lives, because the world is watching. There are 17 Permanent Secretaries today who have not been assigned because Mr. President is not around.

There are ambassadors from various part of the world who cannot get and deliver their letters of credence because we do not have a President or we do not have Acting President. Investors today are jittery because they do not know what will happen. We have all kinds of emergency  in our hands; we have problem in Jos and then the Mutallab  case and there is no robust leadership. When people talk about 2011, I tell them talk about 2010 first. If we do not survive 2010, we cannot get to 2011.


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