Dr. Junaid Mohammed is a former member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic and a delegate of the 2014 National Conference. He speaks with Onwuka NZESHI on the state of the nation and a wide range of issue
The South-West States recently declared public holidays to mark 24 years of June 12. What is your view on this annual ritual ?
I think that there has been so much fraud and blatant lies being peddled in favour of June 12 and even the rediscovery of the virtues of Chief MKO Abiola. But if you compare the kind of votes he got from Ogun, Oyo , Lagos and other places in the South-West with what he got from the North, you will find out that Abiola was not even the choice of the South-West. They only rediscovered Abiola when they wanted to commence their NADECO agitation.
You now find out that those who did not vote for him later filed out in the name of ethnic or religious assertiveness to say it was the North that denied Abiola power. Instead of blaming the military in whose hands Abiola died, they are blaming the North. This was how the North that left the presidential contest for them 1999 election and Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae became tbe candidates for tbe election just to appease the South-West.
The irony is that those people who are making the most noise about Abiola were not supporters of Abiola at the beginning. As far as I am concerned, any nation that believes in remembering only the bad aspects of its history is a doomed nation.
What about May 29 which is celebrated as Democracy Day?
It is another fraud, this time by Obasanjo himself. As far as I am concerned if you talk about democracy, there are days in history which are significant, convenient, reasonable and can be used to help unite the country. In my view, May 29 is not one of them because the day Obasanjo came to power has nothing to do with the history of Nigeria. In fact he chose that date simply because he wanted to perpetuate himself in power. As far as I am concerned we don’t need those dates. There are many other dates that we can choose but not May 29 and certainly not June 12.
If the South-West could hold on to June 12, what is wrong in the South -East observing May 30?
This is what I was saying that the Yorubas are hanging on to June 12 for which they contributed nothing; absolutely’ nothing. They did not do anything for the man, and even after his death in the hands of the military, they did not come out to do anything. They only discovered the potency of the man when they wanted to use him for the purposes of their agitation. If the Igbos want to continue along that line, I think they are only doing so to perpetuate a myth that the Igbos were shortchanged when in fact it was the Igbos that started the whole palaver for everybody.
Some political leaders believe all these problems of ethnic nationalism would be resolved if Nigeria is restructured. Do you agree?
Are you sure that those who are talking about restructuring including the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar knows what they really want? I was a member of the National Conference, representing Kano. We have challenged Atiku and other people clamouring for restructuring to tell us what they mean. If we who were at the 2014 could not discern what is meant by restructuring, it shows glaring that Atiku and others are just out for mischief. I can say this without fear or favour, that Atiku is now being manipulated by his Igbo wife and her relations who are now his think tank and who are pushing him on this so-called restructuring.
What was discussed at the 2014 Conference was that the Igbos demanded an additional state but they could not tell uswhere they wanted the state to be created. I remember in one of my contributions at the plenary, I said that when the first set of states were being created on May 27, 1967, a state called East Central State and the late Chief Ukpabi Asika was named as the governor and another one, called Kano State was also created in the North.
At that time and even today, Kano was bigger in landmass and bigger in even population than East Central State. However, because of the subsequent creation of states and local governments, today, there are five states out of the former East Central State but there are only two states out of Kano. Today, the population of Kano and Jigawa states are more than the population of the five South Eastern states .
The fact is that the concept of restructuring at the National Conference was hatched by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, paid for by his administration and it was meant to be an anti- north agenda. The South-West, South- South and South-East a came with the agitation under the guise of fiscal federalism. One of those things they brought along with restructuring was the state police. Imagine if we had state police today and northern youths have demanded that Igbos in the North should go back to the East and somehow there is some confrontation somewhere. Could you imagine what could have happened? Now these are some of the questions you need to ask Atiku and Ohaneze and others who are demanding for restructuring and other things.
Nigeria is not like any other country in the world. If they want to make palaver, they should tell us what they mean by restructuring and where they want to restructure .
I know that the Igbos are agitated that the. North-West has seven states while they have only five states but there are constitutional processes for creating states. They should follow the procedure in pursuing their demand for additional states.
What do you have to say about the quit notice issued by northern youths to the Igbos?
Is this the first to you ;that some people felt concerned about the future of the country? Is this the first time that a group of people, known and unknown have taken to making absolutely dramatic and incendiary , irresponsible statements about the future of the country? First, I am not a youth , I am now 67 years old and by any standard in any society or culture, I can not be described as a youth even though some old men in Nigeria are so shameless that even in their 70s and 80s they still themselves youths, because they’ve certain political advantages from it. I am not one of those people. Even when I was in the supposed age bracket, I never claimed to be a youth leader or to be a youth.
I have gone into politics where I thought that the people and the leaders who were in that party, had something to offer me and something to offer the country, I have never gone into any undertaking by simply saying that I am a youth. I ascribe no special qualities to anybody who calls himself a youth.
Having said that, I must admit that the real issue in Nigeria today has been the irresponsibility of the people who are supporting the Indigenous People of Biafra
(IPOB) and its leader Nnamdi Kanu. It is clear that this nonentity who is a nobody in Igboland is being supported by the Igbo political elite. They and some Igbos in the diaspora are the ones supporting him, they are financing him and I find that particularly disturbing because if people do not learn from their history, they are condemned to continue to make the same mistakes they made in the past.
You know how the Civil War came about? The war came precise because some Igbo Generals and some Igbo politicians felt emboldened to take on the Federal Government of Nigeria. When they could not win elections, they now took it upon themselves to go and eliminate wholesale other political leaders, military leaders, economic leaders in other parts of the country. This in turn brought about the revenge coup and the pogrom. Thereafter, everybody knew that we were headed for a civil war. Now , if this same people who were responsible for the first coup that triggered other chain reactions still feel that they could still use the same tactics to squeeze certain concessions from the rest of Nigeria, then there must be something fundamentally wrong either with them or with us. In a democracy, majority cannot be wrong. So if the Igbo political elite think that they can start this kind of game at this late hour of the day and imagine that they can win, we will all wait and see.
I have been talking to quite a number of them and judging from the way they behaved, I am convinced that they know they are on the wrong path but somehow they believe that, in their own thinking , the Yorubas did it and succeeded that’s why Obasanjo got the presidency and they believe that the Ijaws also succeeded because that was how Goodluck Jonathan got to the presidency. But the facts do not confirm what they are thinking or saying” , because we all know that if Obasanjo had relied on Yorubas votes, he would never have been the President of Nigeria. If Abiola had relied on Yoruba votes, he would never have won the election of June 12, 1993. So let us be very clear; it wasn’t Yoruba blackmail but Obasanjo’s personal quality of reaching out to other Nigerians and make them feel comfortable and relaxed that made the military handover power to him in 1999.
The system was so manipulated that the two major political parties had to present two Yorubas as their presidential candidates such that whatever happened, a Yoruba man was guarranteed to emerge president of Nigeria.
As for Jonathan, it was a different thing because we had this insane thing called zoning and rotation. Now for whatever reasons, Obasanjo manipulated Umaru Yar’ Adua into the presudency; he also manipulated Goodluck Jonathan into becoming the Vice Presidency. Unfortunately, Yar Adua was not in good health and upon his demise, Jonathan had to step in, otherwise there was going to be anarchy. Subsequently, he won an election by reneging on the promise he made when he started that he was only going to complete the term of Yar ‘ Adua… So except Igbos are reading from what they perceive was the Yoruba or the Ijaw text, the fact is that what they are doing is misreading of the text because the facts don’t support what they are saying.
Having had to pay a very high price for what is the present Nigeria, they should be very cautious about what they do and how they go about doing it.
In addition, if you look at the stark realities of today, who needs who? Is it the Igbos who need Nigeria or is it Nigeria that needs the Igbos? Now the answer to that question has been given by no other Igbo personality Late Chief Dennis Osadebe who said that the Igbos need Nigeria , Nigeria does not need the Igbos. He also said that Biafra was a terrible mistake. So as far as I am concerned, whether you agree with the youths or you don’t agree with them, I said that at the beginning that this useless and needless agitation,
Nobody ever head of Nnamdi Kanu or IPOB until about two or three years ago when Radio Biafra which is financed by Igbos in the diaspora came on air. So I can tell you that I don know any of those northern youths; I have not met any one of them. The problem is with those who started this thing in the first place. Have you seen any big man in Igbo land condemning their incendiary language and the people who are supporting him in the Ohaneze. Ndigbo and other people like John Nwodo believe. Let me see how they will do it in our life time.
How do you also see the position of the Northern Elders Forum on the issue?
I said it recently, I will never belong to the Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF), Northern Elders Forum ( NEF) or any similar platforms because they are just like the Afenifere, Odua Peoples Congress ( OPC) and other similar groups. The reason is that they are not organisations, but pressure groups. When I want to go into politics, I want to go straight into politics and campaign for what I believe ; I do not want to hide under a pressure group seeking to derive some political advantages. In otherwirds, don’t talk to me about ACF, don’t talk to me about OPC, Afenifere or Ohaneze Ndigbo because I don’t believe in pressure groups.
What do you think of the endorsement if what the youths said by the Secretary of Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdulhahi ?
I do not speak for Ango; Ango does not speak for me but I want to tell you that the way the spokesperson for the Kaduna State Governor issued a statement that the youths should be arrested was reckless and if they had tried it, perhaps you I would have been talking from two different geopolitical positions today because whether you like what they said or not, it is being massively supported by people in the North.
If that is the situation, don’t you think Nigeria is really heading for trouble?
Absolutely! But I will also like to ask you: Who started the trouble? Unless , we do that then nobody can find out how we can resolve the trouble because when these people were making reckless statements from the South-East, I don’t remember any leader saying, ‘hold on. That is irresponsible’ and nobody has a monopoly of being irresponsible, anybody can choose to be unreasonable and irresponsible and now that’has come to pass. It is now up to the government, if there is a government to cone out and clearly say what has to be said.
It is the responsibility of government to guarantee safety of lives and property and the legitimate business of Nigerians wherever they are in the country. But the unfortunate thing is that there seems to be no government at all; nobody knows what is happening…
In the end it is the people who voted for the President and the Vice President who are marginalized and not the Igbo. I challenge anybody to show me one project that Buhari has initiated in the North since he came.