By Wale Akinola
Alhaji Sule Lamido is the immediate past governor of Jigawa State. Before then, he served as foreign affairs minister in the Obasanjo administration. Only recently, Lamido signalled his intention to be President in 2019 on the aegis of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview, the former governor speaks on his ambition to be President and the state of the nation. He also speaks on his tenure in Jigawa and his brush with his successor, Governor Badaru Abubakar.
You were in charge at the Jigawa Government House where you spent eight years. What was the experience like and what legacy did you leave behind?
Let me say it was a very exciting time but not without challenges; and I cherish challenges so much because life without challenges is not meaningful. The feeling that the people trusted you as their leader was also there. We were very careful of that burden of trust and the hope placed on us as leaders because it was huge, but we prayed so hard to God to help us deliver so that by the time you left office, the people would really appreciate your leadership.
I can say it was a wonderful experience. In terms of legacy, it is not for me to say because you cannot mark your papers when you sit for an examination. Those who would mark your papers are the people who gave you the mandate and voted for you; they are the ones to say whether you have done well or not. I was simply doing my duty and all we did was to make life meaningful for our people and, as to whether I left good legacy or not, it is left for my people to decide.
Immediately after you left office, there were allegations raised against you by your successor, Badaru Abubakar. What exactly is your story?
The governor came under a different platform. I went into government on the platform of the PDP whose manifesto I implemented while he (Abubakar) is of the APC. So, naturally, he may not find what I did relevant or in tune with his agenda based on mind-set and party manifesto, but then the office is there, the people are there and the government is there.
I did the best I could and the records are there. So, if he feels I did not perform, the records would judge. On the day he became governor, in his inaugural speech where he talked about his policy direction, he tried to start a political vendetta by accusing our administration of stealing N13billion from the treasury. This is a government that had barely spent a day in office.
Same day, he went to the IPP (Independent Power Project) where he accused me of abandoning the project started by my predecessor, Saminu Turaki. He promised to fix the project within two weeks but, as we speak, the project has not been completed. I don’t want to be entangled with all he said about me. At a point, he said I was instigating and inciting Jigawa people against his government
Is that true…..?
What is true? A question like this gets one upset because with my status, at this age, having served as governor for eight years, built and developed my people, you think I will incite the same people against government?
The people’s well-being, security are the most important thing to me. If I incite them, there would be violence; if there is violence, there would be destruction of life and property, and you think I could do that? I am the only former governor in Nigeria sent to prison by my successor on the account of inciting people against his government. I was sent to prison for three days.
Governor Abubakar also said the airport you built amounts to a waste of resources because it is not viable. Is it true you were heavily subsidising it with government money?
Our thinking and vision are different. I have seen the world outside of Nigeria and I know the value of human existence and development. As foreign minister, I know what is called human value. I have seen developed economies and civilization and I know that Nigeria compared to the Western economy is like we are still living in a stone age. Therefore, we need to build the future of our dream. So, what we simply did was to build the foundation for the future because, for you to build a 30-story structure, you need a very strong foundation.
I see Jigawa as a state within states in Nigeria and, for someone who understands what human decency is all about, coupled with my desire and hunger for development for my state, I said ‘let us build a foundation for the future’.
That was the reason for the establishment of the airport. Apparently, we were building a new generation and we needed to build a foundation that would serve as the bench mark for generations yet unborn. The reflection is not only on the airport, all our infrastructure and projects were built on a solid foundation because we had standards.
From the state secretariat to the judiciary, the structures were marvellous. Jigawa was the only state in Nigeria (during my time) where you would not find potholes. Any pothole you saw was on federal roads. There is a place called Gumel; before you drive from that place to Dutse, the state capital, it would take you more than three hours, but when we completed that road, it took only one hour 20 minutes. Our approach was to raise the standard of our people. Anything you do on education, agriculture, works, health, security stays for life in the minds of the people.
If you did all those things and you couldn’t install the successor of your choice because we know the successor didn’t come from your party, what do you think went wrong?
After the election, the Emir of Dutse called me to know what went wrong and the reasons behind the loss of the PDP and my reply was simply, ‘Let us just accept that that was what God really wanted’. Yes, there was the Buhari hurricane or whatsoever you called it. But after the whole water and storm have subsided, what we had and still have is total devastation, pain, misery and lots more carnage.
So, whatever happened in Nigeria in 2015 and in Jigawa in particular was the Buhari phenomenon that swept through the states but you can also check what has happened after the so-called hurricane. I believe the people can tell the story better now. I believe in liberty. But let the people choose what they believe is good for them; they will be the ones to bear the consequences. If you decide to choose pain and agony for yourself, it is your choice because you have the freedom to do so. God has given us thinking faculty to make right decisions; there is the Constitution to guide you, but if you decide to be stupid, so be it. So, if you choose what is wrong for yourself, you must also bear the consequences. I have done my best as governor.
Your party also lost the presidential election to the Buhari hurricane?
In my political culture, when you go through a political calamity and you come out of it, you don’t need to start apportioning blames. It has happened; there is nothing we can do about that anymore. We know what we did wrongly and that we did rightly, all we need to do now is to return to the drawing board, reunite, adjust and find solution to our problems because the next election is very much around the corner. If we start looking back at what actually went wrong, it will open fresh wounds. I know we are all paying dearly for the loss.
Let us look at how to unite again and restore the confidence Nigerians used to have in us because only the PDP has the capacity to fix Nigeria. PDP is the largest party in Africa because we are in every home in the country, if we made some mistakes, we are human, we should be able to correct them.
So, it is no time for blame games. It is time for restoration because Nigeria needs restoration now very dearly. You know PDP has a strong bond, strong chemistry and organic which unite brothers and sisters across the country, unlike the APC which was a contraption. They all left their homes to form a forum. Those in the ACN, the CPC and the ANPP all left their homes for a rented house in the APC.
The APC lacks originality; it is the coming together of fakes. And changing their nomenclature doesn’t make them different. Unfortunately, having assembled in multi-culture of fraud and deceit, they still have the guts to accuse the PDP and call it names. In 1999, we didn’t have all these people because they were post-PDP invention. All of them, former governors, former senators, former assembly members, originated from the PDP.
So you think PDP is now strong enough to take back power in 2019.
There is no comparison. If there is no PDP in 2019, Nigeria will end in disaster. Look, we accepted that the PDP made serious mistakes, but then the life time of a nation takes millions of years. In our democracy, we are still being nurtured.
Check American democracy, it has been there for 250 years, yet it is not perfect. Nigerian democracy is just barely 18 years, we are still learning. There is no way you can mount a truck in a canoe, it will sink and that is APC for you. Beyond the sentiments, beyond the lies, it is only PDP which has nurtured the country’s democracy from inception, which knows where the shoe pinches and can fix the problems of this country.
If you are asked to rate the Buhari administration, being a member of the party opposed to government, not many will be surprised that you will write off the regime. But the thinking in many quarters is that your party, the PDP, wrecked the country before it handed over to the APC government.
Since May 29, 2015, has there been no money appropriated for them to spend? But they were looking for the money they claimed PDP stole. They were looking for who stolen this and that. When they wanted to form the APC, the same people calling PDP names came to me in Jigawa when I was still governor, asking me to come and join them and that brings me to the situation whereby our followers fight because of political ambitions.
While we politicians know where we meet to settle our differences, I insist nobody should die because of our political ambitions. So, when they came, asking me to join them, I asked, ‘Were you not the ones calling us Boko Haram and all sorts of names, so why do you suddenly need us in your party’. I then told them ‘if you think PDP is bad, why don’t you join us and clean us? I think that is better than for me to join you’. I told them ‘I am not coming to your party because my weight will crush yours and why did you drop your own party in the first place?’ So, I told them ‘I am not coming’.
Some PDP senators and members of our party joined them and that was because they could not get what they wanted. It was the PDP that helped them to win the 2015 elections. Minus PDP, they couldn’t have won. Now, let Nigerians examine the two parties and tell what they could deliver, let the people use the power of their analysis to look at where Nigeria was then and where we are now and decide which one between the PDP and APC has performed creditably.
So it is because the APC hasn’t done well that you want to be President.
Parties are formed to win elections and anybody in the parties can run for any political office. I am contesting because I know Nigeria very well, I know our challenges, I know the solution, I have passion for humanity and decency. I am not saying there is no other person in the party who can be President but I also think I can be that person.
I know what the Nigerian people want and I know I can deliver that. I have seen how the developed economies work and despite our strong culture, pride and dignity, our economy has refused to develop, we are still living in the stone age; and I believe I have solution to that. If you visit our markets today, you will see multitudes of people complaining about the worsening situation of the economy and, when you ask questions and complain, the same government you voted for would start mocking you, saying you are wailing.
The latest ‘wailing’ is about the former Chairman of the Police Pension Reform Panel, Maina, who was reinstated and promoted after being accused of stealing N2billion pension money. And it is like the ‘wailing and wailing’ is not about to end because there is so much economic hardship in the land.
Look, let me tell you, these people are citizens of this country by right and not by privilege; they should not be mocked for talking about their own government. And thank God, today, because of their high-level fraud, the First Lady of the country (Aisha Buhari) too is wailing; even her daughter is wailing. The wailing is spreading so much so that the professor of law (Itse Sagay), whose committee was called to stem corruption in the country, too is wailing because he said APC is also corrupt.
What signals are you getting in the course of your consultations on your ambition to be President?
I am still consulting with the leaders of the party. It is like internal memo for now, we are meeting various groups in the party to sell our philosophy and intention to run for the presidency in 2019 and I am only talking to PDP members so as to be on the same page. The ambition is necessary following the poor governance we have from the APC. Today, Nigeria is missing out in the comity of nations because we are too busy fighting one another at home. Did you know we withdrew from all major bodies across the world?
We are all disturbed today because, for example, if you are a member of the PDP, you are labelled a demon. That is not politics.
The zoning arrangement has become contentious such that the PDP Caretaker Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, was reported to have said that any zone can produce the National Chairman at the forthcoming national convention of the party which, in effect, means the presidency in 2019 may also be open to both the northern and southern regions of the country. And Governor Fayose from the South has signalled that zoning may not be an issue in 2019.
In the PDP, we have our Constitution but that Constitution is man-made, which means it was produced to settle issues or amended to create unity, harmony and equal opportunities in the party. Party rules refer to a mechanism used to arrive at a consensus but, as a member, you also have the right to agree or disagree with the mechanism in place.
Now, Governor Ayodele Fayose is coming out to contest for President in 2019, it is his right, but, at the same time, the national convention takes the final decision based on our chances and opportunities available for maximum advantage. If the convention finds Fayose worthy, so be it; that means the convention finds him suitable and we must rally round and support him. Now, what i am saying is that nothing stops anybody in the PDP from contesting for any position in the party.
Many people still think the North remains President Buhari’s stronghold going by the huge votes he got from the region in 2015. Do you think he can still get huge votes if he seeks re-election in 2019 going by what many people now perceive as the poor performance of his administration?
This question is worrisome because you are talking of the highest political office in the country. The implication of that notion is that there might not be justice for the other region if one region produces the President. Whether you like it or not and regardless of where you are coming from, once you are elected as President, you become the President of all regions, the Constitution is clear about that. That is how we keep demeaning the position of the President with our emotion, sentiment and partisanship.
That is why when the APC got there, they started saying ‘it is our own time now’, then they put some cabal in government to do as they like, forgetting that they were voted into power by the people and they will be spending the people’s resources. Whether you like it or not, anybody voted must serve the people and accord them respect.
What is your take on the clamour for the restructuring of the country?
It is not fair to take up a sensitive and emotional matter such as restructuring just to score political points. We should be honest with ourselves and nobody should be allowed to exploit the situation to his advantage. To start with, what exactly is the problem of the country? Injustice. People talk about poverty, unemployment, bad economy, but as far as I am concerned, the challenge is simply injustice.
If you ask a man from the South-South, he will tell you he wants to control his oil, he wants a certain percentage of the revenue generated from the resource on his land. Ask the man from the South-East, he will say his area needs more states because his region is the only one with five states in the federation, others have six or seven.
So, let us call a debate to decide the way forward because already everybody feels neglected and denied of his fundamental rights and, of course, everybody is entitled to those rights. What the government should have done was to call stakeholders across the regions to a dialogue to resolve the differences. People feel they are being left out in what rightfully belongs to them. And that explains why they are so agitated.
But we need to think of an amicable resolution to fix the challenges and the emotional one that is dividing us as a nation. Now, let me ask you, what happened before two and a half years ago? Why did we not have these agitations during the previous administrations? Don’t you think something is wrong somewhere?
I you meet the President, one on one, what would be telling him?
I will say ‘Mr President sir, respect the Constitution’. Nothing more.