• Says there is usually warning before killings in parts of the country occur
BY CHARLES KUMOLU
A former governor of Jigawa State and presidential aspirant of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Sule Lamido, in this interview, says he is in the race to replace what he describes as “incompetent and clueless leadership.”
Why are you aspiring to be the President of Nigeria?
My confidence in my ability to lead this country into a new direction of hope, unity, progress, and prosperity stems from my background and experience. I joined politics early in life and learned under the tutelage of the late Mallam Aminu Kano. I am in politics because of my immense concern for the plight of the people, their freedom from injustice, poverty and guaranteeing them the good and basic things of life. It includes creating an environment that allows them to explore their full potentials. That has remained my guiding principle whether as a party administrator, advocate against military dictatorship, founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Foreign Affairs Minister, and governor of Jigawa State. Nothing in my political trajectory has changed my abiding desire and commitment to improving the lot of Nigerians. Today, our federation and unity are threatened and I have never seen this country so deeply divided as it is now. Our people are unhappy, frustrated and uncertain about the future. On the one hand, we are confronted by increasing poverty and unemployment especially youth unemployment and this is happening against the background of an increasing population which leaves us with a time-bomb. I am even increasingly troubled by the large army of graduates and school leavers that may never find decent jobs in their lifetime. Even those employed live in uncertainty and so are pensioners. I need not mention the state of our education or health systems nor the fact that, globally, we have lost our voice and, in Africa, our leadership.
Insecurity all over Nigeria
The other issue is insecurity all over the country. Less than three years ago, we were in the process of degrading Boko Haram in the North-East and had begun the systematic management of militancy in the Niger Delta with the Amnesty Programme, introduced by the late President UmaruYar’Adua administration. The spate of recent attacks by Boko Haram elements on states in the North-East, the military demands for more resources to tackle insurgency which APC loudly claimed had been technically defeated about two years ago and the audacious kidnapping of Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State are clear indications of the resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgency.
To compound the situation is the unfortunate nomadic herdsmen/farmers clashes which have turned some parts of the country into killing fields. There is no day that passes that we do not witness new horrifying killings like what happened in Plateau State recently. The frequent depressing headlines of killings make one wonder what has befallen this country, or whether we have no respect for human lives anymore. I need not mention the other criminalities and banditry all over the country. Indeed, never in the history of this country have we seen or witnessed so much anger, frustrations and uncertainties, pains, misery, hopelessness and stark disappointments. They have become the hallmark of our time. In the midst of all these, there is the absence of a bold, energetic, visionary, sensitive, caring, fair-minded and competent leader, who understands the nature, structure, and dynamics of the Nigerian society and how to govern a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria. As I indicated in the letter I wrote last year to all PDP leaders and a number of statesmen and women in this country about my intention to contest the presidency of Nigeria, I made it clear that the divisive, aloof and incompetent leadership we have today cannot advance the course of Nigeria’s unity nor guarantee the security of lives and property and arrest its apparent decline as Africa’s largest economy. Indeed, the promises of yesterday have become a mirage.
Redefining our existence
In a nutshell, I am running to redefine our existence as a nation, to create a new narrative and promising future for this country. I am running to ensure that Nigeria achieves its manifest destiny as the largest black nation on earth. Nigeria, with its natural endowment and human capacity, I believe, must consistently demonstrate the ability and capacity to meet domestic, regional and global challenges which currently seem to overwhelm her. I am seeking the presidency of Nigeria to emplace a new leadership with a demonstrable capacity to build bridges, unify the people into a country with a common destiny, entrench justice, fairness, and equity, guarantee the security of lives and property of all Nigerians as well as expand and deepen our democracy. My presidency will rekindle hope and give all Nigerians a sense of belonging by creating a level-playing field that will enable all and sundry to explore, to their fullest, their God-given potentials. I know our union is not a perfect one, but, with a bold, courageous and unifying leadership, we can build a nation of a people with a common destiny. Thus, we must appreciate the need to restore order, social cohesion, harmony and guarantee the peaceful co-existence that has existed since the end of the civil war. Even more urgent is the need to eliminate the general poverty and underdevelopment that contribute to the insecurity in the country, fears of marginalization and discriminations.
I am running to be president because I want to create a progressive, productive, innovative and competitive nation that aspires to feed itself, build new businesses and industries to provide prosperity and employment, especially for its teeming youths and move the country into the league of developed nations. I want to reform and improve the education, health and management systems such that from 10 to 12 years, our universities, in particular, would have become real centres of excellence, learning, and research. Our hospitals would be much improved, well equipped with well-trained staff and appropriate competencies to give confidence to Nigerians and end health tourism. Finally, I am seeking the ticket of the PDP fully conscious of the enormous tasks and challenges ahead and of my ability to lead this country into a new direction and narrative. Fully conscious of the aspirations of all Nigerians, I want to lead that change for a better and prosperous Nigeria and a nation that works for all through the creation of an economy that is progressive, productive, innovative and competitive. I want to be a leader that is the embodiment of the nation’s strength, aspirations, and responsibilities.
What are your views on the spate of killings in the country especially in Zamfara, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and recently in Plateau State where more than 200 people were killed?
First, let me express my sincere and deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the senseless and deplorable attacks in the last three years. We feel their pains. We hear their cries. Second, security of lives and property, as well as the welfare of the citizens, are the major priorities of government. And in our case, it is explicitly enshrined in our constitution. As the governor of Jigawa State for eight years, security was my top priority which explains the peace in the state till today.
There are no words to describe what is going on in this country, especially the incompetence and cluelessness of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. What is most painful is that there is often information about killings before they occur but government chooses to ignore the warnings, only to shed crocodile tears after hundreds would have been killed. In the case of the last killings in Plateau State, the police alone deployed more than 5,000 officers and men to the APC Convention in Abuja, meaning that every delegate had a police officer to himself. This is not to mention the hundreds of Department of State Security Services, DSS, agents, military and Civil Defense personnel at the venue of the Convention. Yet what was required to prevent the killings was probably less than 300 police officers or troops. That this has been going on for nearly three years unabated shows that the Buhari administration cares little about sanctity of lives. Worse still, there is no evidence or indication of any sense of urgency or desire to arrest the situation. How can we explain that with our large military, police and other security agencies, we cannot disarm the armed groups responsible for these killings or bring their sponsors, leaders, and perpetrators to justice? As president, I will move quickly to disarm the armed groups in this country, especially as we know who they are and where they are, strengthen intelligence gathering, work with state governors, and engage and deploy local community leaders to help maintain peace and harmony among the various ethnic groups in the country. Even more important is the need to address, in a comprehensive manner, the cultural and economic factors responsible for the crisis in all the areas. But for now, President Buhari must act to stop the killings and, if he can’t, he has no business asking for a second term and Nigerians must deny him that.
Do you think the retooling of the nation’s security architecture would address the killings?
This country needs huge investments to survive and this is possible only when there is peace and security. And in a competitive environment, nobody will leave a peaceful, secure environment to invest in a country perceived as insecure and chaotic. There is, therefore, the urgent need to re-examine the entire gamut of our nation’s security structures or arrangements, to ensure their preparedness and capacity at maintaining security in Nigeria, while warding off external aggression. In this regard, my urgent priority will be to adopt a pragmatic approach to the issue of policing in the country. First, we have got to refocus the police on its core mandate of fighting and preventing crimes and build up its capacity. We have to rebuild the Mobile Police and make it effective and efficient as first responders to violence situations across the country. The current deployment of the military all over the country and in some cases for matters within the purview of the police is unhealthy for our democracy and unnecessarily overstretches the military and leaves it unprepared to defend the country should the need arises. There is the need to review the police management and devolve more powers, and resources. We will give authority to the state police commissioners and hold them responsible and accountable for the peace and security of the states, while functionally reporting to the governors of the states who are constitutionally chief security offices of the states of the federation.
How best can that be done?
The current management of the police from Abuja and the over-concentration of power, authority, and resources in the Inspector General of Police are responsible for the inefficiency, indiscipline and general failures of the police. The frequent ordering of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, by the President to relocate to crisis zones is opaque, ineffective and how not to manage the police. No wonder the IGP ignores the President’s orders. The decentralisation of authority, power and resources will be accompanied by massive training and retraining with the help of our development partners, especially in the areas of intelligence gathering and rapid reaction to crisis. We need well trained intelligent officers and detectives to make the police, DSS, military intelligence, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and others capable of discharging their mandate at an optimal level. As our society grows and becomes more sophisticated, our institutions must equally upgrade themselves to enable them to meet the needs of the society.
On armed forces
Certainly, with regard to the armed forces, my first priority will be to review the current state of the military to ensure we have a strong, disciplined, mechanised and well-motivated military capable of defending the territorial sovereignty of Nigeria, assist the civil authorities where necessary and participate in global peacekeeping operations. At the heart of the new security architecture that I am thinking of is to ensure, in the first instance, that well over 60 percent of our military and security requirements are sourced within the country. As for the security chiefs, I think with what we are experiencing now, there is the need for some fresh heads that can bring new critical thinking and direction to the security situation in the country.
Nigeria now has the largest number of poor people in the world. What would you do as president to address the situation?
We do not need any report to know about the growing poverty in the land. The National Bureau of Statistics has been warning about the increasing level of unemployment and, as we speak, the APC government, in three years, has compounded the situation by failing to make employment creation its priority. The recent report referred to confirms an earlier report by the International Monetary Fund which equally warned about the deteriorating economic situation and its impact on Nigerians. It is against this backdrop that I said that, in seeking the presidency of this great country, my central objective is to break this poverty cycle.