The Sun – Former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, is reputed for his bluntness. A very strong power broker during the reigning days of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one-time Minister of Foreign Affairs believes that the play-out in Bayelsa State, in which his party, the PDP was surprisingly defeated, could not have happened if former President Goodluck Jonathan was not held by the balls by the Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying that he traded his party for his freedom.

Lamido also spoke on the clamour by some people for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, saying that he would rather subscribe to the emergence of a quality political leader for the country than allocating the Presidency to any particular zone, tribe or region.

He equally condemned the hate speech bill that is currently before the Senate, describing the members of the All Progressive Congress as the inventors of hate speech and its politics in Nigeria. Excerpts.

May we have your impression on the recent elections in Bayelsa State. What in your view was responsible for your party, PDP, losing such a vital state to your rival?

I think that before I answer or make my opinion about the Bayelsa election, there is need to reflect and ask ourselves, what are we as Nigerians? What are we as a nation and as a people? I am saying this because if we know who we are as a people or as Nigerians and as brothers and sisters… then some of our actions as individuals, to me, are a little bit weird. As a people, we must have character, which we claim is a Nigerian character. And from there, we will begin to have what I call a benchmark for our people, below which we should not tolerate. And if we have benchmark that would guide us as a people, if we have a national character, we wouldn’t have been doing what we did in these elections, not only in Bayelsa State, but in Nigeria. Because in every elections in Nigeria, there are complaints and invariably the complainants, who claim that they have been cheated, end up being worse than what we were before. And the key players in the country, the Nigerian actors, don’t always in their action begin to see the bigger picture of the country. If you take a big cycle and call it Nigerian space, and if you take the radius, you will find that if the radius is about maybe 50 meters, you find that from the centre to about five meters in length within the radius is where the entire activities – interests, anger, vengeance, deceit, fraud…you know, anything which takes away our character is there in that small cycle within that radius. And we fail to know that our interest collectively, whether they are selfish or otherwise, is within the bigger picture, within the larger radius, because if the larger radius is safe, it means that in the small space we are operating, there can then be a space. But if we destroy the smaller arena that we are operating from, then the larger cycle caves in. This is what I think defines Nigeria’s elections, including that of Bayelsa and Kogi states.

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Now, what about the conduct of these elections?

The conduct of the elections were held under the custody of the Federal Government headed by Buhari. At one time, he had been through elections and he lost at about three times or so. Some of the excuses he made for the loss were very, very weird. For instance, when he first entered politics in 2003, he ran under the umbrella of APP – we talk about party primary like in Zamfara State, when we talk about transparency in the process, Buhari was never in ANPP. He simply from nowhere walked into the arena on the day of their convention and displaced Liman Jibril, displaced Rochas Okorocha, Birmah, displaced Yerima and all those who have been the core members of the ANPP, who had made so much sacrifice with the ANPP, who were the crux of the ANPP as at that time, they are the ones who are running, but Buhari came from nowhere like a pirate and sacked them all and picked the ticket. When the election came between him and Obasanjo, the PDP had about 27 states or there about while ANPP had about, I think, nine. With the history of the PDP in 1998 formation where Buhari was absent, with the history of party formation… where Buhari was absent, yet he claimed that he won the election, expecting those he displaced to be eager to work for him…in their convention because he displaced Yerima, Liman Jibril and all other key players of the party. When he lost he didn’t blame the entry into politics and the way he came in rather he was blaming PDP that the elections were rigged. He went to court, up to the Supreme Court. In all fairness, in all sincerity, could he have defeated the PDP in 2003? To be honest! But then he said he defeated PDP. In 2007 again, in the same party, the ANPP, when Yar’Adua was running – Yar’Adua, a thorough bred politician with a very solid history and tradition of politics in their own family, a core Northerner, a core Fulani man; everything Buhari can claim to have, Yar’Adua had them better. And he said he rigged over him. And the same political parties, ANPP was shrinking. He ran against Yar’Adua and Atiku ran against Yar’Adua in ACN. And Buhari ran against Yar’Adua. Atiku claimed to have won the election and also Buhari claimed that he won the election. They went to court. If you look at the family of bond between these three characters – Umaru Yar’Adua, Buhari and Atiku, if you look at the strong family bond among these three, yet they went to court, they went to tribunal and lost. They went to Supreme Court and lost and Buhari said that it was an unfair judgment. I am saying this just to give you the background. And all along Nigerians are watching because the action of the leader defines the behaviour of the followers. In 2015, all the key players in Nigerian politics, who defined politics by their personal interests or by what they want to be or who feel a kind of vengeance and are angry, came together and defeated PDP and Jonathan. And all the PDP senior members were part of this conspiracy. So, Buhari came to power. And if you look at history of not conceding to elections, of his anger and vengeance at any loss…and his commitment to the integrity of the process, even saying that anybody who had not been paying salaries should not be voted. He said so. The elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, look at the violence, look at the treachery in Bayelsa. I can’t imagine Sylva and Jonathan being on the same frequency. It is something that I have never ever dreamt of in my life. Sylva and Jonathan being on the same frequency with the wife against Dickson, because I know Dickson’s role under Jonathan’s government. I know what we all did together. But then, you see I have come to a conclusion that as far as Nigeria is concerned, we want to have a great nation, but then we have no benchmark. We want to have a bigger future, but we have no character. And, therefore, our personal prejudices and personal anger against each other determine how we support or oppose a candidate. And so, in Bayelsa obviously we couldn’t have lost. But because Jonathan is very, very angry with Dickson, very, very angry with him, he was at ease to have aligned with Sylva , the very person he said would not run – there is something also. They are holding him by the balls. Because he (Jonathan) sure knows his problem with Buhari and with this government. And the issue of Malabo, I think, played a key role, I said so. So, the election were won and lost by PDP. PDP history, PDP tradition and Jonathan were behind him. That I can say anywhere because the issue of Malabo is an issue I know very well. I had cause to discuss it with him. While he was the president and I was in office, I went and told him about it. I told him and I also gave a radio interview to an FM in Abuja, which Daily Triumph picked, where they said a minister under Jonathan got almost 150 million dollars Malabo scan – Governor Lamido. And when Reuben Abati came to debunk it or to abuse me, I went to Reuben Abati, I know what I am saying, can we go to the Villa, I discussed this with Jonathan. I told him about it. Let us go. What I am saying is that obviously because the leadership of the APC and the government are blackmailing Jonathan and I think I can say it anywhere that he traded this for his own freedom.

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Because I can’t imagine a former president selling his own state to the opposition – to the very party which called him names, which demonized him, which evilized him, called him anything unprintable and even called his wife names because we as leaders have no character, have no benchmarks, personal pains, personal anger prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. That was how Buhari came in and those who voted for him are screaming. All of them who voted him, what do they fear, EFCC.

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So, what do you make out of the violence in our elections? In the two elections we are talking about, we saw pictures of gunshots, pictures that look like a replay of the Nigerian civil war – gunshots everywhere. What is your take?

You see Desmond, you are missing the point. The action and behaviour of leaders impact on their followers. If we allow anger to determine how we act, ignoring the bigger picture, in the process to appease our anger, we do things wrong, the followers will also learn. They can then vent the anger through violence. If on an account of our ambition of trying to be leader, I will tell lies just to get votes – on the economy, on subsidy, on dollar equivalent, just to get power. The younger generations are also learning that kind of thing. So, it means that in trying to attain political power, anybody can say anything. In trying to avenge the personal grudges of somebody, so, the behaviour of the followers – the gunshots, the violence – they reflect the character of Nigerians. You cannot have leaders who have nothing, but vengeance and selfishness defined in their character and you think the followers will not go their way.

There are calls that Jonathan should be suspended following his alleged roles in the Bayelsa elections, do you see Jonathan likely being called to account for his alleged actions?

To me, when you say PDP, 80 per cent of the stronghold of APC is PDP; you know it. Anybody who was anything in the National Assembly between 1999 to 2015 was PDP. Anybody who was anything today in Government House was PDP. So, to me, betrayal is part of the hallmark of the party. Tell me anybody who has not betrayed PDP? Anybody you can think who PDP had honoured and dignified and made, who PDP invented that has not come to hurt PDP.

A sister newspaper carried a story, “Jonathan to be suspended,” do you see this as a possibility?

To me Jonathan is a creation of an accident hoisted by Obasanjo on Nigeria. I don’t think in terms of looking at the Nigerian landscape, outside the office he occupied, I don think you can rate him as a leader outside the office he occupied. I really don’t talk about him as somebody who should be punished for what he did. It doesn’t make sense. What I am saying is that people have done worse than Jonathan. People who are senior to him, people who are more elderly than Jonathan and who offer bigger option than Jonathan. Naturally, it is his home state, otherwise he is simply copying from his political elders and leaders.

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