Junaidu Mohammed: Nightfall for stormy petrel from the Sahel

By Leo Sobechi (Lagos) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja) |   22 February 2021   |   4:20 am  

Junaid Mohammed


•His last plea to NASS

Cynicism. Nonchalance. Sarcasm. Belligerence. Dr. Junaid Mohammed brought all those to bear on his politics, as he stoutly spoke truth to power. He was constant and consistent in his interventions in national political discourse. He was a ready resource to journalists, especially when issues on Nigeria’s convoluted presidential democracy are involved.
 
His journey into Nigeria’s commentariat brought with it the search for an egalitarian society within a dysfunctional federation. Perhaps, on account of the fact that he was born in the Dala area of Kano, where the General Hospital is situated, Mohammed grew up and decided to study medicine in Russia.
 
Upon his return to Nigeria, he joined politics and decided to cast anchor with the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the hot bed of social welfare political ideology in the region. It was on that platform that he emerged to represent the Dala Federal Constituency in the Second Republic’s House of Representatives.

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After the sacking of the Second Republic by the Buhari/Idiagbon junta in 1983, Dr. Mohammed remained in politics, but his participation was limited to party management and mobilization. His last active political participation was two years ago, when he emerged as vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a position he combined with his office as the party’s national deputy chairman.
 
The SDP presidential candidate in the election, a former Cross River State governor, Mr. Donald Duke, while commenting on the former legislator’s selection as his running mate, said that blessed with a in-depth knowledge and experience,  “Dr. Junaid Mohammed brings to the SDP presidential ticket geopolitical reach and acceptance, and in-depth knowledge of Nigerian politics.”  
 
Prior to those competitive partisan positions, Mohammed had remained a combatant, albeit, lone ranger, howling in the political wilderness. He was fearless, caught between speaking truth to power and contradictions of ethnicised politics of the country. The popular impression among many Nigerians after his passing was that he would be missed, especially coming at a time when his fellow tribesmen of fearless commentators, including Balarabe Musa, have thinned out. 
 
From being a vocal supporter for power shift and the anticipated Buhari Presidency in 2015, Mohammed changed course, not long after the former military head of state mounted the saddle as a democratically elected president.
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Remembering his progressive cum-welfarist ideological background, the medical doctor-turned politician became a thorn in the flesh of President Buhari, observing publicly early in the life of the administration that President Buhari, and particularly his anti-corruption battle, would not win laurels or cut ice as a national programme.

Fire splutter
MOST of the time, Mohammed’s interventions come forcefully, tingling the ears of those who hear or read his postulations, because they sound quite uncharacteristically from a member of northern Nigeria intelligentsia at a time a northerner is holding the reins of political power. 
 
Such was the independent mindedness of the former lawmaker that late last year, when the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rt. Rev. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, delivered his fiery Yuletide homily indicting the Buhari presidency, Mohammed align firmly with the observations of the Catholic prelate.    
 
Commenting on Bishop Kukah’s depositions, Mohammed had stated: “I have to admit, the core issue he raised about nepotism is real, and of course, marginalisation of some certain sections of the country is real and that nepotism is in favour of people that are close to Buhari, particularly his friends, cronies, relations and in-laws. Over 99 per cent of the appointments Buhari made are not based on merit.” 
   
Early last year, when the Federal Government shut down the country’s land borders, Mohammed wondered what that government’s policy was intended to achieve, even as he noted that rice import that was being prohibited was continuing in the north, yet at exorbitant price. 
 
Before then also, the Second Republic lawmaker had blown the whistle on the profile of President Buhari’s appointments, alleging that the president was ennobling mediocrity in form of nepotism at the expense of merit.   
 
Just about the same time, the former lawmaker told The Guardian that the move by Kano State Government to depose the then Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sunusi III, was not a big deal, asserting that the emir was after all an appointee of the government.  
 
With his demise, the voice of authority against impunity and excesses in the north has gone silent. It would take time to find a replacement. Although Dr. Mohammed belonged to the elite, he espoused a pan-Nigeria view, but never for one moment forgot that he was a product of Kano talakawa politics.  
 
What appeared, as his last intervention, was the plea to the National Assembly, his constituency, to stop President Buhari’s attempt to garland former service chiefs with ambassadorial appointments despite their less than excellent performance in tackling insecurity in the country.

Last plea to his constituency
TWO weeks before his death, Mohammed spoke to The Guardian on the rationale for elevating retired service chiefs to ambassadorial positions.

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His words: “What Buhari did was arrogant and he showed that he had no respect for the rule of law; he is not a democrat. He is still a military dictator and then he does not respect the public opinion of Nigerians. If you are ruling a country and you don’t respect the people of that country, then we are in a very serious trouble.  
 
“The National Assembly should come to the aid of this country and save us the embarrassment by enacting a law that forbids generals, especially service chiefs from being involved in political appointments until after a certain number of years. This is what the Americans have and it has served them very well.

“If, however, they are determined to exercise their mandate of checking the executive, they should refuse to ratify the appointment of these ambassadors. That is the ideal thing to do, but given the fact that most of the Senators and House of Representatives members are corrupt and they don’t even know their rights, they are there just to make money. I’m not sure they can do the right thing. But the least they can do is to refuse to ratify their appointment.

“They sat down and designed retirement benefits which is over and above what even former presidents have. So you can see that there is no justification for them to take the job unless they want to continue to embarrass the country.  

“The service chiefs themselves, all of who I suppose are billionaires, should please decline the appointment, quietly go somewhere else in Nigeria or abroad to go and enjoy their filthy wealth. By so doing, they will save Nigeria and Buhari himself unnecessary embarrassment and tension. Buhari, his ministers and appointees, are massively unpopular.
 
“So as far as I am concerned, the issues arising by Buhari’s appointment of the service chiefs as ambassadors can be summarised as follows: it was clearly an affront to public opinion. These General have been accused of corruptly enriching themselves; they are irresponsible and incompetent, particularly the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Baratai, and there is nothing to show apart from the Airforce One. The others have nothing to show in terms of performance in the positions they have just been asked to vacate.

“These are people given certain positions and they failed woefully and yet given additional reward. I don’t know of any country that can move forward with this kind of attitude and mindset of the top leadership, in this case, Buhari. 
 
“For a service chief to go through the revolving door to be an ambassador, you have to make sure you investigate his performance. And these are people that had been unnecessarily allowed to stay in their positions for five years. Now, it is only fair that they are investigated because they were not accountable to anybody as money goes straight from the treasury to their personal bank accounts.  
 
“You have to make sure that the country is not shortchanged, because if you don’t do that then you have yourself to blame. Secondly, if you have to send an ambassador who comes from a military background, you have to make sure you consult the country you want to send him; you get what they call agreement before the posting, because some of the countries you want to send them to may not want to accept them. And there is also a history we have to consider in sending some of these retired Generals to diplomatic posts.  
 

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“During the previous time Buhari was in power, the military intelligence tried to abduct Umaru Dikko in London and put him in a box and bring him to Nigeria, even though they had not charged him to court for anything. Unfortunately, the British intelligence service and the police got alerted after they succeeded in putting him in a crate but they did not succeed in putting him in the plane and so he was freed in London and that brought a lot of bad blood between Nigeria and Britain and as a result of which they expelled our Ambassador then, Maj.-Gen. Anthony Hananiya.  
 
“So, we have to be very careful even though there were others who had gone to serve without much problem. For example, Col. Sani Bello served in Harare, who used to be a military administrator during Buhari time. We also had Maj.-Gen. Ogundipe, who served as High Commissioner in London during the civil war when Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who was his junior became head of state.   

“The British were consulted before he was assigned to serve as an envoy in London. Then too was Brig. George Kurubo, who was also senior to Gowon and was sent to Russia to serve as an Ambassador.”

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