By Dirisu Yakubu

Alhaji Sule Lamido is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose stand against zoning the Presidential ticket in 2023 eventually paved the way for the victory of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar at the party’s presidential primaries. In this exclusive interview with Vanguard, Lamido gives reasons   Atiku will beat All Progressives Congress, APC, flag bearer, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu in the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, next year,   why Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, should be rescued and protected ahead of future elections, among sundry national issues.

Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu of the PDP and APC are highly experienced and influential leaders across the country. Who has edge over the other, going into the 2003 election?

There are two dimensions to this. One is about emotions, divisions and religion but I don’t want to go into divisive politics. The other one is the question of platform. PDP is a political party which is peaceful, very organic, and founded by political thinkers who believe in Nigeria, people who have vision and passion for Nigeria. In terms of the philosophical underpinnings of their foundation, APC is not a match for PDP at all; APC has no history, APC has no what I may call heritage; it is a party which was purely formed out of anger, frustration, pain and maybe, the desire to take over power.

In 1998 when the parties were formed there was no APC. What we had then were four political parties in Nigeria: Alliance for Democracy, AD, the PDP, All Peoples Party, APP and a few other ones but the major ones were three.

By 2003, PDP was still there but the APP had morphed into All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and AD was becoming divided along conservative lines and Action Congress, AC was birthed. In 2007, there was still PDP, the ANPP and AC became Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. By 2011, PDP was still there. So, when the other parties were formed in 2013 or thereabout, none could match the history of the PDP and this fact has not changed till today.

Tinubu may be a master tactician. He is a good guy in planning and propaganda but then he is on the wrong political platform and even the way he came out, the way he won the primaries, it is very clear that even members of the APC are going to vote against him. I am being honest because of the issue of pride and their chairman who said they are going to punish Tinubu for making some uncomplimentary remarks about the President.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently said he made a mistake in 1999 with the choice of his running mate, Atiku Abubakar. Are we back to the days of bickering in the party with elections a few months away?

I think in trying to answer your question, one should be very careful because it is our heritage, our history, our symbols that you are talking about here. I mean Obasanjo and Atiku: they symbolise PDP in power.

It is said that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers because it is trampled upon. I will appeal to them that while they are fighting, they should remember that they are also destroying their history and the history of the PDP.

Obasanjo is a senior man, somebody who is elderly. He has the right to talk down on his own children but that should be an in-house accusation. He can say Atiku you are this or that but when he says it publicly to the country he led, it is wrong. What might have been his achievements are also linked to Atiku because they ran on a joint ticket.

I don’t want to sound rude but when PDP was formed, Obasanjo was in prison and the formation of the PDP had history. We had a group led by Atiku and many others and also the progressives as symbolised by Solomon Lar, Abubakar Rimi, Jim Nwobodo and many others. It is right to say that when PDP was formed, Obasanjo was not politically known.

Professor Ango Abdullahi has dismissed the candidacy of Atiku and Tinubu as incapable of addressing the challenges confronting Nigeria. If Abdullahi, a notable voice in the North is saying your party is not fit to govern Nigeria, what is your take on this?

Afenifere people are talking and so is the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Northern Elders Forum, NEF, is talking but what impact has the Ango Abdullahi group made ever since? So if Ango, who is my elder brother, who I respect, talks this way at his age; is he thinking right? His ideas and thinking are those of a 87 years person who is totally disconnected from Nigeria because how does he talk to a 25 years old child to understand him?

In any case, this person has been there for the last 25 years and he could not even join (political race).

The Northern Elders’ Forum is not a political umbrella; it is for all northerners including Sule Lamido. Therefore, he can’t make a choice for me.

You were one of the advocates of an open ticket in the race to the PDP presidential ticket, which eventually led to the emergence of Atiku Abubakar. There was a strong agitation for zoning which you kicked against. Without zoning, it appears, a particular section of the country will continue to have its way…

My position was and is very clear. I am a pan-Nigerian, who believes in the oneness of the country- the unity of the North and South. Within the PDP, even though there are competing interests, it is normal. You see, there are those who are emotional, who see their son as a symbol of their fulfillment but we want a candidate who will be there and be a symbol of national unity, progress and security.

But the agitation among the various contending interests is that ‘we want our son to be there for our own symbolism.’ Whether we are dying or not it is not their problem. Today, we have a Buhari, a northerner, a Fulani man. But are the people of the North happier today? Are they better off today because their son is the President of Nigeria? Let us believe and trust in ourselves.

Now, this issue of zoning or no zoning is being whispered by regional and tribal champions. I mean the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Arewa Consultative Forum, the Afenifere- these are the people who are talking but then they are not political parties.

They should join political parties and promote their interests. That will be easy for us to understand because as brothers and sisters, as a single family, we can discuss it.

I don’t reckon with zoning as I am more concerned with the quality of the person emerging as Nigeria’s President. The economy and security of the country will overwhelm all these interests because when you are happy, secured, and contented you won’t really care where the President comes from. When you are suffering, when people in your zone are being killed, when you can’t travel between Abuja and Kaduna, when a state governor asks his people to ‘arm yourselves’, a northern governor for that matter, what is the essence of having your own man as President?

Now, when there is no security and a governor said people should go and buy guns and arm themselves, there is going to be anarchy. The debate about zoning is being fuelled by elders who in their younger days were ministers even at 45. I mean people like Edwin Clark, Ango Abdullahi, Ayo Adebanjo. Nigeria was there for them and now at 85 or 90 years old, they are coming to manipulate the emotions of a 25 years old person. It is unfair. In their time, nobody used them. Why must they use the younger generation now?

Do you see Peter Obi as a threat to the chances of your party in 2023? 

The younger generation goes after fancy things. Peter Obi is morally compromised, he should have stayed in the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and promoted the party in Nigeria. He came from a sectional party, a party from a particular enclave and that is what made him what he is. Now, if he believes in the history of APGA and his own philosophy after coming to PDP, he shouldn’t have gone to the Labour Party. He is now becoming nomadic, going from party to party but he is a good man. What is happening with him is a social media thing.

The Ekiti election showed how disunited the PDP is. The national executive of the party did not   campaign in the state, Atiku was said to be holidaying in Dubai while the APC had its men on ground. What truly happened?

APC were lucky that immediately after they finished their convention, they went to Ekiti. In our own case, there were other things we were trying to sort out. I am sure there was a plan to go, I don’t know if they went but I know there was a plan for them to go. So it might have been because of time constraints.

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