Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State and member of the group of seven governors opposed to the PDP leadership played host to Sunday Vanguard in his official residence for this interview, in which he touched on various issues including the developmental challenges in Jigawa State and the heated political crisis in his party.
Coming to Jigawa is always an opportunity for sight -seeing. Even if you came here a month ago, when you come back there are so many new things to see. This morning we went to the airport and we saw not only the pace of work but also, the level of completion. What plans have you to ensure that when the airport is completed, it will not only be for Hajj; that it would be a thriving commercial airport that would drive business from all over the world?
Let me start by your saying that if you come to Jigawa you must see something new. You know if you have got a healthy growing baby, if you leave her, after a month, you will find she has grown bigger. So Jigawa is a growing baby and has about 4.5 million people. Being the father, we are working hard to develop it. Number two, the airport is not meant for one event per annum.
It is an airport which was conceived by the PDP government during the 2011 campaign. Dutse was designated as a zonal airport for exporting agricultural goods to the rest of the world. Primarily, it is going to be a cargo airport but it is going to also be for export of agricultural goods. And part of it is to build huge cold storages around that area to be able to preserve most of these perishable agricultural goods for exportation. And so in terms of concept it is not really like what you said. There is no fear. It is going to be a very busy airport.
When you say it is being sponsored by the PDP government, are you talking about the Federal Government because I know airports are in the exclusive list? Or is it in collaboration with the Federal Government?
Of course! Is there anything apart from PDP? When I’m talking you should know I’m talking about PDP. So it is part of the programmes of the Federal Government under the PDP for this country. It is a manifesto programme and so I do not see this fear you are now seeing.
I think it is going to be fully utilised. Of course, there would be a commercial side where you will be flying domestic flights between Dutse and other parts of Nigeria and the rest of the world. It is because Dutse is a growing city and Jigawa is a growing state.
Obviously, our activities during the economic summit would be bringing in investors. They will be coming in their own private jets and other commercial airlines.
It does appear that it is your government that is financing the airport project?
Yes. When we made the agreement, it is for me to kick start it so as to extract that commitment because, certainly, it would compel the Federal Government and the President who made the promise to then come in.
What is the level of implementation of the outcome of the economic summit?
You are right. Even as the summit was going on and we were doing the presentations, I saw the difficulties ahead. Mine is just the desire, the political will, the commitment, but beyond that you know there is also reality. There should be something on the ground. There are a number of things which have to be there and I know on infrastructure we are doing very well.
On power I hope the Federal Government through its own effort would be able to give us power. There have been a number of MOUs signed – we signed about eleven of them or so (with Dangote and many others). They have been coming here and there is an advisory committee on the conclusions of the summit. They are working
very hard to ensure implementation. We have already gotten a one-stop facility whereby as an investor you come in there and get all the information on land, on taxation and on whatever. They would try to minimize the difficulties the entrepreneurs coming encounter, get the required information for them to be able to really come in. It is difficult but we’re working very hard. I think we have the commitment to overcome the difficulties.
What is your plan to let the investors know about all these things you are doing here?
The DFID has been very supportive; they published for us an investor handbook which we have sent to all our embassies, which DFID is also promoting. And the statement of the British High Commissioner, Mr Pockock, it gave us a kind of confidence we needed because we saw, according to him, a commitment to Africa – to Nigeria where he thinks given the chances things can really work out here like in any other place. And so in terms of the advocacy, in terms of the information, in terms of reach out, I think that we are ready.
There is a handbook in all our embassies showing a list of what Jigawa has in terms of solid minerals, gas, agriculture everything that an investor needs – has been put in our handbook and all the efforts we are putting in place will magnetize people to Jigawa State.
What are your plans about ensuring their security which is key?
Your citizen is your main security. If your citizens see that government is there for them, they own the government; if they have a stake in his country, if they are participants in their country, if they see a means whereby they can develop their potentials, if there is trust and confidence about the system then you are secured.
No matter what you do, if your citizens are not contented, if they are not happy, you’re insecure.
So people here are our own security. Our government is very open, very transparent and it’s a government which they own, which is theirs and working for them. And so whatever is your then it is up to you to defend it to protect it.
How would that now work for people who are coming from abroad to invest?
You see, when you are coming from abroad and they know that you’re coming to give them prosperity, they will defend you. Whatever we do as government, as leaders at whatever levels, if people see that we are there for them and that they are stakeholders in their own country, in their own system, the problem of insecurity is solved. But when as a citizen you are shut out institutions which are supposed to be yours, which is supposed to give you security and protection is the one which is now turning around to harass you, then, of course, you know.
So the issues are very simple. People are not born criminals. The main security concerns with us today are all social problems simply because the youth are there. They have needs, they have desires but they don’t see where these can be actualised and they are watching and seeing that things are not right. So security is a very simple thing.
It is a human thing. Even the keeper is afraid of the lion even though lion eats flesh but somehow because it is able to develop a relationship of trust, it doesn’t eat the feeder. It doesn’t! But what is important is giving people confidence. Once they trust you when they believe you can guide them, then they begin to play a huge role in getting the economy developed.
Could that be why we have not have issues at Boko Haram in the state?
Let’s say we are very lucky. We have been praying and God in His own mercies has been able to secure our people. I think the phenomenon of Boko Haram, I cannot begin to simply boast and make any claim. I’m just lucky, people of Jigawa State are also very lucky and I thank God; He also knows our heart that we are genuine, we are sincere, we are God fearing and because we fear God, that is why God is protecting us.
In all sincerity, what should be the way out of the Boko Haram quagmire?
It is a big problem. It is a national problem. It needs a national approach and I’m a state operator; I can only do my own in terms of supporting the national effort. In terms of policy direction that is supposed to be done, I’m not at that level yet.
You see, the Boko Haram is not the only phenomenon in Nigeria, maybe because it is more militant and therefore more reflex but like a father with a family who in the morning cannot feed the children for that morning breakfast; it means he is failing his basic function as a father. If the children are crying he would go out to look for something. He wouldn’t mind slaving or doing any menial job even as a labourer.
Now if that job is not available, he would have to go to friends and family to beg. He is blind and his preoccupation is what does he bring home? If that thing is coming from Boko Haram, robbery or theft he would do it. There was a woman on CNN; a woman in America was caught shoplifting and the police lady who caught her and was trying to prosecute her asked her why did she shoplift?
She opened her bag and they were groceries, bread and some fruit and she said, ‘I want to give these to my children at home because they are there crying, they are hungry’. The police woman followed her to the house and indeed so the children were crying of hunger. The police woman went and paid for the groceries.
The woman was caught committing a crime but it was crime forced on her by society, by the system; a system which is not compassionate. So you could see, every human being has honour around him, every human being has pride but then poverty can take away your pride. It can take away your self-esteem. It can take away your honour.
Do you share the views of Professor Wole Soyinka and Mr Femi Falana who said what we have in River State is worse than the Boko Haram insurgency?
I think they are dramatising. There is a difference between political issues where there is contest for power and control compared to lack of sensitivity from the leadership in giving service to your own people. What is happening in Rivers State is contest for power, pure contest.
When you go to a governor who is operating in a different environment and harass him, intimidate him, so what you have there is raw power on the rampage. So it is not a kind of thing in-between governance and service rendered. The governor of Rivers State is a very proud young man who has a clear understanding of himself, with strong notion.
Therefore, he would not simply allow people to impose on him because he knows his rights under the Constitution. He has been duly elected with all the power and authority and somebody is simply unleashing raw power on him.
PDP, your party, is in crisis and it is like there is no end in sight. What is really happening?
There is end in sight. I’m really kind of amused. Here is a political party that was formed with some kind of ideas and belief with the primary role of always capturing power to run the country; it is in crisis because the people who now claim ownership of the party have no idea what is called party management and therefore would go to court and seek relief from the court to compel members of the party to stand by the party or use police to enforce followership of the party.
Now that is a very primitive party culture. What would it translate to on election day? Would the crisis make us win the election or lose the election? And then from this, take your own position. If the crisis would make them win the election, let them continue with the crisis, but if the crisis would make them lose the election, which is the ultimate in political party formation; if we are going to lose the election through the crisis, then it means that should be enough warning. Do not go to the police; do not go to court because on election day, the court would not be there, the police would not be there. It is going to be the voters who are
going to be there and there is no way the court would say this voter being a ‘New PDP’ member has no power to cast his own vote and this is a sycophant of the president who has been bootlicking and should not vote. What should worry us, the current crisis in the party at the end of the day, on the day of election, is how would it not affect us?I once asked you if the G7 governors would consider going into the APC and the answer you gave was that if you go into the APC it would collapse but now APC has summoned the courage to ask you to come and join them, what should Nigerians look forward to?
You see, the crisis has a history, which we identified and which we listed as our resolution and for which we are meeting. So obviously, if all the issues raised are met then we would have no moral authority to say we would fight again because the fight is on principle, the fight is the desire in us to ensure that we remain the winning party; a winning party must have discipline;
beyond making money and industry out of government – there is something we call service and service can only be rendered by people who can make sacrifices, by people who have elements of human dignity and human decency. The way the party is being run, it is being run by people who want to prove that they are loyal – that is the problem. It is one huge contest to deal with in PDP, between those who don’t want to a prove point to anybody and those who have to prove a point to somebody.
Now, people like Bamanga (PDP National Chairman), he is clinging unto Mr. President’s ambition -he is helping him – people who had no input in making the president are now brought on board and therefore those post-election characters have to prove that they are loyal to him and therefore they must be sycophants, they must bootlick, they must praise-sing and they must say he is the best human being on earth. They would say anything because they have to prove to him their loyalty. In my own case, my proof is him (the president).
He is my proof because he knows, more than anyone knows, what I was to him. So I cannot be competing with people like Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, Bamanga Tukur, Gulak and the new people who are now brought on board and who had no idea what happened before he became the president.
They are now there and the place is filled with bootlickers and sycophants who are working hard to prove their loyalty. Should I be competing with them?
Should I go to his house and say ‘Mr. President, you are the best man in this country, your head is beautiful’. Must I say ‘you are very powerful?’ Because he is mine! Together we got to where we are with him. From nowhere to somewhere! Therefore, I don’t have to prove anything to the president because he is my proof.
Others have to because they were not there before, so they can prove they are loyal to him. This is what I call loyalty of opportunism because in that same office people were there who they sang their praises. During Obasanjo, people like Ibrahim Mantu and many others sang the same song. Under Babangida, they sang the same song. And it is one huge industry today.
Our attention has been taken away from issues. And that office is a very huge office which if one is not very careful…like I say, Obasanjo was there before and, if you look at the personality of Obasanjo, it is something else. Babangida was there before, so also was Buhari and so also was Gowon. These are people who are coming from huge institutions and yet Nigerians were able to prevail on them – they left office and Nigeria is still there.
So my worry is, this thing you are doing is upturning the PDP; ignore all these sycophants – these bootlickers because they are vultures pecking on what they think is a rotten flesh. Behind all these noise, would these things get us there in the next election? That is the bottom line. If it will, fine, we will keep on fighting. If it will not, then I think we should be sensible enough.
Now coming to your point about my friends and brothers, it is true, there are changing dynamics, but, in spite of everything, we gave conditions and these conditions are on issues bordering on the party’s interest, not on individual interest. And the PDP is a family – a collection of a number of interests all over the country, therefore, we see that we are losing direction and that is why we said, ‘no, apply the brakes because we are not preparing for 2011’ – 2011 is ours now. We are saying ‘let us work and see if these vultures can keep eating in 2015’.
From 2011 to 2015 is not an issue; it is something we did long before 2011 and therefore we are looking at the next level – how do we come back as the ruling party at the next election, united to be able to address the issues in Nigeria? Because after the stability of the nation between 1999 to
2011 we should be able to now focus on the next level – human development, which is the most difficult thing. Now, are you saying this crisis that we are making is what would give Nigeria development? ASUU has been on strike for about four months. Students have been denied the right to be able to be focused; they have distorted views. There are a number of things begging for attention
more than the APC going around to see me or see anybody else.
Could you eventually consider their invitation?
Like I said, in our party, we met and a committee was set up by the president. It was made up of former Head of State, Obasanjo, as the chairman, elders of the party like Babangida, former party chairmen like Gemade, Ahmadu Ali and others. We discussed these issues thoroughly and they were itemised and given to the president, now we have not fully exhausted these issues yet, so the issue of where I go would only comes in based on the outcome of these demands we made.
They are not personal demands; they are demands arising from worry and concern of the party we know damn too well as the vehicle for this country at the moment, which is being hijacked and they see it as an industry more than the issues. So when these issues are ruled either way, then from there we would know what to do?
The other day we heard that none of these demands you made has been met by the president?
No! No! No! When we met for the second time, in principle all the demands were acceded to. First, restoration of Adamawa party structure; two, recall Amaechi and give him his structure; three,
sacking of Bamanga Tukur; four, new convention – election of new officials who have been shut out, then because there has been so much impunity, restoring the party to the path of legitimacy and legality as per the laid down rules.
In principle, all these were accepted. Now it is only the pronouncement we are waiting for because there was a committee which was set up by the president, headed by me and we made a submission,
part of which was that Adamawa structure should be restored to Nyako. So really that one is conclusive, so it only needs a pronouncement to bring it into being.
That is all! Amaechi, because he went to court they said there should be a procedure, therefore, the chairman of BoT would go and meet Amaechi and the others and then all cases pending in court in Rivers State would be withdrawn and that will also be restored. So in principle, all the terms given were agreed to. It is simply the implementation that we are expecting.
So why have they not been implemented? Ask them. But, in principle, it was agreed.
Some days ago, the PDP inaugurated a disciplinary committee and you also hosted the APC. When one looks at all these two, don’t you think you and your colleagues in the G7 risk expulsion from the party?
As a journalist, I know where you want to delve into because it gives you the kind of excitement you want in terms of news making. I understand that but I would disappoint you. You see, it is part of the
aberration. Look at the committee headed by a very senior elder of this country, Umaru Dikko. Now when you are talking about discipline, you are talking about people who are part of a party who know the party culture and will be able to understand the breaches and see in the course of the offenses so committed – because of being part of the system, what and what do you think is wrong.
Umaru Dikko was not part of PDP. He is a personal friend of Bamanga Tukur and also a good brother to me, because he has been coming here. So you could see – the approach is so laughable. When you put up a committee to discipline a governor of the PDP – Umaru Dikko has no idea of the sacrifices that the governor made. He needs to have the understanding of some circumstances by which things occurred, so by the time you want to make a judgment you can be just and fair. Now Bamanga is aggrieved whereas he is the principal problem of the entire crisis and he is creating a committee to discipline people. It doesn’t make sense!
How could Bamanga Tukur inaugurate such a big committee without the input of stakeholders? Is that the way things are done in the PDP?
I’m happy you are helping us to think in a clearer way because by the tradition, by the history, you are even marveled and perplexed that how could he do that. Now, if you, an outsider, is worried, how about me as a key player?
You supported President Jonathan in 2011; do you now regret your decision?
This is the thinking of a typical younger generation, because they allow the heat of the moment to judge their instinct. A single second under this circumstance, I have no regret for supporting Jonathan
because I feel in my own judgment I would do the right thing for Nigeria’s stability, for Nigeria’s continuity; that whatever sacrifice he make, we make it’s because doing otherwise would introduce other dimensions. After supporting him, after winning the election, it is now to earn my confidence for the next level; if he wants to go there, it is up to him to earn my confidence because, at that time the reason was mine, the feeling was mine and the concern was mine and analysis was mine. Now it is up to him to vindicate me.