August 9, 2020

INSECURITY: Nigeria is being governed by its second eleven – Sule Lamido

Boko Haram, Lamido, Obasanjo

Sule Lamido

Sule Lamido

…Says APC will die in 2023 when Buhari leaves office

…Narrates how Wike foisted ‘eaglet’ leadership on PDP

By Olalekan Bilesanmi

Remember Alhaji Sule Lamido? He was Foreign Affairs Minister under the Obasanjo administration. He later went to become a two-term governor of Jigawa State. After that, Lamido aspired to be Nigeria’s President on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. But in this interview, the veteran politician claims his quest for the presidency led to some politicians viciously coming after him. He speaks on the state of the nation.

Let’s start from the statement by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State against your party, PDP, that the NWC members are tax collectors, apparently referring to the way Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State got the ticket to contest the Sept 19 governorship election on its platform.

I don’t like discussing the specifics of the character of people. But then, for instance, if Solomon Lar, Gemade or Audu Ogbeh were the Chairman, do you think they would be called tax collectors? If Wike called them tax collectors including the Chairman, I mean the Chairman is Wike’s invention; he is Wike’s boy…  In any case, if you look at the PDP as a history, heritage, institution, the party which produced three Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, the party which produced government for 16 years, which produced so many governors and lawmakers, both at the state and federal levels, so many council chairmen and ambassadors, with this huge history behind it, and you talk about the capacity, ability, and the party is presently being led by eaglets. So, the PDP is led, at best, by what you can describe as the youth wing of the party. Whatever Wike might have said, he may not be at fault. Because…

Whatever Wike said you think isn’t a slap on the party?

Wike can be right because if you look at it and extend it from the party to Nigeria where you have institutions and the Federal Government in terms of performance, capacity and service delivery and the level of governance we have had, then you will know that Nigeria is being governed and led its second 11. On the other hand, look at the PDP which has produced the likes of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Atiku among others, and the current leaders managing the affairs of the party, you could see obviously that the party is now being run by the eaglets of the party and not by the seniors. Secondus is a product of Wike. I am saying this with all honesty.

I mean no disrespect. And then in terms of their exposures, experience, age, certainly for them to lead a party where people like Obasanjo, Atiku and others have operated, it means people would expect high caliber leaders to tackle APC, but as it is, the two groups, the government running the country and the party as opposition, are operating at the same frequency. They are all grossly inadequate to lead Nigeria as a political party or as a government if you look at what Nigeria is in terms of our history.

As an elder statesman among others, what are you doing to change the narrative?

I agree with you that the BoT, whose members are the conscience of the party and whose integrity and political profile, should guide the party…it is so difficult to explain. We made big mistakes as PDP.

How so?

We made mistakes because who brought APC into power? So, we have a problem because I have been saying Buhari government is PDP government but deformed PDP. It’s just like me now, one part of me is deformed PDP and the other is deformed APC. So, the deformed PDP parades some of the finest leaders who the PDP honored, dignified and trusted but who went and joined the APC to defeat the PDP. Everybody at that time was angry about PDP.

So we left PDP. So, this government is a creation of the PDP. To correct the mistakes, we need to purge ourselves of the sins. Those who left PDP should also purge themselves of the sins because it all about Nigeria today.

So, it means all of us have been pursuing political and personal interests and not national interest. If you don’t get it, you can abandon the party and pursue the other party. So it means you are willing to harm Nigeria. Ideally, we should suppress our interests and rally behind Nigeria, promote Nigeria and actualize our mission. But by the time we pursue our personal interests, we are leading and Nigeria is following. And you now have insurgency, kidnapping and a country divided.

You were in government for eight years. You set up some legacy projects that should still be standing…

You see, we are not talking about me as an individual or my government but we are talking about Nigeria. The PDP did very well, the railway lines, highways, the airports. The PDP government was a government of ideas. Whatever this government is doing is all based on the foundation of the PDP.  In terms of infrastructure, economy, security, bond between brothers and sisters, harmony between the regions, religions and tribe is not there anymore. It means our political chemistry is terribly distorted. We are talking in general terms, all of us, those in government, nobody is happy.

Any regret that you lost power in the state?

No, no, no. You see the people of Nigeria have the power and right to change the government as and when they want.

Whether rightly or wrongly?

The right is certified under freedom; therefore, you are free to be stupid. It’s your right to be stupid. There should be no any regret from an individual in terms of politics because the right to confer authority or withdraw it is in the people.

So, if the Nigerian people fell into the APC propaganda that for the 16 years that PDP ruled, it was all looting and nothing was done even though they found new, modern airports in Abuja, Kano, Enugu and others under Stella Oduah, highways, power projects, it is most unfortunate. So, the APC came with no ideas, the only thing they had in excess is evil. They unleashed pains on Nigerians. So, it’s for the people to make a choice, if PDP had not joined APC to support the latter in the 2015 elections, they would not have won. Recall the previous elections, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, if you had combined all the parties together, they could not defeat PDP.

So, you don’t believe the merger of different parties that make up APC brought it to power?

No, no, no. The merger was a barren woman without PDP members coming to fertilize it. No matter what they did under the merger, there was no way they could have won the Federal Government.

What is your take on the clamor for the sack of Service Chiefs because of the deteriorating security in the country?

I don’t know why people forget so easily. You cannot build a nation if you always rely on the spur of the moment.

But the administration promised security during electioneering campaign…

What I am saying is that in 2015 when the PDP was in power, security, material corruption and economy were the main issues around which the APC build their campaign of propaganda. They said PDP members were all thieves. Even in the APC, their former Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said if you joined the APC, the power of Buhari’s piety would wipe away all your sins. So no matter how dirty you were, how much you stole, if you joined the APC, pious Buhari will forgive you and wipe away your sins.

And if you are talking about security, what was the promise when they came? That we were insecure, that there was Boko Haram bombing and killing of people in churches and mosques. They even brought pictures from other countries just to solidify their propaganda solid. Former President Jonathan was maligned; they abused him and his wife. Things became very personal. PDP was demonized so much so that nobody wanted to associate with the party.

So, we were flushed out. You are asking me about insecurity? They failed. You put in a government that cannot secure you. So why are you telling me? Because it has even gone beyond Boko Haram, it has come to a situation where a Nigerian will steal another Nigerian and demand for ransom. Friends would connive and arrange fake kidnap. A man would attack his people, burn the entire village, kill kinsmen and rustle animals. When PDP was there, we were doing very well but then we were demonized. So why are you talking about insecurity?


Don’t you think changing the Service Chiefs can bring sanity and change the narrative against insecurity?

Today’s warfare is Hi-Tech. United States can send a drone to Lebanon to target a terrorist and kill him. That is what they call precision killing. But in Nigeria, for us to overcome Boko Haram, Army chief Buratai must go to Maiduguri. And then Buhari, a whole general, would be giving order in public. He ordered the IG to go to Gusau. And he said it in the public. That is a security issue that normally should be classified. So the security, economy and corruption they used as propaganda, it is for Nigerians to judge and see whether they are better off.

The APC in Jigawa may succeed itself as there isn’t strong opposition personality that can contest with the ruling party come 2023?

Tell me today in Nigeria one single person who gained national acceptance under APC. APC came on board on Buhari’s personal popularity. The PDP doesn’t work on individuals but collectively. We work together to put somebody there. Unlike PDP, the APC is about Buhari. Now remove Buhari from APC, after eight years, tell me who will be there? So, the PDP, either at the state or national level, is owned by the people. We brought Obasanjo in 1999, he did not win anything in the South-West but he won Nigeria. So, it is a Nigerian family working for Nigeria. So, irrespective of where he is coming from, if PDP says it is you, we must support you. So, the issue of Jigawa, it’s like the issue of PDP in Nigeria. It’s not about Sule Lamido. Sule Lamido is a personal phenomenon. And so when the time comes, the extended family will come and say “we want Mr. A or B”.

Usually, people of your standing reside in the cities and not in the village living with the locals. But here you are living in the village with your people. It looks strange.

A: Very interesting. I found your question very weird.  Where was I born? I was born here in Binukudu. My daddy lived here and I grew up here as a child with my peers. So why do you think the worldly attainments or status should simply make me to be bigger than this village where I was born?

Q: You can’t be bigger than where you were born?

A: How can I be? I was born here. I mean in this village and the people knew me before I became what I became.

Q: You are a national figure…

A: I was exported from this village to the entire country. So, it means I cannot grow bigger than my village. So, whatever I am in life, my foundation and beginning was in this village. It’s my pride, history, heritage and everything. So, you think I am now what you think I am, therefore I should be living with people like you? You found me, unfinished product from this village, produced from this village. You are talking about material definition or status.

Q: Looking at when you were growing up, pre and post independence, the values and virtues your generation held dear have all been eroded, same with infrastructure and governance…

A: Our founding fathers had a dream and a vision for Nigeria. And they were colonized. And they knew the pain of being colonized, of being owned territorially. And so we were colonized and the first thing the colonialists did was to induce in us the notion and feeling that we were inferior. From there, they kind of made us feel ashamed of our tradition and culture because our way of life was different from theirs. And, therefore, they tried to convert us to their own system and way of life. So our history, tradition, culture, tribe and everything about us was destroyed. And we were psychologically also destroyed. Our founding fathers were very active on what they wanted. To them, there was nothing like North or South, Christians or Muslims, Yoruba or Hausa – Fulani because they were fighting a bigger vampire which was trying to consume us. So, the unity was total, the commitment to our independence too was total.

And the main function of any government is human development. But human development will never be complete because the more you elevate a human being, the higher he becomes aware of himself and the more he meets human development. We are pursuing perpetual perfection. If you say, for instance now, that you are contented as a human, then your life is finished because it cannot take challenges.

Shortly after our independence, there was a civil war but, at independence and there in our national anthem, there was a stanza that says “though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand”. That stanza was fully wiped away and we went about killing each other. From there on, we got the issue of North, South, East, West and Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw and the essential thing was simply abandoned.

Q: Which was what?

A: Human development! You must be a human being before you become Hausa, Muslim or Christian. So, these manipulative differences are mere distractions from the leaders.

Q: How did this affect our stunted development?

A: After we fought a civil war, we came back to democracy. But those mistakes of the war threatened our democracy. The second effect was the introduction of new dimensions, new leaders, leaders who are disconnected, leaders who have no idea of the sacrifice made by our founding fathers. Even now, there is no curriculum. I understand we don’t teach history in our schools. And that is the biggest mistake because if you have no history, who will write your own history? So, we have been grappling with these problems since then because there is disconnect between our founding fathers and the young generations. And then the clamor for wealth became the main thing.

That is why I said we have been having governance issues right from 1960. In 1960, we had four governments – the Federal Government and three regions (Northern, Eastern and Western regions). By 1965, we had five governments – the Federal Government and four regions (Northern, Eastern, Western and Mid-West) but today we have 37 governments (Federal Government and 36 states). Now, we’ve been having government, whether military or civilian, for the past 60 years and, therefore, there has been leadership mismanagement of resources. We have been making budgets since 1960 to construct roads and we have not finished.

Go anywhere in the world, you don’t see government constructing new roads but maybe creating new modern highways. In Nigeria, for over 60 years we have been budgeting for health, yet malaria keeps coming and malaria is our problem. Similarly, we have made budgets for education for the past 60 years, at all levels. But look at the turn out and quality of education in our schools. But, conversely, if you look at the operators from 1966 to date, you could see the rapid and astronomical growth of individuals. The Nigerian individual can compete with anybody in the world in terms of material possession. And their lifestyle is comparable anywhere in the world.

So, it means, our primary duty of human development has been subordinated. The country has been subordinated; the operators lead while the country follows. And that is why Nigeria is a paradox: Two compelling extremes, extreme poverty and extreme wealth. The poorest man in the world is a Nigerian. Look at the smaller countries, it is because they are small and, therefore, they have human management to give benchmark.

READ ALSO: 2023: We are ready to welcome back those that left PDP ― Lamido

In Nigeria, as you travel on highways, you find a fellow human who you call a mad man picking something to eat. People who you see crippled or blind, it is not their fault; it is because government has failed some 30 to 40 years back to address the root causes of those afflictions from the beginning. There was no vaccination, so there was polio. There was no good drinking water, no personal good hygiene and, therefore, people fall sick. So these things you see advertise our failure some 30 to 40 years ago.

Q: Manifestation of our failures…

A: Absolutely, they are the root causes of our failure. If the root causes have been addressed 40 years ago through good governance, provision of facilities, health, drinking water and vaccination, everything would have been addressed. So, failure to address these challenges is the biggest corruption. Failure is the corruption. And we term that as material theft. That is just one aspect of corruption. It is because the entire system is corrupted that you call it material theft. So it is because the system is corrupted that material theft becomes very visible. And, therefore, it is all about stealing money. In our personal conduct, we are corrupt. You pass by a fellow human being and you call him a mad man because he is naked or half naked, trying to pick something to eat from the dustbin and you don’t feel concerned and you say you are not corrupt. You are morally and mentally corrupt.

And, therefore, institutions supporting better lives for human beings have been truncated. In churches, mosques, board rooms, editorial boards, the character of the operators is not clear.

Q: Talking about characters, we have been entertained of recent by actors at the National Assembly on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, probe involving the Minister of Niger Delta Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the erstwhile Managing Director, Joy Nunieh, on corruption charges leveled against the commission?

A: You see, all these are just symptoms. The question is, as you are talking to me, in all honesty, if we reflect and interrogate ourselves in terms of personal conduct, social behavior, is it normal or ideal?

Q: Are you not surprised?

A: I am not surprised. Let me tell you, you as a person, if you are put in that place, you will ‘chop money’. Because when we established these institutions, we didn’t think about how they would operate. What kind of people are you looking for? People with the right mental disposition and character… But when they lobby to get there, you find that the institution is not designed to give effect to the objective of the institution. Look at the EFCC for example, I mean the Chairman rides in bullet proof SUV, he confiscate Jeeps, tankers, etc. He is a fellow human being operating in a Nigerian environment where things are all wrong. Why do you blame suspended EFCC Chairman Magu or Minister Akpabio when a civil servant or a tax collector is expected to go to the market and collect tax but hides part of the money he collects for government?

Q: Akpabio said during the NDDC probe that Committee Chairmen collect contracts from the agency they are supposed to be supervising…

A: It is against work ethics. We are so unethical in the way we do things. Tell me anybody in Nigeria who is standing upright? Who in the Presidency?

Q: The Presidency or the President?

A: The President is only a symbol. He is perceived to be upright and perfect. And, therefore, he is seen as a shield and people are frightened and run away. But then, those behind the shield, what are they doing there? What do they do with the shield?

Q: Still on corruption, the EFCC and Ministry of Justice which ordinarily should be fighting and criminalizing corruption are ironically enmeshed in corruption allegations?

A:  You once found Magu sitting next to President Buhari in a public occasion. And there is a Police Commissioner in Abuja. Magu is Deputy Commissioner of Police. In the same occasion, you found the AIG, DIG sitting far off from the President, and Magu is seated beside the President. The operators of the institutions should be anonymous. The duty of the EFCC is to investigate and prosecute. I mean they are too visible. And that, on its own, puts fear into people. And because they are feared, therefore they can do anything. If you want to buy a house in Abuja, EFCC can make a call to invite you because they are monitoring your account. As you make withdrawals, you are invited, as the owner of the property receives alert, he is invited and he would be asked how he came about the money. And then they pressure you. My pension fund account has been blocked for the past three years because they say I laundered money. This means, as far as government is concerned, I shouldn’t even eat. So, this approach which purely instills fear into people is not the proper way to fight corruption. The institution of government should not frighten the people. They should give you confidence and inspire you to do the right thing. Today in Nigeria, the culture of fear has become the new normal. Government should be compassionate, humane because they say it is for the people. Government is held in trust for the people and so therefore you don’t use power to harass and humiliate people.

Q: Despite your efforts and sacrifice you made to the development of Jigawa State, are you not worried that you are being tried for corruption?

A: That is coming in my memoir.  My case of corruption is not an APC case. You will read the full details when my memoir comes out. It is a case arising from a civil war we had in PDP when I was perceived as nursing an ambition to run for the President. And I think everything was done to diminish and demean me. For instance, the DSS wrote a report that I stole N33billion in Jigawa. And they revealed this to some journalists. There was this effort to destroy me. Lamorde (former EFCC Chairman) called some members of the National Assembly and told them that I had an account in dollars in a place called Jersey. For the first time I heard about the place called Jersey from Lamorde. It’s somewhere between England and France and that it is a safe haven for laundering money. Lamorde said this. DSS said this about me. Former attorney general Adoke was also used to fight this perceived presidential ambition.

They harassed my people and officials. They picked my son at the airport who was sick and they did everything to embarrass me. They checked everything in my house. They just wanted to silence me and put me in check. That’s why they arrested my son. DSS invited about 10 of my office staff members.

So, the corruption charge against me was on account of the civil war in the PDP over presidential ambition. So, it is not an APC thing. They tried me through Dasuki money and found nothing. The money for elections, unfortunately I didn’t even see it even though I was Director of the campaign. So these are the areas the APC tried to get me and they couldn’t. But the case I am having is simply a case organized by the PDP based on my perceived ambition to put me in check and control.

Q: You are 72. You don’t look your age. You look 62…

A: All my life, I have been challenging the unchallengeable. I have overcome so many obstacles. I have met and overcome unfriendly people, not enemies. I don’t have enemies, but unfriendly people. Today, I don’t fare well if there is no crisis.