*Forget NGF crisis, when it comes to money govs ‘re united
Governor Sule Lamido is arguably the most socialist inclined of the country’s 36 governors. In his six years in office as governor of Jigawa State, he has in several ways sought to give the imprint of the Talakawa ideology he inherited from his one time leader, Mallam Aminu Kano on the state. Such policies as the allocation of slots to women and the physically disabled at all levels of government, subsidy on quality medicare and education, and the frantic effort to extend infrastructure to reach the lowest cadre of the citizenry are glimpses of Governor Lamido’s socialist inclinations on ground in Jigawa State.
Following the Sallah Durbar marking the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, the governor sat down for a brief interview touching on the recent effort by him and four other governors to mobilise some of the country’s elder-statesmen to intervene in the crisis in the polity. Of course, he spoke on the conspiracy of the elite class against the Nigerian masses. Excerpts:
BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
What do you intend to achieve with your visits to the past leaders?
We are people who are normal human beings who are concerned about their country, who believe in their country regardless of which party they come from. If we are going to have democracy, democracy has rules therefore we should learn to uphold those tenets of democracy. If you manipulate it you are rocking the entire system. It is not against anybody’s aspirations, we are not against anybody. But we are being maligned, we are now being called a gang of five, we are now being called desperadoes. See how we are being maligned.
But if you look at us, these are people who stuck out their necks for this country two years ago, all of us! It is because we have the capacity to understand where we are going that is why we have the courage to stand up and say. It has nothing to do with this so called aspiration for 2015 at all, it is about the way things are being done within the system, the way the government is being run. It doesn’t matter if it is my own government or any other one in the country, the way the institutions are being run, the way the parties are being run, do they really conform with the rules of democracy? A situation where a hired hand like Doyin Okupe, a wage earner speaks only to justify his pay will malign me that I am irrelevant.
Justifying the wages
He became an aide after the election. These people who are now talking and abusing us are personal aides who became what they are when the mandate was achieved. They were nowhere when the whole thing was being worked out. It means there was an election before they were able to serve as personal aides. In their own case, it is an industry, they are justifying the wages they are earning, it is for the pay. There is nothing like honour in that because they are just hired hands if tomorrow you have another president they go to him.
All of them are so irrelevant in their own constituencies, they have no idea what we went through. Our worry is the institution, ignore our personalities, ignore Sule Lamido, he may be an irritant it doesn’t matter, you can abuse my person but don’t abuse the office l am holding because the office is symbolic. If you demystify the office, if appointees of the president would be that audacious to organise people to pellet us with stones unwittingly they are also disrobing the Office of the President because he is also our symbol.
You can abuse Sule Lamido, you can abuse Kwankwaso, you can abuse Wamakko but don’t abuse our office because after I leave office as governor of Jigawa State, this institution will remain. If appointees of the president would insult us simply because they are justifying the pay that they are earning, because they are there for the pay. They are wage earners, they are not stakeholders.
Two, we are going round not because of any personal interest or because we have an ambition, we are going round because we feel that no matter what, a democracy must have some pattern, some standard. It must have clearly defined rules and when the rules are depressed to obtain an advantage, you are also depressing the country. How can we as governors unite and pick our own leader, clearly, our own chairman, nobody else’s. You know in the Governors Forum we don’t discuss politics, it is all about the economy.
Are you not bothered that the real agenda of the Governors Forum is being lost?
No, no. The Governors Forum is an informal thing, nothing like an agenda.
What I mean is your coming together to articulate common issues?
My friend if tomorrow the issue is about sharing money, the governors of Akwa Ibom, that of Lagos, that of Zamfara, Bayelsa will be on the same frequency because they all want money. In fact, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom need more money because they have got very difficult terrain. So, the issue is not about persons, but it is about what do we get as governors from the federation account which is defined as ours. That is all. Today, the Federal Government is the custodian, minister of finance controls the money and for us to take from the money we have to go and beg and beg and beg.
Get me very clear, when the issue is about the economy, about getting money from the federation account, all the governors in Nigeria are on the same frequency. All the governors are on the same wavelength whether it is Jang or Fashola or Giedam or Suswam or Sule Lamido, all of us, when it is about getting money to your state, we are on the same frequency. That is all. So, let us have institutions which are functioning. Clearly defined and when they are functioning you wont talk about problems in Nigeria for the next one million years. Not Nigeria of today and when a country is not defined by institutions we will keep on remaining in one spot.
So when it is said that Nigeria cannot break, yes it is too weak to be broken. It is too weak to break. Who will break it? The ordinary person in Jigawa or the ordinary person in Sokoto or the ordinary person in Bayelsa? Is it the Ibo vulcaniser or the Yoruba woman who is selling kerosene by the roadside or the Okada man in Delta? They don’t have the capacity to unite because they are burdened by poverty.
We have taken away from them their dignity, their self esteem, their pride and self worth so that they cannot even organize. Who did? We the elite. Up there, we (elite) unite, we sing and so we will never allow Nigeria to break because once it breaks we will lose. But the common man loses nothing. What is he losing? He is already living in hell, he cannot lose anything more than this hell.
When you met the president did you raise the issue of his aides abusing you?
Yes we did.
What did he say?
He said it is wrong.
But they have not stopped?
You see the president as a person is a very decent man but these are people who will try to justify their pay because they are nothing but wage earners. They are not stakeholders. Where were they when we were doing the elections? Doyin Okupe who is saying all these, that we cannot be president or this boy, Gulak? In 2011 where were they? Did they win their constituencies? Doyin there talking and he is from the Yoruba area which is 99 per cent ACN? Of course to him, he is trying to justify his wage.
So, I will not join issues with wage earners, those who are there for the pay. I will join issues with those who believe in the unity of this country, who believe in building strong institutions and we have been very, very consistent. It is not about personalities, it is not about interest. It is about operating by rules and regulations, as per the laws, as per the rules and the constitution. Political parties are also defined by constitution. But when a chairman will suspend a governor for not answering his telephone? For failing to answer the telephone of your chairman you are suspended. What are all these?
So, will you now say that PDP is a bigger threat to itself than APC?
No, no, no. there is simply no alternative to PDP. It is because those who are in there now do not know the history of the PDP. When it was founded in 1998, it had a very clear mission. At that time we were looking at the country because if you don’t look at history you cant think of tomorrow. In 1998 we were looking at the country the way it went through between 1983 up till under Abacha, June 12 and others. So, we were trying to put a mechanism which would be able to reconcile Nigeria and Nigerians across the divide caused by the misrule of the military junta.
So, the mission was how do you put in a political party people with a high profile to be seen. So you needed symbols to be able to restore hope. At that time the issue was what do you put in place as institutions as a mechanism to restore Nigeria? So, Nigeria has been fully restored and there is no better way to assess this than seeing those who are clamouring to be president. Those who are talking now in APC, in 1998 could they talk? Could they? All the materials in APC in 1998 could they talk about Nigeria or the Nigerian presidency? Could they?
Full restoration of Nigeria
The El-Rufais, the Buharis, could they? We have to be very, very honest so it means that it is left to the PDP to restore Nigeria. Nigeria is now fully restored that they can now come out to say that I want to be president. Good! Therefore to us we have been able to accomplish the first phase. The next phase is for the PDP to be able to now sit down and look at Nigeria’s problems and address them. Human development which is the most difficult thing. The most difficult thing. So, it is the second phase which is now posing a big problem, but APC is not the alternative.
A few days ago, former FCT minister Mohammed Abba-Gana came out to say that the north is not prepared for 2015 and does not have a presidential material?
You see Abba-Gana is an old boy from Barewa College and he is my senior and we defer to our seniors. Abba-Gana knows the values upon which Barewa was founded and I defer to him and if that is his opinion fine, but to me he could be a material for the presidency. The preparation he got in that school, the upbringing, he is a material for the presidency. This is my feeling.
Can the PDP under Tukur take the country to that next phase you envisage?
It is part of the process, this metamorphosis. Even a snake before it gets out of the skin to put a new skin there are some pains, they go and hibernate and so, we are going through a very difficult period of metamorphosis.
Period of metamorphosis
It is very, very difficult, but there are pains but thank God PDP has the wherewithal, as the name indicates, the people, no matter our difficulties it will be able to overcome its own problems because there are no alternatives. By the time we are going to the brinks, we will say enough is enough, we apply the brakes and this is what PDP is all about.
Talking about institutions, northern governors were last year against state police, but with the developments in Rivers State would you be changing your stance?
Nigeria Police is no different from any other Nigerian institution. I think we should start to build the institutions, the Police is no different from the Governor’s Office in Jigawa State, or from the presidency or from the National Assembly or from Nigerian banking or even the press. It is from the same society that we get the leaders, therefore we should be able to make sure that we as people should be able to sit down to say, how do we define ourselves? How do we give ourselves some standards, some set values? Which means making the effort, first, to do the right thing. The effort first! If the effort is there, off course we can get there.