By NBF News

Thursday, February 03, 2011
Alhaji Sule Lamido, is the governor of Jigawa State. Though, not one of the official coordinators of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign, he has remained on the firing line since the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), presidential candidate for the April polls.

In this interaction with newsmen in Kaduna, Kaduna State, Lamido insisted that those trying to crucify the northern governors for supporting Jonathan were pursuing selfish and personal interests, and not a northern agenda, as they claimed. Excerpts:?

Arewa Consultative Forum's (ACF) rejection of the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan.

If the communiqué was a true reflection of what transpired, I would have reacted. But from what I heard, it was manipulated by some few people. A member of the ACF in our party, Danmasani Sokoto, Ambassador Shuni BoT vice chairman of ACF, was at the meeting and he told us that such issue never happened. It is?normal all over the place with people wanting to manipulate the situation to gain advantage. Since it never happened, I don't think that it is fair for me to comment on it.

The empire left behind by the late Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, crumbling?

Where were you in 1966? How old are you?
The reporter responded 42
You have no authority in defining what the empire is all about. I don't think that you know how Nigeria is evolving. In 1960, there were only three regions, North, West and East and later, they added the Midwest. By the time the premier died, we had only Northern Nigeria. But today, we have 19 states in Northern Nigeria. I do see the type of cohesion you are looking for in terms of unit focus which can be found in 19 states. It is not even disintegration per se. It is a kind of political evolution where services of government are brought closer to the people. The history of the North remains the same even though in the last couple of years, there has been threat to peaceful coexistence. Those who now pontificate or arrogate Northern Nigeria to themselves do not have the fear of God and the honour of the late Premier.

For example, in 1999, immediately the PDP government was sworn in, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Ibrahim?Ogohi as the Chief of Defence Staff, as well as some other people from the old Kabba Province. Some people from the North were screaming that the North has been shut out. You must reckon with history and see how these things are coming up.?In 1999, people like Ibrahim Ogohi was not seen as northerner even though he is a Muslim from Kogi. In 1999, because most of the Service Chiefs were not from where you think they should come from, they were not being seen as northerners.

You really have to begin to understand the history of these kinds of people. We should not forget what is our history or what happened yesterday and what we are saying today. These are all parts of these distortions and manipulations by some of those who felt that, somehow, they must?keep calling the shorts.

The Premier trained people and founded a school in Zaria called Barewa College and that school was getting the best brains in the north. In my class in 1964, there as a form one student, we had Christians from Benue, from Kabba Province, and all over the North.

We were all there as a family of northern youths groomed to grow and work for the course of a better Nigeria and that tradition is still in us. It is a little bit sad that this noble dream of the late Premier in terms of getting a very cohesive North is now being divided by those who professed to be his heirs or flag bearers or whatever it is. You could see the funny thing in them because they are not just being honest. If you can call Ibrahim Ogohi, a non-northerner inspite of being from Kabba Province, an area that Sardauna thought was his own home. So, the North is still there, we are still around; we love each other as Muslims and Christians, as Nupe, as Munchi (corrupt word for Tiv), as Idoma, as Bachama, as Baburu etc. The northern basket is still there.

Immediately after the PDP primaries, a lot of text messages were sent round calling some of you names and urging the people of the North to vote for Buhari instead of Jonathan. Are you worried about this development?

I am not worried. I was called a Bishop. Those who are doing so are not PDP members, but members of other parties waiting to gain some advantage by raising people's emotions. There was a time they said, vote Islam, vote Buhari and they think they are helping Buhari. They are simply destroying him. Buhari was Nigeria's former Head of State and carries Nigeria's symbolism in him as former Head of State. He will feel so demeaning and sad that they are denying him that authority, that national limelight which he is because he is a former Head of State. Those who thought they are campaigning for him are actually undermining him and reducing him to a local person and I don't think he is happy.

Those text messages do not carry a proper reflection of the mind of northerners, the North which the Premier labour to build across all divide. I do not think there is any cause for alarm. At any rate, we must decide what we want in Nigeria. Do?we want a united, stable, secure and prosperous country or we want a country where we kill each other every other day?

In the last 30 years, we have been killing ourselves. Hausa have died, Christians have died, Kanuri have died, Muslims have died. So, it is time we decide what we want. If we want a country that is based on religion, we should simply say that we want a northern Muslim country and then we divide ourselves. We must decide or for the sake of younger people like you and not to forsake your own future for a bigger security and for you to grow and become governors, ministers and businessmen and become prosperous and be people who are secured in a very safe country. For your own sake, we should be able to work hard and build a stable country.?

Those text messages are very unfortunate and I think they are undermining Buhari and I feel very sad for him. I am not saying that because I like Buhari, but I feel very sad for him because he is being demystified as a former Head of State. He is a symbol of our national unity and therefore, whether you like him or not, whether you are a Christian or Muslim or wherever you come from, he should be seen as a national figure. I think that is important.

Sometimes last year, you assembled the G9 in your state and there was this belief that you were positioning one of your own for the President, only for us to witness a u-turn to support Jonathan. What was the bargain for G9?

We had a meeting and on your own volition, you made your deductions and when we failed to meet up with your own deductions, you thought there was something wrong. I can't answer what I don't know. If we had come up with a communiqué, then you can say that it was our own calculations. Sorry, you missed the target.

For us to be able to build a strong nation, we must be able to understand something called history and in the PDP today, there is history. G9 was the first group of Nigerians across the country who, when Abacha was trying transform into a civilian presiden using state power and manipulating government machinery at that ime, thinking all of us could be threatened into silence, came up to stop the move. Nine of us led by Chief Alex Ekweume, late Bola Ige, late Francis Ela, late Abubakar Rimi, Chief Solomon Lar, Prof. Jerry Gana, Adamu Ciroma, Iyorcha Ayu and myself came together and said that there was no way we would accept any system in this country that is not?democracy.

We were willing to stake our lives and expose ourselves and fight for the course of oneness of Nigeria and to fight for democracy. The very characters that are now talking and shouting North, North, North kept quite and chickened out. G9 was the foundation for the struggle for democracy and those who thought that because they fought for third term and therefore are democrats are just talking rubbish.

In 1997, all these people talking were under Abacha and nobody could challenge him. All those who felt that because they fought third term, they are champions, should know that there is nothing special in fighting for democracy within a democracy because there is no effort there. But when you are fighting a military dictatorship of the calibre and nature of Abacha, you will know what it means to fight for democracy. All those people talking now, including all those who lost at the PDP primaries were there singing Abacha's praises at the time.

We formed G9 which later?transformed into G18 and later G34 which is the PDP foundation. The G9 is part of Nigeria's history as part of those who made serious contribution in bringing today's democracy into being, who put their lives on the line for others to later come in and begin to harvest the efforts of that sacrifice.

What is your take on the killings in Plateau and Borno states?

The senseless killings on daily basis to the extent that the military which is supposed to be Nigeria's last line of defence is now being attacked, show that we are in trouble. Unless something very drastic is done in Jos, we may not be able to have a very free election in Nigeria. We may not even be able to have election because this (election) is something that you need to do under a very secure environment.

If the environment is insecure, and we don't really stand up and say enough is enough and put our feet down, and stamp the authority of government to be able to handle the country properly, we may not move forward because it is a very dangerous situation that we are in.