By STEVE NWOSU and ISMAIL OMIPIDAN
Immediate past Jigawa State Governor and founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Sule Lamido, has declared that President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, would be shocked in 2019, insisting that if God says he (Lamido) would be President, the same God would clear the way for him.
He spoke in an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun, in his country home, Bamaina, last Sunday, shortly after playing host to hundreds of youths from across the country.
In the build up to the 2015 polls, many Nigerians thought you were going to run for the Presidency. What happened, why did you not run?
You are asking this question because you are not a politician. But then political parties have got history; they have traditions. In the world over, where you have your party, as the one in government, and which produced the incumbent President, it is not in tune with such political party’s tradition to sponsor a candidate against him; for the purpose of pulling him down and then replace him with another person, no matter what. If that is done, it shows lack of party unity; lack of party coherence. It is like passing a vote of no confidence on the person. So, those who are asking me to run then, fail to understand this particular background and also the peculiarity of the third world politics, where, for instance, the President is virtually the lord. The entire party system, organs, the institution of the state is under him, because, as the leader of the party, he is the symbol of authority. And therefore Mr. President is also the leader of the country, and he has all the legal institutions, reins of power also under him. So, it is simply unthinkable, amounting to personal delusion, to say you want to run against him, in the same party.
Now assuming you run with him, assuming you defeat him in your own party and he is the country’s President, you are simply passing a vote of no confidence on him as a person. And, therefore, there is no way you will do this and then expect the country and Nigerians to respect him. If his own party could formally denounce him, what do you expect other Nigerians to do? That is one.
Secondly, by the time you renounce him, it will also pose a threat condition on the election management. If you humiliate him, you embarrass him, you think he will watch and allow you win the election? These are things which are simply unthinkable. They don’t make sense. It is not fair. It is not right. It is not right to the system. It can lead to political revolution and even destabilize the country, for a party to pull out its own President. Again, if he is defeated and in the process of primaries you create your own kind of support base and he defeats you, there will be people who will feel highly aggrieved. And the resultant consequences in terms of the party acrimonies would be so difficult to manage and reconcile before the elections. And it will also cost you the election. These are realities.
Would it have been better for the party, if Jonathan had not presented himself for election?
You see, it is up to him to understand that as a leader he is also the symbol of the country’s stability and symbol of the party’s fortune. It is up to him to understand that running will either enhance the fortunes of the party or deflate it. The decision is entirely his; because there are no way you will have any other means by which you are going to check that. It is not even possible. There is no way that somebody who has the right to go for a second term can be denied. It is a very difficult thing. That is why in America there was no one that will be challenging the incumbent President; Obama was never challenged during his second tenure in the primary by anybody. It is the tradition. It is an unwritten code in terms of maintaining party discipline and cohesion. And based on the narrative I gave earlier, the decision was entirely his and that of the party. It is the responsibility of the system to decide how to deal with such a situation, where incumbents insist on running.
Still on 2015, would you say PDP was defeated or that the PDP lost that election?
Let me answer you this way, if you look at the history of the PDP and elections, from 1999 when Obasanjo ran, the margin of his victory was twice that of the person who ran against him. In 2003, when he ran against Buhari, Buhari ran under APP, the total number scored by PDP was more than 2/3 of the vote and, therefore, attracted majority. In 2007, when Yar’Adua, Buhari and Atiku ran, the total number scored by Yar’Adua was more than 2/3 of all the other contestants; so if you put Buhari’s votes to Atiku’s vote, they were not enough to beat Yar’Adua. In 2011, it was the same scenario, like it, or hate it, these are historical facts. So long as PDP is united and standing, there was no way any party could defeat it. In 2015, it is the votes of the PDP which produced the current government, simple. It was the PDP votes which went into the APC that enabled it (APC) to win the centre. From 1999 to 2003 through 2011, the votes from the South-South alone normally gives us 5million, the one from the South-East gives us 8million plus, so we have 13million votes coming from those two regions, in the last three elections. In the election of 2015, the innovation of the card reader was designed to rig PDP out, and it was very strict in the South-South and the South-East. Even some of the voters could not vote because their names were not there. So, what I may call scientific rigging denied a lot of people the opportunity to vote for the PDP. So in the end, the votes came to 3million in the South-South, in the East we got 5million so if you sum it up it is 8million, so PDP lost 5million votes through the card reader. And because we had no intention to simply create problem for the government or Nigerians, we let it be. I say so because in the entire north there was no card reader; people knew it. There was nothing like card reader in the north. The card reader was also a kind of scientific rigging which was made to blackmail PDP because the INEC had been blackmailed too, and all these, plus the governors who left the party, made it possible for the APC, to win. But even at that, the margin was only 2million votes. So, I can say it that APC won by PDP votes, otherwise by history, with the votes of all the opposition party put together, in the past, they were never able to win the PDP. So, when I hear Oyegun calling PDP the party of evil, I just laugh, because the parts of this government came from the shameless party and the evil votes. He has been saying that PDP are shameless, PDP are evil, but it is these evil votes, these shameless votes that produced this government. But then, that is now history.
PDP, from what we gathered, is trying to put its house in order and as part of the processes, some are suggesting that it should either merge or change the name of the party. As a founding member of the party what is your take on these propositions?
When you say we should merge; merge with whom? Like AC, ANPP, PDP merged to form APC? Who will PDP merge with? To merge with who? Now on changing of name, I am saying this over and over again, APC which metamorphosed from AD to AC to ACN and APC; are the members different? ANPP which transformed from APP to ANPP, to CPC and to APC, tell me in this coalition of so called small, small parties put together, the faces there, are they also changed faces? When you look at APC don’t you see Buhari? Is it the transformation from CPC to APC that will change his face? Look at Tinubu; it is the same person, from AD, to AC, ACN and APC. What I am saying is, if you change the name, what about the faces of the people representing these parties? Are you going to change the people too?
PDP might have made a lot of mistakes. There might have been a lot of things that went wrong. There might have been impunity, call it anything you want, but it is not caused by the alphabets or the letters. P and D are very innocent. I do not think it is proper for us as leaders in this country to begin to engage in some kind of relief, running away from our current pain, to seek a temporary relief; you don’t build a nation like that. You build a nation with reflection. I am this and I made some mistakes here, how do I correct what I have done wrong. Correct it, and move on.
In APC what do you find, it is same people. So, to me, maybe because I am an old man I have been very conservative. If you ask His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, he will say he is a former Vice President, but then, it was under the PDP, today, he is in APC, now why can’t he change it, and stop being addressed as Vice President, since to him, PDP is a history of shame that was why he left it. Then, the governors who are now in APC, who are ashamed of their history, ashamed of their own past, they should not be addressed as former PDP governors. If PDP is filthy and dirty as people call it, our concern should be how to clean it up, and not to abandon it, because we are the children of PDP. It is just a leprous woman, who gave birth to a child; the child suckles her breast to grow up. But after growing up, he now says he was ashamed of the milk he sucked to grow up. If he feels the mother is dirty, he should clean her up, not abandon her.
A party which had produced four Nigerian Presidents, over 45 governors, over 700 legislative members the party which restored Nigeria to stability should not be maligned, the way it is being maligned today. With due respect to Buhari, if the PDP had not restored Nigeria, there was no way Buhari would have been President today. By the time we came on board in 1999, it required extra political sagacity and strong political commitment for us to be able to stabilize the country. I have been saying it, with all respect, there is no way Buhari could run in 1999, he couldn’t have run for the office, because whatever Abacha symbolizes, Buhari was part of it. Therefore, I make bold to say that Buhari is the greatest beneficiary of the PDP’s evil. Minus PDP, the Lais and Oyeguns of this world would not have a place to speak, let alone aspire and call the shots as they are doing today. We restored Nigeria, and that is why they can talk today.
So in history, in your evolution, you look at things that you have done wrong, you don’t wish away your mistakes, they are there, and they are part of you. They are there to form part of your strength because there is no way you will build a human institution and expect perfection. It is not possible. So, we made mistakes, some of them are deliberate, some of them were selfish through impunity. Even the PDP impunity is what others benefitted from. When they crush Mr. A, for Mr. B, A, sees it as impunity. If tomorrow, B is crushed, for C to be, B too, will now shout impunity. The word impunity has been used in and out depending on who is gaining and who is losing. The greatest impunity we had was in 1999, when we shut out other parts of the country from contesting the presidency. But then, we needed it to be able to pacify, to heal wounds, because democracy should be able to address your peculiar need. That was what the PDP did. So, if you fail to see our intangible achievements, you only see our tangible failures, you are not being fair to PDP. Because the intangibles define the parameters, created the environment, stabilizes it, for the tangibles to be able to be erected.
But the PDP doesn’t seem to have its acts together, what is really happening to the party, you have Makarfi and Sheriff faction; which of the factions do you belong to?
There is no way anybody can get me into a faction. I cannot be a factional member. There is only one PDP, where there is crisis of leadership. The chunk of anything, called the PDP is under the caretaker committee put up by our convention in Rivers State. Don’t get us personalized under Makarfi or Sheriff. I am by nature a party man through-and-through. The convention put us under caretaker committee, led by Makarfi, fair enough. All the Nigerian governors, all the members of the National Assembly and all officers of the PDP in the National Assembly, all the 12 State Assemblies where PDP controls in the country, all party chairmen in the states, and everyone is part of this caretaker committee. So, there is no fear about PDP. Both Sheriff and Makarfi, as individuals, still believe in the PDP. The PDP has the internal mechanism to stand up, to say enough is enough. There is no cause for fear. I have been saying it, if you inject one per cent of PDP crisis into APC, the party will simply collapse. Right now it is gone, because it was never a party which was formed under any particular ideology or vision or mission or dream; it is a creation of hate, of anger, of malice, pain and frustration. ‘Let us demolish PDP, all for power.’ We are now out of power. They are saints, in power, commissioning PDP projects, enjoying our rail lines. If PDP has failed miserably, woefully because we are thieves, we are Boko Haram, we are everything evil, but now we have some saints, can’t they really help us?
Some Nigerian youth are already calling on you to run for the Presidency, will you run in 2019?
It is very flattering to anybody for people to see you, as worthy of doing something, and you thank your God. That call is noticed, it is heard and it is understood. Nigerian youth had been taken on the path of deception, they have been deceived. Their innocence has been used. Their anger, for being unemployed has been used and manipulated. Their ignorance has also been used. And because they are young, they are very innocent, they feel they have no jobs, they have been told so many things and all those things were nothing but rues; and they are thinking otherwise. It is not about me. It is about all of us and warning sign that danger is looming. My main worry is not about now, but about tomorrow. What are we giving to these youth, so that by the time they become 50 or 55years in the next 25years they will have cause to thank God that they grew up in this country. So, if they are coming to me asking me to run, they can go to anybody who they feel can do it, I think it should be seen as a sign of danger to all of us that things are not working the way they should. So, if they see in me a hope, I don’t blame them. I thank God for me being seen as worthy of what they are saying. And If God says I am going to be, no amount of road blocks will stop it. They will be simply shocked that it happened. If God says in 2019, it will be Sule Lamido, they are doomed, I will be, simple, there will be no impediment. God will clear the way for me to be, the same way God cleared the way for Buhari to be in 2015.