Sule Lamido is no stranger to Nigerian politics. He was governor of Jigawa State between 2007 and 2015, Minister of Foreign Affairs under former President Olusegun Obasanjo and before then, a member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday in Kano, Lamido speaks on the hardship in the country, the economy under Tinubu and court judgements allegedly giving opposition states to APC, among other national issues.
Nigerians are going through hell on account of fuel subsidy removal but your party, PDP, seems to be silent on the living crisis in the country; why is it so? Is it probably because the party lacks original economic thinking on addressing the fuel subsidy lockjam?
I don’t think you are going to get me by trying to provoke me and neither am I willing to answer you on this because we went through a process called election. Our party PDP was in power for 16 years and in those 16 years we were able to restore Nigeria to what it was within the comity of nations, in terms of authority, visibility and even profile. The first thing PDP did was to restore our image outside the country…and work on debt relief.
We were able to get the money, have the country stabilized and fully reconciled after June 12, and then embarked on human development.
It worked for 16 years and those who were nowhere in 1999 or near Nigeria or near politics came to harvest on our performance, on our efforts, on our achievements, to become visible…and then challenge us.
We were demonized, we were called names, so then in that election, we lost, and thereafter APC came. They vilified us, called us Boko Haram, especially in the North.
So, on what account should you ask me to react? Why should I react? We were in power, we were removed…, now you are asking me about hardship, why are you asking me? Ask those who voted in APC, you know angelic Buhari. Ask the Mallams who brought in Buhari and those who brought in Emilokan, why are you asking me?
But your party contested the 2023 election…
And we lost because people didn’t want us, so ask those who voted for APC, whether they are happy with APC or not, why ask me. I offered myself to serve and you said you did not want me.
But do you have a solution to fuel subsidy?
I was there before, whether I was performing or not, you were aware of that, now you flushed me out and brought in another party with their own political philosophy and programme. So, I should be asking you or maybe your audience or your listeners, whether sacking PDP has paid off. Why are you asking me?
So, in essence, Nigerians should be punished for voting in APC?
You see, I cannot speak for others; I can only speak for my own party, which was rejected by Nigerians, so go and ask those who brought in APC. People like you; your media outfit which was very much anti PDP.
We were neutral
No, you are not. I am telling you because I know what you were from 1999–2007 to 2014. I know what you were.
We were very critical of the Buhari administration
When he failed you. Initially, there was so much celebration when he came in, especially by your paper.
Coming back to the question, do you have a solution to fuel subsidy removal?
I am not in power.
You are in the opposition
Fine, so when the time for election comes then we will tell you what to do. For now, they are implementing what they promised you—agony, pain, hardship, anguish and insecurity. You don’t feel secure, you are poor, your take home pay can’t even buy you a bag of rice, so you are now harvesting what you planted.
Is It the sin probably committed by Nigerians?
Probably by rejecting PDP and you have taken offence?
How do I answer you? What was Nigeria in 1998 before we came on board? What transpired between 1992 and after the annulment of June 12? What about Abacha?
You see, there is something called history, so why can’t we reflect? Why are you thinking only about today? Before today, there was yesterday, so the agony and pain you are going through is something which you knew yesterday.
In 1998, before we came on board, how was Nigeria in terms of internal harmony, internal reconciliation between the North and South, you know after June 12?
There was that bond which makes us a country, it was not there. So, it was PDP which came in 1999 that restored Nigeria. Nigeria reconciled internally first and then redeemed our image outside, made us a country, a force to be reckon with, from 1999 to 2007. Under Obasanjo, I was a minister of foreign affairs.
You seem to have forgotten what we did. There’s a saying in Hausa … like the stomach yesterday, you are full, but by tomorrow it will be screaming again, ‘I want more food’, forgetting that yesterday you fed it.
What was Nigeria between 1992 and 1998, and see what we did between 1998 and 2014. But all that was simply ignored by who? By those who have no clue what is called Nigeria. They rallied around Buhari, calling him our own, our own.
So, what is the benefit of ‘our own’ in power to the North, especially the North West – his own constituency?
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the ruling APC is pushing the country into a one-party state by taking the states that it lost on the ballot through the courts. What is your take on this? And do you think that PDP and other opposition parties will probably be alive and kicking by 2027?
You see, between 1999 – 2014 in terms of followership, in terms of people in key government positions, governors and what have you, it was all PDP and PDP had the character of doing the right thing.
The elections of 2015 were contested by the PDP and they were very, very transparent, very fair and credible and after the election, the president conceded that he lost the election because of the intense propaganda we went through, and they gave it to APC.
Unfortunately, those who were in charge don’t have the character of statesmanship. Their concern and mission were purely ephemeral and there is no better testimony for this than the then chairman of the APC, the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, who said that no matter how dirty you are, no matter how filthy you are, no matter the amount of money you stole, no matter how corrupt you are, if you come into APC, you are forgiven, didn’t he say so?
Look at the appeal in APC, the appeal in APC was corruption, favouritism, nepotism because whatever you are, if you come there, you are safe. You can steal, you can do anything you want because all they know is the numbers and because they have more crooks in the party who are willing to manipulate and impose arbitrarily, that was why they won the election and you see their government.
When they try to win any election and it doesn’t work, they will say ‘okay’ go to tribunal’, and by the time you go there, they are there earlier than you, isn’t it?
If a whole CJN of Nigeria will attend the party organised by G-5 governors and ensure they vote for them, you see it is all about the judiciary.
But the G-5 governors were PDP?
They were fighting for the APC, they were fighting against the PDP candidate, weren’t they? They professed outwardly at the function that they were anti PDP…, then the CJN.
So, what it means is that it is part of their preparation to condition our minds that there is a programme going on and that whoever loses should go to court, but before you get to court, they are already there through the CJN, so what do you expect?
Do you see PDP surviving this beyond 2027?
The PDP is not for the nomenclature PDP, it is for Nigeria and Nigerians, so the whole thing lies on Nigerian voters. Are they getting the right thing? Are they better off right now? Do they feel secure and safe now? I mean their status as human beings, how are they feeling?
There is that thing called bond and brotherhood or sisterhood. These are the kind of characters you call for leadership; those with human empathy.
So when you say PDP, I mean even in APC, there is a PDP, APC, so the nomenclature is immaterial, it is what we profess in terms of our mission for the country, putting the right people in the right places. So, it is not PDP, it is Nigeria.
Before 2014, I had said that in the election coming in 2014 that whoever wins, Nigeria will lose. I said so because some internal arrangements in the party was breached, and the people, kind of, lost confidence in the party based on that breach.
Meanwhile, those in APC were campaigning on hate, division, malice, so it means the two candidates at that time were only running for themselves, Nigeria was left behind. The election in 2014 was between Jonathan and Buhari for their personal ambition and interest, not for the country.
All along, Nigerians believed in us. In whatever we do, we put Nigeria first; let her lead and then pursue your interest from Nigeria.
From 2014, it has been the interest leading and Nigeria following behind. That was why when Buhari won, every Nigerian lost because he was not there for Nigeria.
He lacked the political pedigree, political sagacity, and vision to address the issues of Nigeria. Instead, emotions, sentiments, ethnicity and religion came to play and today in Nigeria, this triangle of ethnicity, religion and the region North-South, Islam-Christianity, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and others, are playing out. Tribe, religion and region have been brought to the forefront in Nigeria by the APC. What did Tinubu say? He said Emilokan, it is my turn.
You were very critical of Buhari’s administration; what is your assessment so far of Tinubu’s administration? Will the economy recover under him?
When he said he will continue from where Buhari stopped, what has he done? When you say you want to continue from where Buhari stopped, where do you start from?
From insecurity, poverty or hunger? Tinubu said he will continue from where Buhari stopped, so there is no distinction.
That is why I asked whether the economy will recover under him
Under Tinubu? Are you asking me as an economist or what?
As a politician and a stakeholder in the Nigeria project
He said he will continue from where Buhari stopped. What he means is that all of Buhari’s policies on the economy, on security, on corruption and human right and what have you, he will continue, isn’t it? So, it is up to you to assess, not me.
I want your opinion on that
I told you in 2015 election that if they win, Nigeria will lose. Buhari lacked the political sagacity, vision, commitment, pedigree to answer or explain the issues he was questioned on.
Now, after eight years, Tinubu came and said he will continue from where Buhari stopped, so the next destination is our grave because the journey has started with a trailer load of poverty, hunger, insecurity, hate, despondency, frustration, pain, agony, and the destination is the grave.
You recently disagreed with your former boss President Obasanjo that Western form of democracy is not working in Africa; why do you disagree with Obasanjo on this?
Because you said democracy is working. You just admitted now that Nigeria rejected PDP and elected APC.
Fine. What is the definition of democracy? A process of leadership elected under a free, fair, transparent, unhindered by corruption or manipulation to run the government of a country. The process shouldn’t be corrupt, there shouldn’t be anything called manipulation or intimidation, it should be open, transparent, by rules governing the process, that is democracy.
The election was manipulated, it is not about my own turn or my own son, or our own time or about the North and South, it is about Nigeria.
Now, in implementation, is it delivering the dividends of democracy? The word democracy is not an end itself, it is a means to an end and the end is the human dignity, human decency, human honour, human freedom, human liberty, human prosperity, human everything, everything ideal, that is the end.
Are we getting that? It is a debate; it is a debate not only in Africa. There was a coup in Niger, coup in Guinea; so is it working for us? What is the problem because it is something we imported from Europe.
Is it applying on our environment just as it is enshrined in those democracy? If it is not, then what do we do to either improve or to shape it? You know, reshaping or rethinking.
Is It open for debate by all Africans, if they feel it is not giving them the dividends? Where have we gone wrong, what are the issues, what are the problems, let us reflect and then see what we can do to adjust it or to reshape it or to rethink it.
So, it is a kind of challenge being thrown on the environment for debate or discussion; let Africans decide whether it is really giving that end you say is democracy.
There are a number of things to be taken into consideration, it is just the beginning now. For the next few years, it is a debate, discussion. It is not about Nigeria or Tinubu or APC government, no, it is about democracy continentally. The way we are playing it, whether it is being applied, and is it really working?
If it is not working, it is because of our culture or is it alien to us? I mean what are the forces there? Is it because there is no political education? Is it because it is all about my own, my son’s own?
Democracy should address human needs, and to check the success of this democracy is by looking at the face of the African person, do you see a happy face? If I look at your face and see despair, pain and agony, then wipe it out.
On my way to Abeokuta, from Lagos, before I got to Shagamu junction, I saw a person stark naked, a mad man. I saw another man by the garbage and yet there is a government in this country, there are leaders there and people passing and driving by, politicians and so on. When you see that kind of mad man, nobody feels concerned or is touched; it will not even prick your conscience.
But when you go to Europe, where we talk about democracy, do you see a man walking about naked in Europe. Even in America, under what they call human right where they go to nude environment, they take their cloth off on their own volition as part of their right but this one is not about human right. This is a sick man; we see him every day and we can’t even care for him; it says a lot about us, for God’s sake.
Go to motor parks, you see people beating each other in the name of fighting, are we animals? Go anywhere, it is all crisis.
I want your take on lavish spending by those in power. Recently, N160m was approved for SUV for law makers, millions of naira was approved for perfumes for one of the governors and then billions also for presidential guests house renovation.
You said approved, approved by who?
The National Assembly
On whose behalf are they there?
On the people’s behalf
Fine. Are they reflecting the people’s wishes? They are not, then how were they elected? How would they ignore the Nigerian environment, in terms of our standing and status, to do that kind of appropriation for the president?
That is why there’s need for this kind of debate. Is the western type of democracy working in Nigeria or not? Why is it not working?
Talking about democracy in Africa, I saw the motorcade of the president of Kenya, Ruto. I saw 55 jeeps, with 45 riders on motor bikes following him. I saw the clip on tik tok, maybe it was manipulated, I don’t know.
So, what I am saying is this: if members of the National Assembly are representing us, they should do it the right way, but then they are doing what they do because they know how they won the election, they know how they got elected. To them, it is an investment into a business and they are looking for profit, so why do you blame them.
I mean you go for election: you pay the agent of your own political party, then you pay whatever they call it at the polling booth—NDLEA, police, SSS, Army and they are all there at the polling booth and this goes up to the state, up to national level, they are all paid.
Then, you also give the voter, maybe spaghetti, macaroni and money or African print (wrapper). How do you expect service from them after all these spending? When they bought the entire process to be there, it is an investment for them.
Let us appraise it, if it is not working, then we need to either retune it or refine it or rethink or reshape it to be able to fit into our own environment and give us service, what they call democracy dividends, that’s all.
Let’s talk about Jigawa State politics. Many believe PDP lost the election because there was imposition, that you imposed your son; are you worried?
In Africa and in Nigerian politics, it is very painful that in your desire to get benefit or win an election, you churn out lies. That is why I said why don’t we, can’t we, have what is called benchmark in character? If there is benchmark, there are somethings you should not do.
If you come into this office and find a man on the floor with his neck slit with a knife and blood all over. Maybe you picked up the knife, and then somebody comes in, he will accuse you of killing the man because he saw you with the knife and the person in blood. It is only your God that can save you.
So, on the issue of my son, I swear to Allah, I have no idea how he emerged as the candidate. The party never made it known to me I swear. I saw it on facebook.
Now, people turned around to say I imposed my son on the party, that was why we lost, isn’t it. So, head or tail I stand condemned. People don’t see my contributions right from 1979 in the House of Reps; what I went through in terms of humiliation, persecution, suffering to the point that even my own party’s President Jonathan arraigned me and my kids, docked as thieves.
Me – a senior member of the PDP, a founding member of the party, accused by my own president because of his political interest. So, he had to destroy me, ruin my career and family, arraigned me in court, just to achieve his political ambition.
I have been through all kinds of things that I am more concerned about the bigger picture called Nigeria because Nigeria has been very, very kind to me. Whatever you do to me in terms of harassing me, trying to persecute me, will not make me give up. I’m undeterred because this country has been fair to me, it has been good to me. It gave me face to grow from my village to what I am today, passing through all kinds of difficulties to be a member of the House of Reps in 1979 (45 years ago), to being a party chairman, to being this and that…, therefore what do I do, in spite of the misconception, to pay back to Nigeria what I got.
To me, it’s payback time, so whatever you say to blackmail me or my son, I will remain undeterred. I will remain focused, I will do all that I can within my means to give back what I think Nigeria gave, that’s all.
In 2019, you lost the PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt, are you contesting again in 2027?
I lost in 2019, I didn’t run in 2023. Today, it is you, the younger generation, that are saying it is now your own time, because you think we are being unduly monopolistic on your own space. You are asking me if I will be contesting when you are the same people saying I am blocking you.
I have stepped aside, and you are now asking, if I am running?
So clearly, are you saying you are not running?
Even if I say I want to, you will ask if I am not too old. I am 75, and the younger ones are saying it is now their own turn. It is the Emilokan of the younger generation who are 40 and below. Fine, go ahead!
– Daily Trust