It is no longer news that Dr. Junaid Mohammed is no more on this side of the planet. For millions of his admirers, it is bad awakening, but to the legion of those whose ox was gored by his constant but powerful views on national issues, including the sensitive northern political establishment, his passing may well be a moment of epiphany and emotional relief.
But the ideas that the Kano- born medical doctor turned radical politician following the footstep of the great radical of northern politics, Mallam Aminu Kano, and debater stood for are much bigger and enduring and hauntingly disturbing to powers-that-be than he that personified it.
By all standards, Mohammed was a fierce critic, medical doctor, seasoned academic, elder statesman and public affairs analyst, who always stood for truth, national interest and the masses.
Though a Soviet-trained physician, he found his true calling as a politician with a messianic mission borne out and forged in Aminu Kano’s brand of Talakawa politics (politics based on the liberation of the common man from the clutches of bourgeoisie politics).
President Muhammadu Buhari’s fiercest 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.
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.
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 of Katsina.
Cynicism, nonchalance, sarcasm and belligerence defined his tone and attitude towards the Buhari administration borne out of his deep-seated belief that the government is short on integrity; in spite of the overhyped “puritan” attitude and style of the president. He was the exemplar of frankness and undisguised disdain for any kind of oppression.
He brought this forthrightness to bear on his politics, as he stoutly spoke truth to
power. He was constant and consistent in his interventions in national political discourse. He was a ready resource to journalists, especially when issues on Nigeria’s convoluted presidential democracy are involved.
His journey into Nigeria’s socialist politics brought with it the search for an egalitarian
society within a dysfunctional federation. Perhaps, on account of the fact that he was
born in the Dala area of Kano, where the General Hospital is situated, Mohammed grew up and decided to study medicine in Russia.
Upon his return to Nigeria, he joined politics and decided to cast anchor with the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the hot bed of social welfare political ideology in the region. It was on that platform that he emerged to represent the Dala Federal Constituency in the Second Republic’s House of Representatives.
After the sacking of the Second Republic by the Buhari/Idiagbon junta in 1983, Dr. Mohammed remained in politics, but his participation was limited to party management and mobilization. His last active political participation was two years ago, when he emerged as vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a position he combined with his office as the party’s national deputy chairman.
Prior to those competitive partisan positions, Mohammed had remained a combatant, albeit, lone ranger, howling in the political wilderness. He was fearless, caught between speaking truth to power and contradictions of ethnicised politics of the country.
The popular impression among many Nigerians after his passing was that he would be missed, especially coming at a time when his fellow tribesmen of fearless commentators, including Balarabe Musa, have thinned out.
Early last year, when the Federal Government shut down the country’s land borders,
Mohammed wondered what that government’s policy was intended to achieve, even as he noted that rice import that was being prohibited was continuing in the north, yet at exorbitant price.
Before then also, the Second Republic lawmaker had blown the whistle on the profile of President Buhari’s appointments, alleging that the president was ennobling mediocrity in form of nepotism at the expense of merit.