In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, former Joint House Leader of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as a member of the Defence Committee in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, speaks about the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption war, the arms probe and other national issues. Excerpts:
Critics of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration have latched on to the recent arrest of former Army Chief, Azubuike Ihejerika, to accuse it of partiality. What is your take?
If Nigerians can remember, I said recently week; when one of the four service chiefs, who are being investigated, namely: General Azubuike Ihejirika was arrested by the DSS. I said while the arrest of Ihejirika was a very positive development, it was none the less, inadequate. It was partial and certainly sends a very wrong message. One, Ihejirika took over power from somebody called Lt. General (Abdulrahman) Dambazau. If Ihejirika was guilty; it stands to reason that Dambazau is equally guilty because Ihejirika took over from him. In any case, information coming out from the investigation panel set up to probe arms deals indicates clearly that Dambazau has a case to answer. In addition, Dambazau is today falsely being made to represent Kano in the government by Buhari, which is very unfair and unjust because this man was not born in Kano. He is today Minister of Interior and in addition to which, he is Minister in-Charge of Police Affairs. Under the British norms of Public Administration and Management, if you are under investigation, you are normally asked to step aside. Dambazzau has not be asked to step aside, which means he is being allowed to interfere with the investigations by the EFCC which is in fact, a police organisation. Another person who I also understand has been indicted and should be arrested like Ihejirika is Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah. Minimah was not given that job on merit, he was given that position on purely tribal consideration and in appointing him as Chief of Army Staff, several of his colleagues who are better tested and more refined and in fact, better recommended were not only shoved aside, they were also prematurely retired. He should also be arrested like Ihejirika. After Minimah, we now have Buratai. Buratai is an interesting case not because he is not guilty but because Buratai and the circumstances surrounding his appointment and the scandal he is now enmeshed in; are typical of the disastrous sense of judgement of General Muhammadu Buhari and the way he stubbornly refuses to admit when he makes a mistake.
Since you’ve brought in the alleged scandal involving Buratai, what do you make of the whole thing?
It is now clear beyond any reasonable doubt -like we see in the media – that Buratai was the Director of Procurement at Defence Headquarters. There can never be any reason why other chiefs of Army Staff who are involved in malfeasance and grand crimes in procurement should be arrested and taken to court while Buratai is allowed to remain scot-free. Secondly, his position as Chief of Army Staff is something nobody can explain; only Buhari can explain. It has now been discovered that this man is filthy rich like his cohorts. Thirdly, that he has property in Dubai among other places and that while the Army tries to cover one of their own, their Chief of Army Staff; by saying that he acquired these through the savings of his family- I don’t know what his family was earning, what about what he acquired when he became Chief of Army Staff? How does Buhari explain that? Nigerians deserve an answer and the answer must come quick because Nigerians cannot be taken for a ride by either Buhari or any army officer. The days when Nigerian Army officers can tell lies and get away with it or pretend to be messiahs in Nigeria is now gone. Every soldier must prove himself to be clean before we take them to be clean. We do not take anybody from Buhari to be clean simply because he says he is clean or his public relations men who are paid to say so, say he is clean, that day is gone and gone forever.
There has been this talk about a cabal hijacking the Presidency, a charge the Presidency has denied. We will like your thoughts on this?
Let me say straight away that whether one calls it a cabal or a mafia or some kind of cult or whatever, there is a group of people who are wielding power within the Presidency under Buhari. Whatever you say it is; it is and a lot worse. First, the most influential person in the Presidency today is one Mamman Daura whom as you know, is a nephew of the President. His father was Buhari’s elder brother. In addition, Mamman Daura was the one who single handedly brought up Abba Kyari, the current Chief of Staff to the President. In fact, Abba Kyari knows Mamman Daura more than he knows his own father. Next, the Personal Assistant to Buhari himself is the son of Mamman Daura, next is what they call SCOP, State Chief of Protocol, and is also a son-in-law to Mamman Daura because he is married to Mamman Daura’s daughter. Next, the Minister they unilaterally chose, against the interest of the party and against the wishes of Sokoto people, happens to be the daughter of the younger sister of Mamman Daura’s wife. Both of them are daughters of Sultan Dasuki, who was sacked by General Abacha. We have the Aide De Camp to Buhari himself, Colonel Abubakar. He is married to the granddaughter of one of Buhari’s elder sisters. Next we have the woman who represents Kaduna in the Federal Executive Council, she is a cousin to Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai. It is well known that el-Rufai is one of the closest governors to Muhammadu Buhari. Next, we have the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory. The Minister of the FCT is the man called Musa Bello, who used to be the Managing Director of the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, which used to be the biggest holding company that belonged to all the northern states. His only qualification to be FCT minister is the fact that his father has been Buhari’s friend over the years. Now, there is a young man called Sabiu Yusuf, nicknamed Tunde – probably because of late General Tunde Idiagbon. He is another PA to President Buhari. He is also a grandson of another sister of Buhari. This is enough to prove to you that this is shamelessly the worst form of nepotism in the history of government in Nigeria. In fact, in the history of Africa, let me make bold to assert that I have never seen any level of nepotism that has equalled or surpassed this in my entire life – I am now in my 67th year. Another thing I also want you to know is that, Amina Zakari, who was and still a national commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission representing the entire seven states in the North-West. It is being claimed that Buhari knows nothing about her appointment (before he became President), it is a lie. When President Goodluck Jonathan was re-organising the INEC and he was bringing in Prof. Attahiru Jega, he reached out to Buhari and asked Buhari to nominate somebody from the North-West so that that person would be a national commissioner. Of all the people in the North-West, Buhari decided to nominate his own niece, the daughter of his elder sister- Amina Zakari. She has been there; when Jega left, Buhari was determined to make her chairman, it was because of the massive backlash that he dropped the idea like hot potatoes. As we are talking today, that woman is a national commissioner which means she is one of the principal election umpires. Throughout my reading of history, political science and social sciences generally, I have never heard of any dictator or any tyrant under any system of government whether totalitarian or fascist, appointing his own niece to conduct elections in which he was either a party or going to be a party to; Buhari has done that. The immediate younger brother to Amina Zakari is currently the Minister for Water Resources representing Jigawa State in the same Buhari government. In addition, even though they are from Kazaure, Kazaure is contiguous to Daura. The eldest sister of both of them is now the Commissioner for Education in the All Progressives Congress government in Jigawa State. If this is not nepotism, then I don’t know what is nepotism and anybody who has the guts, the brutal arrogance to appoint these relations not bothering about public opinion, about the sense of justice, about competence, then you can see that he has a very serious question to answer. There are two mysterious cases.
Which cases are you referring to?
The case of the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emeifele and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu. It was Buhari himself who said that he knew when the governor of the CBN picked a piece of paper and gave an instruction that N14bn should be withdrawn from the CBN and that money was withdrawn. That was nearly a year ago and up till today, Buhari is still retaining Emefiele as CBN governor. The Buhari I know is an economic illiterate and anybody who knows anything about currency movement and foreign exchange and fluctuations knows that the Naira has been effectively devalued. It was the same Buhari who boasted that the Naira would never be devalued under him for as long as he remains President and even threatened the governor of the CBN that he was going to sack him if he devalued the Naira. He (CBN governor) is still there. In the case of Kachikwu, he is the mystery man in the cabinet. No one can actually tell you who nominated and brought in Kachikwu. We knew that he was friends with Abba Kyari when they both worked in Mobil but none of them had the influence to bring him in and make him Minister of Petroleum Resources. Forget the nonsense about him being the junior minister because he is the senior and junior minister in addition to being the Managing Director of the NNPC (until recently when he was replaced. This again confirms the arrogance of President Buhari in putting two positions together; one purely civil service and technocratic position which is the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and the other one which is purely political- a minister.
What is wrong with the President merging these portfolios in the light of the administration’s desire to cut the cost of running government…?
Since this man became minister, there has been nothing good coming out of the oil industry rather than confusion, crisis and corruption. That again is an indication of the decadence we have in this government. People who are being accused and arrested for corruption as it should be, we are also aware that some of these cases that the DSS is getting involved in are shady because they have no experience whatsoever in prosecution. That is why from the famous case of Farouk Lawal, a former member of the House of Representatives who was involved in getting money and putting it under his cap and what have you which was captured on camera. They arrested that man; it was a clear cut case long before Buhari became President. Till today, the DSS has not been able to prosecute Farouk Lawan. He is still sitting at home; his house is about 200 metres from my house. That shows you that when you hear that the DSS is arresting somebody for corruption, it is clearly political and maybe there is money or corruption involved. We also know that there are people from within the DSS from the very top who are even threatening that they will soon arrest the Chairman of the EFCC and the National Security Adviser.
These are serious allegations. Why would they want to do that?
The main reason is these people have refused to cooperate with them: Mamman Daura, Abba Kyari and the DG DSS, who is also part of the Daura cabal they want to take over the anti-corruption war so that it will be under their hand and they can cut deals and render the anti-corruption war useless. I know who they propose to take over, it didn’t work. I think Buhari resisted- which is miracle. They are now proposing somebody. The person who they proposed was a retired DIG, he, myself and Magu (current EFCC boss) had worked in Port Harcourt during my years in OMPADEC. Now they are thinking of a retired Commissioner of Police. The only qualification they are looking for is someone who can be controlled by them. This is the situation we find ourselves.
In the light of what you have said, what would you say has changed in government?
I will put it this way, we have exchanged one thoroughly corrupt government for one that pretends to be honest and is doing an honest job while in reality, it is business as usual.
…But for the first time, alleged malfeasance in the purchase of weapons is being investigated. Is this not progress?
Recently, an interim report was submitted to President Buhari. The report had to do with the on-going investigation of the Nigerian Army which is the primary consumer of the money that was used to prosecute the war on Boko Haram and of course, the Niger Delta insurgency. I have been reliably informed that the report even though partial, has already indicted the following: General Ihejirika and the current Chief of Army Staff, Buratai. What was strange about the report was the fact that it was silent about General Dambazzau who was Army Chief before all of these people. The report was silent about his own role which goes to confirm that the Mafia or the cabal in the Presidency consisting of the Chief of Staff, DG DSS and of course, their godfather, Mamman Daura, have an interest in making sure that by hook or by crook, General Dambazau is protected even though he was supposed to come first. For some reason, the Buhari administration which prides itself with its anti-corruption war has decided that the report is not going to be published because he has been persuaded by the three that publishing the report will embarrass the government. This is very strange and at best laughable because Buhari’s first administration in 1984 got into a lot of trouble with the media because of Decree 2 which makes it a crime to embarrass any public office holder. That made Buhari and his administration back then very unpopular. These characters in the Presidency, the cabal or the mafia or whatever you call them, are determined to make Buhari make the same mistake again. For Buhari to ask a report not to be published because some people in his government will be embarrassed is a very strange manifestation of the Buhari we knew and is likely to cause a lot of problems. In the case of Dambazau, it is clear that the years 2007-2010 are critical (to the arms probe) because these were the years when he was supposed to be in charge but again, he is being protected by the DG DSS and co. Nigerians demand that the interim report be made public and that there should be no sacred cows. In any case, anything they try to hide will be made public in due course because nothing remains permanently secret in Nigeria, Buhari himself knows that. Others who have been in that position also know that. In addition to what was contained in the report as it concerns uniformed persons, we are reliably informed that some permanent secretaries, civilians and civil servants have been implicated and it is important for the report to be made public for Nigerians to decide who can be trusted. When crimes are committed, it is not only soldiers that are implicated, without the collusion of Permanent Secretaries and others within the civilian administration. Nigerians are watching and watching carefully and demand that these things be made public.
Is the cabal, like you said, not working to protect the interest of the President?
No. According to very reliable sources, the cabal in fact has a problem with the National Security Adviser and the Chairman of the EFCC. The problem the cabal has with the NSA is not the same they have with the acting Chairman of the EFCC. The problem they have with the NSA has to do with what the office of the NSA and the security establishment generally determined was going to be a danger to the President himself. They found that the contractors supplying aviation fuel to the Presidential fleet were actually appointed -they are cronies to Jonathan Goodluck and his wife, Patience. And the security services felt that retaining them under the new dispensation would be dangerous, unhealthy and poses a direct danger to the President, members of his family and other members of the government. They made the determination and submitted a report to the President through the NSA recommending that a new supplier be sourced to supply fuel for the Presidential fleet. Buhari agreed with their recommendations and signed off on it. He agreed with the new contractors to supply after it was done in the process of implementation, Mamman Daura was claimed to have said the former supplier was his friend therefore nobody can take the contract away from them. All efforts to explain the implications to him failed. He raised issues first; with the NSA then with the President but he did not get his way. That was when he raised the issue with the DG DSS on what to do with the NSA. It is noteworthy that when Obasanjo was President, all the service chiefs including the Inspector General of Police and the DG DSS were reporting to Obasanjo through the NSA. That was how the system worked and no bloody civilian ever got involved with security matters. If Nigerians hear that there is a threat by a civilian to arrest the NSA, they should know the reason why. Nigerians should not underestimate the danger posed by the cabal because if Nigerians are not careful, the cabal will inadvertently bring down the government or destroy Buhari’s reputation.