Mohammed Alhaji Yakubu is a member of the National Executive Committee of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a socio-cultural and pressure group for northern Nigeria. He was also the youth leader of the defunct Northern Union (NU) which was headed by late Olusola Saraki, the political godfather of Kwara state politics.
In this exclusive interview, the ACF Chieftain said he believes the North would gladly support President Muhammadu Buhari, come 2019, even if he was running the country from a wheelchair.
President Muhammadu Buhari has gone back to London on health grounds. But some Nigerians are saying that his ill health has a political setback for the country, do you also think in that direction?
I must first of all thank Nigerians for their support and prayer for President Muhammadu Buhari, their support and prayer have been unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. There is no Nigerian leader that has received this type of support and prayer in our recent history. I must first of all thank them. The President’s health challenge is something that can happen to anybody. We had President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, this type of health condition happened to him. So in the case of Buhari, he had transmitted power to his deputy, as constitution demanded, and I think there is nothing to fear. If he had not transmitted power to his deputy or his case was like that of Yar’Adua, I would have been more worried. And so far the Acting President is capable; he has shown some level of vibrancy, there is no cause for alarm. God forbid bad thing, supposing the President dies today, there is nothing anybody can do. God has appointed a time for every human being to be born and to die. For now we will continue to pray for our President and wish him quick return to the country. And I will continue to appreciate Nigerians who are praying and supporting the President.
Do you agree with some Nigerians who are saying that Buhari should resign from office because of his ill health?
I will not advise him to resign. You will recall that when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was asking the then ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to resign, I granted an interview to your newspaper, as the youth leader of Northern Union, telling Nigerians that even on wheelchair, we will support Yar’Adua to rule the country. Unfortunately he died. I am also making the same statement today that Buhari should not resign, even if he is on wheelchair, North and people of Nigeria will vote him in 2019. I am not just associating myself with Buhari, I am advocating for good governance under President Buhari.
I don’t think that it is proper for anybody to humiliate Buhari out of office by mounting pressure on him to resign. It is not fair; it is not just, it is not proper. We have election time table, if you don’t like him, vote him out during the election, but I will not support anybody that will want to humiliate the President out of office. As long as he is alive, it is not right to demand of him to resign.
Don’t you think that many Nigerians will oppose you that you never meant well for the country for saying this?
Yes, I can give example from America where we copied our democracy from; if you remember, one of the early American Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt served his country for 12 years. As a young man, Roosevelt became crippled by polio. He could not stand, and he spent most of his life on a wheelchair. When many people thought that the illness would end his political career, Roosevelt became American President for the first time in 1933.
Roosevelt pioneered a lot of developments for America, his government spent lots of money to create new job, built roads, bridges, new schools and did other important things to help the population. Americans saw that Roosevelt could do a lot for his country and they elected him for a second time in 1936 on wheelchair.
So we should do away with the mentality that when the President’s health challenge is physical, he cannot perform his official duty, no, President Buhari can still function in office even on wheelchair as long as his illness has nothing to do with his brain and reasoning faculty.
Some Ministers were quoted to have said that they could not reach out to Buhari because of power play by a group of cabal in the presidency. What is your take on this?
They who are complaining, how many Nigerians did they allow to reach them? I have a serious complain about Buhari’s cabinet; 95 percent of these ministers are incompetent, and they are not fit for the job, you can’t reach out to them, and where you reach out to them, they see you as someone coming to seek for contract or favour from them. You can’t reach them when you want to even give useful advice or analysis of the situation things in the country. So why should they complain that they can’t reach the President? The Chief of Staff is there, the Secretary to the government is there, is it on everything that they must reach the President? Their appointment as minister is not hereditary; they think they are going to be there forever? Most of us are stakeholders; we don’t need to see the President frequently or on daily basis. We are supposed to interact with the ministers, but we can’t reach them. So they have no basis to complain that they can’t reach the President.
Away from Buhari’s health, recently former President Goodluck Jonathan said that western world were responsible for his defeat at the 2015 polls. Do you agree with him?
I disagree with him because that was a blanket pronouncement; this was not true, few Northerners that surrounded him told him the truth that he should obey the PDP power shift arrangement, but he would not listen. So he was the architect of his own problem. He should not blame any western world. Politics is a game of number and honour, when majority are no longer with you, the tendency is that you are bound to fail or fall, so I totally disagree with Jonathan over this blanket statement, blaming the western world.
Former Senate President, David Mark was reported to have said the other day that he warned Jonathan against northern betrayal…
(Cuts in)…No, I don’t think that David Mark was saying that North betrayed Jonathan. What he was saying was that he warned Jonathan to keep to the PDP agreement, and that if he did not keep to that agreement, he would face the consequence. I even went on television to advise Jonathan to respect the agreement because North would not be happy with him if he did not obey the party agreement on power shift or rotation.
Look at what happened to Moshood Abiola on June 12, 1993, the Yoruba people were not happy, it was like denying the entire South west zone the opportunity to produce a candidate for the presidency. And I think that was why Olusegun Obasanjo was considered for the presidency in 1999. Jonathan left the north with the problem of Boko Haram, and up till today we are still fighting the insurgency.