Last month, former Foreign Affairs minister and ex-governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, weighed in on the warning from former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the country was gradually being taken over by Boko Haram and Fulani elements.
By last week, Saturday Sun went on his trail. And after a day in his village, in Bamaina, Lamido in this exclusive interview, the first to be granted any newspaper after the 2019 general elections, reviewed the elections and the insecurity in the North and concluded that the North was suffering in silence because one of its own is in power.
He also spoke on June 12, describing it as a story of “political treachery, of political double dealing, of political betrayal, political deals and political opportunism, all rolled in one.” He spoke more on this and other national issues with ISMAIL OMIPIDAN.
In the build up to the 2019 general elections, some Nigerians concluded the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC), but they saw a different result in the end. What really happened, was there sabotage within the PDP or was it that Nigerians in spite of their cries decided to vote the APC for another four years?
I hope in answering this question I will not be misunderstood. I carry no grudge against anybody. What I’m saying should not be seen as indicative of a problem or a grudge or a personal feeling, it should be very clear. For you to fully understand and appreciate 2019, we have to go back to the build up of 2015. If you reflect deeply there were a number of events in the PDP, which exposed us to an affliction we caused on ourselves. Again, the PDP is built by nationalists nationwide and the main fulcrum of the party is Nigeria, what Nigeria is in history and what Nigeria is in terms of our status in the comity of nations. Our role is to build the black race, which is our role in Africa as a leader. So for us to play these roles we must be able to build a strong character as a party, we must have strong commitments and we must also believe in ourselves and uphold what I will call the covenant or agreement we made within ourselves. So I think the issue of Jonathan running in 2015 has its own problem against the agreement on power shift or whatever it was. But there are people who are very emotional. Even within the PDP there are people who saw it as a breach of understanding, that is one aspect. Two, is that the political party became subordinate to the presidency, taking instructions from the presidency. The role of the party structure from the ward level up was not very strong in directing the affairs of the party and in aggregating the party’s interest.
On the other side was the APC, a party which has no history or root, which is like water hyacinth, a party whose formation was borne out of pure hate, because the APC did not present anything in 2015 beyond emotions and hatred. If not for this culture of hate they will not survive because they first tried in 2003 and didn’t win election. They came again in 2007, they didn’t win election and again in 2011 they didn’t win election. The parties which came together to form the APC in all honesty are local associations, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has no history. The Action Congress (AC) later the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is what I will call an association of Atiku and Tinubu so whether it was AC or ACN some of them were coming from Tinubu which also means it is kind of a local arrangement. The other component is the All Peoples Party (APP) which is also a local kind of thing. So these local elements came together and even at that there was no way they could have been able to confront the power of the PDP because as a political party we have very strong history. The APC was aware of their inadequacies. But they cashed in on the internal problems within the PDP and these things began to play out on the national terrain and the APC latched onto it and were able to recruit some governors of the PDP. Even our symbols like former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku also joined the APC to vent their anger on the PDP. I mean no offence; I’m only narrating the history of the APC. So the APC which had no history, no followership, which had no good thing apart from promoting division that thrives on religion, ethnicity. I was called a pastor by APC. Anybody who is in the PDP and refused to go to the APC was smeared and blackmailed. It would have been the wish of people there for us to be attacked and killed. For them we have renounced Islam by refusing to join the APC. You know the penalty for renouncing Islam. So when your fellow Muslim says you have renounced Islam then you know the danger you face. So because of politics, you malign, smear and blackmail your fellow Muslim and use evil means to attain political power?
Power is the symbol of God. The 2019 election should be seen as part of the history of selfishness, hate, lack of brotherliness and working purely for the purpose of attaining political power and use political power to destroy those you hate. That the APC won the election in 2015 is not because of any political philosophy. They only worked on the emotions of Nigerians by saying that the PDP is corruption, PDP is insecurity, and PDP is poverty. Now four years into that government, where are we in terms of security? Where are we in terms of poverty? Where are we in terms of corruption? And so to me the political landscape is filled with political fraudsters who are not bothered about Nigeria but what Nigeria can give them. So the 2019 election is a continuation of this culture of division and hate, and today, we are all boxed into a corner. The APC has failed, the PDP has failed, political leadership has failed––we have all failed. Maybe we should all repent and say, “God please forgive us,” so that we can find our bearings because the stage today is filled with political fraudsters and not leaders.
Talking about God’s forgiveness, from 1999 up to 2015 there are leaders in the country who are seen as determining the outcome of elections. For example, the moment Obasanjo and Atiku identified with Buhari and the APC in 2015, majority of Nigerians concluded that that was where power will go and at the end of the day it turned out that way. But in the build up to 2019, most of these elements were opposed to Buhari, yet he returned. Does this mean the power bloc has been demystified?
In whatever we do in life we should be genuine and sincere. If you are genuine, sincere and honest you will have some kind of guidance. But those who left the PDP in 2015 and went to Buhari were they genuine, sincere and honest? The way PDP was vilified by those who the party dignified with their various statuses, was it right? They joined Buhari in 2015 not because of Nigeria, but because of their personal fight. For them it was that Jonathan and the PDP must lose because of their personal pains. It wasn’t as if they didn’t know who Buhari was. Atiku knew who he was; Baba also knew who Buhari was before supporting him in 2015. And they also know that PDP, as a party was more committed to the project called Nigeria than the assemblage of angry people called the APC. They knew it.
But you haven’t answered my question–
I am sure you can understand what I am saying. And I am sure your readers too will understand the point I am making. Let’s leave it at that for now.
Still on PDP internal problem, you once said your trial was a fallout of ‘civil war’ within your party in the build up to the 2015 elections, tell us more about it.
The case is still in court; therefore I won’t want to comment. But all those involved know the truth, including those they were sending to me at the time to (tell me to) keep my mouth shut if I wanted any respite. And the coward who was the Attorney General and Minister of Justice (Adoke) at the time knew what he did. I challenge him to pick courage and come back to Nigeria. Nobody will persecute him, but he is afraid because that was his stock-in-trade when he was the Attorney General. But he will certainly be prosecuted for the evils he did and I am sure he knows what I am talking about.
Away from that, in recent times, there have been apprehensions in the South that the Fulani are planning to encircle them and the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything to allay their fears. As a Fulani, how do you think the tension can be doused before the average southerner starts killing the average Fulani?
I am concerned because I am Fulani and there is no way I can renounce myself. In every tribe there are good and bad. So picking a single tribe for stigmatisation is dangerous. When you say the Fulani is responsible for all your problems on account of a Fulani man being in government, you are missing the point. If you see me and you are angry at me because President Muhammadu Buhari is Fulani, then there is a problem. At a time people were angry with Obasanjo, it was not taken out on his tribe. One person’s failure should not be taken out on the entire tribe. People should be sincere; the crisis is more in the North than in the South. We should go into history and look at the way the Fulani live in Nigeria. There are some things we fail to understand about their history and lifestyle because they are essentially people who live in the villages, they are harmless. I was on tour as Marketing Manager in 1972 and I went to Enugu. I saw a Fulani man in the market, I also saw them in Ore (Ondo State) with the same tradition, I couldn’t believe it because this was shortly after the civil war. There is something wrong in Nigeria that is making us start finding faults among ourselves. It is all about injustice and bad leadership.
Leadership should be there for each and every Nigerian. We need to look at our history and find out what went wrong. When I came in as governor, the Hausa and Fulani were killing each other here in Jigawa State. I thought as governor, how do I approach it? I set up a committee that had all the security agencies as part and it was properly funded. We met every month to find how arms come into the state and we addressed it. That is why Jigawa State has remained very safe. I think our current problem is that there are no political actors in the government houses. In the Presidency, who are the key elements? Who are those that look at the country holistically? These people should be able to guide the government. Today, we have all taken leave of the national stage and gone to our own cleavages to become local champions and bigots. I am a Muslim and a Fulani, you don’t stigmatise a race or religion because of the failings of one individual. In the last 50 years, I never aggregated the vituperations of late Tai Solarin or Bola Ige or Afenifere or lately Fani Kayode as the views of Yoruba. In all tribes, there are good people and bad people.
Take me for what I am, not what you think I should be.
Talking about bigotry, you are seen as a strong ally of former President Obasanjo and Nigerians see your response to Obasanjo’s theory of Fulanisation as indicative that things have fallen apart between the two of you. Is that correct?
Baba knows me and he trusts me, so no matter what he says, I know him and I trust him too, we have come a long way. The very first day I met Baba was the day we struck an understanding, we found in each other a partnership, and people who believe in Nigeria. It was in 1999 when he ran for the presidency. At that time I wasn’t supporting him, I was supporting Abubakar Rimi. He came to Kano and then Jigawa and called me and we discussed during which we discovered each other. That time something happened and my reaction and his reaction brought us together and got our family consolidated. Since that day, Baba found a partner in me. If you look at our political life, we are both hated by our own environment. People in the South, the Yoruba, hate Baba with passion. Similarly, people in my zone also hate me, but we have been able to survive. Obviously, Baba is hugely disappointed by Jonathan and Buhari. But I would like to say, Baba has to learn to contain and tolerate them because he is a leader. He is somebody we should take our bearing from. He brought in President Umaru Yar’Adua, he brought in President Goodluck Jonathan and he also brought in Buhari. But the intensity of disappointment in him should not take away that nationalistic instinct because in any circumstance, by the time he speaks it is Nigeria speaking. So I didn’t challenge him, I didn’t do anything which questioned his integrity; I was only trying to reinforce his integrity and national standing. It was an appeal. My point was that the choice of venue and audience was wrong. And I only said ‘don’t allow your disappointment in Buhari to make you leave the national stage.’ He helped Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari win the elections. If you go into the political DNA of these men, you will find Baba there. So if you are disappointed in what is your own, find a way of managing it because if you try to localise it, Nigeria will not be safe.
Look at it now, for the first time Afenifere is supporting Obasanjo, it says a lot. Ohanaeze is supporting Obasanjo, it says a lot. These are associations which draw their strength and support from particular areas; therefore, they are associations which are discriminatory in nature. Afenifere is only for the Yoruba, Ohanaeze is only for the Igbo and the Hausa association is only for the Hausa, the Fulani association is only for the Fulani, so they are discriminatory. Whatever Afenifere is doing to protect the interest of the Yoruba is their right; whatever Ohanaeze is doing for the Igbo is their right; whatever Miyetti Allah is doing for the Fulani is their right; but political parties are open to everyone, it is the only association that is not discriminatory.
Miyetti Allah supports the Buhari government and recently the Presidency issued a statement equating Miyetti Allah to Afenifere and Ohanaeze, so what is wrong in these other groups’ support for Obasanjo?
Afenifere promotes Yoruba interest, Ohanaeze promotes Igbo interest and Miyetti Allah is only for the Fulani, but if they challenge Buhari to do the right thing, it means they are genuine. The point I am making is that these associations, while promoting their own localities and tribes, must know that these tribes can only thrive within a very strong Nigeria. You must think of the country called Nigeria first before you start talking of the tribes. If Afenifere starts talking only of the Yoruba and Ohanaeze talk only of the Igbo, who will be there for Nigeria?
Talking of who will be there for Nigeria, in the past when the North is faced with challenges as it is presently faced with one, the leaders come together to chart a way forward. We have not seen such in the past four years. What is happening?
Because somebody called Buhari has emerged from the North with a sort of monopoly over everything, more northerner than any other northerner, more patriotic, more God- fearing and therefore it means he is now our only strength and the only person we now rely on. Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Ango Abdullahi are nothing, Miyetti Allah are nothing, the emirs are nothing, the political actors today are nothing, they are all being destroyed, is it Shema, is it Kwankwaso, Makarfi and others? What we have in the North today are only people who are there to worship Buhari like the El-Rufais. Any effort to correct Buhari is seen as a sacrilege. So the North, the political actors, the emirs cannot do anything because of somebody called Buhari, who will talk for them, see for them and think for them. Any variance to that opinion means you are challenging God. This is why the North is helpless on the issue of security challenging it.
Where do we go from here?
We are going into poverty. When you express an opinion about your own country and you are mocked, vilified, called corrupt, what else will you do? They claim there was nothing called integrity or honesty before Buhari came. Before Buhari, there was no history, no North, no leadership. Those are Buhari’s men’s claims and that is why people in the North are suffering. The South is very secure, their industries are working, there is employment, and there is prosperity. In the North there is extreme poverty, insecurity, if you want to go to the farm you are killed and you can’t talk because your own brother is in charge. When you talk you are betraying him and exposing his failure. The entire APC governors in the North where are they? Are they talking? They dare not. Show me any imam in the North that can tell Buhari to lead the people with justice. They won’t say so. They had been saying so and are being picked up. The North is dying in silence and that thing you are looking for when we told each other the truth is no longer there.
How will you allay the fears of the South on this seemingly Fulani dominance over their territory?
There are people from the South like Godswill Akpabio, Chibuike Amaechi, Odigie-Oyegun, Adams Oshiomhole, Bola Tinubu, these people are the government, they are the ones that can tell me, ‘Sule, you are safe,’ not me because they are the ones in charge, not me.
The debate is on-going whether the Presidency should go to the South in 2023 or remain in the North. What is your take?
For me essentially the question is what is the presidency for? Is it for Nigeria or for allocation? We have had a southerner in Obasanjo, we had a northerner in Yar’Adua, we had a southerner in Jonathan and now we have a northerner in Buhari. So far, it is only Obasanjo who remains standing as a Nigerian president, that is why I believe in him. My trust in Obasanjo is not hollow; it is anchored on some actions he took in the past in my presence.
In 1999, he was barely few months in office as the president when Yoruba elders called him for a meeting in Abeokuta and he took me in there, the Yoruba elders appeared uncomfortable with my presence but Obasanjo told them ‘Don’t worry, Sule is innocent.’ When they began to address him you could see the anger in him, it was visible. And the summary of what they said was that, ‘you are our son and Nigeria’s president, what will be there for us,’ and he told them he felt insulted by their demands. He told them that God gave him the whole of Nigeria to lead and that they were trying to appropriate him as a Yoruba leader. Obasanjo is fanatical about Nigeria and that is why I believe in him.
Again in 2003, when we were campaigning for his re-election, we went to Rivers, to meet the South South Peoples Assembly, it was hosted by Peter Odili (former Rivers governor) all their chiefs and businessmen, all the big names in the region were there. They told him, ‘all of us in the South South will vote for you, including those who are dead. But then, on one condition, we want to know your position on resource control because it is God who put these resources in our region.’ He went there to canvass for votes and my heart was panting, because I see it as a difficult situation. But Baba in his characteristic manner told them that ‘well, Peter (Odili), thank God today we are talking about God, not politics. That same God who put the resources here, brought Nigerians together, therefore, the resources is owned by Nigeria, as such the man in Jigawa State will also share from it.’ For me, to have the courage despite the political consequences at the time to stand up for Nigeria shows he is a leader worth believing in, that is why I trust and believe in him. Look, my attention was called to what he said about Fulanisation by senior leaders in the North, who said ‘Sule, what is your boss saying.’ I received over a hundred calls, so I was simply making the appeal to him not to leave the national stage because of his disappointment in Buhari’s government, on behalf of hundreds of northerners who believe in him. It was not in any way to vilify him. I was simply reminding him of what he is and what he had always stood for.
Between North and South which should have the presidency in 2023?
Nigeria should have it.
We can’t end this interview being conducted in June without talking about June 12. As the former National Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), tell us your own June 12 story
In addressing June 12, I will try and give a background and in that process, I may hurt some people, I may hurt some feelings, but then in trying to narrate history, you have to be factual. Even in government, there is what you call classified information, which you will not declassify until after a long period when the consequences of the damage caused by it may have been mitigated. Similarly, in baring my mind, I may be forced to declassify some of the things I concealed. There is no intention to hurt anybody; there is no intention to offend anybody, there is no intention to run down anybody. It is simply a narration of historical facts from my perspective. If I offend anybody in the process, I am sorry. June 12 is a story of high-power politics, a story of political treachery, of political double dealing, of political betrayal, political deals and political opportunism, all rolled in one.
To be able to understand June 12, not appreciate it, you must go back to the time when (General Ibrahim) Babangida was trying to unleash his new transition programme on Nigeria. When Babangida decided to promote democracy, he made a decree that anybody who had taken part in politics from 1960 to 1983 December was banned politically by Decree 25. So, it means Nigeria had no political history, simple! And then he made another pronouncement and said that in this transition, which he was going to administer, he knows to whom he would not hand over power to, but then he doesn’t know to whom he will. So, from the very beginning, it was a transition with a lacuna. There is no way you can deny a country its own historical benefits or values. It is like going into an Army Division like Division 1 in Kaduna, a division, where Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto are part of, and say you are banning everybody from the rank of General to second lieutenant, leaving only sergeants and other ranks. Who then will run the division? I raised the alarm, saying there is a lacuna in that transition, especially on the issue of Decree 25 and the issue of knowing whom he (Babangida) was not going to hand over to. In spite of that we formed political parties; our own group was called the PSP which was made up of progressives with people like (Ebenezer) Babatope, Abraham Adesanya, Olu Falae, Lateef Jakande, Ayo Opadokun, the late Solomon Lar and the late Abubakar Rimi. Shehu Yar’Adua formed his own group called PF, all the right-wing elements formed the NCC.
Tofa formed his own kind of group and these were political parties that were supposed to be sovereign, they are supposed to be people-funded and people-run. Suddenly, while waiting for registration, Babangida said all the parties were either tele-guided or guided or led or founded by all those politicians that had been banned, so they were all dissolved under Decree 25. And he came up with two parties, which were the NRC and the SDP and their symbols were derived from the Nigerian insignia, the eagle and the horse. He appointed a sole administrator for the two parties, Air Vice Marshal Alfa. He also appointed for SDP Air Vice Marshal Shekari, and for the NRC, he appointed Hajiya Okunnu and at the state level he appointed civil servants at the level of directors, at local government level he appointed assistant directors which means, the parties had a structure which were government-funded in place and that any Nigerian who wants to join should go to his ward and register encouraging what he called a new breed political dispensation. Now, because the parties were government-owned, the government kept disqualifying people along the way. Any person whom the government didn’t like in terms of political views, they disqualify them, I was disqualified as governorship candidate, Atiku was disqualified, Ezekiel was disqualified, Bala Takaya was disqualified. Many of us who were seen as having radical views were disqualified. The parties belonged to the government; they decided who got what and when. So in essence, annulment was part of the process right from the very beginning. But no one raised an eyebrow.
We came to a convention to elect our flag bearers, in SDP; it was Olu Falae and Shehu Yar’Adua who were running for president. In SDP, there were two strong tendencies, the PSP and the PF group and the colours in the party could not blend because the progressives were on one side, all other groups were on the other side. So the battle was between Olu Falae who was our own (progressives) and Yar’Adua who was of the PF group. In the NRC, it was the same battle they were fighting between Adamu Ciroma and Umaru Shinkafi. When we held our conventions, the government was watching, and in the end, the government annulled the two conventions. And nobody said anything. Kingibe was our chairman. He could not even defend his party. So at every turn, somebody was either cheated or betrayed and at the convenience of others, they ignored it and it continued.
When the conventions were annulled, suddenly, from nowhere, Abiola emerged. Again, I mean no offence, when Abiola was in the NPN, he got his fingers burnt there, he was bruised and said he would never participate in politics. When the convention of the NRC and the SDP were annulled, there were no single political figures standing to run for the office of the President of Nigeria. Yar’Adua, Adamu Ciroma, Shinkafi, were also banned, so it meant there was no standing character, there was no standing influence of somebody who could qualify to be. From nowhere, Abiola and Bashir Tofa appeared. By the time Abiola joined the SDP, a council chairman in his ward or local government, the governor of his state, members of the Houses of Assembly, members of the House of Representatives and Senators had all been elected. He had no idea how they were produced. He didn’t know because he came at a time they had all been elected, so in terms of political relationship they didn’t know him talk more of his contribution to the party, same thing with Tofa in NRC. When these two joined the race after the annulment of the first two conventions, the confession of the then President Ibrahim Babangida that he knows who he was not going to hand over power to, has become true, since his friends were now emerging, because both Tofa and Abiola were his personal friends. It meant he was goading us towards his own destination. Kingibe saw a chance; he didn’t even rise to defend Yar’Adua (after Babangida annulled the primaries), as chairman of the party he connived and endorsed the annulment of the convention of his own party, he endorsed the disqualification of Falae and Yar’Adua and so he saw an opportunity to enter the race. As former Chairman of the party, he entered the race with Abiola. Meanwhile, Yar’Adua was so bitter with Babagana (Kingibe). Don’t forget that Babagana was Yar’Adua’s invention; he was Yar’Adua’s creation, because he was unknown politically and unnoticed. Because Yar’Adua was bitter with him, he announced at the convention that we should support Abiola. And the governors too ganged up to say they would only support Abiola if he took Kingibe as running mate. Again, when Abiola became the candidate, Olu Falae who saw his space taken over by Abiola was unhappy. Abiola emerged as a national symbol; he was not the choice of the Yoruba because of the role he played in NPN against Papa Awolowo by using his newspaper to demonise him (Awolowo) particularly by exposing his ownership of the Dideolu Estate. Most of the Yoruba activists were nowhere near June 12 on June 11 because they adopted the siddon-look (wait and see) attitude; they were never part of it. Meanwhile, there was also a war of succession as to who was going to take over from Awolowo within the Awolowo dynasty, they were fighting. By 1983 Bola Ige lost out, Jakande was emerging as Baba Kekere gradually; the Yoruba hawks were also fighting Jakande in the process. By the time June 12 was annulled, the Yoruba hawks that were never part of June 12, who were not there on June 11, saw this as their own means to fight back. They came and got June 12 appropriated, they had no hand whatsoever in June 12, they were not part of it; they didn’t even believe in it, they only came on board on June 13. On June 11, they were nowhere, ask Kola (Abiola) ask him, he knows it.