Medical doctor. Seasoned academic. Elder statesman. Public affairs analyst. President Muhammadu Buhari’s fierce critic. Junaid Mohammed, a lawmaker in the second republic, was a man of many parts and one who wore many hats. But despite being a multi-faceted figure, like every mortal, the former lawmaker breathed his last on Thursday at an isolation centre in Kano where he was being treated for an undisclosed ailment.
For many of his colleagues, navigating the murky waters of Nigerian politics is a path they would rather avoid at any cost, considering the attendant risks. But for Mohammed, it was a fight to the finish, given his quest to champion a better Nigeria.
His reason was not different from the popular view among many Nigerians: the country is not working as it should be and needs to be properly structured for any meaningful development to take place.
MAVERICK POLITICIAN WHO SOUGHT A BETTER NIGERIA
Born in Dala, Kano state, he was one of the founding members of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in 1976 under the leadership of Aminu Kano, the late politician, reformist and teacher. Mohammed also served as the national deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the north-west.
In his quest to herald a new dawn for Nigeria, he got what seemed to be the perfect opportunity in October 2018: he was selected as running mate to Donald Duke, presidential candidate of the SDP.
Commenting on his selection at the time, Duke, a former governor of Cross River state, had noted that Mohammed’s wealth of knowledge would help in facilitating the party’s vision.
“Dr Junaid Mohammed brings to the SDP presidential ticket, geopolitical reach and acceptance, and in-depth the knowledge of Nigerian politics,” he had said.
Although their ambition failed to materialise, Mohammed did not ditch his quest for a better Nigeria as he consistently spoke truth to power, not minding whose ox was gored.
HAILED APC MERGER, THEN TURNED BUHARI’S CRITIC
He may be from the north, but Mohammed was one of the president’s fiercest critics — although he earlier supported his government.
Like many Nigerians in 2014, Mohammed backed the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to dislodge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mohammed described the merger of various parties — including the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) — as a welcome initiative, saying it would chart a new course for the country’s politics.
His view drastically changed shortly after Buhari became president.
From the president’s appointments to the daily handling of the country, Mohammed called out Buhari on numerous occasions over his government’s “inefficiency” in dealing with problems facing the country. In 2017, he described claims that Boko Haram had been defeated as “lies”, noting that the group was still holding sway in several parts of the north.
A year later, the lawmaker described Buhari’s administration as a “very dangerous leadership“, citing his inability to finish two pages of a book he recommended to him in 2015. The well-known politician would later label the president’s anti-graft war as “a fraud meant to persecute only those in opposition who stole money”.
Mohammed also backed Matthew Kukah, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto, over the latter’s statement wherein he accused Buhari of nepotism.
“I have to admit that 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 percent of the appointments Buhari made were not based on merit,” he had said.
ENDORSED SANUSI’S DETHRONEMENT
Just like Buhari, Mohammed was also critical of Muhammadu Sanusi II, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). In a 2020 interview, the politician backed the dethronement of Sanusi as emir of Kano.
According to him, Sanusi ought not to have been crowned as an emir in the first place because he was “reckless and ignorant of the culture of Kano people”.
“I endorsed his dethronement because I believe it was the only way out given the circumstances he has pushed Kano into. The people who are his real masters in the south have been encouraging him. It is a matter of public record. It is out there in the public space. He should never have been made the emir of Kano,” he had said.
“He is reckless. He is ignorant of our culture because he never stayed long in Kano. If you don’t know the culture of a people, you can never be their traditional leader. He never knew anything about Kano.”
ELDER STATESMAN WHO WANTED TINUBU TO BE PRESIDENT
For the deceased, having a president of Tinubu’s ilk will do more good to Nigeria than one of Igbo extraction. In 2019, he said that those nursing presidential ambitions from the south-east region are merely “ambitious” and want to “blackmail Nigeria into ceding power to them”.
He also argued that Tinubu will perform better as president than Goodluck Jonathan and Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti state.
“If Tinubu wants to be the President of Nigeria and he asks for my advice, I will say go ahead because I will rather have Tinubu as President than have some of the people in the South-East who are ambitious and want to blackmail Nigeria into ceding power to them. I know that no matter what happens, even if Tinubu were to be drunk, he will be a better President than Goodluck Jonathan. I also know that he is better than Governor Kayode Fayemi who is also nursing presidential ambition,” he had said.
Commenting on the issue again in 2020, Mohammed criticised people clamouring for zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket to the south-east.
The political pundit said the Igbo cannot claim the exclusive right to the 2023 presidency, noting that any other tribe and ethnic group in the country can also make the same claim.
BELIEVED ‘1966 COUP STUNTED NORTHERN GROWTH’
While alive, the Russian-trained medical doctor blamed the 1966 coup for the underdevelopment and poor leadership in the northern part of the country.
According to Mohammed, the present crop of political leaders in the north are “crooks and rogues” who are determined to milk the region dry.
“From the time the Igbo staged a coup and decapitated the entire military and civilian leadership of the north, the north has never had decent leadership. That’s the tragedy of the 1966 Coup,” he had said.
“Look at the governors we have in the north, for Christ’s sake. Will these people lead anybody to the promised land? I don’t think so. A lot of crooks and rouges and scoundrels are stealing them (the North) dry.”
Mohammed might be out of sight, but he is certainly not out of mind. He will be remembered in history — the knowledge bank of all ages — for his fierce, sometimes scathing and caustic, criticisms of political office holders and contributions to the actualisation of a better Nigeria.