Former governor of Jigawa State and founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) , Sule Lamido is a fierce critic of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. He thinks that the lies the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the administration sold to Nigerians to sabotage the PDP have begun to hunt them, saying the government has failed woefully, scoring below zero on all fronts of national expectations. He says that instead of the restructuring of the Nigerian state as it’s being canvassed by some leaders in the South, each zone should mobilize all its representatives in the National Assembly to bring their needs to the floor of the House . He also says the PDP has not taken a position on the zoning of the Presidency to any particular zone even as he makes it clear that he was disappointed with Governor Dave Umahi’s defection to the APC given the fact that the PDP has been very fair to him throughout his political career. He spoke to DESMOND MGBOH in his office in Kano.
Let us start with getting your reaction on the defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). How did you take it when he announced the move?
To me, I feel not very sad, but disappointed. Governor Umahi is somebody whose ascendancy to the office, I am familiar with. The former governor, my good friend, Elechi, was having some kind of problems in accepting his deputy to succeed him as the governor and when a meeting was called in the (Presidential) Villa, I happened to be there. The then President Jonathan asked me to join the meeting. We were five in the meeting – the President, SGF Pius Anyim Pius, Governor Elechi, Umahi and myself. And we were looking at the bad blood, I mean; we were looking at what had Elechi against his deputy. And why he was opposed to him. We asked a number of questions. We tried to interrogate the situation and having asked all the questions, we felt that Governor Elechi had no strong reason to deny his deputy the ticket to succeed him… because we asked whether he was loyal to him and he said that Umahi was very very loyal to him. We asked him ‘what was the problem?’ But he could not exactly tell us what was wrong with the deputy succeeding him. And of course, we felt that our party was based on justice and the underpinning principle of the PDP is fairness and justice, that in whatever we do, we should try to remove our personal feelings and emotions and allow the bigger picture- which is service to people we were serving- to guide us. Governor Elechi was not very happy at that meeting because the President, the SGF and myself, we endorsed Umahi. To me, having being part of the process of getting him to succeed his own boss, for him to want to leave the party, I felt disappointed. I called him and he is a polite young man, very very decent, very very courteous- and I asked him: ‘What is your problem? Please don’t go. Let us talk first.’ While I may be so far away from the epicenter in terms of the heat waves he was going through, the local pressures, the underpinning problems agitating his mind, but I felt that as a partner, a senior key player in the party, he should be able to relate to people outside his key area and see what we can do to understand and assist. I begged him not to go and he said that okay he would see me. But he did not. And so he left. And that is why I said that I just feel disappointed. I think that he is a very hardworking young man, and he has potentials as a person to grow. And he needs the kind of moral anchoring so that he would not break away and pursue the ephemeral. He ought to have been able to, no matter what, withstand the pressures and the problems that he was facing. He should have been able to look at his position, first, as a governor and a leader and a key player within the PDP family and make sure that he puts his own personal interest aside and go for the bigger picture. Now, for you to go for the ephemeral to abandon the altruistic, to me, is very very unfortunate.
You talked with him just before his departure. Did you have any additional insight as to what exactly were the pressures that he was faced with? One of the few remarks that he had made was that the PDP was not willing and will not zone the Presidency to the South East. How do you react to that?
One, we did not meet. That was why I said, ‘please don’t go. Let us first meet and discuss so that I would be able to understand what the pressures are.’ What are the issues? Of course, the party sent a powerful delegation to meet him, the governors also met with him and others did, but then you see within this kind of political arrangement, there are people you trust and you think you trust that before they take any decision, they should be able to relate to you. So I asked him to please wait for me , to please meet me first, and he said he would, but then he never did. I called Pius Anyim Pius, I said ‘our younger brother, your man, your own man whom you stood for, what am I hearing? Are you aware?’ He said that he was aware. And I said please call him again and please talk to him. He said he did, but the following day he left. So what might have been the reason is something different. But for him to come and say that there was injustice in the PDP, I think that he has not been fair to the PDP because the party was very, very just to him. The then President was very, very just to him and his then SGF was very very just to him. All of us, who stood by him against a colleague, against the former state governor, simply because we felt that we should look at the actual problem…. we were just to him. For him to look at PDP and all of us and say there was no justice in the party, he was very unfair to us.
Now talking about zoning to the South East, well, he should feel free to stand for the interest of his own people. I mean, I don’t blame him for caring about the South- East or for worrying for them and showing concern for them in term of what he feels they should get. But it has to be within the PDP family. You don’t simply say I want this or I go out. Because if for instance, he left because the PDP has not zoned the position of the Presidency to the South- East, I am not aware that the party has zoned the position to any zone either or has taken a final position as to where the Presidency would go in 2023. In any case, whatever might be the interest of the South East zone has to be actualized within the bigger picture of the party, because North –East, South East, North- Central, South- South and South West and North -West are also key players in the party. Whatever might have been the need of the South -East has to be related to within the context of what their fellow brothers are saying. I think it is a question of simply sitting down and discussing. Now for him to arrogate to himself that authority and that power that he was speaking for the South –East, I would say that, maybe, power is beginning to creep into his own head. Does he hold the interest of the Igbo at heart more than the Governor of Enugu or more than the Governor of Abia State? They are also governors, having the same status and therefore, they are also Igbo. I think that if for instance, all of them had come together in the NEC meeting and say look, this is our problem from the South East, these are our pressures from our party men, the Igbo, that they want a very, very clear and unambiguous position about the Presidency in 2023. I mean the three governors from the South-East can come together and talk. And then, tell the kind of pressures they are going through. And then we would look at it. That would have made a better sense.
You just said that the PDP has no position on the issue of zoning yet……
Not that I know of, not that I know of.
But the way the South –East has gone about making a case for the presidency in 2023, what would be your reaction? Have they gone about it in the best possible way or they could improve on their approach?
You see, in a party like the PDP, where the ownership is a collective, there is no one single person in Nigeria, who would say he owns the PDP. No single person can make a clear and unambiguous statement to say he is giving you this or that – because PDP is a party which has a history, it is a party which was formed with some visions- this was a party that was founded by people that have Nigeria at heart. And therefore, they are looking at the real value, which makes us Nigerians, how do we forge a political entity that would be able to capture the dreams of our founding fathers. So, there is nobody in the PDP who would say that I concede this to you. It has to be a matter of consensus. We sit down, we will discuss and we will debate. What do I take and what do I yield? And then, we come to an aggregate.
One of the things we have heard from Governor Wike is that Umahi had all along been a sympathizer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari. But you are speaking approvingly of his conduct…
(Cuts) I love Buhari as a fellow brother, fellow Muslim and fellow Fulani, but politically we differ. So, don’t make it personal. Umahi never knew Buhari from Adams. Isn’t it? They got to know each other through the positions they hold. Umahi came to love Buhari through the position that Buhari holds as being the Nigeria President. And Buhari came to appreciate Umahi because he is the Governor. Remove these two officials from their positions; they would be two ordinary people-one in Daura and one in Ebonyi. So, I don’t think it is befitting of his own personal dignity to say he loves Buhari as a person because where was Buhari when we invented him? On the other hand, how can Buhari say he likes him (Umahi) while he was in PDP, when the same Buhari had called him and PDP thieves, rogues and what have you? I don’t think that holds any water. It is just an afterthought. Two, whatever Wike is saying to Umahi, I don’t think that the two of them have got a good chemistry. So, it is their own personal differences and I don’t want to go into opinions, which are very very personal.
Of recent, we have noticed a surge of APC governors and APC as a party, towards former President Goodluck Jonathan, who as we know left office as a PDP leader and a PDP hero. What do you make of this dramatic development?
I thank God that by their very action, they are telling Nigerians that they are all liars. There is no better testimony than the APC and Buhari recanting their words and now trying to court Jonathan. They said that for 16 years, PDP has done nothing. Am I right? This same APC and Buhari denounced all our actions in office. We were evil, we were Boko Haram, we were fuel increase, and we were stealing subsidy money… Everything about PDP was simply evil. That was what they sold to Nigerians against Jonathan. And today, the same APC is now coming out to say we told you people lies against this man and his party! Indeed, we lied to you Nigerians. PDP was indeed the party, but we lied to you. PDP was indeed the party because they hold the material. Let me clarify one point here. Maybe they did not know. Jonathan is a PDP invention and when you say Jonathan is a hero, his personality was a creation of the PDP because if he weren’t a former Nigerian President, would they have gone to him? Jonathan is 100 per cent a party man. We may not be perfect as a party, but certainly, we were blending very well inspite of our minor differences. Jonathan should go to Church and thank his God and say Lord I thank you very much for vindicating me. Today, APC, which demonized me, are now saying that I am the best material in Nigeria. He should feel flattered. To those who are in PDP, we should thank God today that the APC crowd is being exposed for what they are. People who deceive for hypocrisy! Didn’t they have any material in their party, which can match Jonathan? So, it means that really PDP is the only party with the kind of material to rule Nigeria. They lied against us, said many unprintable things against us, called him clueless, and called his wife names. I was called a Christian. They burnt my office- this office was burnt because of Jonathan in 2011. So, if the APC governors are now falling head over heels to link up with Jonathan is because God is now judging them and judging them for all their evils.
Some people are still thinking of the possibility of Jonathan’s second coming and it appears his relevance is still being sought after by Nigerians….
You see, please don’t hurt Jonathan’s reputation. Don’t hurt it. Don’t destroy it. Jonathan is a party man. He rose to become the Nigeria President. He knew it. How he became the Vice President under Yar’ Adua,he knew he was nominated or promoted by the party. He knew how he became the President when Yar’ Adua died. In 2011, at the primary for the election, he knew what he went through when he was contesting against Atiku. We were all there at Eagles Square. Obasanjo was there. Really, he (Obasanjo) was very agitated and nervous. He was nervous that should Atiku defeat Jonathan, it would not be Jonathan that was defeated, it would be Obasanjo. We were all there. So, in 2011 primary and the build up, his (Jonathan) personality was not there at all. It was the PDP collective thing, the PDP energy, which was moving, not the person- because certainly, he could not have been the best candidate in 2011. Atiku was a former Vice President also, but Jonathan defeated him. But then, this thing was done by PDP, not Jonathan. PDP won the primary. PDP won the Presidency and Jonathan was the person elected into that office. So whatever today you see in Jonathan was simply because of PDP. It is PDP’s clothing, PDP’s ornamentation, it is PDP’s heritage and it is PDP’s history.
There is no one single person in Nigeria today who can claim PDP. What about in 2015? Those who PDP honoured and dignified and made them what they were abandoned the party. Former president, former Vice President, former governors, ministers, they abandoned the party. But because the party is not based on the whims of the individual, but it is located in the Nigerian mind, in the Nigerian people, the party survived. And they all came back. Jonathan, wasn’t he defeated by the APC in 2015? He was defeated. By who? I think he was defeated by the APC. They are now coming back to him after calling PDP names. So, it is not Jonathan that they are looking at. They are simply looking at their own sad failure. And therefore, they come with their typical propaganda and lies of creating a division within the party and say Mr A , Mr. B, Mr. C. They are liars. So, Jonathan should never listen to them, he should never, never listen to them because his natural home is PDP, his family is PDP and his fortunes are mainly PDP… They are caressing his ego. But then, it is for him to reflect and say why are they are coming to him? How did he get what he is as former President? Which party made him? And the people who demonized PDP and demonized him and called all kinds of names, what exactly do they want?
How do you see the future and fortunes of APC in 2023 in the absence of Buhari to lead their battle? The Buhari brand that they all lapped upon to survive would not be there. What are your predictions?
It is the Nigerian people, which should try APC and pass the verdict because they know what they said to them before they came on board- their promises on the economy; their promises on security and their promises on corruption. These are three things that they used to hold PDP hostage and blackmailed PDP. And now, there is this role reversal. They are now the ones who are very corrupt, they are now the ones who squandered the Nigerian economy and they are now the ones who cannot confront Boko Haram. And now, besides Boko Haram, there are now new security threats in the horizon- you have banditry, kidnapping, outright fetish governors. It is the failure to fulfill the propaganda that they knew they could not fulfill, which is hunting them. Because all the three areas they talked about and campaigned with, they scored not even zero, but minus one. And they are now talking about recession of the economy. Look, I mean , the ordinary Nigerians, in the last five years, have been recessed. It is only now that the economy is going there to meet him or to bring him out. A long time ago, Nigerians have become recessed. The economy is going to meet Nigerians, which means compounding their problems anyway.
What are your thoughts on the increasing volume of foreign loans that the Buhari administration has so far taken?
If the loans so taken were invested on visible human development, which would impact on the lives of people now and guarantee a future of prosperity for Nigerians, it would have been tolerable. But the monies so sourced and taken as loan by the government show me wastage? In which sector are they? When they were campaigning in 2015, they were just talking about abstract issues. Not issues that they could easily pin down. For them to proffer a really discernible solution, they never did because they didn’t have the capacity to implement what they were saying. So, they thought that taking loans was a solution. But taking loans for what purpose? They could not even maintain the momentum that PDP created. All the airports that they are talking about now are PDP ideas. The one that they are trying to commission in Imo, the one they commissioned in Port- Harcourt, all of them are PDP projects. The railway that Buhari commissioned is PDP program. So, they lacked the capacity, even visualize and think what to do. Coming to your point, it is not only about the issue of the debts that should worry Nigerians, but as a black leader, is this what we are? Ordinary government and governance, we don’t even know how go about it. The APC , if you ask them, what is governance they don’t even know that. Government is all about human development and that would happen if there was security. If there is security, there would be peace and then there would be stability and from then, you would embark on human development. But when you cannot secure your environment, how do you develop it? So, APC is a total failure and the lies they told Nigerians, using Buhari as their focal point, are hunting them badly.
In all fairness to APC, they would argue that COVID- 19 was not planned. They would say that recession that happened soon after their assumption was also not envisaged at the time they were campaigning in 2015.
You see, leadership is anchored upon trust. I want to lead you and I want you to give me that trust to lead you and manage your own resources. And you trust me, you say take it. And if in the course of my governance, there are some problems, because you trust me, you will understand, you will know that these problems are not my own making. But you see, they told a lie abinito in getting the mandate and they are now caught up by their own lies. So, what do you expect? COVID-19 is all over the world and all over the world, there are several governments battling with the disease. But then in those countries, they know that their leaders are genuine and trustworthy and they trust them and they are willing to go through difficulties because they trust them. In Nigeria, the leadership is fraudulent, they told lies and therefore, God in his own way, is saying okay I leave you to your own device. Is there no COVID -19 in Ghana, is there no COVID-19 in Niger, and is there no COVID-19 in Cameroun? Is there no COVID -19 all over the world? Tell me, it is there. But because the leaders are genuine and trusted, the people understand.
Across most regions in Nigeria, there are echoes of restructuring. What is your response to this quest for a restructured Nigeria?
The debate for the restructuring of Nigeria is being deployed to attain political gains and interests. There is no one single human being in Nigeria, who would guarantee you this kind of thing- Nobody, not even the President. When we talk of restructuring, it is best to understand what is the desire of each zone? The desire of the South –West may not be similar to those of the South –East. Their desires and their demands may be different. So it is up to each zone to articulate its position, call a meeting within their respective zones and call the candidates in party A, B and C and say that if you are filling a candidate for the National Assembly, these are our needs. Whether it’s APC, APGA, PDP or any other political party, these are our positions as a region. And the people in the South – South would also call an assembly of their people in all parties and say these are our positions, so also are the people in the North. They would say to their candidates and elected representatives, when you go out there, these are our positions. By the time the members, in whatever party they are, they are united on the positions of their own zones, clearly defined, when they come to the National Assembly, they would negotiate their needs with their colleagues. What would the South give in, what would take back? The same thing goes for other zones. By the time they come to an agreement, it means that they have a national consensus of what they want. And because they are the parliamentarians, they push for the implementation. And by the time you go to the states, the states are also on the same page and aware of the positions. So it should be done on some clearly understood, unambiguous positions of all the zones, based on what they have and what they need. Otherwise we would keep on holding zoning conferences with these elders – but what can they do? Nothing! Those elderly ones, who are talking about restructuring, cannot go to the National Assembly. There is no way you can find those big men in the National Assembly because they are now in their 90s. Those in Afenifere, they are the same thing. Those in ACF, they are the same thing. In any case, it is about the National Assembly. Involve the youths, who are going to go there. Tell them what is good for them and by the time they get there, they would be able to get solutions implemented.
But there was a conference towards the end of the Jonathan’s administration and the government that took over seemed to have no regard for the outcome of the conference.
Initially, Jonathan did not believe in the conference. He said so, if you remember. He said that if there is a parliament that they were not going to put up another group of people who have no mandate to legislate over issues, which they had no mandate or power to do. He did not like it, he didn’t believe in it. But later on , he saw political gains out of it in terms of the psychology, the manipulation and the propaganda. He knew that he did not believe in it. It was a talk show – no meaning, no purpose. And there is no way somebody who has no mandate could sit down and give me something to go and implement. No! That is why I said that you should sensitize the people in the zones in all political parties based on their needs. And by the time they are fully sensitized they know that by the time these issues come up, they know the positions of their zones. And then, they can discuss it, Nobody would get it 100 percent. Nobody! It will be through some discussions, some deals and some negotiation and then you come to a national aggregate.