Former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido was a member of the G34, which formed the nucleus that led to the establishment of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998. He has remained in the party since then, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1999-2003) and two-term governor of (2007-2015). In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust, the PDP chieftain bared his mind on topical national issues.
Nigeria is facing a series of problems from different fronts: insecurity, secession threats and economic challenges. Do these give you worry as a former public official?
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You have captured what is wrong in the country so well as a Nigerian. I can’t add anything to that so as not to be accused of playing partisan politics. I concur that things are not normal in the country.
What do you think is the way forward?
Let me give the question a background. A party called the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed in 2014 with an idea that they were going to rescue Nigeria from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They claimed that PDP’s rule for 16 years did not generate any good for Nigerians and Nigeria; even our contribution to bringing back democracy to Nigeria was not complemented.
The APC was formed on lies and blackmail, and these became a personality trait. So, before the coming of the party, Nigerians were overwhelmed with the culture of lies, and they believed that Boko Haram was the PDP, that the economic downturn was caused by them, that we were stealing money. They believed that everything evil was the PDP; and therefore, we were flushed out. But is the PDP still bad as they said? Is the country worse than where it was in 2014? If it is worse, then it means we should look for a way forward.
For me, the way forward is that, in all our aspirations and divisions as citizens of this country, politicians or activists, we should put Nigeria first. Let Nigeria be built, whether you are in the APC or PDP. Let us talk about the raging insecurity, and the unity evading us. If we put Nigeria first, the aspirations can follow in any political party. But today, we put our aspirations ahead of the country; and the country has been totally exhausted.
In my humble opinion, if you want to bring Nigeria back to a level where brotherhood and sisterhood can be restored, where there will be trust between various groups from the North and South, between Yoruba and Hausa and other tribes, between Christians and Muslims, believing in each other as human beings, we have to believe and trust each other as Nigerian citizens with common destiny and interest.
We need to restore service in governance. This is to foster the culture of commitment to the cause of transparency, commitment, national unity, the view of a bigger Nigeria that will be secured, safe and prosperous. Therefore, we need a leader with the commitment and bidding to be humane, caring and loving; a person who would see flesh in his fellow human beings. When he looks at others he won’t see Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba or Igbo but a fellow human with eyes and mouth and other anatomy like his.
When we begin to look at that, then we will be able to answer why there is agony, anguish, poverty in Nigeria and be able to work towards wiping those failures. This will restore our human empathy, decency, dignity, bond, love and care.
With all these divisions around the country, how do you go about entrenching this in practical terms?
First, Nigerians are very honest when it comes to leadership. They believe in leadership, and that is why when you talk as a leader they believe in you. That’s why they believed in Buhari, even though he was telling lies. When he said that subsidy was a fraud, as a former petroleum minister and head of state, they believed him. He said Boko Haram was perpetrated by the PDP, they believed in him, he said the economy was in bad shape because the PDP was stealing money, they believed him. Therefore, Nigerians believe in leadership when they talk. So we should begin to be honest and look at Nigerians and not exploit their innocence.
When the APC was campaigning, what they said in Kano was different from what they said in Plateau because they understood the division of each zone and began to harp on that and amplify it. But in the PDP, as a Nigerian family, we are all one, whether North or South; wherever we go, we have a common approach. It is all about unity, stability and prosperity, that is what we have been doing. It is about restoring our values, common goals and lives.
In 2014, the APC reached out to you as they were forming the party. Why did you not join the party then; are you not regretting not going with some of your colleagues who joined?
In 2014, the PDP was an object of vilification, described as evil. I am PDP and PDP is me. I was a governor, and after insulting me you came to ask that I join you. Then where is the place of character and honour in me? You call me a thief, saying I am evil and the cause of your problems in the country and you are asking me to join you. Even though I know all those in the party, including Buhari and Tinubu (all of them were my friends in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), I said, ‘look, since you are taking a bad view of the PDP, maligning and blackmailing us, why do you want me, one of the people you called all sort of names? You called me a progressive and all that but abused my party in the open.’
In terms of my upbringing, the party I formed dignified me, put honour in me by making me a minister, governor, I can’t go and vilify it. I kept saying this over and over. It is like the son of a leprous woman suckling her own breast and for the baby to grow and say the milk of my mother is filth. It doesn’t make sense.
I refused to go because I don’t think they were honest or sincere, and they are dubious in their approach. They lack simple courtesy.
Those who joined, who were PDP’s inventions – leaders who held public offices under the PDP, but joining APC to undermine it they came back. It means I am now vindicated. The whole thing is false and a mirage. After the first of their eight years, quite many of them disappeared because it was formed on the culture of hatred, blackmail and foisting. Everything about the APC is false and the party is a fraud.
You predicted the disintegration of the APC before 2023, but recently, some PDP governors and stakeholders are crossing over to the party; is your submission still valid?
I still insist that those people going there are being harmed to a point. They are being blackmailed and threatened. I have talked to them individually and we know what they are going through. What is there in the APC that Buni has done to make the party attractive? Is his own state, Yobe secure, stable or prosperous that he would come to me as a governor of a state to come and join the party? Are you saying I should come so that my state can become like his state, a failed state in a state of poverty?
The APC will collapse because the main structure holding it is hatred for the PDP. Having been in government and failed to fulfill their promises, they have been exposed for what they are, liars. And Buhari, who is the main catalyst of the party will not be there anymore. Then Tinubu, who is supposed to be the Jagaban of the APC, they don’t like him because if he gets there he will bury Buhari’s history. So, literally the bond will mutually evaporate and they will all go away. It is going to be PDP in 2023.
It means we should get our party properly stabilised, restore its dignity, culture and tradition to get back to government in 2023, or we keep on misbehaving like we are doing now, fooling ourselves and there will be a PDP government in 2023 but it will be as worse as the APC. Either good or bad, I know PDP will win.
But even the PDP has its own dose of crisis now as there is no clear centre; are you really prepared?
This is so because all those talking are in office; remove the office and they will fall. The PDP has the capacity, mechanism, goodwill and support as a family to come back after a crisis. We will be able to come back because those who want us are ordinary people in the villages who are suffering and in pains. Those who are talking now are public officeholders; it is the office talking. When the situation is calm they will all come back, all of them.
In the last election you aspired to get PDP’s presidential ticket, are you gunning for it again?
I am from a family of the PDP; I believe in collectivism and our own wisdom. I am sure that by the time we want to field a candidate, the issue is going to be who we will give Nigeria as a candidate, who will be able to address the current problems of the country. So my aspiration is more for the stability of the country, unity and nothing else. If somebody comes that is better than me, I will support him.
Do you think agitation for restructuring will solve our issue as a country; what do we restructure, and how?
When you lose confidence in the system it will affect the individual as you will question what to trust, even yourself. It is due to bad governance, injustice, nepotism of using political power to engage in personal interest more than the national interest that people are saying we should restructure the country. But for how long? This is because no matter what you do as a human, there will be problems. This is a human phenomenon, and right now, we all have our problems. Whatever we do there is no way we will run away from problems. We should have the capacity and commitment to be able to solve those problems using the rules available.
But for me, whatever people think would give Nigeria justice and a sense of belonging to all, let us do it, but no matter what you do, if our institutions are not working and people are not driven by honesty, there will be problems.
In the APC and PDP, there are cries on who should produce the next president; and southern governors have made a public demand for a southern president in 2023. What is your take on this and how does it affect democracy?
Rotation or zoning has a philosophical history, which the current governors have no idea. Most of them today were not there in 1998, about 25 years ago, when we were going for transition from military to civilian government. The parties – Alliance for Democracy (AD), PDP and the All Progressives Party (APP) – were formed by leaders of reasons and focus, who could reflect to see where we were coming from in Nigeria after June 12. It was during a crisis that divided Nigeria between fault-lines and they looked into how to restore trust in the country among Nigerians, which means that in trying to deal with the problems in a democracy you must be able to address the needs.
Even though it is a democracy, we wanted it to be able to address Nigeria’s needs. They considered that it was fair enough to put the presidency in the South-West where everybody would be at peace. It was very deep and reflecting and it was done. Other zones were asked to make sacrifices for Nigeria by not contesting so that we would give it to southerners. These were leaders of thought who looked at the challenges of the country and try to chart a way forward from the problems.
Today, people are talking about power because they are now in power. When the office is removed from the governors who are making this declaration, I mean no disrespect to them, can they talk? It is the office talking, not the people. As a person, I don’t think they have the capacity to say that in their own states they can’t do that.
To me, if we feel that Nigeria has not been fully healed to be able to give power to appease, not to work for the country, so be it. However, if we have been fully healed, then we will now be talking about our future, road, security, prosperity and leaders of the black race, presidency can be from anywhere, tribe or religion, I have no problem. These are two options, if the country is healed, we should go for any candidate, if, however, we still feel that there are remnants of those emotions and sentiments that were injured, then we should continue to appease injuries and heal them; but for how long?
The banditry in the North-West started like a little flame, but it is now a full blown crisis…
Ask the APC and their president; don’t ask me.
But you are a leader?
I was a leader who was seen as incompetent and lacking the capacity to do that kind of thing. We were in government and were flushed out, now a new party came in, called the APC, they are now in charge and if there is insecurity in the North-West, ask them why.
The APC is a monumental failure and fraud. They keep on blaming others for their failure. This is because the formation of the party did not have Nigerians at heart. It was all about vilifying and blackmailing to destroy others to be in government. So ask them, not me.
The PDP saw the emergence of Boko Haram, and $16 billion was allegedly spent on power without any improvement in the sector, what do you think?
When the president came to power, in the first three months, the Kaduna refinery was fully operational because he put in about $340million to get it restored, but after two months it collapsed, where is the money and the refinery? Ask the president. Enough of this moral pontificating. For how long will we keep on pontificating what is false. Nigerians now know better. You can keep on making claims upon claims. Under the PDP you could talk about the rot in the system, but under the APC you are conquered, and whatever you say they will blackmail you. If they can blackmail a whole Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), what do you expect?
We have our own shortcomings as a country, but we should be able to question one another. Those simple and silly shortcomings should be able to give way to more reasonable leadership. It is about time we stopped blaming one another. We are all Nigerians. We need to take the culture to that of integrity and real honesty.
Most Nigerians believe there is no difference between the PDP and APC due to cross-carpeting by politicians, why should Nigerians consider the PDP in 2023?
You can’t blame Nigerians if they feel short-changed or disappointed, it is about leadership. If I were the Nigerian president I would not allow anybody (from another party) to join my party because it is betrayal, and the person has no integrity or character. For Buhari to now receive PDP members in the Villa, that is irresponsible. This means corruption because a person who stole PDP’s ticket and took it to another party is the worst corruption ever. He should have said he was transparent and honourable and would not allow anybody to join his party.
They have turned the entire system into politics; it is all about how to hide crimes due to intimidation and getting arm-twisted. They say PDP members are thieves but keep taking in their governors. We should make a law in the National Assembly that anyone who moves to another political position while in office should lose the seat. But the Villa, an institution of Nigeria’s unity, has been turned into the headquarters of the APC for those crossing into their party.
Are you saying you will not accept anybody who crosses from any other party?
If I were the president I would not accept them, but I would advise them to join my party when it is election year, not when they are governors, after being dignified, honoured and invented by a party that made them known in the country and they would be made to take the entire party structure into the APC. That is corruption, and there is no way a country can move forward with this.
In 1983, the late Abubakar Rimi and I left the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and went to the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). I was a member of the House of Representatives in Lagos. I stood up and I said I came through the platform of the PRP, so it was right for me to give back to the party what they gave me. If I had the capacity and power, I should contest through the platform of the NPP and win, so I resigned. I came to Kano and told Rimi that he should resign too. I told him that the PRP was a party for those who were very pious. We claimed the highest form of morality and could not be compared to other parties, so if he had to go into the NPP he should give the PRP their government; and he resigned as governor.
Some people think the agitations of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are political and require political solutions. What do you think is the way out?
Politics has its limitations. You can’t disturb the entire country in its corporate existence by agitating for a way out to establish another country. That is treason and should not be tolerated. Those who try to dismember Nigeria and keep on telling lies to paint a bad image for the country should not be allowed to escape. They should be arraigned before a competent court of law and properly judged by the laws of the country. They are wrong, the tension and division they are creating in utterances are due to the culture of hate. In any case, they are all APC’s inventions.
How are they APC inventions?
Are Igboho, Sowore and others not in the APC?
Igboho allegedly claims to be a PDP member.
I have never heard of him in my life. These people we are talking about are all APC’s creations.
As a former minister of foreign affairs, why do you think there is a change in how foreigners see the country now in terms of not being a destination of business and others?
It is by the conduct of our government. The foundation of Nigeria was done by leaders who were able to visualise Nigeria of the future and how it could become the leader of the black race. They were of the view that if they applied strong leadership under justice like in our national anthem that, “Although tribe may differ, but in brotherhood we stand,” we can surmount our troubles. But over the years, military culture came into play, which did not recognise anything called rule of law, due process or regulations. Democracy was truncated by Buhari in 1983, and from then on, we had other military leaders. It was the way these governments in the past did their things in ruling Nigeria that made us lose our integrity.
We came in 1999 under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and went round the entire world, within one year, our prestige was restored and they saw Nigeria as a key player. They trusted us, and whatever we said, the world would follow, Africa in particular.
We started with internal reconciliation. Your internal environment reflects your foreign policy. The first we did was to get Nigeria reconciled by putting Obasanjo, and after a year, we were fully reconciled internally and it impacted on the international arena as an important leader in Africa and the world.
So it is the conduct of the government that negates or brings good for the country. Look at Rwanda, it is a very tiny country but they have a very strong voice because the internal chemistry has been harmonised and they are stable and prosperous and investors are going there. Even Ghana is more serious than Nigeria. It is the character of the leadership of the country that makes the world respect or disrespect us.
By: Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Amina Alhassan & Faruk Shuaibu