Few days after he wrote his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), intimating it of his willingness to run for the presidency in 2019, Alhaji Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa State, told Daily Trust on Sunday why he decided to toss his hat into the ring. He also spoke on the double-standard of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in its fight against corruption, how government is going after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for attempting to break ranks with the party, Fayose’s bid for PDP’s ticket, among others.We expected you to be very busy two days after submitting a letter of interest to your party to contest the presidency, but you are here alone by yourself.
Let me give you some insight into what’s called political party culture, and political party management and party intervention. My letter was to PDP members all over Nigeria, and it’s very, very clear. I said, I want to share my concern with them because the whole thing has a political background. We knew what Nigeria is before we came into power; and we know what we did to give our best for Nigeria. You know what I mean in your own perspective. And again, as I’ve been saying, as human institution, coming from a very difficult background – independence, civil war, crises here and there, June 12 and many others. So we’re coming from a very difficult background as political leaders, with a very clear head, leaders that want to steer Nigeria very well and leaders who know the difficulty that we went through. And of course we made some gains, so we felt that no matter what, the PDP was able to restore Nigeria, was able to get Nigeria stabilized. As I’ve been saying, in 1999, OBJ’s (Olusegun Obasanjo’s) election was not about power or energy or infrastructure or anything, it was about reconciling Nigeria, restoring Nigeria to make it very stable politically so that we would be able to harmonize and face other matters. So this is what I shared with the PDP.
So, it’s not something that we should be debating outside for now; it’s within the party. By the time we are through, when I pick the ticket, if I’m found worthy, then you’ll start seeing what we call PDP activities, not Sule Lamido but PDP. So, this is purely an internal thing within ourselves and in so doing, we will make sure there’s no acrimony because others will also show interest and whoever emerges, when we know who wants to aspire, we will work as a family, we will move without acrimony, without envy and what have you and avoid not being used by political opponents so that they don’t play on our psychology. So for now, it’s simply within the party, discussions between brothers and sisters to know how we go about it, simple.
Have you started getting responses from them?
You see, when you’re doing a family consultation, you don’t go and say, ‘[Daily] Trust, I’m doing this.’ We know our activities, we know what the Nigerian people are expecting from us.
But you must’ve sat and thought of all these things before you wrote the letter to your family members in PDP…
You see, if you look at my letter, I wanted to share my thoughts and concerns so that all of us would first brainstorm anywhere we go. Look, where are we today? Where were we three years ago? I mean a party of propagandists has taken over and today in Nigeria, the way we’re being fought, the way we’re being demonized, the way we’re being harassed and maligned is simply beyond what you imagine because this is a party, here’s a government in Nigeria which is fond of mocking its own citizens. Anything you say, they mock you. They call you wailing-wailer. But government should give me comfort; government should inspire me; it should motivate me so that if I’m wailing, it should say, ‘look, what’s your problem?’ and then cure my problems, you don’t mock me.
There was a time I came to Abuja in the night and throughout there was no light. I mean it was in total darkness like we are in the Stone Age and if I’d talked, they would say, “Sule Lamido is wailing, wailing-wailer.” I’m wailing because I want something called a civilized environment. So, you see, we’re in a very difficult situation today, people who tasted what’s called liberty, freedom know that today we are really being suffocated. There’s terribly overbearing heat on civil liberty, rights on democracy because you can’t even talk. You’re either mocked or terrorized.
Why do you still see yourself as part of the PDP considering the fact that at present, many people see it as a fragmented family?
In all families there are fragmentations, from top to bottom. You are a Nigerian, there are some Nigerian families who are at the highest level but they are fragmented. You see, whether in marriage or in a community, if you’re dealing with human institutions, human beings, you don’t think of full perfections. Don’t fear mistakes and the need to correct. We are human beings who are born to make mistakes. So in human institutions, in marriage, in government, I mean there must be some mistakes. So why do you need to worry if the PDP is fragmented? So what?
In the PDP, you see, by its very culture and history, it’s in every home in Nigeria, even in your own house. It’s in every village, every town; it’s in every state because it is a Nigerian ownership. It’s formed by people who on their own volition joined the party. In the PDP, there is nobody who you’ll call your boy because by the time you joined the party, maybe you are even married, you feed yourself. I don’t feed you. It’s a party of people who have honour and pride around them. It’s the party of Nigerian citizens, the right ones. It’s a party which talks about humanity in human beings. It’s a party which talks about human dignity and therefore, where there’re people who are trying to oppress, there’s a problem. Yes, we have some crisis and so what?
The APC is literally gone because they don’t have the capacity to even contain themselves. In the PDP, we know the limit of our quarrel. It has people and followers who believe in the party and, therefore, have the capacity to understand the problem and then say, “hold on.” Because there is in the party what we call maturity, we believe in the Nigerian interest which is our common bond. Of course, there are crises and why not?
Your party controls only two states in the North (Gombe and Taraba) your primary constituency. Do you think you can navigate the waters and actualize your dream of becoming president?
My constituency is Nigeria. Of course, I came from a village and from a town, but I’m gunning for the president. If I’m gunning for governorship, you can say those things to me, but Nigeria is my constituency and my life is for Nigeria and Nigeria includes the North and the South. So why do you talk about fragmentation, northern constituency? Are you trying to tell me that Buhari won simply because he’s a northerner? Did he win because he’s a northerner or because he’s a Nigerian? I think Buhari won because he’s a Nigerian and it’s Nigerians that voted for him to become president. Nigeria is my constituency, not my village, Bamaina; not my state Jigawa or North or East. I’m telling Nigerians that I want to be your president. If you see me to be that trustworthy; if you see me to able, fair enough. But if you don’t see me fit, fine. You see, my appetite is for service, it is not for the worth of the office. My hunger is not for my personal interest. My hunger is how do we save Nigeria, all of us as Nigerians? and, therefore, my aspiration should be seen in that context.
We are talking of the electorate. Many people seem disenchanted with the PDP. How can you convince them that it’s now going to be a new dawn?
No, no, no. If they are happy with the APC, let them go and vote for the APC. Why should I bother myself? There are two books: The PDP government and what we did for Nigeria and the APC government. Therefore, read page one PDP and page two APC and then make up your mind. We don’t beg people, we allow you to use your common sense, your intelligence, your personal emotions and your feelings, and of course your belle. All right? The judgement is up to you. If Nigerians are happy and content with the APC; if they feel the country is united, stable and prosperous, fair enough.
Seems like an array of the same concerns that got the PDP out of power?
I don’t think hunger was an element in 2015 elections campaign.
There was this general…
No, hunger wasn’t part of the campaign, you were in Nigeria. Fine, whatever you were buying for N10, there is an increase now. So, whatever the truth about 2015, the elections were not about hunger. They were about something perceived to be national security.
And corruption. And thank God today we have angels in government. You can now say, “The angels are there, so we are all very, very safe, nobody is dying, nobody is hungry and nobody is corrupt. Everything is perfect like living in heaven.” Fair enough, so continue voting for the APC, no problem. Look, I’m not desperate, what I’m saying is that I know my country called Nigeria and the world. And I know our people and don’t think we are today properly portrayed the way we should be. This is my own opinion. I may be wrong. But I don’t think the faces of Nigerians are looking very robust. I don’t think so. But if voters say, I’m wrong, so be it; let them vote for the APC, it’s not my problem.
Why do you think the PDP can be a better alternative to the APC?
You see, I’m a party man; I’m partisan. The PDP is my party so, naturally, you don’t ask me that kind of question. Ask the voters, if they are happier under the APC, fine and no problem.
They will be asked at the next election…
Then why are you asking me now? I’m just offering myself and I said they should compare and contrast. There are two pages: Page one is PDP and Page two is APC. Page one is a party formed on issues around Nigeria in 1998. It’s a party formed after reflections on our history as Nigerians and we, therefore, have a vision for the future of Nigeria, which is first to properly reconcile so that there will be internal harmony because if there’s harmony, there will be stability and that’s when you will begin to face human development. And that we were able to succeed because in 1998, not every seed that you planted could germinate in the Nigerian soil. You know it. For those who are now calling the shots in Nigeria, where were they in 1998?
So it is the evil PDP, the PDP of thieves or Boko Haram or whatever they call us, which was able to get the country stabilized, restored and reconciled for them to come in and talk. So if there’s anybody who reaped most from PDP’s evil, it is the APC and they know what they campaigned on were pure lies. They know it.
But handlers of the APC always complain that that they are being bogged down by the burden they inherited from your party, especially with regards to massive corruption. What is your take on this?
By the time we come back, we would unearth their lies. So when they say, they’re trying to mend what we did, what did they offer in 2015 when they were campaigning? Did they say, Nigerians, vote for us but we can only function if there was no theft? There was no condition. They only said: give us your unconditional support. Give us your support. We have the capacity, the wherewithal and the wisdom to correct all imperfections. If they cannot lead, they should quit and we take over. Look, if you are going out of this office and you think that you will fall, will you stay here till eternity? No, you will go out. So, when they were campaigning, they should know what they were talking about because they are also Nigerians and in any case, it was the PDP people who gave them the votes. Isn’t it? So, when they say we’re thieves, it is the smaller thieves that remained in the PDP, the bigger thieves are in the APC.
Look, the APC is a creation of the PDP. When [Chief John Odigie] Oyegun calls us evil, when Lai Mohammed call us shameless, it’s because they don’t know what is called evil or shame because their government is a creation of evil and shame, because it was fertilized by the PDP. The APC government is our own daughter, our son because the PDP made them. Minus the PDP, there would be no APC. Come on! Where would they be? So people like Oyegun, who were out of circulation before coming to government, are now talking because they found the evil in the PDP, simply because it made them. All of them today are the creation of the PDP.
There are fears in the PDP that it would soon run into another trouble, considering that…
Allow us to worry ourselves. Allow us. Don’t worry about us.
It is being expressed by a section of your party.
No, what I’m saying is allow us to worry for ourselves.
How is the party going to handle Gov. Ayo Fayose’s presidential aspiration since it has zoned its ticket to the North?
Fayose is a Nigerian citizen, isn’t he? And under our constitution, he has the right to aspire for anything he wants. Local arrangement in the PDP is something else and in our calculation, if we think his aspiration is going to undermine our interest, of course, we would tell him. We would say, Look, Fayose take it easy bluh, bluh, bluh. It is a simple thing. But you see, anybody, even you, has the right if you join the PDP, we would give you a waiver. You see, the zoning thing was done for some conveniences but the purpose is to get harmony. However, if we don’t have the kind of understanding we need, we go for elections and once you emerge from the convention, then you are the choice of the PDP – whether Fayose or anybody else, we would rally around him. If Fayose wins we would rally around him.
You see, the party can give guidelines but then we would converge at the convention and then say look, These are the kind of things we should do in order to have harmony and in spite of that, there might be others who will still say they will come and contest, fair enough but we would stand by the understanding that we have. They are Nigerians but the voters would say this is the person that we will vote for. And if Fayose emerges, of course, we will vote for him.
Do you think you will come out of your party’s convention stronger as the three zones from the South are all battling to produce the national chairman of the party?
You people, see, why for God sake are you so dishonest? Why the hypocrisy? In this government, you can see the party members coming from one family. Look, why do you close your eyes to other things that are very glaring and wrong and then hammer on small things? You see, as Nigerians, beyond parties we must have standards. We have to look at our constitution. If the operators begin to think otherwise, that is the problem. Is there anything we are doing in the PDP which is not being done in the APC? Is there anything being done by this government which has not been done before? I mean, look, sometimes they said, there was a cabal in government under the PDP but people are still talking about cabal now. Aren’t they? You see, we must be serious as a nation. So, whether the chairmanship is going to the South or wherever, the hallmark of the whole thing is to try to choose, if Nigerians say they want ‘A’, no matter where he comes from, he must be, it should be the voice of the majority. So don’t get worried about Fayose or zoning, leave it to us, we are maturing.
Now in the event you get the PDP ticket, do you think you have the strength to match the towering influence of Buhari’s incumbency?
Incumbency is a big factor but we were also incumbent in 2015. We were very, very powerful in 2015 yet we lost. So incumbency is going to be checked by the power of the voters.
How do you feel that many members of your party are being probed for corruption?
It is because we are the ones who have been locked up in the prison of corruption. In Nigeria today, they would pick you up, smear and demonize you and before you even go to court, you have lost out. When the government says, you are a thief and the papers carry it, with the way they write things, they don’t say, “alleged,” they say, “they stole.”
When Buhari came in 1983, it was the same language. He said Nigerians were corrupt then he locked all the key players in prison because they were thieves, they were corrupt. Then four months after, as the Commander-in-Chief, he formed tribunals with his own boys, his own group of coupists and said, Fine, my generals, bring Mr A, who is corrupt, who is a thief, from prison and convict him. He said, “convict him,” he did not say “try him.” O! Yes. Look, can they bring another verdict, those tribunals, can they? So what are you talking about? Corruption. Corruption. Corruption.
Is there a correlation between what transpired in 1983 and what is happening now?
When you talk about corruption today, there are two set of Nigerians – Nigerians of the APC, who are normal citizens, enjoying their full rights and Nigerians of the PDP who have no liberty, no rights, whose honour has been taken away from them, who are demonized and smeared as thieves and crooks. If you are with the APC, Buhari will clean you and that’s why all people from the PDP who went to the APC are very clean now. If they want to come back, you can see some of the consequences on their businesses.
There are some people who a year ago nobody was saying anything about them, but because they are now talking, you have seen what is happening. Somebody like Atiku [Abubakar], it is now that his company is doing the wrong, after all these years. But when he joined the APC, they were celebrating. All these governors that defected, they were celebrating when they were joining them, even though they knew they were stinking. Now, those who refused to go to them like Babangida [Aliyu] and me, we said we were not going because, you see, look, I’m getting old, so I don’t think I should choose a word that is not polite. But you know there are things which are not normal in Nigeria.
In any case, what we are doing now, whatever it is, beyond Lamido, beyond [Bola Ahmed] Tinubu, beyond Buhari, beyond Atiku and other elders, in the next 25 years, those who are now under 40 would be over 60. What would be their fate? What will be the fate of Nigerian youths beyond us? And they are watching us because they learn from their leaders. No matter how much I will be inconvenienced, I must not feel so angry as to do something extra to punish. Leadership should be able to inspire and motivate, not to harass.
You’re one of those that are being tried for corruption…
What gives you the courage to come out for the presidency instead of concentrating on your alleged corruption charges?
In law, when a case is in court, there is what is called sub-judice, therefore, you don’t talk about it. Number two, I’m saying this with all honesty and I don’t blame anybody then or now, this case of mine is not by this government. It was because of our own civil war within the PDP family in 2014/2015. It is the fallout of that civil war. So this government is not handling my case. It is not this government, it’s the product of our civil war vis-à-vis my aspiration.
Are you afraid the court case can form a stumbling block against your presidential aspiration?
Like I’ve been saying, if you are going to go to Lagos from here, you can either go by road or by air. Isn’t it? But if you say, supposing I fly to Lagos and the plane crashes, wouldn’t you still go to Lagos?
Of course, you will go.
But then the plane may likely crash. You see, in life, no human being has the power to hold anybody’s life except God and therefore, whatever you do, if you say you will bring your hypothesis – if I do this, what would happen, then you can’t do anything.
But does the case give you sleepless nights?
No. Look at my general physique and look at my face and then read.
But politicians can pretend they are okay even when they are not.
Okay, I’m pretending [laugh]
Talking about corruption, how did you react on hearing that the President didn’t know that Maina had been reinstated into the civil service?
It is simple, everything stops at his table as the Nigerian president and whatever happens at that high level, if he doesn’t know then there is a problem in Nigeria. If he knew and took that decision because of public outcry, again there is a problem. So, either way you view it, there is a problem.
We will take you back a little around 2013. You and other governors including Kwankwaso, Murtala Nyako, Babangida Aliyu and to certain extent Amaechi formed a caucus. What was the motivation at that time?
When Bamanga Tukur was the chairman of the party, for almost a whole year, there was no NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting of the party. And it is mandatory in the constitution that you must meet at least once every quarter but we never met. Secondly, the party was being lent to a particular interest and it was breaching the vision of the founding fathers of the PDP. So we said, look, a number of things are being done wrong in the party, maybe to give somebody an advantage. Look, we want the party to be rule-based and whoever would be anything let him aspire to be but should be under the rules. And by the time he acquires the power, he will become our own because if you acquire whatever you want to acquire through the party, then you become a party man, a party material and then the ownership becomes ours. But if you simply use a particular interest to manipulate and create depressions to crossover, then you will bring some annihilation. And because we are the party in government, we should be able to set certain standards. So we said, certain things were wrong and we went round, not only to the PDP members but to some Nigerian leaders. We went to [Ibrahim] Babangida, [Olusegun] Obasanjo, [Theophilus] Danjuma, Alex Ekwueme, and Shehu Shagari and said, Something is being done wrong in Nigeria, in our party, the PDP. Please, come and save us because you are elders.”
That was what we did but some five, six months after, the APC was formed and they said, fine because of the problems in the PDP, we should all go to the APC, but I said, “No, I’m not going because what is your source of quarrel with our party? It was impunity, doing imposition. And the APC are offering us our states where the legacy parties have been there. I said, You are asking us to go and do what we are accusing the PDP of? That would be immorality because if we go, it means we would take away from our legacy members and it means the same impunity. So I said I’m not going or if we have to go, there is something binding on us by virtue of our political positions and offices. Let us first resign from our offices and then we go there and join them, because we did so in 1983. Abubakar Rimi resigned as governor (on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to join NPP (defunct Nigerian People’s Party). I also resigned from the House of Representatives to join the NPP because the PRP owned our positions, the PRP made us, campaigned for us and voters voted for us through the PRP and whatever we had was the PRP’s and we said, let’s give them.
I said, people voted for us through the PDP and so if we are leaving the PDP, let’s give what is PDP’s, resign and then we go and join them (APC), but they said they would not.
Was that why you and Babangida Aliyu refused to join APC?
Yes, how do I leave the PDP as a governor and go to the APC as a governor? More so, the way they were abusing us and vilifying us at the time. You see, we all learn from history; I’m not trying to create ill-feelings. I have been asking those who joined the APC from the PDP if they are happier now in the APC than they were in the PDP?
Every now and then Lai would say PDP are thieves to their face. Are they happy when Oyegun said PDP are shameless to their faces? How would you look at an APC meeting where there is Atiku, Kwankwaso, Wamakko, Goje and those people and say the PDP are thieves, they are shameless?
Do you feel vindicated now?
You see, don’t try to rationalize. It is simply a matter of principle. There is something I would not do. Even if my body goes to the APC, my soul will not follow me because there are some things I cannot do.
Do you see the possibility of your former colleagues returning to the PDP before 2019?
Anybody who is sane should leave the APC because it is a contraption. They are all coming from their own homes into a rented house and it is collapsing. So, run away before the house falls on your heads. Those who came from the AC, PDP and even Buhari who came from the CPC should move out and go back to their homes, because this house is caving in. Nobody is safe in that house.
Do you foresee any chances of your party beating Buhari in 2019?
The Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015. One, he is fatigued. Two, he is faced with what you call political party management under democracy. It is not where you give orders; here you have to build some consensus. You can see he cannot even relate well with the Senate President of his own party. So, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015.
Before 2015, he was Buhari the puritanical. Buhari, who they saw as the only man at the helm of 20 million people that Nigerians in the APC were ready to surrender their trust, their reasoning, their honour and everything because they are so lazy. Look at what (Professor Itse) Sagay said about the APC. He said they are all thieves. So if they are calling the PDP thieves, their own man is saying they are all thieves.
Have all these diminished Buhari’s electoral chances and can you face him in 2019?
Buhari faced Nigerians as an individual in 2015. In 2019, Nigerians are going to fight for themselves, uniting around themselves to save themselves from what they thought was feasible.