Muhammad: I blame the elite, political class for where we are

Dr. Junaid Muhammad

Dr. Junaid Muhammad

Dr. Junaid Muhammad is a Kano State-born neurologist and member Federal House of Representatives in the Second Republic. From the termination of Second Republic, he has refused to engage in any serious political activities. However, he does not shy away from public discourse. He spoke with MURTALA MUHAMMED in Kano.
Can we say that we are truly integrated in this country?
MY understanding of national integration has to do with the way we subsume our secondary or tertiary identities to primary identity. We must build a nation, where we accept a paramount identity, that identity is that of being a Nigerian and any other thing in terms of multiplicity of ethnic groups, religions, languages and the likes become secondary. That is the ideal or the goal of national integration.

When you talk about integration, that is not to say we don’t have differences, we really do, but these differences can be subsumed under a large and more holistic national approach. Again, the fact that a nation is made up of several identities does not mean they are not or can’t be integrated. Almost all the countries in the world today have different languages, identities, religions, ethnic and even skin colour, but they are able to manage their integration, by narrowing down all the differences into one or two basic national identities. The question is, if you have problem with identity, because of multiple identities what will be the alternative, you break up? If that is the basis, then that means every country in the world will break up?

However, if we accept to work hard through sensible leadership, through responsible approach and understanding to the acceptance of these identity, blending them together such that it’s not going to constitute threat to national integration, then we can say Nigeria is serious about this issue that will eventually facilitate national growth, development, nation building and harmonious inter relationship.

I am of the view that Nigeria’s lack of integration is, essentially, a political one, because the Nigerian political elite has been thoroughly irresponsible before independence and particularly after the independence. The proof of that was the fact that we have to go into Civil War, which I find totally needless, was a great pointer to the fact that Nigerian leaders have not handled the delicate issues of ethnic balancing, religion tolerance and other variables, that build national harmony and responsible nationhood we aspire to build. For the fact that we are where we are today, is indicative of lack of sincerity of the political class and this is a serious issue to handle.

How do you think government can ensure proper national integration in the country?
Sincerely speaking, I still believe only the government can bring solution to the problem. And only if it is prepared to admit where it has failed and correct its mistake and reverse it, yet there is nothing impossible. Other nations have faced this challenge in the historical period of their existence, some have managed it well, and others have done so terribly, which led to their break up. But in situation where people believe, when they break up that will be the beginning of peace and end of the problem, then they could be making a serious mistake, because they are historically ignorant.

I know of some countries, which have split due to the fact that they could not accommodate and sensibly deal with their differences. After the split, the problem continued. Classical example of that is South Sudan. That Sudan is divided, is history, but the civil war going on now in the South Sudan is more severe than it had ever been in the last 23 years when the war started.

So, tell me, what was the gain in the creation of South Sudan? The country is now a case of basket nation, which cannot feed itself despite being the most fertile land in Africa. And they cannot sell their cattle due to activities of rustlers. That has shown that there is problem. So, splitting a country due to lack of integration is not necessarily a solution.

The problem is that of identity, and I have no doubt in my mind that if by any chance, Nigeria splits, those who feel they were being marginalised, would further suffer marginalisation and those who think they are not better off may regain strength.

Again, most countries that have broken up have not do so peacefully, but rather violently. So, that element of violence is almost unavoidable in a nation that has been in existence as one country for so many years. Nigeria has been in existence since 1914 and now we are in 2016 we need to be very careful not to unleash another civil war and that is up to the political elites. Today we have a nation where some people are investing so much on propaganda to tell their own stories in a very selfish manner not to only blackmail the other part of the country, but to also mislead the world.

What is the way forward?
I have been persuaded all my life that Nigeria has the potential and that the Nigeria project is very important, because Nigeria is the largest single concentration of black people in the whole world. If Nigeria were to collapse today it will seriously effect every black person in the world. I also believe in the positive effect of economic development. The more our population the less burden for national development and national integration. Thirdly I’m also committed to the reasoning that if Nigeria ceases to exist, all of us will be worse of.

If at a point in our history, a region has economic benefit or advantages and others don’t, does that mean the situation will remain forever? For example, as a result of the Middle East war of 1973, the world became enormously dependent on oil. They called it the most cherished commodity in the world, but before that time, there were commodities and after that there would still be commodities. I would rather accept one of the basic principles of one nation one destiny, but we most also decide whether we would live together or submit to some people who feel they have oil and they can blackmail others who don’t.

Will inter tribal marriage enhance national integration?
The fact that I am married to a non-Fulani and non-Hausa does not mean I have enhanced national integration one bit. In the first instance, those people, who believe in marrying outside their regions are people of strong will, who believed they have the right to do what they feel is good for them and also prepare to face the consequences of bearing children with one or second identity. I have seen that in my own daughters and I can assure you I have nothing to be ashamed or afraid about. Now, the ideal that if you don’t marry across tribal or ethnic lines, you threaten national integration does not arise, because we have seen even in same tribal group where marriages are being denied based on religion and other special interests and sentiments. So the whole issue here is not as simple as we may think. But what I felt a threat frustrating our national integration is lack of sense of identification and not personal or individual issue.

How would you react to the case of Ese Oruru, who was allegedly abducted to Kano by Yunusa Yellow?
Are you telling me that that was a tribal marriage? That is where the confusion in the media filtered into the society. What this Yunusa of a person did was to go and steal somebody’s daughter, bring her to Kano and put her in a family way, is that what you call marriage? Look, in my religion and culture, there are certain conditions that must be followed before you get marriage. This Yunusa case is a clear case of criminality and I hope the boy gets jail until the end of his life because he has abused the young lady sexually and that is an insult to me as a Muslim.

But there were insinuation that both of them are in love before the eventually left Bayelsa?
You mean people still don’t know the difference between lust, flirtation and love? Then that means people can easily fall in and out of love. Somebody was taken from Bayelsa without the permission of her parents; I mean that cannot be any marriage. In Islam, we most have somebody who will testify or stand as witness on behalf of the lady’s parents. Did we have that?

What is your take about the agitation from the people of the Niger Delta accusing the Nigerian state of lopsidedness and marginalisation?
First, I want you to be very careful about all these clichés. Yes, I will say there is sense in the agitation of the people of the South South region, except that the allegation about marginalisation is misplaced.

Oil became an important part of our foreign trade in petrol dollars in 1970, but you should know that prior to 1970, there was a country called Nigeria. But it is true poor response by the Nigerian government to address the ecological challenges of the people of Niger Delta.

Are you telling me that that was a tribal marriage? That is where the confusion in the media filtered into the society. What this Yunusa of a person did was to go and steal somebody’s daughter, bring her to Kano and put her in a family way, is that what you call marriage? Look, in my religion and culture, there are certain conditions that must be followed before you get marriage. This Yunusa case is a clear case of criminality and I hope the boy gets jail until the end of his life because he has abused the young lady sexually and that is an insult to me as a Muslim.

Again, the same political leaders from the area are stealing the huge resources being generated from the region. From my experience as a member of Oil Minerals Producing and Development Commission (OMPADEC), the only way to tackle the challenges in that region is to make the problem a national issue and you pick some descent and responsible figures, not necessarily politicians to ensure the development of the area.

Now, we have a situation where former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar approved 13 per cent derivation for the Niger Delta, and since 1998 when the percentage is being collected tell me what has changed in Niger Delta. In addition to that, we have ministry of Niger Delta, we have NDDC charged on the federal budget to fund the Niger Delta, have you seen anything change in the region?

I spent four important years of my life serving OMPADEC for the benefit of the people of Niger Delta, and I am prepared to do so again, but what I will not do is to watch huge resource coming for the region being transferred abroad by the elite in the region and when that money finishes, they start blackmailing other regions for marginalising them.

So, for the people of Niger Delta, they have good ground to agitate for better situation, but they are blackmailing Nigeria for their poor state and failing to blackmail their own elite, who has put them in that precarious situation.

Again, the Southeast is now trying to join in the agitation, but they should tell Nigeria how much oil they generate if it is enough to power a state in their region. Apart from that, the Southeast is asking for additional state, but I ask, where can you situate that state? When we look at the history of the creation of the five eastern states we have today, they all emerged from what we had as eastern region in 1967.

Similarly, two states, Jigawa and Kano, were created out of then Kano province. And as at the time of creating these states, Kano province was bigger than the entire eastern region. So some of these agitations are baseless and they are doing that based on political consideration and not for national integration. Now, let me say this clearly, if the creation of additional states would not be equitable, no state will be created.

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