A Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, speaks with TOBI AWORINDE and WILLIAMS BABALOLA on his resignation as the vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party and the ongoing crisis within the party
Do you think INEC is capable of conducting free and fair elections next month?
The question should have been are they willing to conduct a free and fair election? INEC has everything necessary to conduct a free, fair and credible election. So, talking about capability, they have everything working for them. There is no reason they should not conduct a free and fair election. I am certain the INEC chairman and other top officials of INEC will not want their names soiled. But if they decide to do otherwise and not conduct a free and fair election, the world is watching. History shall also play its role at the right time. But except INEC is not willing to conduct a free and fair election, they have everything at their disposal to make the forthcoming elections a credible one.
Some have raised concerns over President Muhammadu Buhari’s willingness to accept defeat if he loses the re-election bid in February. What is your view about this?
With the information I have with me, I don’t think he is ready. The President seems too desperate for power. For a man that has gone through so many phases of leadership in government, I see no reason why he should still want to hold onto power at all cost. I’m not surprised he failed.
Did you step down as the SDP vice-presidential candidate because you foresaw Donald Duke’s replacement with Jerry Gana?
In my interviews, I do not like focusing attention on myself because I am in this not because of myself. I am in this because I regard there is a challenge. Four political parties with a remnant of one other party decided to form a new political party or to give birth to an old party earlier formed by Yar’Adua and co. It was called the SPP but we renamed it SDP. But we decided that we were going to be loyal to ideology and towards what we believe will be in the best interest of the country. Unfortunately, in the process, some people simply came in. Some came directly, some came through the PDP. These are the kind of people for whatever reason but got disappointed. So, out of disgruntlement they decided to join us, even though they clearly do not believe in what we believe in. We have characters who have been in every government in power.
People like Jerry Gana, who are in politics because of the money, are in politics to make money as far as I am concerned. And there is nothing tangible about their contribution for all the years he has wasted in politics. Because there is nothing to show for all he has done. He has been good at misleading people, especially along religious line and that is very dangerous in a country like ours. Some of them have been implicated in financing and supporting members of Boko Haram. These are not the kind of people we want to share our political platform with. Some of them have already anointed themselves as preferential candidates. Some have appointed, not only themselves, but they have decided other people are going to hold certain positions in the party, as far as they are concerned. They feel they are the alpha and omega of the party and what they wanted to happen is what has happened.
I did not submit my name for the positions I occupy in the party. As a matter of fact, when I was offered, I rejected it. But I was persuaded and told it was going to be a temporary thing (and that) ‘when the time comes for the convention, the convention will have a full choice to decide who will want to occupy these key positions.’ During the convention, I was inadvertently absent, but the absence of one individual cannot determine the fate of the convention. For all I care, there was a convention. Jerry Gana, who was present and came with a paid crowd, came in second in the election. He conceded initially but came back later and said he was going to sue the party, Donald Duke and others. Many people in the party visited him and told him his action was a very bad way to start a new party. He had conceded publicly and congratulated the young man who won the election, so why go into this rigmarole? What did he stand to gain by creating so much confusion in the party? And already, his name is such a bad one to learned people within the political class and within the ordinary people who are going to vote. We need to build a party that has some credibility and can go a long way.
We are here today; we might not be here tomorrow or the day after. He conceded and still went back to court. Of course, he got the judgment. But in Nigeria, when you get a judgment, it doesn’t mean you are right. Everyone knows the level of credibility in the Nigerian judiciary. The two of them are in court. I have resigned my position as the National Chairman (North-West) of the party and I have also resigned as the running mate to Donald Duke. Before Duke called me and asked me to accept the position, I met him only once in my entire life. He pressurised me and went through quite a number of people in the party. But then I realised the same people creating problems for the party had already installed their voice in the party secretariat in Abuja. These people are up to no good. They are lying, involving themselves in corrupt practices, selling nomination forms and claiming to be leaders of the party in certain states when in fact there was no convention. It was too much for me, so I resigned. Although I have resigned my positions in the party, I still remain a member of the party. We have a meeting by Friday but I won’t be in attendance because I got myself messed up at Abuja by the flight situation. I overstayed my welcome in Abuja for two days and I had to travel back by train and then by road from Kaduna to Kano. And now that the government of the day under Fashola is busy breaking the road in an attempt to convince us that they are the greatest party this country has ever had. And instead of improving the road, people are dying daily.
There are claims that after resigning your positions in your party, you are supporting the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar. How true is this?
That is arrant nonsense! If I didn’t support the PDP when it was the PDP during the years it was led by Obasanjo, what will attract me to the PDP now? Do I look like somebody who can be in the PDP? Do I look like someone who wants to be in a party that wants to wrestle power to make money? I think that is rather unfair to me. I am involved in Northern Elders Forum led by Professor Ango Abdullahi. Ango is not a member of the PDP. Why will I be a member of the SDP and only after resignation from top position say I want to support the candidate of the PDP? Yes, I don’t support Buhari, but I don’t see Atiku as the alternative and I said so publicly. Although I believe Buhari has failed but the solution is not to bring back the PDP or Atiku. Whether I’m aggrieved or not, I have been known for been consistent since I joined politics over 40 years ago. When these parties were formed, I never showed any indication even with 95 per cent of the people I grew with trooping in.
What are your thoughts on Chief Olu Falae’s pronouncement that the SDP members should not attend Jerry Gana’s campaign?
It is absolutely within Chief Falae’s power to make that pronouncement. He is still the national chairman of the party; he is carrying massive responsibility as the chairman. He must also see the truth and say the truth. And I have known Olu Falae since the 70s when he was the secretary to the government of the federation. I believe it was the right thing to do. A statesman of his calibre cannot afford to fold his arms when the party is about to be hijacked by political prostitutes. The matter has been appealed by the party and also by the candidate. As long as the matter is in court, Jerry Gana cannot be pronounced as the candidate of the party. If the judiciary, as usual, pronounces him the presidential candidate, of course, I will let him be the presidential candidate of the party. But I want to see how he wins the election even in his village.
President Buhari, during his campaign in Uyo, said his administration had make significant progress in the counter-insurgency campaign. How do you react to this claim?
At the beginning, there was indication that the government was serious and was sincere. But since 2015, the fight against insurgency has become a prolong litany of failure. Everything attached has failed, as far as I am concerned. If this is to be so, it is the failure by Buhari, by the generals that is to be remembered whenever history remembers this performance in the North. Secondly, Buhari’s idea of retaining generals indefinitely, not because they are doing well but because they are not doing well is not an indication of a character or general that knows what he is talking about. As far as I am concerned, they have failed woefully and that is not what I want. I am aware that several generals are due for retirement and the present day government is still keeping them in service for only Buhari and the generals’ concern. When a person has reached the end of his productivity, you should please ask that person to go. You don’t wait until he either collapses or become a public nuisance in the service. And I know that is the case with most of the generals and most of the service chiefs. As far as I am concerned, it is not in the interest of the fight against terrorism, it is not in the interest of the country and it is not in the interest of professionalism in the armed forces. I believe that the armed forces, not only in the North, but everywhere in the country, stands to gain a lot if they are given leaders with fresh ideas and new blood. I don’t believe this country has been served any better by retaining Buratai and co. It will be better for them to go, the sooner they go, the better.