In 2015, many thought he was going to challenge former President Goodluck Jonathan, even Jonathan saw him as a potential rival, but former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido did not run. He told Saturday Sun in January this year that running against Jonathan at the time was like passing a vote of no confidence on him.
Today, however, Lamido has left no one in doubt that he would be seeking his party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential contest. In this interview with ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, held at his home in Kano last Saturday, Lamido declared that Buhari was no threat to the PDP, come 2019.
He said: “What is my business if they endorse him or if he runs? Buhari came from a very small party called the CPC. Without the influence of the ACN and the governors who left the PDP, there was no way he would have won because he came from a very tiny party. If those who came together to make him what he is, are no longer in the party, then he has my sympathy for failing to understand this. Look here, Buhari is no threat to the PDP.
“In PDP, we do not give a damn on whoever the APC presents for 2019 because we are more than two-third. We know that as a party, we have made some mistakes and we apologise to Nigerians. If the likes of Tinubu and Atiku feel concerned about what is happening in APC and those who were originally in PDP leave, what will become of him? He would only be left with his tiny CPC, I don’t know how he would do it, but that is his problem, not mine. In any case, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015.
“The Buhari of today is fatigued; he is faced with what you call political party management in a 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.”
Few days ago, you wrote the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a letter where you analysed the situation in the country and said the party must take the lead in rescuing the country. What informed the approach that you took?
A political party has its own kind of authority and by my upbringing and culture, the party is very important. We need to pull Nigeria out of despondency and the first thing that I chose to do was to intimate the party faithful that I am offering myself for the job should the party consider me worthy of flying its flag because I believe that it is time that we share the same concern for our country. PDP is the only party that can set things right in this country.
If you compare how things were in the country three years ago to what it is now, you will appreciate why things have to change. Many others may likely join the presidential race, but what is important is that in whatever we do, we should ensure that we share the same dream and aspiration and put Nigeria first. Whoever will emerge after the primary should be a PDP candidate who knows PDP very well and who is popular with the people and who can tell Nigerians this is what we are offering you. If the party brings a very good person with a common understanding, it will be very easy to make progress. We either do things right, or by 2019, there would be some problems in Nigeria and PDP is the only party with the capacity and passion for Nigeria. We have been there for 16 years and we stabilised Nigeria.
There are speculations that some of your party members that left are likely to return and some of them have presidential ambition; for instance we hear the former vice president is likely to return but that he wants the party to assure him that when he returns, he would get the ticket of the party. How true is this speculation?
Those governors who left the party at the time first raised the alarm that there was something wrong with the PDP. We went round the country and we saw other political leaders. We said then that what we were going through may likely endanger Nigeria’s stability and security in future, and we felt that the problem was even beyond the PDP. The guidelines and constitution of the party clearly states that the party must meet at least quarterly, but for a whole year, the party never met. We wanted the party to meet so that when the key players are gathered, we can push for the party to do the right thing. It was our efforts that caused things to be narrowly corrected, but in the process, five governors, some key players and some parliamentarians left the party. To me, that was a big mistake because the party you formed and you campaigned for and people gave you their trust in the rain and sunshine because you were part of the party, should not have been abandoned like that. But that is history now. They left because at the time, they felt that they were not happy about the prevailing situation, but I believe that you should not let your anger and personal mood affect your leadership position. So, it was the mood and feeling in them that made them take that decision. Having gone to where they went, have they found comfort there? Have they been consoled? Have they been rescued from what they were running away from or have their problems compounded? So naturally, they would want to come back because they are more agonised and pained where they are now. This is where naturally they belong; where they share a common history with their friends before they became what they are, and they are most welcome. They built a house, which is APC, but now, they are coming back into their home, which is the PDP and we are ready to welcome anyone who wants to come back for whatever reason.
In that house, ACN, CPC, ANPP and some parts of APGA came in, but now, that house cannot give them what they are looking for, so they want to come back to their homes. No matter where the likes of Saraki, Wammako, Kwankwaso, El-Rufai Ribadu and all of them who left go, the political blood running in their veins is that of PDP. No matter how much they try, you cannot really run away from your own soul.
About the issue of giving conditions, I do not think that my brother Atiku would give any condition because he knows that no one can give him any guarantee because the party is not owned by one person, it is owned by the people. If the people say that they want him and find him worthy of picking the ticket, then so be it. All of them are very welcome back to the PDP where they are cherished, loved, admired and on which platform they became what they are politically. It is better than where they are now, where they are humiliated every day. Every now and then Lai would abuse them calling them PDP thieves and they are there watching where they are being abused and they cannot even defend their honour. No matter what you say about the PDP, we are in charge of the APC government because it is the PDP that got APC corrugated. If you take away the PDP from the APC, the APC would collapse.
In 1999, 2003 and 2007, they tried so hard to get to power, but they couldn’t, it was only when PDP members joined them that they succeeded. I am sure that by now they are tired of the situation. It is just like running away from your family to run into another person’s family, then the members of the new family reminds you of how all the members of your family were thieves, crooks and rogues. By abusing your former family, they are also abusing you. They ran into APC for comfort; they were frustrated and were looking for a shelter, but they are being insulted every day. This is because by insulting the PDP, they are also insulting those who moved from the PDP to the APC. I’m happy that they have been there and went through what they went through in that party, so, they should come back to where they are loved because they are part of us.
President Buhari has not announced his intention to run, but some within his party have already endorsed him for 2019. Does the PDP have what it takes to defeat Buhari?
What is my business if they endorse him or if he runs? Buhari came from a very small party called the CPC. Without the influence of the ACN and the governors who left the PDP, there was no way he would have won because he came from a very tiny party. If those who came together to make him what he is are no longer in the party, then he has my sympathy for failing to understand this. Look here, Buhari is no threat to the PDP.
In PDP we do not give a damn on whoever the APC presents for 2019 because we are more than two-third. We know that as a party, we have made some mistakes and we apologised to Nigerians. If the likes of Tinubu and Atiku feel concerned about what is happening in APC and those who were originally in PDP leaves, what will become of him? He would only be left with his tiny CPC, I don’t know how he would do it, but that is his problem, not mine. In any case, the Buhari of today is not the Buhari of 2015.
How do you mean?
The Buhari of today is fatigued; he is faced with what you call political party management in a 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.
If you pick the ticket of the PDP, would you describe the state of the economy today as an added advantage to you?
There is no gain if a government makes mistakes because it is the ordinary people that would bear the consequences of the mistakes. So, do not celebrate a government’s economic mistakes because you would suffer the consequences too. I am not in any way celebrating APC’s failure in government. This government is Nigeria’s government, but unfortunately, the APC got into government unprepared and because they were unprepared, they kept on churning out lies to mask their own failure.
During the campaigns, they invented lies about PDP; they called us thieves, rogues, evil and all sort of names. Now that they are in government, they failed to metamorphose from a political party seeking election to a party in government where the culture is different. Also, because they do not have that sense of being a government in power, they keep repeating the same thing they were saying while they were in the opposition. I am a Nigerian citizen by right and not by the political party that I belong to, therefore, the government of Nigeria is my government. Unfortunately, by the apparatus and culture of the APC, they have so demonized Nigerians such that if you speak, you are mocked. For the first time in this country, we have a government mocking its own citizens. When you complain, you will be called a wailing wailer. If people are wailing because of what they feel is wrong, what a responsible government should do is to find out why they are wailing.
As a father, if your children are crying, you don’t say, ‘look, why did you steal some of the money I gave you for feeding? Shut up’, and then you start abusing your child. The APC justifies irrationality. They are suffering from ignorance of leadership. They think that you are a citizen of Nigeria by privilege, but you are a citizen by right.
Some of those in government now, what has been their contribution to the development of Nigeria? Nothing! But today, they mock Nigerians. Today, the culture of lies has become an art of governance. When Buhari was in London for treatment, Lai Mohammed and other aides kept telling Nigerians that he was perfectly healthy but when he returned, the President himself told Nigerians that he had not been that sick before in his life, but his aides were saying another thing.
It is very sad. Buhari is Nigeria’s president. When Yar’Adua was ill, the opposition wanted to know everything about him. They accused the then government of hiding the true state of Yar’Adua’s health. Now that they are in government, they are playing a far worse role than the government of Yar’Adua played. They are so overwhelmed and do not know what to do because of the power of falsehood and manipulating people with lies. Again, we are Nigerians and we have the right to talk; don’t demonise, abuse or mock Nigerians when they talk because they are asking questions that are very pertinent.
For instance, they made allocations of billions of naira for Aso Rock clinic, yet they say there is no syringe there, but if you complain, APC would say you are a wailing wailer. Aisha Buhari wailed like me, which means she is also a wailing wailer. When you wail, it is because things are being done wrongly and that is why you are wailing. PDP has been wailing, they are wailers and even some in APC have become wailing wailers too, so we are now a wailing nation.
The PDP is preparing for its convention in December, would you say that the party has learned any lesson from the crisis that rocked it before the apex court came to its rescue?
We are going into election year and the chairman that we will elect now will be symbolic. He cannot have his own authority because the election is about the will of the people where there are key players. People are not voting for him on account of his own instructions. He cannot go to Sokoto or Jigawa or Oyo and give instructions on account of his own personality; it is something collective, a family affair. Even the election of a president is only a symbol because he is going to work for the entire country. In electing a chairman, we are going to ask what the person in his own standing can do for PDP. The earlier chairmen like Solomon Lar was very symbolic because he was part of those that formed the party, but those who came after, like Audu Ogbeh, what was he? We have come a long way and by now, the election of a chairman should be less personal in our affairs over the leadership of the party. No one should say it is going to be A or B or C, because ideally, all those big names in PDP should not align with any aspirant. No stakeholder in the party should be seen taking any aspirant to anywhere, we should allow aspirants to go round and meet leaders. Bode George and Gbenga Daniel came to my house to ask for my support, and that is how it should be. If we decide that for the sake of harmony and stability of the party, we decide that we would have a consensus and support Mr. A or B, we can only do that if we are standing on a high moral ground as not been seen to align with anybody. What we want is a party chairman, whom when he wins, will be the chairman of the party in the entire PDP family and we would all give him our support. As far as I know, there is no crisis in the party.
You were in Kaduna recently to inspect your campaign office, and by the next day, we heard that there was crisis involving your supporters and some hoodlums. What really happened?
I decided to come from Abuja to Kaduna to see the level of development in the office and I went there not to campaign or open the office but to inspect it. While addressing the young people, I told them that we, who are their parents and elders in government, have made some mistakes. I told them that some of us exploited their innocence and their age to manipulate them and because we are their parents and they trust and believe us, they supported us. But now that some of us have failed them, they have every right to be angry. I told them that in the next 30 years, those under 30 will be 60 years; I asked them what will be their future? Do they want to end up as street hawkers or barrow pushers? I told them that in the next 30 years, people like me and Buhari may or may not still be alive, so I left. After I left, I saw a story in one of the national dailies written by someone who was not there at the event. When I read it, I knew that the story was not true because nothing of such happened.
It is believed that Kaduna is the traditional home of President Buhari and you went there…
(Cuts in) No, it is not his home. Kaduna is the home of all former northern governors; and all former leaders of northern extraction, it was the center of the administration during the time of Ahmadu Bello. No one can appropriate Kaduna as his home because it is for all northerners. From 1999 till date, northern elders have been meeting in Kaduna and at one point or the other; all our elders were abused by these youths. Even El-Rufai has been abused by these youths on several occasions, so, it is our failure as northern leaders because we allowed our heritage in Kaduna to be turned into a theatre of hooliganism. Every northerner should feel worried about this trend. Elections take place all the time there but somehow, the youths do not see any effort on our part as leaders to address their needs, future and frustrations. We need to restore these youths to the right path and guide them properly.
All the Mallams, pastors, political leaders and elders have a duty to guide them because in the next 25 years, if these youths are not properly guided, we will be in trouble. It is dangerous for us because the youths are disappointed; they are aggrieved because they feel that they have been shortchanged by their leaders. The first thing leaders should do is fashion out a way on how to restore the innocence and honour of our youths; exorcise the seed of evil in them and plant a seed of integrity and honesty. So my concern is not about campaigning for 2019 but how to restore the future of our youths. I watched a video of a nine-year old boy who was brutalised by cultists just before this interview and I almost shed tears because it shows the increasing rate of cultism in the country. If that boy as little as he is, was literarily brutalised, then where is the love we the parents ought to give to our children?
What are the plans of the opposition to put the economy on the right track if it wins the election?
The human mind is wired to confront challenges. I have seen people create something out of nothing through their ideas. Ideas create wealth and that is why countries like South Korea, China, Japan and other countries are prospering every day. Even if you have a thriving economy on paper, you cannot grow any economy because our chemistry is terrible. This is a country that is not stable; here, people do not have rights and the government does not have respect for its citizens. In the last two years, how much investments have entered Nigeria? Nothing! A country like Angola has been able to attract a $16 billion investment; even Egypt and Rwanda attract investments all the time because there is stability in those countries. Prosperity is not built on wars, but on love and concern for human beings.
In Nigeria, what you get depends on what you can give the political party in government and this is a breach of the oath of office. The government must make everyone feel that they are dignified citizens of their own country; they should show that they love their citizens and they believe in them. When you see that your government is protecting your rights and giving you all that you deserve, you will support it and stand by it because you know that your government is there for you. So, it is not about economic theories because we have so many of them in this country. Prof. Itse Sagay recently said that the ruling party is a party of thieves and corrupt people. Now, if this is the testimony of someone who is part of this government, who will come from Europe and invest?