Professor Jibril Muhammad Aminu was a one time Minister of Education and that of Petroleum Resources, a former Nigerian Ambassador to the USA, he also served as Senate Committee Chairman on Foreign Affairs. In this interview, the Professor bares his mind on different angles of his political life, including his sour relationship with Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.
Let’s begin with an appraisal of the government of Goodluck Jonathan. As a seasoned politician, what can you say of his government so far? - Let me say that the government of Goodluck Jonathan is a child of crisis circumstances – the illness of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and his passing away. If you are made a vice president, it is assumed that you are preparing to be president. But it is not necessarily so; and in many cases in Nigeria, there are leaders who are actually not expected to be president, except after they make a perfunctory effort which usually does not succeed.
If you remember, of the 36 governors we had in the third republic, only one deputy succeeded his governor. And I think the former governor must have regretted being succeeded by his deputy. Because he too, the game failed, but I called it the result of being an ingrate, in the eyes of the former governor. He was happy that the governor was defeated.
So people are unprepared. To be a president, you have to take a man like Obama, he has been working on that. I have read his book: "Dreams of My Father," or something about that nature. And if you read the book about how he was elected president, you will find it interesting and the remaining books he wrote. He [Obama] wrote a lot of books.
The only man I know who wrote a lot of books before becoming a leader was the former Inspector General of Police, (Sunday) Ehindero. Because he told us one day that he wrote five books. So I cannot blame Goodluck Jonathan because he is not incompetent. He is the second graduate in the presidents of Nigeria; the first was Umaru [Yar’Adua]. So you really should not expect too much.
By this assertion, can we conclude that the government of Goodluck Jonathan is a failure? - No. In the first place, you can’t say it is a failure until you see how it ends. If he finishes his term and you have made your assessment, then you can say whatever you wish.
But we have almost three to four years of his governance so far, don’t you think these years are enough for any kind of assessment? - It depends on what you want to see. A military man like the late Murtala [Mohamed] can make a mountain of an impact in six months. A civilian president with democracy all down to the local government and with the characters he has as state governors, you really cannot expect too much. In this country, if the good person comes, he will find himself tied by a lot of official processes and the governors, whom constitutional blunders made them very powerful and untouchable. Governors are free to destroy local governments.
They turned the states into their own fiefdom. And then they can make attacks on the federal government because of some party arrangements. And it is difficult, you spend about a week getting something done only for some people because of their selfish interest or their ego or corruption, they want to change everything. So, I don’t think this government is a failure. All I can tell you is that he has a lot of work to do; and he knows that.
Last week was the second time in which the PDP had announced a day that it said it will nominate its BOT chairman but failed again. As one of the party’s bigwigs, what do you think is responsible for the party’s inability to nominate a BOT chairman all this while? - It’s an excessive polarization of interest. People who had left office insist on putting people.
I am told that it was former President Obasanjo who has strong interest in that, why? Of course he is a party elder who gives them good advice, if they ask him. But we are not expecting him to insist on his own particular candidate. What is he doing? And what does he want with it anymore? These are all part of the anomalies of governance in this country. People who finished refused to let go.
But some people are thinking the reason is because the BOT members of the party are too many… They are not. I am supposed to be their member. A lot of us are members who attended for quite a long time. I am a BOT member any time there is a meeting if they let me know I will go. But I don’t think we are too many. I have attended the meetings. My problem with a lot of these meetings is that everything turns to be done in a hurry.
And new developments tend to overwhelm such meetings, instead of attending to real fundamental issues. I think that is the problem. But PDP as a party has a very interesting history. It was formed by a coalition, by a group of parties that were at each other’s throat for a long time in the past. It was formed in order to take up the governance from the military. A lot of these people have not changed.
There is a party that is strongly in existence but is not on any record. Take the PDM for example, the Shehu Yar’Adua party. There are members who have been loyal to PDM and they do all sorts of things together but none of them will tell you that PDM does feature in anywhere in the governmental structure or in the electoral parliament. We have many incongruities in running our affairs.
So what do you envisage for the party in 2015? Do you think it can deliver? - I think you should ask a man like General Buhari. He will tell you the party will not deliver, because they had never won. That’s what he will say; that all the time the winning is by rigging. So unless they rig again they will not win.
I personally think that the PDP has all that it takes. I admire the PDP because it is the only party since independence that is on its own without any open coalition with any other party that has actually captured the majority of this country. And you don’t find it easy to draw ethnic or religious boundaries for the PDP. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not, but that is the character of the PDP. If this is the case, then I think they should know the party that will win the large majority.
Yes, I would like to see the PDP win. I would also like to see the PDP re-organize, recoup itself to win. They don’t seem to be doing it at all. Instead, they are increasing sharp divisions in the party. It could be defeated and mislead any day. Like the Governors Forum which I have talked about and they don’t seem to like it. I am not attacking them on personal grounds. But as somebody who has been interested from the time of forming the constitution of this republic, to election time. And I have taken part. All these divisions are going to break up the PDP. And I don’t know if anybody is doing anything about it.
To make matters worse, the governors are becoming more and more intolerant, more and more egotistic, more and more arrogant, more and more power hungry. And why do they attack their own federal government? They are not attacking any other federal government. They are attacking their won by their party. That’s not a good idea, because it makes room for the opposition. That is the least harmful thing that can happen. You can have crisis in the country, and you can have intervention of some other people to take over the government. That’s problem for the PDP. And that’s what we question from now until 2015.
And then one other thing I will mention, just one, obsession with election, obsession with the presidency. Already it’s claimed that Mr. President is campaigning. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that provided it doesn’t take most of his time. But he himself doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants people to feel that he is not campaigning. Everybody is campaigning and people are not ready to do anything for the masses.
They are always aiming to win, and the moment they win, they feel that gives them a stepping stone to make a claim for the next one. This is not the characteristic of a serious people wanting to develop their nation. We have characteristics of people who are full of themselves and they are not interested in anything but their selfish ends.
And then they are surrounded by some ethnic, religious and economic bigots around them who just want them to win. Nobody talks about what will happen to the country, what will happen to the ordinary people? These are very serious issues. I have not seen this happen in anywhere except in this country. This is a disgrace.
I can tell you, and am very bold to say, the only party that am seeing looks serious, and probably wants to serve its people and unfortunately is in very small locality is the APGA. Look at the APGA governors, they appear to be serious people who want to work. They are Governor Rochas Okorocha and Governor Obi. The next one is ACN, because of some of them like the Governor of Lagos and the Governor of Edo and even some of these others.
But the remaining, what are they doing? Fighting among themselves and they tell lies saying they are working for the people. They are not working for the people. They are working for their monthly allocation from the federation’s account to pursue their own interest. It’s a pity!
Can we link this problem of Governors Forum to that which you are having with the Governor of your state, Murtala Nyako? - It’s not because am worried about that. It’s just one manifestation. It’s something you expect. We have never had a case where the central working committee of our party is quick to make a decision that they will change. And it is clear. There are bad eggs in most state government houses of the PDP.
They spare nothing including the money from their states which is enough to buy opinion in one way or the other, particularly the central working committee. It’s a problem. It’s all because there is something fundamentally wrong with beneficiaries. People are not interested in pursuing a common cause. Everybody is pursuing his own agenda.
Let’s go back to the background of things. Where did you meet Governor Murtala Nyakoб from the beginning? - It was in early 1960s.
And your relationship has been cordial? - Yes, very brotherly. You know it is people around him who don’t want a person like me around, because I tell him the truth. So, the first thing they did was to create a gap between us. I am not going to tell you some of them but he knows them and they know themselves. Murtala was misguided by so many interest groups around him. I think he could have made it. But I know some people made a point to attack me like Bello Tukur when he was his Chief of Staff. Because he felt that he had to separate us. He did not stand a chance of becoming governor.
The guy is still around. He has come back to PDP. That’s just to show the kind of things that happen in the PDP. Anybody can do whatever he likes and come back tomorrow and they will welcome him. It’s just that people would talk some rubbish, climb a platform and spend money and that’s all. This is not the party for which people like Dr. Alex Ekweme, the late Sunday Awoniyi and others worked for.
Presently, what is your relationship with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar? - Atiku is my younger brother. It is quite good actually. This shows you that it was not personal. If it was any personal thing it was on his own part. He was the one who gave money and said that they should remove me from the senate, which I contested and won. I have no problem with Atiku right now. You can see our relationship is quite cordial.
Yes, I felt he was not well treated during the primary election. The governor stopped the delegates meeting him. They didn’t allow the delegates to meet him. That was not fair. Why should you not allow people to meet him?