by Shaka Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, have you read the bombshell that was exploded in an interview in Saturday Punch published July 23, 2016, by the former Joint House Leader of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), who was also the Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Defence Committee in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed? In the interview, he pointedly accused President Muhammadu Buhari of the worst form of “nepotism” ever in the history of Nigeria. If you haven’t, then I am providing an excerpt for you to read and make your judgment. If what Mohammed stated in that wide-ranging interview is true (the presidency has not debunked the weighty allegations as yet), then it means the change we are dealing with is a marvelous and rewarding one for Buhari, his family members and a few of their close associates alone.
Let it be stated here without equivocation, Junaid Mohammed is unapologetically an ethno-religious irredentist. His divisive utterances have earned him a conspicuous spot in the hall of ethnic champions. For those who may have forgotten, he is the Convener of the Concerned Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen (CPAPM) group and a one-time defender of Buhari who has suddenly turned against him. Of course we’ll continue to question his road to Damascus and the depth of his new pan-Nigeria conviction.
Whatever has informed this embrace of a New Nigeria remains a mystery. But I can bet an arm and a leg that it is a fleeting moment of self-remission that won’t obliterate his past disservice to the Nigerian dream. However, in the fierce urgency of this moment of national infidelity to the mantra of change and unfaithfulness to scores of promises made during electioneering, I am wearily willing to momentarily ignore Mohammed’s past petulant behaviour and situate his damning revelations vis-a-vis the change that was promised and the caricature we have today.
The audacity of actions and abuses he accused the president of committing leaves one open-mouthed and justifiably frightened by his (Buhari’s) agenda for this country. The fact that this has not drawn any reaction from the presidency beggars belief.
When asked about his thoughts that a cabal within Buhari’s inner loop has hijacked the presidency, a charge the presidency has strenuously denied, Mohammed shot straight from the hip without mincing words, unleashing a tidal wave of revelations about the Buhari presidency. Here is how he responded: “Let me say straight away that whether one calls it a cabal or a mafia or 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 the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP), 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 a well known that el-Rufai is one of the closest governors to Muhammadu Buhari.
“Next, we have the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). 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 the 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 the 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 is 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 the president), it is a lie.
“When President Goodluck Jonathan was reorganising INEC and he was bringing in Prof. Attahiru Jega, he reached out to Buhari and asked him 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 the 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 members of the election umpire.
“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 nepotism is. For somebody who had the guts and the brutal arrogance to appoint these relations, not bothered about public opinion, about the sense of justice, and about competence, then you can see that he has a very serious question to answer.”
I have always suspected that Buhari exhibits all the character portraits of a sectional leader contrary to his public posture and what the change agents want Nigerians to believe. But I never imagined nepotism was one of his attributes as Mohammed’s interview has revealed. Even though some of these things have been said in hushed whispers in the past, they were treated more as rumours than facts from “conspiracy theorists” out to undermine the president. This is the first time someone, not just anyone, but someone with a rabid northern agenda as his focal objective is putting a face to the allegations and frontally attacking the president.
It is worthy of mention that criticising the president and his government is not something I enjoy doing. But the more I try to take a breather from criticising them, the more they give me a reason to do so. I know for sure there are some perverse and ridiculous individuals out there who would yet again make silly excuses for these abuses with the same pompously dishonest and reductionist response: are they not Nigerians? My answer to such people is: are they the only Nigerians? The often-touted strength in diversity which finds convenience in courting the people’s sense of patriotism appears to be an empty rhetoric after all.
Now let’s for a moment imagine it was a president from another part of the country, especially from a minority ethnic group that did this. All hell would have broken loose by now with some activists heading to the court to challenge it. But we have not heard a whimper from the fiery self-appointed custodians of public morality and defenders of the constitution. The question now is: can their reputations survive their silence? It is ironic that these groups no longer see anything wrong with the abuse of power, violation of the very same rule of law, and the protection of human rights they once passionately fought and sacrificed a lot for.
Rail of Hope from ‘16 Years of Waste’
President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail line on Tuesday, July 26. The president’s supporters were in a celebratory mode. A friend called me up to say, “As you can see, Buhari is now working.” Wow! It struck me immediately that it took over one year and the inauguration of a previously completed project for even Buhari’s most ardent supporters to admit that he is “now working”. Really? So I asked him what Buhari had been doing in the last 14 months. He stammered and muttered inaudibly, “He was cleaning the 16 years of rot left behind by the PDP.”
When I reminded him that the Abuja-Kaduna rail is a legacy of the “16 Years of Waste” of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he stubbornly refused to believe. He even claimed that it was Buhari who built the project from scratch.
I asked, with which money; when the president met an “empty treasury?” I then reminded him of how he mocked the revival of the railways as “old fashioned locomotives that were phased out in Europe” when it was touted as one of the achievements of the last administration during electioneering. Caught with egg on his face, he angrily hung up the phone.
It’s unfortunate that some diehard supporters of Buhari are celebrating what he did not build. This was the same way they celebrated the “wonders” of body language barely two weeks of Buhari’s inauguration as president. Everything that functioned at all was attributed to the magic of body language, from the marginal improvement in electricity supply, to barely functioning refineries, etc. But as it’s always the case, anything based on falsehood doesn’t last. These same crooked people turned round to make up excuses for Buhari when it became clear that the economy was being dragged into crippling recession. In case they haven’t heard, South Africa has overtaken Nigeria as Africa’s biggest economy in just 15 months of Buhari being in power. It’s going to get old saying I told you so.
During the electioneering, the media and publicity director of the APCPCO, Malam Garba Shehu disparaged the achievements and the transformation of the railways as “bogus lies and a fraudulent product of overactive imagination”.
Shehu stated further: “One railway project Mr. President and his media personnel have been silent about is the Abuja Rail Mass Transit. What Mr. President will not tell the people is how many Nigerians truly benefit from the hundreds of billions purportedly spent on the rehabilitation of rail lines and whether value for money has been achieved. What he will not tell Nigerians is that it costs about N10, 000 per passenger to produce that Lagos-Kano service, which his railway corporation sells at N1, 930 per passenger.” He concluded derisively that the huge railway contracts awarded by the PDP-led Jonathan government did not include most of the railway sidings and passing loops, effectively limiting the capacity of the lines in terms of the number of trains that could run on them at any point time, thus “making an unviable rail service even more unviable”. It’s ironic that, that is what they are celebrating today.
The truth here is that the Abuja-Kaduna rail was practically completed by the immediate-past administration. Only the finishing touches were done by this administration. So Buhari or the APC cannot take credit for this. We must at least be happy that petty politics did not get in the way of its final completion, as is usually the case. Even the Lagos-Calabar rail project that attracted some controversy recently was conceived by the last administration. The contract had already been awarded before that government was voted out of office.
Interestingly, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who is always eager to highlight the faults and failings of the last administration did not have the modesty to give credit to whom it is due. He was flushed with success during the event.
Let me digress for a moment. Did anyone see photographs of Amaechi carrying the cross of crucifixion on his shoulder adorning the front pages of all the newspapers during the last Good Friday celebrations to mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? This question became imperative because I was surprised I didn’t see his pictures with the cross depicting his “suffering” and “persecution” in the papers which became something of a yearly ritual during his time as the governor of Rivers State. Interesting! Roles have changed, he is no longer being “persecuted”, instead he is now the persecutor? This life.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Shaka Momodu/Thisday