2019: This government is fighting a political war — Junaid Mohammed

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Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a member of the Second Republic House of Representatives was at the top of public commentaries in articulating the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2015 elections. Months after the inauguration of Dr. Jonathan’s successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, the same Dr. Mohammed began to dissect the frailties and foibles of the administration.

In this interview, he rebuffs the claim of victory over the Boko Haram insurgency, challenges the sincerity of the administration and says Nigerians on the way forward is for President Buhari to leave quietly. Excerpts:

How would you react to the gale of defections of politicians to different political parties?

It shows you that the polity is not healthy. It is in bad health. It also shows you that in the system of 91 political parties, you cannot get two distinct parties that are in good shape to win an election or lose an election. It shows you that the political system and the country’s judicial system are in bad shape and there cannot be stable political parties in an unstable national political environment.

This is because Buhari and the leadership of APC and those around them made it impossible for Buhari to assume the role of the de facto leader of the party because, in a presidential system, the real leader of the party is not the so-called chairman. It is the President.

How would you react to the prices of nomination forms of the two main political parties especially the APC? President Buhari said he took a loan in 2014 to purchase his form because N27.5 million was too exorbitant for him.

Let me tell you, I have known Buhari since May 1967 when the civil war broke out, through a friend of ours. And one thing I noticed especially since he came into politics, he has always taken liberty with the truth. He has always been economical with the truth and he is very forgetful about what he says.

If you ask him today about what he said yesterday, he can give you a very different answer and attempt to justify it in gabble language. Let me be honest with you; I believe to reduce frivolities, that people who are politically exposed, who are interested in assuming certain political positions should pay a token amount of money.

The purpose is not for the government to recoup its money. So, the idea even the mindset that you try to recoup money for the conduct of electoral process by charging people this kind of outrageous and exorbitant fee is unrealistic, unfair and it does not in any way add credibility to the system and it does not add value to our stability. So, as far as I am concerned, it was wrong then. It is wrong now.

Number two, if an individual either borrows money or steals money or mortgages, whatever he is trying to do in order to go and conduct an election, when he comes in and starts stealing, you should not call him to order.

If you are in the National Assembly at the behest of a governor who was paid N20 million to get in there just for the form in addition to hundreds of millions he’s going to pay; are you really honest and really realistic to imagine that the man just paid that as a joke? He paid money in order to make more money and that is beginning to apply to the presidency itself; to the senators themselves; among them are ex-governors. As far as possible, Nigeria has a duty to attract good people into public service because the destiny of this country may depend on that.

I also believe that in attracting people into service, we accept people of good education and good character. I don’t think that is the case now and we should also have a sense of shame because there are certain things which are legal but which a decent man will not do, not because the law says or forbids it, no.

Buhari doesn’t care about it. Today what is legal today to him, may be illegal tomorrow. What is illegal to him tomorrow, may after tomorrow be legal and to him, the idea of inconsistency, the idea of contradictions does not exist.

Do you agree with some that with the failure to sign the Electoral Act amendment bill that the 2019 election could be at stake?

If he hasn’t signed it, it is bad, very bad. It shows that we are lawless and he has no respect for the rule of law. But I also believe that the election can be held under the previous or the subsisting electoral act. But again, it is a bad sign for our democracy.

Can the National Assembly override the president on that?

They can if they have the numbers. But do you know the game he’s playing which is very dishonourable? He hasn’t formally returned the document to them. Unless the thing has been returned to them, they cannot go and overrule the president because this would mean having to take the vote. And it can be done. But he doesn’t want to return the thing with the reasons we are hearing . And if they decide the reasons are very frivolous, the numbers are there. The constitution is very clear.

Where would you score this administration?

I have done that. I have been consistent. I scored them this way in these areas. I scored them 45 per cent, I think in security, 30 per cent in the management of the economy. I am trying to remember the third aspect I scored them also low.

In all areas I have scored them, there was no area they got more than 40 per cent and I made it clear that they are lying when they said they are succeeding on the Boko Haram issue. They are lying. Boko Haram has become so bold that they are now the ones attacking the army in their new bases, taking over their tanks and personnel vehicles. They are also taking foodstuff from the armed forces.

We have a situation where the top generals who have been leading the army into disgrace are still there and they have their tenure extended every year by Buhari simply because they are the ones he knows or perhaps he has a soft spot for them.

They reclaimed 14 local government areas hitherto occupied by Boko Haram when they came on board.

My friend…how many years ago? Three years in an area you have deserts? If they are reclaiming that, how come Boko Haram insurgents are meeting them at home? If someone cannot guard his house, are you serious to tell me that he has reclaimed 14 local government areas? So please let us stop deceiving ourselves. This government is trying to fight a political war.

Do you think President Buhari will be re-elected in 2019?

If he rigs the election, yes.

How do you mean?

I say if he rigs the election. I agree entirely that he won the election fair and square in 2015 but now, given the state of the economy, given the state of the national security, given the sheer embarrassment he constitutes as the president of Nigeria when he goes outside Nigeria and some of the remarks we hear from him; look at, for example, the utterly meaningless comment he passed to Angela Merkel.

Your wife who has been the closest person to you more than even your children says she will not support you in the subsequent election and she mentioned her reasons and anybody who has been in politics will know that they are very rational reasons. Now you said you don’t want to hear what she says, after all, her job is in the ‘kitchen and the other room.

Do you see PDP returning to power in 2019?

I have never respected and I will never respect PDP as a party but I also believe in a democracy, there must be a peaceful transition. Most of the dangerous practices adopted by APC came from PDP.

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