By Soni Daniel,
Northern Region Editor
Dr Junaid Mohammed, a Second Republic federal lawmaker, was also a member of the 2014 National Conference convoked by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to find solutions to Nigeria’s nagging challenges. Known for speaking his mind on topical issues no matter whose ox is gored, Junaid, a medical doctor turned politician, in this interview, reviews the latest letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari.
What do you make of the latest letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari?
As far as I am concerned, this latest letter written by Obasanjo, who is supposed to be an elder statesman having been the President of this country twice, is most unhelpful and clearly mischievous. Look, for a nation going through not only very traumatic moment but also grappling with economic, security and very many other challenges, Obasanjo’s letter is the least anybody could have done to give the impression that he wants to be perpetually relevant. Yes, it is necessary that people in government need to be told what the mood in the land is and what they need to do in order to satisfy the needs of the citizenry. But I must say that what Obasanjo has done does not, in any way, promote national consciousness and merely tilted to promoting self-interest. His so-called letter was clearly ill-timed, written purposely to inflict maximum damage on the country. For a man in his 80s, who has been blessed with good health and has also benefited from this country more than any other individual that I know of, to come and make the kind of statement he made was clearly an act of disservice.
If you examine some of the issues he touched on such as security and economy, you would discover that Obasanjo was quite economical with the truth. If you look at what he calls Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria, one would see that he is not only ignorant in his view but also mischievous as a former Head of State. I am certain that if Obasanjo’s motive is to use his so-called letters to blackmail the Buhari government, which is not my government because I am not in Buhari’s party, he has failed because these letters are banal, illogical and futile. The so-called letters do not enlighten anybody in or outside Nigeria. I suspect that Obasanjo simply believes that by writing the series of letters to Buhari, he would be able to blackmail the government or the country and get something; perhaps, what he has been craving for all the while, something that is relevant to him. But I can assure him that even within his Yoruba race, he cannot get anything out of them. Obasanjo should be very careful about what he says concerning Fulani herdsmen and land matters because he is one of the biggest owners of land in this country and should know that whatever he says has the potential to influence certain actions.
Again, because of the positions that he has occupied in this country, the former Head of State should be concerned about his actions and utterances. That is why I find what he said outrightly false and condemnable and I believe that someday, he is going to be held to account either in life or perhaps he is going to be called to account by history. I want those who are inciting and heating up the polity to realise that if by their actions and utterances, war breaks out today, all of them would be affected just like other Nigerians. I do not see how they can easily escape the war that their actions can trigger and leave others behind to be roasted. That is why every Nigerian must be extremely careful in what they say and do at this time in Nigeria’s history.
Also read: Insecurity, Herdsmen: Restructuring may no longer save Nigeria, referendum is solution – Annkio-Briggs
Do you think the Fulani tribe has been negatively profiled by some commentators in Nigeria especially in the wake of this controversial RUGA programme which has now been suspended?
Certainly! They have been negatively profiled as people who are causing trouble everywhere when that is not the case. I do not want to say that the Fulani tribe is partly responsible, no; you can see clearly that this thing has taken some time. It was well planned, choreographed and finally unleashed on them. As you can see, those who are now accusing the Fulani of taking their cows everywhere and destroying everything on sight – lives and property – had already prepared their mindset against them and were merely waiting for an opportunity to unleash attacks on them. And the opportunity finally dawned with the killing of last week. As far as I am concerned, the killing of the daughter of Pa Fasoranti, who I know and I have met several times, was very unfortunate but it was a tragedy waiting to happen because the people had already made up their mind, sharpened their propaganda knives to demolish the Fulani people. That unfortunate incident only provided the fillip for them to carry out their premeditated onslaught on the Fulani people. I am sure the attacks will not stop there as long as the antagonists of the Fulani are around and are ready to make the most of every incident against their targets. There are quite a number of people in the military, in business and other aspects of life who have done very well and have actually put their lives on the line to make this country what it is now. Nigeria does not owe its existence to any ethnic group, any political group or any individual. If they claim that they have lost blood as a result of keeping Nigeria one, they should tell us who started the mayhem in the name of the so-called OPC (Odua Peoples Congress) in Lagos State at a time when Obasanjo was in power and later after he left power.
This kind of nonsense does nobody any good. In the course of this altercation with the Fulani wherever it is happening, there have been so many people who have nothing to do with Fulani but have been arrested which means that the ethnic profiling of the Fulani is an ongoing project; the Fulani people have been deliberating marked out because they mistakenly believe that Fulanis are everywhere just because Buhari is the President of Nigeria. Let me tell you, out of the 57 countries in Africa, there are identifiable Fulani settlements, towns and villages in 33. So you cannot tell me that all the people who are misbehaving or are doing something contrary to civilized conduct are Fulani. They are not Fulani and even if they are Fulani, they have nothing to do with Nigeria because the fact that they are Fulani and I am a Fulani does not mean that whatever mayhem you commit, I am responsible for it; nobody can hold me responsible for that. And in Nigeria, we have, for example, his Royal Highness the Lamido of Adamawa, who is the grand patron of Miyetti Allah worldwide. For example, every emir appointed in northern Cameroon, it is he who gives him the turban, the regalia, the sticks he holds throughout life.
When the Lamido travelled to Mali recently, it was the premier of that country who came to welcome him at the airport and because the Lamido is an educated man and he is not politically ambitious, nobody has associated him with any altercations of the Fulani. I also remember that before Buhari joined politics formally in 2002 and contested election in 2003, he was appointed by some persons as the grand patron of Miyetti Allah in Nigeria, that might have been what motivates some of the persons who are trying to embarrass Buhari and I told him so after he wanted to go and see one governor in Ibadan and the governor didn’t want to see him and they went about writing editorials and comments about his involvement. Some of these things have long memories. I don’t believe he has anything to do with Miyetti Allah or whatever they call themselves. But the fact is that whatever an individual does, does not mean that the whole people, the whole race must pay for it, I don’t accept that and, in my view, it is primitive and dangerous.
But what is really the fear of the Fulani in Nigeria?
The primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property. To the extent that they are living here, even if they are not Nigerians, they are entitled to that protection and this is part of international law. Secondly, if they commit any offence, they should be apprehended and arraigned before a court of law. Thirdly, you cannot condemn people and say they are useless; there are some economic benefits from their work and, even if they are useless, it shouldn’t mean they should be allowed to misbehave and people should simply carry out massive propaganda campaign against them and start abusing them by saying they are this or that. We must respect the rule of law, we must give every Nigerian the entitlement granted them by the Constitution and, if we don’t do that, we have no right telling people that somehow they are second class or whatever they do they are up to no good. Every crime committed in any part of the country is now attributed to the Fulani simply because a Fulani man is at the helm of Nigeria’s affairs? This is callous and dangerous.
This may be because some persons believe that they have been over-pampered with key appointments and other incentives by the President although the governor of Kaduna State thinks otherwise.
No, the Buhari government has favoured the South with more key appointments and other incentives than the Fulani, North. What el-Rufai said is nothing but the truth. Even the Presidency has given out documents to prove that more attention has been paid by Buhari to the South than the North. There is no question about that because it is on record. Buhari himself has said so while reacting to the comments coming from all parts of the country about the appointments he made. He confirmed he favoured the South more than he has favoured the North and that most of the important ministries are in the hands of southerners.
But southern people are also complaining that the North has taken everything from the Chief of Staff to the President to the Chief of the Army, the Air Force, IGP and heads of paramilitary agencies.
No, those saying so are either mischievous or running away from the truth because of ulterior motives. Nobody can look at the list of ministers and key appointments such as those of the Central Bank, ministries of finance, Economic planning, power, steel and housing and others and still hold on to such opinion. These things are in the open and are not hidden…in the hands of southerners. And Buhari himself said also that even when he made northerners ministers, most of them were ministers of state; you can go through the entire list and see that an overwhelming number of people who have been appointed, there are very serious complaints from the North about their appointment.
But what do you think is responsible for the spread of banditry, kidnappings and killings across the country at this time in the nation’s history?
The situation is caused by bad politics, politics of hate and destruction.
There is absolutely a clear correlation between politics and the hostilities going on in many parts of the country. Those who are stoking the embers of the crises do so to openly embarrass Buhari and his government so that they will say it is because he is from the North. The whole crisis is triggered by politics and nothing more. Of course, there are people even within the North itself, for example, the governor of Benue State, who has the tendency to blame every problem on either Fulani or Muslims. The governor decides who to blame or not to blame for every crisis depending on who is involved and this is quite unfortunate.
As Obasanjo has suggested, don’t you think that the country therefore urgently needs to convoke another National Conference to address nagging issues?
The suggestion is absolutely meaningless and will not achieve any success if convened by government. It will be an exercise in futility like the previous ones. First, he (Obasanjo) has never participated in any National Conference and on two occasions when I asked him what his take on National Conference is, he said it is a bloody waste of time. He has never believed in any National Conference because he is not a democrat. Secondly, I participated in the last one put together by President Jonathan and I know what happened and I know that the so-called National Conference did not solve any of our problems. In spite of the fact that the National Conference was deliberately put together by Jonathan and his advisers in such a skewed manner that the majority became the minority and vice visa, we still went to the conference and the minority won. If you want to go and solve a political problem, what you do is that you know your history, understand your politics and make sure that you are sincere. Obasanjo has never been sincere on anything in his life, so how do you expect him to put together a conference?
Do you put together a conference by excluding the government in power or the political institutions which have been brought by the government in power by the 2015 and the 2019 elections? For the conference to be meaningful, you will have to have a legislature which is the law-making the body. When Obasanjo was in government he had the resources of the entire country but he couldn’t pull this thing through, how can he do it now when he is an outsider?