Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohamed, has warned those still calling for the implementation of the 2014 constitutional conference report to stop troubling themselves as that will never be done at all. Dr. Mohammed in this interview with VINCENT KALU, emphasised that former President Goodluck Jonathan had already written a constitution and wanted them to rubber stamp it, but those of them from the North showed him how to play politics. He said those calling for the nation’s breakup are asking for the impossible.
How do you assess the current state of the nation?
It is one of hopelessness and despondency. This country has never been so bad. We have people in charge, who are completely incapable, incompetent, thoroughly inept and thoroughly dishonourable. I’m now 70 years old, I have been politically conscious from the time I was ten years because I come from a political family. Within the last 50 years of my life; in fact from 1970, I have never seen Nigeria in this kind of hopelessness. One, the economy is in tatters; secondly, the security is absolutely messy and lousy; thirdly, there is nothing you can call leadership, the political class is bankrupt and irresponsible, and we are in a situation whereby there is so much rancor and disharmony that you may ask, ‘if you are in a desperate situation who do you run to?’ It is not the government because they have nothing to offer. We have a situation whereby we spend more time quarreling about who will be the next leader, who will take what position, who will be next governor, rather than the actual governance. If the nation’s political class or the elites have nothing to offer other than quarrels among themselves, you can see that clearly, the nation is doomed, and there is nothing to celebrate. There is a lot to feel disgusted in the way this country is governed.
Every problem has a solution. How does the country come out of these problems you have highlighted?
First and foremost, there can never be a solution to any problem without adequate, competent and effective governance. If a nation is not governed effectively, there is no way you can change that nation, we have been groping in the dark for too long. From 1960 when we became independent up to present day, we have had some elusive intervals when we had leaders that gave us hope, but that vanished either through assassination, coups or attempted coups, and every time we have leaders, we thought they could justify the confidence reposed in them, but they turn out to be massive disappointment; they turn out to be liars, corrupt, nepotistic people, who do not care about the country, and who imagine that somehow, by playing the media against the rest of the country; playing those who are privileged against the rest of us who are not privileged, that they will somehow win loyalists, and unfortunately, they have not been able.
The country is so charged, so tense that I imagine somehow that you can strike a stick of matches on it, and then conflagration will ensue. That is very unfortunate for the country, and unfortunately, I see no way out, especially with the current people who are now in charge because all their lies have been denigrated; everything we have been told has not happened, in fact, it is getting worse. If a nation has a government that has only one agenda item, the moment that agenda is quenched, the entire government loses credibility and without credibility, there is no way you can do anything. If a government comes in to fight corruption and somehow, some of the worst corrupt elements are part of the government, or related to those who are in the government, you can see that there is no hope.
Talking about solutions to the nation’s problems, former Kaduna governor, Balarabe Musa, recently, proposed breaking the country into six zones, which should be the federating units, and devolution of powers. What is your take on this?
What he was talking about is that the country should be broken up completely; why didn’t he come and say straight away, ‘break up the country’. Forget about what he called the federating units because the federating units in Nigeria didn’t create itself; not that they voluntarily came together and formed a country called Nigeria. Coming together of Nigeria was done at the instance of the colonial powers, and if you want to now break it, you have to go back to the period that preceded the colonial powers, and I begin to ask, what are the constituent units? Nigeria came to being by the colonial powers bringing the North and South together in 1914, and you now come to say, let us break what emerged from 1914 and after, and he is also telling us that we are going to do it on the basis of the current six geopolitical zones, he has to tell us the basis. Without basis, it turns out to be ridiculous remedy you can imagine. We had 12 states as federating units, we had 21, then 23 and now 36, no reason can one advance to persuade the people of this country that these six zones are the most prudent structures that we can have in the country, and no one will listen to that garbage. The man is over 80, how come he never came up with this idea since.
I believe in politics and when the time comes and we have a serious crisis, which we need to put our best foot forward; men with ideas, not those who want to see their names on the pages of newspapers because when we have a crisis, you don’t simply talk of how we break up, but how you come out of the crisis.
What Balarabe Musa was saying isn’t new; it is has been part and parcel of the Southeast for agitation of additional state, local governments and of course agitation for presidency to go to the region. He was not part of the 2014 constitutional conference, I was, and I represented Kano, the largest state in the country. If he wants to now be a propagandist and a demagogue for a section of the country, he can go ahead and do so, but the fact of the matter is that, what he is even canvassing cannot be delivered even in his village in Kaduna.
When he mentioned devolution of powers, has he told you the power that should be devolved? If it’s education, then let me tell you, I’m not in government, but I have information in government. According to the constitutions of Nigeria in 1979 and 1999, primary education and substantial part of secondary education are supposed to be the responsibilities of state and local governments, but unfortunately, they took or stole the money meant from primary and secondary education. So, whoever was in charge over the years from 1979 or 1999 to date would have to now come and finance to ensure the running of primary and secondary education, otherwise, the entire education in the country would collapse. The federal government had to create parastatals to run education because the states would not do it if the money is given to them. What the law says is important to adhere to, to avoid anarchy, but at the same time, it is important to realise that in addition to what the law says, you have to look at what is practical, and how to go about it. Do you deny the country education simply because we have irresponsible governors, and irresponsible local government chairmen and their councilors because if the wordings of the constitution were to be adhered to, none of the state governments would run their education system effectively; they would only steal the money. I don’t go for cheap words or slogans – true federalism, this or that. In actual terms, what does that mean and how does it translate to your lifestyle, to my lifestyle, my security, your security, to social harmony between you and I and other people; these are what I want to hear from people who claim to be politicians; who think they know something.
You said you were a member of the 2014 constitutional conference, why can’t the report be implemented to address some of the problems in the polity?
Yes, I was. In the first place, what was actually submitted to former President Jonathan was not what was agreed by members. Secondly, the legitimacy of the conference and all the recommendations were stillborn; it was a bastard constitutional conference because national conference or constitutional conference is supposed to be a new image for the country itself.
When we went to the conference, we found that its composition has been so skewed that the minority became the majority and vice versa. In the course of the discussion, a lot of things we didn’t discuss or we didn’t agree or accept or didn’t get before were smuggled into the final report. What they said we agreed was not what we agreed. We found that they already had a prepared constitution they wanted us to rubber stamp, and we refused to rubber stamp it and that nearly broke the conference.
So, why must we ratify and enact what we didn’t agree upon? Like I said, the composition was stillborn. It as a bastard constitutional conference put together for the purpose of tenure elongation of Jonathan. You cannot play with the intelligence of 200 million Nigerians. Those who took his money and told him that if only he could hold the conference that his reelection was assured have disappeared into thin air.
If we had a proper constitutional conference arrived at from the basis of national consensus, particularly among the elites, because it’s the elites who go to constitutional conference, then of course, the result could be implemented. You cannot implement the result of something, which was stillborn. So, it was dead on arrival.
Afenifere, Ohanaeze, PANDEFF and Middle Belt Forum, have dragged President Buhari to court over lopsided appointments, what is your view on this?
First and foremost, there is nepotism and there is lopsidedness in the appointments by this present administration, but I also believe that if something should be done, it should be for a certain reasonable time line. Do we take the composition of the federal government from 1979 or 1999 in particular, and see who and who are in each board, each department, each ministry and each agency and we look and see who are the people who are represented and the people who are not represented. You simply can’t sit and say, from the time Buhari came to power, he made such and such appointment. I’m not defending him, but people around him can advance the reason that the people he is appointing now are maybe under represented, but I don’t know; I’m not defending him to say that was right. What I’m saying is that, if you want to do a census, you must do it from a certain timeline agreed and let us see how many people are from which state and from which local government and let us see how many are from what tribe or which town. I must also say, there is a limit to what I can say as regards the matter, because it is subjudice, but if the matter were to be discussed, I would be more than glad for everybody to bring his own case, and let the matter be discussed because I believe if people complain, they must have a reason for that, and they have the right and are entitled also to justice. Beyond that, I’m not prepared to follow people who are nothing but demagogues and who are fighting not what they claim to be fighting for, because if you ask any of them to produce a minister they will bring their own relations; if you ask them to bring people for employment into Customs, CBN, they will bring their relations. Nobody has the right to use the name of Southeast, Middle Belt, PANDEFF, Southwest and what have you to come and generate agitation to drive certain personal advantages. If you want to do it, let us do it in a way that is rational. If you have certain position, you now say, which state or local government is entitled to this position, let it be advertised, and you set the benchmark, and whoever that makes it, is entitled to go forward for an interview, that is how you do things rationally.
It’s In The Interest Of Our Youths To Keep The Peace – President Buhari
Nigerian youths would do well to keep the peace, as it is in their own interest ultimately, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The President spoke Monday at State House, Abuja, while receiving in audience the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, Nigeria’s former Minister of Environment.
“Our own generation is on the last lap, we are exiting,” President Buhari said in response to the recent EndSARS protest, and the mayhem and destruction of public and private property that came in its wake.
“It is in the interest of the youths to keep the peace. They want jobs, infrastructure and development. I have sent a team led by the Chief of Staff (Professor Ibrahim Gambari) to go round the country, talk to traditional rulers, who will then talk to the youths. The views of the youths have been heard,” the President added.
He said that the current administration inherited severe infrastructural deficits, “and that is what we are fighting to correct. We can’t just sit, fold our hands, and do nothing. We are doing our best within the limits of resources.”
President Buhari rued the fact that COVID-19 has shrunk the global economy, noting that “this is something you can’t see, smell, or hear,” but which has wrought devastation on lives and livelihoods round the world.
On climate change, he said Nigeria was concerned about the recharge of the Lake Chad, which has great implications on security, irregular migration, and livelihoods.
The Deputy Secretary-General said she was on a courtesy call with her team to flag interest on challenges that concern the UN, particularly COVID-19, climate change, security, and humanitarian responses to the diverse challenges.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media and Publicity)
November 9, 2020
President Buhari Calls For Support Of Traditional Elders In Addressing Demands Of Nigerian Youths
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja emphasized the imperative of support of traditional rulers in the administration’s determination to address the demands of the country’s youths.
At a meeting in the State House with a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji (Dr) Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the President told the royal fathers that “we have heard the loud cries of our youth and children, and we are attending to their concerns.”
He, however, stressed that “To succeed in all of this, we would require your support and voice to help amplify the message. Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful.”
Describing their “role as guardians of our traditional values and culture” as most critical, the President urged them not to compromise their neutrality “because this is what significantly confers on you, your moral authority and legitimacy.”
According to President Buhari, his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, would lead senior government officials to various parts of the country “and directly engage with you as part of this process. He will be reporting back to me on your various perspectives.
“I want to once again thank you for the role you all have played to calm down our youth with wisdom and authority. By instilling hope and keeping the peace, you have rendered the country great service.”
While warning that “we cannot allow anybody or group to threaten the peace or sabotage these efforts,” the President restated that “strong, transparent efforts are underway to address those rogue elements of the Nigerian Police Force. Simultaneously, the Nigerian Police Force will also undergo much needed reform that covers welfare, working conditions, and code of conduct. That will usher in a more professional workforce.”
Recognizing the primary and important role of the monarchs in helping maintain peace and security in the country, the President expressed delight at their visit “given all that has happened recently in our country.”
While receiving the recommendations of the traditional rulers, he promised to study them and take appropriate action.
President Buhari had earlier drawn the attention of the eminent delegation to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic on the world.
“We find ourselves in very turbulent times, with a global health pandemic that has been incredibly challenging. Economies have been crippled as the response to the pandemic has forced businesses to shut down or devise new means of transacting. For a country like ours, with a large informal economy, our citizens have been particularly hit.”
He noted, however, that his administration has “designed various schemes and taken many measures to soften the impact, despite our own revenue struggles as government,” while recognizing that “more needs to be done to cater to our fellow citizens, not just those in the urban areas but also those in rural areas.”
According to President Buhari, “I am also fully aware that our strong farming belts have been impacted by floods. While we have seen record levels of farm outputs and increased level of fertilizer utilization, government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its agencies is working on how to help bring these farmers some relief.”
Admitting the enormity of these challenges and “our growing youth population,” the President declared:
“There is no hiding place regarding how we should address insecurity concerns, youth unemployment, job creation, boosting industrialization and preparing for a transition into a digital economy.”
Remarks were made by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, while two foremost traditional rulers representing each geo-political zone also attended the meeting.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
November 5, 2020
President Buhari Urges Nigerians To Desist From Decisive Actions , Says Nigeria’s Unity Won At Great Cost – Femi Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Abuja appealed to Nigerians to desist from actions and comments that could jeopardise the unity and progress of the nation.
Launching the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day (AFRD) Emblem and Appeal Fund, President Buhari said this year’s occasion reminds Nigerians of the need to guard jealously the unity of the nation which was won at great cost.
The President, who stressed that ‘‘Nigeria’s strength lies in her diversity’’, honoured the memory of the nation’s fallen heroes and veterans, recounting their sacrifices during the First and Second World Wars, the Nigerian Civil War and Peace Support Operations around the world.
President Buhari also paid tribute to men and women currently engaged in internal security operations, particularly the ongoing fight against insurgency, terrorism and armed banditry in some parts of the country, praising them for remaining steadfast in the difficult task of restoring peace and security despite the coronavirus pandemic.
”We honour the memory of our gallant officers and men who have paid the supreme sacrifice in order to keep the country united as one entity.
”The nation remains grateful for the efforts and sacrifice of the Armed Forces especially in the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges confronting Nigeria.
”The Armed Forces Remembrance Day or Veterans Day as it is known in some parts of the world is an important event observed in commemoration of the end of the Second World War.
”In Commonwealth member countries, the Remembrance Day is observed on 11th November yearly. However, for us the date was changed to 15th January annually to accommodate the commemoration of the end of the Nigerian Civil War,’’ he said.
On security operations in the North West and North Central zones in the country, President Buhari expressed delight at the return of normalcy in some of the areas that previously witnessed security challenges.
”Our dear nation has witnessed numerous security challenges since independence.
”These security threats have undermined Nigeria in the areas of trade, investment and economy, education, health as well as agriculture and frequently denied Nigerians the freedom of movement.
”I am however pleased to state that a lot has been achieved in the Internal Security operations in the North West and North Central zones where in addition to Operations LAFIYA DOLE, HADARIN DAJI, HARBIN KUNAMA, WHIRL STROKE, other operations such as ACCORD, SAHEL SANITY and KATSINA were successfully launched.
”This has led to the return of normalcy in some of the affected areas. However, all hands must be on deck to check attacks on soft targets, ” he said.
The President, who restated that his administration will continue to forge useful alliances with neighbours and friends in the international community for the total defeat of the security threats affecting the sub-region, promised to ensure timely provision of adequate resources and necessary logistics support for the Armed Forces.
President Buhari further pledged that under his watch the Nigeria Armed Forces will operate with the best modern warfare equipment, with welfare issues receiving utmost attention.
”We are quite aware that it is our responsibility to provide a conducive environment that is devoid of security threats.
”I want to re-assure Nigerians that security being one of the pillars of this administration will continue to be at the forefront until peace and security are restored in the country,’’ he said.
The President also used the occasion to reassure Nigerians of his administration’s commitment to creating an environment in which all citizens and foreigners are guaranteed freedom and returns on investments.
He, therefore, urged business enterprises to render discounts and rebates to men and women in uniform as a symbol of appreciation for their sacrifices, saying ‘‘this kind gesture will make life easier for them and deepen their patriotism’’.
On support for families of members of the Armed Forces who died in active service, President Buhari acknowledged that the unfortunate cost of the fight against insurgency and other internal security challenges was the unavoidable loss of lives of some gallant compatriots.
”The reality is that the spouses and defendants of these bread-winners in most cases experience trauma and deprivation. However, we can be of support to them to lighten their burdens especially in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
”I therefore call on all to spare a thought for them and take positive steps to come to their aid,” he said, commending charity organisations engaged in the noble cause of bringing succour to the families of fallen heroes and veterans.
Speaking as the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Legion, the President expressed delighted that the Nigerian legion has continued to be a rallying point of veterans, doing a lot in catering for the welfare of ailing members
”To ensure that our veterans continue to share the comradeship that existed while in Service and that their welfare is adequately catered for, the Federal Government established the Nigerian Legion as well as fully paid all pension arrears of veterans,” he said.
He urged State Governors, who are patrons of Legions in their respective States, as well as Nigerians, to continue to support and participate in the Legion’s initiatives in the areas of transportation, agriculture and housing development.
The President called on Nigerians and other residents in the country to procure and wear the emblems with pride in order to identify with those who laid down their lives for the peace and security of the county.
”I encourage all to donate generously in support of our veterans and dependents of our fallen heroes,” he said.
President Buhari announced a donation of N10 million to the Nigerian Legion.
In his address of welcome, the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd) called on members of the civil society, religious and political leaders, the academia as well as the media to educate and enlighten Nigerians on the need to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of gallant compatriots in uniform.
He also encouraged Nigerians to procure and wear the emblem to boost the morale of serving personnel.
In his remarks, the Chairman Nigerian Legion, Brigadier General Adakole Jones Akpa (Rtd), thanked President Buahri for his unrelenting support to the ex-servicemen, particularly in ensuring the prompt payment of pensions.
Akpa, who also recognized the presence and support of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Service Chiefs, to the Nigerian Legion, said despite the challenges facing the country:
”God is with Nigeria. We should sing the Nigerian song as nobody will sing it for us. ”
During the emblem launch ceremony, the Chairman Nigerian Legion decorated President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo with the 2021 AFRD emblem.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
October 28, 2020↵
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