By CHARLES KUMOLU & GBENGA OKE
…Says; ‘We’re ready for National Conference’
Russian trained medical doctor and political radical, Dr. Junaid Mohammed was a member of the second republic House of Representatives and subsequently, the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC where he has claimed to have had one Dr. Goodluck Jonathan under his supervision. Known for his verbal explosions during the second republic, Dr. Junaidu had for long been unusually quiet.
Well that is until his return to the fray where he has plunged head-on into the battle of the Nigeria question. Dr. Junaidu was the convener of the Northern group of professionals, politicians and policy experts that few weeks ago positioned the North for a debate on the Nigeria question. In this interview with Vanguard, he responds in his own distinctive way to the issues of Nigeria’s federalism that have recently dogged the polity. Excerpts:
HOW did the tension in the polity get to this state?
The situation in the country should be seen from the position that a human being is a rational animal because God made it possible for us to learn from our mistakes and other people’s mistakes. It is always better to learn from other people’s mistake because when you learn from your mistake, you learn the hard way.
It was an American Philosopher George Santayana, who said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Nigeria has had a very interesting history. We are an artificial creation of the British. Britain did not create us for us, they created us for their own imperial motive. We have found ourselves as Nigerians since the amalgamation of 1914 and in few years time we would be 100 years as a nation.
Now, any group of people, who have been together as one for this length of time, having the same lingua franca, the same British common law system, we have internalized certain norms of civilised behaviour, are supposed to have a focus at this time. But that is not the case with Nigeria. When it comes to choosing our own leaders it has always been a problem, because we refused to be truthful to ourselves. And we are still living in illusion in this country by not being truthful as to the direction the country is headed to.
I have no doubt in my mind that the overheating of the polity was predictable. Everything that has happened to this country in 1999, started when they brought General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was not qualified to govern to become the president of this country. Four Generals brought him and paid some other politicians to form a party. They sponsored his election from the treasury. By nature, Generals find it difficult to become democrats. History will also tell you that Generals don’t make good democrats. The most outstanding General the world has known was Field Marshal Mohaammed Ayub Khan of Pakistan.
He tried his best to make Pakistan a democracy and one nation out of the former Indian nation, in 1947. But democracy eluded him. President Gamal Abdel Nassir of Egypt tried democracy and it eluded him. Generals and democracy are incompatible, including President Eisenhower of the United States. What made those, who brought Obasanjo to bring him baffles me and what made Nigerians, as educated as we are, to accept the imposition of Obasanjo is still a mystery to me. And 13 years after, we are saying that the polity is overheated. Overheated by who? God Almighty? Or by our own actions and failures?
Many Generals became very rich from 1999 to now. They made an arrangement where you and I would be subservient and slaves to the agreement of some Generals on how to govern the country. We should ask why we are here today and not the overheating of the polity.
The former Chief Justice of the Federation Mohammed Uwais produced a report on electoral reforms and 80 percent of the recommendations were rejected by the government that appointed him, which means that the government was not sincere on it. Now, there is another committee headed by Belgore. He is now even going further by trying to invent a system whereby a vice president, who serves the remaining tenure of a president, who died in office can serve a fresh term.
What about the issue of zoning of political offices?
Never mind the talk about zoning. It is a question of elementary morality. Are we saying that eight years of a successful presidency is now ten. Are you saying that the man was not exercising the powers of President when he was the president? I think the Belgore Committee is determined to do a dirty work. When some northerners do a dirty job for the villa, they are regarded as good northerners. But those, who refuse to be used because of their principles are regarded as enemies of the Niger Delta. Can we survive in this country with this kind of primordial animalistic and emotional attitude?
Don’t you think that the country should return to true federalism?
I am out for something that works. People have been talking about true federalism, true democracy and all that. When you ask most of these people to define what they mean by true federalism, they cannot. Socrates said that he used to tell his students that the first step is to define your term. If people now start shouting about true federalism and true fiscal federalism, then they are bunch of liars because they don’t know what they are talking about. Many of them need some education. They are all into propaganda.
These people are patrons of the Lagos press because they have access to Lagos press. Your democracy is what you make of it. One thing they have to know is that you cannot have a working federal arrangement when what is happening in essence is a confederal arrangement. When you look at federalism, you will find out that most federations willingly came together to have a federation or a confederation.
In the case of Nigeria, it is not so. It was the Federal Government that created most of these states and the almighty South-South, so ours is not a classical federalism. All this noise they are making about true federalism, even if there was a plebiscite in the 60s, majority of the Middle Belt would not have voted to be separate from the North.
I knew how difficult it was for the old Ogun State to cede Ikeja to Lagos State to make Lagos viable territorially and economically. I don’t mind what system we practice, as long as it carries everyone along. Always thinking along primordial lines, is not good for people who have had the kind of civilisation we have had as Nigerians. We ought to know ourselves by now.
Boko Haram, to me is a threat to the security of this country. Boko Haram survives because some people use it to justify using 25 percent of the federal budget for security. There were instances that can be corroborated when the issue of Boko Haram was traced from Chad or Cameroun through Borno and Yobe down to Kaduna. And these people, who
traced them guaranteed that they could have arrested them, but they were told from Abuja not to arrest them and they were allowed to go.
Secondly, I know of a foreign country that has used its own resources to trace the issue of Boko Haram. They told the Nigerian government but no one is doing anything. So, you can see why it is convenient for Boko Haram to thrive.
The incompetent people, who have been saddled with the responsibility of ruling this country, are responsible for what we have now.
These people who were imposed on Nigeria by those who created PDP have a lot to gain in this kind of situation. That is why we are neither in peace nor at war because of the money they are making. You can imagine what they are making from the amnesty programme. The Niger Delta people believe that its is convenient
Apart from derivation and more revenue for the North, what does your group stand for?
We stand for equitable Nigeria. We are not in this just for derivation, we are in this group to fight wherever injustice is being done glaringly. Mark it, if the derivation principle was to be rationalized under our constitution, Supreme Court judgement and International law, it is not only the North that will benefit, even the South-West and South-East will also gain.
So what are you talking about? Why should we form a group just because of derivation when the derivation principle has been operating since 2002? So, people should stop this joke because we are not that kind of group and when you look at the personalities involved, all of them have solid track records.
A lot of people are asking why the group is just coming up?
Well, we realize now that if care is not taken, we are going to mess up thoroughly and be in trouble. The derivation that is being applied is illegal; it is illegal to apply it to every revenue accruing to the Federal Government. How can you justify the 13 percent for export duties, import duties and customs duties? How do you justify every kobo from oil revenue that goes to the Federal government, 13 percent goes to the South-South states?
If you calculate the amount of money they get, forget the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), it is much and development is non-existent in those states. As regards the Nigerian revenue system, it was not introduced by me, but by late Professor Pius Okigbo, who headed the Federal Government panel and whose recommendation led to the adoption the formula of 1980 or 1981.
So, are you saying Okigbo did not know what he was doing or he was against people of the South-South?
Delta State Governor is one of the governors complaining. I do not blame him because how people attain political positions in Nigeria is worrisome. Power in the hands of some of the people that have been appointed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some Sharia group called ANPP, are very dangerous groups and it is like a child with a loaded gun – it is dangerous to himself and a danger to everybody.
What has happened with the ex-governor of Delta state is a manifestation of what I am saying. The first time I set my eyes on James Ibori, he was hanging around Al-Mustapha, I am not saying Al-Mustapha is evil, but Ibori was one of those boys around him and everybody knows. When Obasanjo imposed late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the PDP and now imposed the PDP candidate on the country, he asked Ibori to go and finance Yar’Adua’s campaign.
Then it was convenient because Ibori had enough money to share and that was the greatest disservice Obasanjo and Ibori did to this country. And when Ibori came into the presidency, he was behaving like the Almighty God. Today, Ibori is a prisoner in a London jail. This has been said many times by EFCC that the South-South governors are the most corrupt governors Nigeria have and it is on record.
So, it means money has been given people, they have abused it and they will not render account to anybody and they do not believe they can be held responsible by the people that gave them the money. They believe they should continue to be given the money even though giving them that money is perverse; it contradicts our own institution, International Law and the judgment of the highest court.
Going by your comments, what is your take on clamour for Sovereign National Conference (SNC), will you say these are the reasons you feel the North is ready for break up?
(Cuts in) No, no, no. Look, for a very long time since 1992, when Babangida organized an election and turned round to reject the result of that election, the South-West particularly Lagos State has been the base for people calling for a Sovereign National Conference and any attempt to be more concrete by what they meant by SNC falls on deaf ears. It seems they are trying to play on the intelligence of people.
For me, nobody can play on my intelligence, I might not be a millionaire, but I think I am old enough to know my rights. These arguments have been going on for 20 years, nobody has been able to give these people adequate reply and they have not been able give in concrete terms what they want.
Some of these people are presenting the North as if we are the ones against the SNC because we are liabilities or parasites.
Calling a Northerner a parasite or seeing us as liability or enemy of progress is so bitter and we know we are not parasites. I went to the elementary school in the South and I can’t remember anybody beating me in any examination, so how can you call me a parasite? I have always been at the fore-front of everything I have been in my life.
Even in culture, insulting people is an ultimate sin. You cannot call millions of people parasites. As it stands today, anybody who imagines that he will build Nigeria in spite of the wishes of the North is dreaming. We are not lousy, we are decent and quiet people, we only talk when we have to. We said, look, this is getting embarrassing and does it mean that without the South we cannot survive? That without the so called oil or without Lagos we cannot survive. And does it mean everything produced in Lagos is consumed by Lagosians? Go and check your facts.
On the whole, we will be better off if push comes to shove, we will go our way because if Nigeria breaks up, God forbid, Northern Nigeria is the only zone that can remain one, the South mainly the Yorubas will go their way, the Igbos will go their way. So, these things that have been said from NADECO to PRONACO, to all of these groups, we realized that the Sovereign National Conference they have been talking about is a Sovereign Tribal Conference. If they want that, no problem, at least we have identified different tribes in the North but what will be the sitting arrangement?
Appointment with Enahoro
Are you saying me from Kano, Nasarawa LGA which I now reside, if there is going to be SNC, I will represent the Hausa/Fulani of the whole of Northern Nigeria while an Ijaw man in a settlement called Yenegoa will also represent the Ijaws? Are you truly democrats?
To show how serious I am, I booked an appointment with Chief Anthony Enahoro through a young man called Shettima, I flew down to Lagos for two days and I realized that everything that we have said about them concerning the SNC was true. And Anthony Enahoro himself knew that was the agenda but he did not have the courage to come out and say it.
I also conducted a research and realized that the idea of SNC has not worked in some African countries like Benin Republic, Niger Republic, DR Congo and Republic of Congo. And in our country, SNC is presented corruptly and fraudulently by the people here in Lagos as if once you have the SNC, all our problems will be solved.
To be continued.