By By Abdulsalam Muhammad
Junaid Mohammed, the current chairman of Peoples Salvation Party is a second republic MP who served as a minority leader of the House in 1979 to 1983. He is fiery and treats issues with utmost frankness it deserves.
In this encounter with Saturday Vanguard, Junaid spoke on the policy of the new CBN Governor, amnesty to militantsÂ and described the current National Assembly as the worst ever in the history of the participatory democracy. Excerpt:
Some say Nigeria is in a fix over the amnesty it declared 60 days to resolve the crisis in the Niger Delta, do you have the same feelings?
I donâ€™t know what to call it, whether itâ€™s a fix or not, but ifÂ itâ€™s a fix, then we are put in a fix by the unilateral and irresponsible mode of decision making of the Federal Government. If you want to solve a problem and you have chosen deliberately to negotiate yourself out of the problems, the only available option left to you is to negotiate.
Donâ€™t negotiate with your self but you negotiate with your opponent. The president was unilateral in the declaration ofÂ the amnesty and the remit ofÂ the extent of the amnesty. He did no consultation with some of the key personalities and key institutionsÂ of governance within the country. His consultation with the people of Niger Delta is minimal and is of no consequence because he consulted with PDP members in that region, people who are his personal friends.
The essence of consultation is to make it as wide as possible, transparent and as fair as possible. Therefore, I am not surprised that things are not going on well with the declaration because it was not properly handled.
There are insinuations that the declaration of amnesty by the Federal Government was a ploy to buy time for an impending military assault on the region, do you subscribe to that?
I donâ€™t subscribe to that insinuation at all. I think the Federal Government in their naÃ¯ve and rather immature way of handling things thought they have been generous and have this mistaken belief that the offer of amnesty will be grabbed by the militants. However, I am a little surprised that Yarâ€™Adua misread the entire situation because he has not done his homework, as no one does any homework in this administration.
Itâ€™s a government that lives on ad-hoc bases, driving one policy stroke, lettingÂ it go and if does not work too badly, and that is how they govern. This also a government where specialization and expertise is not respected and all you need to do is just to have access, put your head in and make sure you have something at the table and you are covered.
Yarâ€™Adua did not perhaps bargain with fact that the militants do have their own advisers, domestic and foreign and have huge amount of money at their disposal. The question is no more of miscreantsÂ but a mafia like institutionalized criminality cutting across all space of life in the Niger Delta.
Do you see the possibilities of Constitutional review before 2011?
No,Â I donâ€™t.
What informed your pessimism?
I donâ€™t because time is of great essence. From the very beginning, this government desperately gropes in the dark; they were looking for issues to package into an agenda, because they came in without a blueprint on how to move the country forward. The 7-Point Agenda was nothing but a public relations job. TheyÂ believe when you have a trash, it is enough to pursue till the next election not minding the fact it was far inadequate for Nigerians.
I believe in principle that a constitutional amendment is necessary becauseÂ with practice ,we have seen and identifiedÂ loopholesÂ that neededÂ to be revised. There is no justification in a system which consumed as much as one third of the annual national budget just for the management of the Presidency and the National Assembly. It is therefore going to be very difficult to ignore amending the constitution but within the frame work of time available to us I donâ€™tÂ see how this feat will be achieved.
Why do you brand the current National Assembly as the worst ever?
I am talking about my own experience, and my lifetime in politics. I have never seen the National Assembly that is corrupt as this one. I have never seen a National Assembly where so many of its principal officers have been implicated in corruption. We have so many of them waiting before a court of law for its matter to be disposed ofÂ for corruption .
We have several chairmen of Committees implicated in corruption. This has never been like this in the history of this country.
How do you react to impending plan by the CBN to introduce new naira notes in the country?
Honestly speaking, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a priority. First and foremost, being a Governor of a Central Bank is an honour in any country. Itâ€™s a very powerful position but I am wary about the way Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is going about his duties.
The enabling laws of the CBN makes the Governor essentially the monetary Czar of the country, but if the GovernorÂ beyond these responsibilities now chooses to be the economic spokesman ofÂ the Federal Government, then we have a serious problem at hand especially when we have a Governor who has the tendency to be talkative. BeingÂ a Governor of CBN is not a place for extroverts.
We have a saying in English that says â€˜beauty like power is something not to be talked about. If you have it, flaunt it.Â If you have power, you donâ€™t have to talk about it, you simply act and act with the confine ofÂ the law.
Its unfortunate we now have a CBN Governor that has developed penchantÂ for addressing the press at any slightest provocation. Such practice is not helpful and his demeanour is not the demeanour of a CBN Governor. I must remind him that talkative CBN GovernorsÂ through histroy always ended up in disaster.
I want him to grow out of the euphoria and sit down for the arduous task before him.Â Although he has not violated any law so far,Â but you can do the right thing the wrong way, you can also do the wrong thing the right way. I think he is doing the right thing but the way he goes about it talking to himself is unfortunate, and not healthy to the system. Nigeria needs a tough CBN Governor giving the roguishness of his predecessors in office.
What amazes me about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is that he has decided to ignore the economic reality on the ground.Â If you want to slow an economy, you raise the interest rate but if you want to boost an economy, you lower interest rate.
But that is not the priority of the Nigerian economy now. The priority is how you rejuvenate the economy wholistically. I am surprised that since he became the CBN Governor, not a word was heard from him about the poverty level of this country and we have a situation where over 80 percent of the population lives below one US dollar per day.
The poverty are somewhat interconnected with the troubles we have in the areas we have security problems now. What he does has a direct bearing on the polity either for good or bad and I am worried that he has done nothing and he isÂ planning nothing aboutÂ poverty. Sanusi Lamido Sanusiâ€™sÂ priorities are wrong and he has to do something right to get the economy going.