Dr. Sule Lamido is a former Governor of Jigawa State. A founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lamido had previously taken a shot at the presidency of the country. Lamido, a Minister of Foreign Affairs under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in this interview with GEOFFREY EKENNA in Kano, speaks extensively on the state of affairs of the country, his dream president in 2023 and why he thinks President Muhammadu Buhari would disappoint members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the next general elections
In 2015, when your party lost the election, Nigeria was having security challenges like Boko Haram but it was not on the scale we are having today. Now people are even saying that Nigeria is on the verge of a break-up. What exactly went wrong with the country?
What went wrong is that in discussing policy and governance, we abandoned issues and talked-about personalities. We talked about Mr. A, Mr. B and Mr. C. In 2014, it was not about the PDP but about Goodluck Jonathan, whom they were picking on.
Muhammadu Buhari, Lai Mohammed and all of them, were all picking on Jonathan, not the government of Nigeria per se, but Jonathan. They made it personal.
They called him all kinds of names including clueless; called his wife names. So, it means really that the entire campaign was not focused on issues. It was mainly that Mr. A has failed. In trying to sustain the propaganda of lies, they sold more lies to Nigerians because when you say Boko Haram is a creation of Jonathan’s government and if we are serious, it would have been crushed in six months.
Now, they have been around for the past six years. It is even escalating. What is the state of the economy? It has been galloping in the wrong direction. I don’t know how much we have borrowed in the last six years. It is simply unthinkable.
When you talk of Nigeria, they compartmentalized Nigeria into groups. We are compartmentalised into ethnic groups, into zones and into tribes, into religious groups. So that centre was lost because the whole thing was just personal. In the North, it was about a personality called Buhari, who was then seen as a deity, a symbol of perfection, a symbol of godliness. Everything godly was Buhari.
Today, Mallams in the North say that Buhari has not changed his Babaringa in the last six years. The whole thing is very, very laughable just to edify a personality. They tell the people that Buhari has not been able to change his own cushions and chairs in Daura. That there are so many rats now picking on the chairs of Buhari.
To them, piety in poverty is what they call good governance. The election in 2015, the build-up in 2014, yes, there were issues of security, there were issues of leadership but they were made very, very personal.
Everything in PDP was put on the person of Jonathan and everything in APC was put on the person of Buhari. When they came to campaign in Abuja, I was then a governor and I said publicly, that ‘in the election of 2015, whoever wins, Nigeria will lose.’ I said so.
I remember that …
I said so because, ideally, if you look at Nigeria and allow Nigeria to lead us we will actualise our mission for Nigeria. But then, Jonathan and Buhari forgot about Nigeria.
It was about Jonathan, a Christian is our own son. In the North, it was about Buhari is our own son. It was not about Nigeria. So, I said, whoever wins, Nigeria loses. I said if Jonathan wins, there will be war; they will kill us. If Buhari wins, I am sorry for Nigeria.
So, head or tail, Nigeria would lose. Today, I am vindicated. Nigeria has lost because the process of producing the candidates was not based on real politics. It was based on emotions on lies, on insincerity, on ethnicity and on divisions along all our fault lines.
Today in Nigeria, a cow is being killed because of Buhari. I mean, people are venting their anger against Buhari on the Fulani man. Apart from the killing of the Fulani in the South, they are even killing our cows. Nigerians have now become demons. So, it is about leadership.
We have become demons because of Buhari?
We have become demons now; all of us because of Buhari. How do you begin to kill cows because of your hatred for a Fulani man simply because you hate Buhari? If you kill me as a Fulani man, it is okay if you kill me because I am carrying Buhari’s features, fair enough.
Today, because of Buhari’s incompetence or failures, there are things you will regard as collateral consequences because they see us through Buhari.
Because Buhari is hated, therefore, all Fulani are guilty. They are not just killing the Fulani, they are now killing cattle. The cattle are also guilty because it is owned by a Fulani man.
You are Fulani. How does that make you feel?
You see, it is simply beyond description. There is this historical bond that existed between the Fulanis and the Tiv in Benue State. Historically, we have lived like brothers.
But today, because of Buhari, the bond has been lost. So, the campaigns of 2015 were not based on issues. They were personalised. It was not about insecurity or any of those things. They were made very, very personal. ‘Jonathan has failed in everything. PDP has not done anything in 15 years.’
Then Buhari came and said the subsidy was a fraud; that the PDP was behind Boko Haram; that the economy was down because the Central Bank of Nigeria was issuing money on mere pieces of paper. That was what Buhari said. The intensity of the heat of the campaign made Nigerians lose some of their values.
That is what is happening today – the killings, both in North and South, of human beings, the agitations, the (Sunday) Igbohos, the Nnamdi Kanus. They are all there. Today, how do you remain sane in this country? It is about a government that came to power by lies. We are supposed to be an inspiration to the black race.
Are we inspiring them now? In summary, the electioneering process brought us here today. What do you expect the political class to do in 2023 to salvage this?
This system of 2014 brought up some kind of leaders, who are mere creations of the office. None of the people talking today was known for any relevance in nation-building or anything like that. But it is the office that is now promoting their personalities.
For instance, the Governor of Yobe State, who is now the face of the APC; in saner societies, people will run away from him because ask him, is his own state safe? The answer is no! Is his state economy okay? Ask him about education and everything that makes a good state. Everything there has collapsed
Everything has gone downhill. But today, he would go to a PDP governor and invite him to join APC and the governor will follow him. And I ask, this our governor, is he normal? If I am to follow a governor, I will ask him, ‘Mr. Governor, what is the appeal for me in your own state?
Tell me the appeal. What is the source of inspiration to me that will make me follow you? In terms of security, is your state safe?’ For instance, is Yobe State safer than Cross River State? You went to Cross River and picked out the governor?
In terms of poverty, are people in Yobe better than those in Cross River State? Imagine him going to the governor of Oyo State to join them, so, what is the attraction in APC? But because they tell the governors, ‘come, Buhari will see you,’ they go. It is the same personality thing.
Otherwise, in a saner society, how can somebody, who is the Governor of Yobe State, which is a symbol of total failure, a state which has collapsed, go and invite a governor of PDP and they are following him? So, it is not about issues. It is about emotions; about Buhari.
So, the emerging political scenario is that in 2023, anybody with a personality will not get there because they don’t want anybody to bury Buhari’s personality. That is why they will not allow Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to succeed him because they don’t want Tinubu to bury Buhari’s personality. That is why Tinubu is having some problems.
If you put Tinubu there, he will bury Buhari’s personality and presidency. He will bury Buhari’s political history because Tinubu is focused; he is a leader; he breeds and nurtures people.
He knows the economy. I mean, he has so much going for him that they envy him. Therefore, they will never allow him to see the light of the day with his aspiration. Leave all these Muslim-Muslim kind of things. I mean the personality.
You mean that because of the positive sides of Tinubu, they will not allow him to get there?
They will not allow him to get to the presidency because if he gets there, his achievement there will simply bury Buhari and make nonsense of Buhari’s political history. I mean, they will not allow him. So the 2023 election is also going to be moderated by the same emotions of 2014 because we are more divided.
Where are the Nigerians now that are more concerned about our country? Now, we have hate, division, and bad words. Everything that used to keep us together is gone. There is no peace again, no trust again in Nigeria. When there is no trust, there is no peace. When there is no peace, there is no stability.
When there is no stability, there is nothing like development. Simple. Now, that is what they have attacked -our bond, our cohesion. We are bonded by our diversity. The Nigerian federation is bonded. It is not wielded. It is not wielded.
But it was bonded by our diversity. You are a northerner, I am a southerner. You are a Muslim, I am a Christian. But we appreciate each other. That calls for trust. But be whatever you are. You are a southerner, a Christian, an Igbo, it is your right.
Conversely, I am a Muslim, a Fulani. That’s how we should see each other. Appreciation. But when you begin to say you are Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, then there is a problem.
That is what is wrong with the government -a government that came to power through lies. Today, Nigeria is supposed to be an inspiration to the black race. Are we doing that? Still
about the Nigerian issue, I want your thoughts on open grazing. I would like you to look at it against the background of the resolution of the Southern governors that they will promulgate a law by September to ban it. I remember as a governor, you provided setbacks on roads for herders to prevent encroachment of farms?
Look at this issue of grazing in other places. In Holland, they have the best beef and the best cows. Are they Fulanis? In America, you had what they called cowboys. They were roaming all over the place. Are they Fulanis? You see, it is either a vocation or a profession. Cattle rearing, like poultry, are a vocation, it is a profession.
People do their own things. It is not about the Fulani. From there on, it is their lifestyle that you will look at. They roam from forest to forest, looking for greener pastures. Do you think that this kind of thing will continue in the next 50 years with or without the government’s intervention? No! It is simple logic that this idea of running around with cows will simply disappear.
So, why must we continue to punish ourselves, losing our sleep, losing our energy over something which is simply evolutional? One day, in the next 50 years, you will not find cows in the bush. You will find them in enclosed places like in America, Holland …and they produce better beef etc.
It is not done in a hurry. You cannot alter through a law, a tradition or culture which is over 100 years old. You cannot do that. Look at the culture, look at the people and look at the future.
Can this go on like this? Look at the Hausas. Were they the same before? There are things that are simple but because of political interests, they are made very difficult. You don’t need a law on grazing. You don’t need to legislate on it. In the 1950s and 1960s, all the eggs we ate in Nigeria were coming from the North. I know that.
All the fishes were coming from Lake Chad. There was nothing like creating a pond in Enugu or Calabar. There was nothing like poultry in the South.
But now, people have seen that it is a big business and things evolved naturally on their own. There is no law. Now, people import smoked fish. There is no law against that. So, why must we keep heaping ordeal, agony or suffering on ourselves on issues which would simply evolve over time?
Why must we use laws to change our traditional lifestyle? Why must we, on account of difficulties, say okay, divide Nigeria? Why must we? There is nothing like a smooth life.
Life is full of challenges. Be they insecurity, economy, or whatever, life is challenging. But because of the intellect, the brain and wisdom, if you are able to apply wisdom, use your brain, you can solve some of these problems. So, why do we fear challenges? Why must we begin to look at challenges as if they are caused by Mr. A or Mr. B or by a Muslim or a Christian or a Fulani man? Let me tell you, divide Nigeria into one million places, there will be a crisis.
Maybe, what we have now is macro problems, but there will also be micro problems. Why must we lose our senses, become emotional, begin ranting and raving and begin to insult each other? At the end of the day, we cannot change each other.
It cannot be changed by a wish. We cannot change anything by anger. So, whether 50 per cent, 25 per cent, Yoruba or Fulani, we cannot just change anything.
What will be the solution to our problem? Fulani herders have been there for years. Why are they a problem now?
It is because all the political parties, not just the APC are trying to use the crisis for political interests. That’s all. Tell me, the man in Katsina State, near Jibia or the man in Zamfara State, near Zurumi, what does he gain in this matter apart from death? They are dying like ants every day, yet, the Southerners are abusing us – Fulanis.
I mean people are dying like flies and we are being abused. I mean, bandits go to their farms, rape their women, steal their products and kill them. That is here in the North. That is within the Fulani enclave.
Yet, the man in Enugu is calling Fulani names. The guy called Ighoho is talking rubbish. Now, head or tail, Nigeria is losing. If
you were the President, what are those few things you would have done to control the situation in the way things are going? I mean to bring Nigeria back?
You see, it’s not about me or anybody. Leadership has features. There are defining characters of leadership. You all know it. There must be justice, equity, fairness, fair play, mutual respect, love, trust and empathy.
These are clear things but they are being abandoned. No matter who is there, it is defined. In Islam, it is the symbolism of God. Leadership is a portion of his own power which he conferred on human beings so that they can guide and lead God’s creatures. God says ‘in guiding my creatures, it is not about their colour or size, or health, physical wellbeing or tribe.
It is about my human beings whom I have created in my image, give them justice and guard them for me.’ That’s what God says; that whoever is going to be a leader, must be just, have the character of fairness.
It didn’t say Muslims; it didn’t say Christians, or whites or blacks. It says ‘my creation, the people I have created.’ He says that ‘power is also mine, which I confer on you. So, give them justice.
’ So, it is not about Sule Lamido or anybody else. It is all about the tenets of leadership, about God’s creatures. When you abandon those tenets, then, you are creating trouble. For instance, you are the President; you say you will work for those who gave you votes.
Where did you put your oath of office? In any case, where was it written that you must belong to a political party before you get your rights? It is in the constitution. Must you even vote before you get your rights? I may decide I will not vote but I have rights under Nigeria.
Whoever becomes Nigeria’s President must give me my own rights. You may withhold your favour but my right is mine. It is not something you can confer on me because it is something given to me by God and by nature.
So, if you say I did not vote for you and as such, you will not give them to me, that clearly shows that you are a dishonest leader and there will be a crisis and people will lose their trust in you.
Which is what we are experiencing now?
You are a founding father of the PDP. Your party blossomed for 16 years and lost the election in 2015. Since then, it has been shrinking and jumping from one party or the other. Did you envisage this at the beginning?
You see, don’t single out the PDP. In 1998, after Sani Abacha’s death, Nigeria had a crisis after June 12 and that particular mistake became an albatross. So, in 1998, all the political parties were working, thinking what do we do in our own parties to restore Nigeria?
What do we do to reconcile Nigeria with Nigerians, after what happened over June 12? I mean all the political parties. It was not only the PDP.
That was why the PDP came with its own brand of democracy and allocated the presidency to the South -West. But in doing so, it cannot be anybody who is from the area. It must be somebody who has the heart of Nigeria.
The only person we saw fit at that time, with all respect, was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. With all due respect, without ill-will or insult intended, people like Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige or Olu Falae, were all carrying a tribal label. So, Obasanjo though was in prison, but by his history, he is a pan Nigerian, through the Civil War, served under Muritala Mohammed and others.
So, we felt he was the best person to use to knit Nigeria back to Nigeria because he has the goodwill of all Nigerians even though the South -West never liked him. The other parties then, the AD and the APP with serious leaders of great repute also believed that we needed to restore Nigeria. They followed the PDP style.
So after conventions, Olu Falae emerged as the AD candidate while Umaru Shinkafi emerged as the APP candidate. The two parties came together, collapsed into one and brought Falae and made him the ANPP candidate and removed Shinkafi. Earlier on Ogbonnaya Onu, who won the primaries, was also sacrificed, pulled out and he agreed because he was looking at the Nigeria project.
So, look at somebody who is from one party, running on the platform of another party for the purposes of restoring Nigeria’s status. Now, when you say it is PDP now, you must remember that all the previous political parties came together to restore Nigeria at that time.
That’s why the APC, which is so divisive; you have elements of the PDP, elements of APP, elements of AD, ACM and CPC, is now a disconnect between the party and the original vision shared by all the other political parties in 1998.
The original parties have left behind their nationalism, political thinking and everything and joined the APC. That’s why we have these kinds of characters and problems all over. So, don’t say PDP lost. Nigeria lost because all the original big parties left their houses and went into one big rented house, which is called the APC. Let
us look at APC after President Buhari. Do you think that the party has any chance of survival in the light of their credentials and performances?
You see, Buhari has his own style – a style of either poaching or acting like a pirate who robs people on the high seas. He was nowhere politically in 1998. He was not part of the equation in 1999. The sacrifices of our leaders in AD, APP or PDP were to restore Nigeria.
There was no way Buhari could have been relevant in 1999. He couldn’t have participated in democracy when he undermined democracy in 1983. He had no space then. It was not possible. I am being honest about it because he was carrying a moral burden.
But having restored Nigeria, the country was stabilising, then, somewhere in Sokoto, I think the APP was doing something and he came and introduced some elements of trust. That caught fire and made him appear like a champion of the downtrodden.
Then, they managed to get him into the ANPP in 2003. At the ANPP Convention, it is true he had no contribution; he was not one of the founding fathers; he had no input. He came to the convention arena and people like Leman Jubril, Rochas Okorocha, Yerima Mbakura, who had been the founding fathers of the party were moved away for Buhari by his mob, chanting slogans, which are sectional, which are religious.
That was how he entered politics. And since then, he has been able to capture the entire northern psyche. The angry mob, the poor, the uninformed, you know, he has captured their minds and became his total constituency. Since the election of 2003, Buhari has more votes than any other Nigerian alive.
The same thing happened in 2007 and 2011, even under the CPC, so, the North became his safe constituency – a constituency of ignorance, a constituency of poverty. So, people felt that if he became the President, he was going to lift the Northerners out of poverty. Has he succeeded? Look at the number of poor people in Nigeria under him.
So, in the 2023 election, Buhari may not be relevant but I still believe that he has a hold on the North, especially all the Mallams, who portray him as so pious; that he wears only one cloth since 2015, that he couldn’t change the chairs in his house and his house has been invaded by rodents; that he wears the same cap and gown since 1998 because he is so God-fearing and pious; because he is not corrupt but some people around him. In 2023, he will become aloof, totally indifferent but he would not want to bury his own history.
What I know is that he doesn’t want to have anybody standing on his own two feet after him. He is a Fulani man. I know the mentality of the Fulani man. When they want to be bad, they will be really very bad.
When they want to be good, they will be extremely good. Why should he be concerned? Why should he want to bury his own history? He would just allow things to meander away. Whether he succeeds or not, he doesn’t care.
So, you are warning APC to be careful, Buhari might not stand for them in 2023?
None of them in APC has the appeal, stature, aura, personality or charm of Buhari. They are just a company around him. The only person who can stand on his own against Buhari is Tinubu.
Buhari would not allow him. Tinubu is rich, he is a politician, he understands Nigeria and he has a large constituency that will vote for him. It means these small, small persons, these creations of office hovering around Buhari, hoping he will allow them; they are in for a very, very huge disappointment.
How does PDP want to come back in 2023?
In 2014, the pattern, the propaganda, the style and the culture of lies, blackmailed the PDP. After eight years, they have done only the opposite. It doesn’t matter how bad the PDP is, it is going to win the election.
In 2023, the PDP will only ask Nigerians if they have fared better. Under PDP, we were more prosperous, more secure and more Nigerian. Nigerians will choose between a two-page history, one is PDP and another one is APC.
That leaves me with your position on the Southern governors demanding for the Presidency to return to the South in 2023. Your party PDP is still thinking North?
My position is different. I believe that under democracy, we should go for the best. Who do you think among Nigerians can restore trust among Nigerians, restore our love, our mutual respect, our human empathy and what have you. That’s how it is for me. Any Nigerian whom we think, can guide Nigeria out of this calamity, whether from North or South, let’s put him.
That’s my feeling. But again, the zoning thing was introduced in 1999 because of the injuries of June 12. If we feel that up till now, we are not sufficiently healed of the injuries, therefore, we do zoning. If we feel we are healed and can now talk of human development as the hope of the black race, we should go for the best person for the job.
That’s my personal opinion. For me, who becomes the next president is that man who has the love for Nigeria, its different people and cultures, has a love for the growth and development of the country and who sees leadership as a moral duty, who will lead with tact, wisdom in order to address these issues.
We need people who can think, who can use statecraft to apply human empathy, and love for Nigerians because we are trying to restore trust first. It needs more than zoning to restore trust.