Alhaji Sule Lamido, a former presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, explains why founding members of the party reject name change for the party, stressing that those who want a change of name should rather change their political behaviour
• Genuine and honest members won’t defect, says Lamido •Igbo not begging for 2023 presidency
What reasons informed your opposition to name change for PDP?
Let us look into the name of the party: The letters ‘P’ and ‘D’ and ‘P’ are very innocent. The alphabets are very innocent; they have done no harm to anybody, and they are only a nomenclature. And even in APC, there is also a P. In AD, there is also a D. The question is: what crime has the nomenclature committed for it to be changed? To me there is no crime by the letters or the nomenclature for them to be changed.
Those guilty are those who used the party and dumped it. Whatever name the party has is because it has been vandalized by those who benefitted from the party, and so to me, there is nothing about my history. We have gone through a lot of crises in Nigeria. Are we not the same Nigeria? Why can’t we change the name of Nigeria then?
If the party is going through some difficulties, they are caused by the members of the party and not by the nomenclature. I will remain in PDP; I am PDP, and it is my place, my heritage. I am not going anywhere.
People are afraid to leave it after all; they left some time ago. If we abandon the party, what are we going to get. The party has helped so many Nigerians; it has produced presidents, vice presidents, governors, senators, even the House of Representatives members, council chairmen, commissioners, ministers, ambassadors, name them.
So, maybe because she is very old, is that why they are trying to abandon her? But then you see, a son is supposed to look after the mother when she grows very weak and very old. It is all thanks to Nigerians who are PDP. And those who are really honest and genuine will remain in PDP.
What about those who said they want to join if that name is reviewed so they can help enrich the party to defeat the ruling party in 2023? Do you think they have a valid argument?
You are coming to my house and asking me to demolish it before you come in. If I demolish it, where will you come into?
There is also the claim that current party leadership does not seem to be grounded in the original founding principles of PDP. Is this true?
If the leadership is not grounded, must we change and follow poor leadership. Why must we aground ourselves and put ourselves in poor leadership. It is for them to adopt and play their part.
This party rescued Nigeria; this party saved Nigeria, because in 1999, this country called Nigeria was virtually only there in name. The component, the cohesion and trust is no longer because of the various crises. So, PDP formation was out of reflection about what was Nigeria in 1960, what we went through after the civil war.
Then a number of people introduced the wisdom of leaders and broad based support that carried all the values, which were hallowed by our founding fathers and restored the country the way it was before they restored trust, confidence and stability. All those who are today in all the political parties were nowhere in 1999. They were totally invisible.
So PDP won’t forget the wisdom and understanding of Nigerian dynamics and then begin to follow people stupidly, because today people are failing. Blame the people; do not blame PDP. Nigeria is going through a number of crises now like the Boko Haram issue and the rest, but then we have not changed the name of Nigeria.
Those complaining about the party should change their character and not agitate for name change. Mark my words, I am not going anywhere; I am PDP. Even those who left earlier at one point came back to be with us.
The scheming for 2023 presidential ticket is also influencing the cohesion of the party. What do you think?
Essentially, there is a bigger picture than bringing the ephemeral into consideration. What are we doing to restore Nigeria? What are we doing to reconcile Nigeria? Only recently, I saw a video clip where my brother Nnia Nwodo was talking (about the state of today’s Nigeria); I was frightened. Nwodo is my good friend; I know him very well. You could see his frustration. So, when good men who had been nationalists and had worked for Nigeria begin to think otherwise, then there is a problem.
What is the way forward, especially as those in power at the national level do not want to allow democracy to have its way?
You have made the point. They should allow democracy to operate, to work under our rules, under our constitution. The country belongs to all Nigerians and so we need justice and fairness. Once there is justice, fairness and rule of law, this country would be safe and secure.
Is it proper and strategic for PDP not to make any pronouncement concerning zoning?
PDP has its own constitution, just like the Nigerian constitution. It has got its own tradition, values and norms, and how we do things. So that is exactly the party’s principle, norms, tradition, and rules in the constitution.
How real is the fear that should the party undertake another presidential primary without a pronouncement on zoning structure, it might witness another crisis?
No matter what you pronounce, it is the convention that matters, because the delegates would decide. So pronounce whatever you want to pronounce, you would come back to the convention’s delegates.
For instance in 2011, there was this northern caucus, which sat down and produced a consensus candidate for the PDP. They were seven of them and a mock congress was conducted by the northern PDP caucus. It had (General Ibrahim) Babangida, (General) Aliu Gusau, (Senator Bukola) Saraki, (Alhaji Abubakar) Atiku and (Mr. Sam) Nda Isaiah. It is normal; they got their own mock election or straw poll and they produced Atiku. When they came to the national convention, the question was, why is it coming to PDP? Let the northern PDP go and swear him in, take him to the villa.
So, what I am saying is that whatever anybody may say, it must be the Nigerian consensus; we should be able to work around resolving our issues. What I am saying is that the issue of zoning in 1999 was very critical, because we were trying to address the injury, which was very critical and it was cured. We shall make sacrifices and then touch areas, which were then aggrieved. The zone was pacified and Nigeria was restored. Let us begin to allow Nigerians make their choice, not caucuses or groups.
Alhaji Tanko Yassari recently said political parties are tend towards getting candidates that will win elections more than sectional sentiments or apologies. Given the fact that Southeast is currently agitating to be pacified and included, do you think what obtained in 1999 should also hold in 2023?
By Southeast you mean the Igbo community. Historically, there have been alliances in Nigeria. In the First Republic, there was alliance between Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU) and National Council of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC). In 1979, there was also alliance between the East and the North and there was also another alliance between the North, the West and the East in Nigerian consensus when the governors of PRP (Peoples redemption Party), UPN (Unity Party of Nigeria) and those of the NPP (Nigeria Peoples Party) came together. So we should be able to answer within ourselves that which will be fair to us.
By alliances and cooperation, you give what will bring a consensus. The Igbo people are not begging anybody; do not diminish their desire or degrade their interest. They have got friends in the West; they have got friends in the North and therefore once these friends come together who believe in the same Nigeria anything can be worked out.
Recently, Western Nigeria Security Network floated a committee called Operation Amotekun to secure their region. In line with their declaration two years ago in Ibadan for a return to 1963 constitution, do you think this amounts to a gradual tendency towards regionalism?
The constitution we are currently operating is the same constitution under which our late leader, Awolowo, founded the UPN. In 1979 to 1983, the UPN had friends in the opposition party of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and PRP. They had the power to change anything they wanted in the Nigerian constitution. But they did not have the wisdom of changing the constitution or even of forming its own party through a progressive conference at that time to review the constitution. What it means is that the constitution is okay, but it is only the operators who are doing the wrong thing.
What we are going through currently is that people no longer have faith in their country, nobody feels secure or safe. Whether they are Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, nobody feels safe. So the operators of the economy have failed. The operators of the constitution have lost faith in the constitution. Nigerians are trying to device their own means of securing their lives by themselves.
All these are evidence of system failures. I don’t subscribe to this notion that they want to break away. If I am coming to kill you, won’t you run away? The government must stop being very nervous; the government is for Nigerian people, for God’s sake. The people must be secured by their own government. So, I do not see this for the east or the north. It is about us; so, therefore they want to be safe in their own country. The government must be up and doing to restore confidence.
Finally, given the fact that you have participated in a lot of progressive political thinking in Nigeria, do you think there is need for an elders committee removed from the BoT in PDP?
Where there are political parties, it is the only avenue where issues are discussed. Under democracy, if you put democracy aside, create a committee to superintend over democracy, there will be problem. The political parties should be able to stand up and live up to their own expectations, that they are there for Nigeria and must learn to bury their various differences in their own capacity and in line with their manifestos. By the time they come to power, they will be able to erase Nigeria’s problems and focus on their security, prosperity and stability. Any other device is simply self-help, because it is part of the failure. How can a committee replace democracy? How? When you say committee of elders, from where? Is it from all the political parties?
We just have to learn how to grow and jettison our selfish interests and move the country forward. Let us put the country first; let Nigeria lead. When Nigeria leads, then we can all feel safe, but now each of us is leading while Nigeria is following. Nigeria ought to be followed.
Those who like your kind of politics are praying that you run again for presidency. What is your political future like?
Let us all pray for ourselves and pray for Nigeria, that the best for Nigeria may emerge.