Junaid Mohammed, elder statesman and Second Republic House of Representatives member in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on latest developments in the polity especially the recent Supreme Court rulings, lessons from Nigerian Civil war and other issues. Excerpts:
The Federal Government and the six governors of South West states last week agreed to formalise the South West Security Network, Operation Amotekun. What is your perspective on this?
In politics, there is always the possibility of give and take. If there is mutual understanding among political actors, the sooner they come together, understand and address the concerns of what is agitating their minds, the better. This meeting between the governors and the Vice- President should have come much earlier before the announcement by the President, the governors or the Attorney-General of the Federation because you don’t solve problems on the pages of newspapers or by the airwaves. As far as I am concerned, it is a good development and I sincerely hope both sides are sincere about what they say has been agreed upon and there was no room left for misunderstanding.
You warned that the issue of Amotekun if not properly handled may lead to civil war, don’t you think other regions may want to agitate for their own security outfit now that the federal government has given the South-West the nod to go ahead?
I am not in a position to address that. I think that question should be directed to the President or the Federal Government. I was not the only one who warned that the issue of Amotekun if not properly handled can lead to another civil war. There were other people also. If the federal government is confident that they can handle it properly and there won’t be any issue, then goodluck to them.
Do you think Nigeria is more divided under this present democratic dispensation?
Yes! There are number of reasons responsible for that but the truth of the matter is that the leadership at every level is unimpressive and people defer to their leaders when they have confidence in the competence of the leaders and the value of their judgment. When people feel they can’t rely on the judgment of their leaders, they will resort to some of these activities and they are prepared to fight in their own corner no matter what the consequences are. Clearly, there is a leadership vacuum in the country at all levels, be it at the political level, security level, economic level and others. So, let’s hope some people will be awake to their responsibilities and see what can be done in the interest of the country.
What is your take on the recent judgments by the Supreme Court, especially on the Imo governorship election which led to the ouster of Emeka Ihedioha?
I have never been impressed by the Nigerian judiciary especially in this republic from 1999 till date. If you remember, there was the issue of the governorship of Adamawa state which was won actually by Atiku Abubakar. But when Atiku was picked as running mate to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Supreme Court in its wisdom or lack of wisdom, decided not to ask for a fresh election but decided that Atiku’s running mate, Boni Haruna who won the election with Atiku is going to be the governor, even though Atiku has not been sworn in as governor then. That to me was a warning signal that we will be stupid to expect anything different from the judiciary at whatever level.
The case in Imo as I understood it was that Uzodinma claimed that his voting tally was shortchanged in 388 polling units and he felt that those votes should have made him the winner and the Supreme Court admitted that and now he has emerged as the victor. Now, we haven’t seen the detailed pronouncement of the court on that issue and we are also not privileged to see the submission. Whether Uzodinma came first or last, if the decision was just putting back votes which have been disqualified rightly or wrongly by INEC back into the counting which then led to Uzodinma being declared the winner, I cannot say if that is right or wrong, but I know that this is not the first time this is happening.
In all this, I believe it is in the interest of the country to pay closer attention to the manner elections are conducted in the country especially as regards the integrity of the electoral umpire, INEC.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state recently said APC may collapse after President Buhari leaves office, do you think this has any implication for the country?
Honestly, it is totally irrelevant to me whether the APC survives beyond 2023 or not. I don’t know what is Fayemi’s basis for making that statement but I know that Buhari himself while addressing the last NEC meeting they had said APC may not survive after his tenure. If Buhari himself said so, what is the big deal about Fayemi echoing same thing? If the APC or PDP cease to exist tomorrow, what benefit or effect will it have on the country? I don’t think there will be any effect. Besides, when you look at the number of parties in the country, nearly 100 of them, if the PDP or APC dies today, there are other numbers of political parties who will take over their positions. But the issue is, why do you have political parties? Political parties are supposed to aggregate and articulate interests- economic, social and others. Clearly, neither the APC, PDP nor any of the other political parties have honestly aggregated the interests of whoever they claim to represent. So, what is the big deal if the APC, PD PDP or even all the political parties disappear tomorrow? They have not brought anything of value to the politics of this country.
50 years after the civil war, do you think any lesson has been learnt?
The political leaders of the South- East, not the Igbos themselves as a people have not learnt anything from the civil war. They still believe that they can only gain political power through blackmail, very ugly mode of campaigning and presenting themselves as super eggs and therefore, nobody is important. They owe nobody any commitment and they don’t have to reconcile with anybody and they want power. They believe that mistakenly, I must say that the Yorubas brought Obasanjo and got power and brought themselves into Nigeria’s mainstream because they did the same thing through agitations, insults and others. Obasanjo became President in spite of his ethnic group. It was the rest of Nigeria that actually won the election for Obasanjo and not he himself or his tribesmen. I don’t know of any Nigeria who can claim to have won election solely by depending on his own tribesmen. But if they don’t want to understand this and believe it is only their tribesmen and only their use of terrible language than actually deliver to them the presidency, then goodluck to them.