He probably had little reason to take the challenging path of fighting the establishment, given the comport and conditions around the country’s governors. But not Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State who was nurtured in the Aminu Kano political culture of using political power to fight for the masses.
It is as such not surprising that he is one of the seven governors in the country pushing to change the ways and manners of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In this interview in Dutse, Governor Lamido opens up as never before in the media, on the problems bedevilling the PDP, and why he has put everything, including his life for the struggle against those he dubbed as scavengers determined to eat up what he and other fellow democrats struggled for.
There is some excitement that a party that recently boasted it would dominate the country for 60 years is about disintegrating. Are you worried?
Let me say in our tradition, you don’t jubilate over somebody’s downfall or misfortune because he is somebody bigger. For me, those who think the PDP implosion will be a kind of carcass upon which they can feed on, are mistaken because I don’t think they are credible alternatives, so their jubilation may be short lived.
I’ve said it that PDP is a big party and it is the party that saved Nigeria from what happened between 1983 and 1998, and so, because it is so big, it is bound to have some crises here and there. It is only normal and natural.
But this is not an ordinary crisis?
We have to look at history first. If you know what happened yesterday, you will be prepared for tomorrow. The PDP was a mechanism for saving Nigeria from what happened between 1983 and 1998 and it has done so much with distinction.
If you know what was Nigeria during Buhari’s rule, Babangida’s rule, Abacha’s rule and so by 1998 when Abdulsalami came in, the matter was putting a mechanism that would be able to restore Nigeria and give Nigerians hope and confidence. Therefore, the mechanism was not in ordinary democracy; it was the democracy that was supposed to address a very, very serious national injury and 13 years after, that aspect for which the PDP was formed has been accomplished.
Now what you are seeing now is because the country has been stabilized by the PDP. It is now to face the next level.
And after stability, after restoration it is to give Nigeria and Nigerians service.
You know, there is the issue of employment of our youths, security from hunger, infrastructure and a number of things. You need a party which will metamorphose or transform from the old methods to now serving Nigeria which is the most difficult thing.
You need people with the commitment, with the dedication, with the discipline; to uphold the rule of law because only the rule of law will be able to save Nigeria and make Nigerians get the services they need from their leaders.
And what you are seeing now, is this metamorphosis; this transition into the next phase, which is going to address Nigerians’ needs which is the cause of what you may call this implosion.
So, must it take Nigeria 14 years to get there?
In 2007 when Yar‘adua came in, we were then stabilizing as a country. We were then fully reconciled as a nation. The militants and other people who felt shut out from the Nigerian economy were coming on board with the amnesty programmes and commitment to serve Nigeria.
Yar’ Adua was the next phase, but unfortunately, he died and the injuries which we cured eight years earlier came back.They all came back and we had to go again through the same political process of again leaving services to address the political problems which then arose of how Nigeria will be maintained and reconciled.
So again, arising from this death and because of the way the political debate was being approached with emotions and sentiments and the play of every card, we were drifting.
There were people at that time saying that if Jonathan contested that they would take him to court. So, because of the way the debate was drifting leaving issues, whipping emotions and sentiments; North, South, Christian, Yoruba and all that, we were back to square one. So the election 2011 was supposed to be the final healing process.
It wouldn’t have taken that long, it was because when we were trying to move, something happened (Yar‘adua’s death) and it was something beyond the party, it was something brought in by God.
So, in trying to look at 2015 we feel that our action in 2011 has been able to vindicate our position; to justify our position that that healing process has at least been attained; that nobody was denied access to power because he was a Christian. So, Jonathan was elected on the basis of the healing process.
Now the question is that by that action of 2011, that process has now been established and Nigerians are now looking for service and we feel that the PDP naturally has to face the next level.
Does this war now mean that the PDP is not satisfied with what has happened since Jonathan was elected in 2011?
You see, the PDP after coming to power again is not being careful as per the stipulations of the party’s constitution, the party’s traditions and the party’s conventions of the way of doing things and you can see it. You sack a governor for failing to pick your phone call!
In Adamawa, Bamanga went to deconstruct the party and to reconstruct it. Thereafter see what he did in RiversState, see what he did to Oyinlola and no pretext. They are very, very dangerous signals in the party and we felt that things were not normal and we went round to our leaders to say that there are some things happening in the party which we all slaved for, which we all made sacrifices for and we felt that if you destroy the vehicle which will keep giving Nigeria the kind of peace we need, the kind of hope we look up to, unless we do things right as a party and as a government, we will keep on having problems.
However, those in the Tukur led PDP are saying that those of you in the nPDP have not exhausted the internal party mechanism to lay out your grievances and they also accuse you of trying to destroy the old PDP for you to move over to a new party?
The claim that we have not exhausted internal party mechanism is an after thought. It arose after the action. Few months ago, we started going around the country, we met our leaders. We went to Obasanjo and we said “sir, the very party that we all built is about to be ruined by Bamanga Tukur, the abrasions, the high handedness, the insensitivity is bringing us into some serious problems. We went and met Abdulsalam, we briefed Babangida, we met Alex Ekwueme and we have met virtually everybody that could intervene.
After having gone round, Obasanjo called a meeting of PDP governors and for two days we met and these grievances were identified and itemised. He went and met the President and told him the problems. Now, after that, whatever you call us, either aggrieved governors or whatever, we went again and met the President and explained to him and said “sir, we have been going around in the last few months and these are the issues and we feel that there are some problems, so do something about that.”
After seeing the President, we also went and met Bamanga Tukur and told him the same thing, “sir, tell the party that there are some problems” and we told him what we told President Jonathan and what we told all the other former leaders. After that nothing was done.
On the day of the convention, around 12:30, myself, governor of Kano, governor of Niger, governor of Sokoto went to the President in the State Box and said “sir, there are some problems, do something; Do something please because right now Governor Nyako has been denied entry into the convention arena and all his delegates have also been denied, and the Rivers delegates who are statutory delegates being members of the National Assembly, have been changed at the venue of the convention.” And nothing was done.
So, when you say that we failed to exhaust all avenues, I don’t know what you mean. And you would see that every time the so-called praise singers and drum beaters would say “don’t mind them, they can’t do anything, who are they? The power of the presidency is this or that, they can’t do anything.”
We are not challenging the power of the Nigerian President because we know what the power of the Nigerian President is like.
You may be powerful but your duty is to understand me as your citizen, as your party man and know my grievances.
When we are taken for granted and told that the heavens will not fall, “who are they?”. And who are those saying this, these are people who had no idea how PDP was formed in 1998, these are people who had no idea how Jonathan was elected in 2011. Because to them they see the industry in the presidency, they don’t want anything that will bring the system to normalcy or they will lose the filth that they are eating.
Are you then moving to another party?
It will be very, very sad if that is how we are being perceived because it is part of the blackmail. I went to prison under Abacha for challenging him. I stuck my neck for democracy in Nigeria. I was one of the nine pioneer members of the PDP who formed G9, I am part of G18, I am part of G34. So, when you say I am moving out, moving out to where? You are not being fair to us. It is part of the blackmail. Moving out to leave the party to who? To who? For these scavengers?
Who are these scavengers?
Those who are saying that we are moving out. Those are the scavengers.
Besides the nPDP you are also being linked to a brand new party?
In this era of confusion, of blackmail and threats and coercion, people can raise anything for them to extract an advantage. So when you say people, who are those people? Where were they when we formed the party? Where were they when I was in prison? So, it is very, very sad because when you say I am moving out, to move out to leave the party for who? Scavengers?
So, I am not moving out. We are in PDP, because we know what PDP is, we will not move an inch and will make sure that no matter what it takes, at the risk of everything including our personal safety, our offices, our children, family whatever it is, to restore PDP to the path of sanity, the path of legality, the path of due process, the path of constitutionality.
Or would you say to stay within and demolish it?
When you demolish your house what will you have over your head?
Was the walk out of Eagles Square on the convention day spontaneous or planned to disgrace the president?
That is another dimension which is also painful when you say to disgrace the President. That gathering was a political party gathering, not a government gathering. That gathering was a convention of the party where all delegates were to come and address issues of the party. It is not a government meeting. It is a convention. At a convention, it is members of the party, the family coming together. It is not a Nigerian gathering, it is only PDP members who should be there.
So, when you say to disgrace the President; you make the whole thing look a little bit silly. Conventions by tradition are supposed to address party issues. Therefore the personalities of person there don’t even exist. So, at that point, if there is going to be election, he (President) has one single vote, I have one single vote.
So please, distinguish between a government gathering and a political party convention which is the peak, the assembly of all the party men with delegates coming from all the states of the federation coming together to be able to look at the party and their interests to be able to run the party very well.
So, when you say to disgrace the President you make it very, very personal.
So, it was spontaneous? And what was Atiku’s role in it?
There was a build up. It was very, very clear that there would be some problems. We even went and told him after going around for three months and made it very clear. We went around for three months talking about these problems. And after going around, we briefed the President and briefed the party Chairman. Nothing was done. On the day of the convention, we went again and said “sir, this is what is happening.”
So, when you say it was a plan by Atiku, you take the value out of it. You make it valueless. Did we go to Atiku when we were moving around? So, if Atiku felt he had seen a small fish upon which he could latch in to achieve his goal, I have no problem because he has interests too. So if he saw us walking out and he joined, why not? The more the merrier.
Atiku is also a member of the party, he was at the convention, he has got his own grievances and therefore he found out that there were others having their own grievances and that he should join them.
The internal democracy you are championing at the federal level is alleged to be completely absent at the state level. In Adamawa State for instance, it is alleged that the governor has imposed someone from his local government as state chairman…
You see, that is part of the misinformation, the distortion. The chairman of Adamawa was chairman before Nyako (Governor Murtala Nyako) became the governor. When they picked him as candidate, didn’t they know that the chairman was from that local government? When I was picked as candidate, the chairman of Jigawa at that time was from my own ward.
But he has since been changed?
Yes, by another party congress. When you are saying Nyako imposed, Nyako did this, it is part of the misinformation. It is false, it is a distortion of history. In 2007, when Nyako came as a candidate, Bamanga was not in PDP, he left the party because his son then was contesting and because his son did not get the ticket he left the party. In 2007, Atiku left for ACN, so there is some history behind this and because of this distortion, people are confused. So you are not right, you are wrong.
You have mentioned scavengers. Who are these scavengers?
If there is no President, there would not be anything called Okupe or Abati and they are his personal aides, who came after he became the President. So they have no idea of what he went through as a candidate; his friends and collaborators, how they worked together to get him in there, they have no idea. So literarily, if they see you standing in the cause of justice, they feel we are being personal to the President. We are not being personal, we are talking about Nigeria, we are talking about the PDP, we are not talking about the Nigeria President. Now, if for instance, the Chairman challenges us, he has the locus standi, but not personal aides, who I call wage earners.
Could persons like Chief Edwin Clark, Asari Dokubo and the rest be some of these scavengers?
Thank God Dokubo said he is not a member of PDP, he said over the television that he is ACN. So if he is ACN and is now talking about PDP, then, I have some problems.
Could we still find a lasting solution to this problem in the PDP?
There is a way out though obviously with some spill over effects or some collateral damages. Maybe if what we had been saying had been harkened to in the last two, three months, maybe we wouldn’t have been where we are today.
After going around, after meeting with the President, the party Chairman and they found that these things were real, that if they were addressed, there wouldn’t be any problem. If at the time of the convention when we went to the President and said “sir, please do something; Governor Nyako has been shut out of the convention; he has been denied the tag to come into the arena; the delegates from Adamawa have also been stopped from coming into the arena. Rivers delegates who are statutory delegates by being members of the National Assembly have also been changed, sir, the agreement is that all the members of the National Working Committee who resigned should all be re-elected, but sir these things are being breached, so please do something…”
What was the President’s response?
He said he would do it.
We are saying that those who we privileged with our votes to lead the party after they had been humiliated in their zonal congresses, you know before the convention (March, 2012) you know there was this zonal congress in Bauchi and he (Tukur) scored zero!
Correct? And when this happened, the President said no, he called us and we said, you want Bamanga? So, we said you are going to have him. You are going to have Bamanga because we were doing the bidding of the President. So as his loyalists, we called Nyako, we said you cannot humiliate the President’s candidate. Even though it is a democracy, democracy also has some traditions and conventions.
So we dignified Bamanga, we honoured him, we cleaned him out, we got him resurrected otherwise by now, he would have been garbage. Real political garbage.