Interview: Military owed, refused to pay Abiola N45bn debt – Sule Lamido
A former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, who was the National Secretary of the defunct Social Democratic Party, speaks about the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election among other national issues.
T he former Secretary-General of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria, Frank Kokori, accused you of abandoning the struggle to actualise the June 12 mandate.
Now, where was Kokori in the power equation of the South? He came on board during Babagana (Kingibe)’s chairmanship, when I was the chairman of Kano State SDP. When I became the party’s National Secretary under Chief Tony Anenih, Kokori had lost out. He was nowhere near; he didn’t even know what was happening in the Social Democratic Party, especially how June 12 was prosecuted because after the Babagana-led executive was dissolved, Kokori simply went back and relapsed into oblivion. It is part of this story of opportunism: people coming in to latch in and exploit June 12, because they have found a way to re-invent themselves. The annulment of June 12 was a pattern that had been established, a continuation of a tradition of disqualifying candidates to annulling conventions. It was the character of the transition. After the annulment of June 12 (1993), I was called by the people who were then holding forth and I made it very clear that we were through with elections; we will only come back to it in 1996 because we ran an election, you cannot annul it and say we should go back and hold another one. They then told me the reason why they annulled June 12.
What did they tell you?
Depending on whom you are talking to. When (General) Murtala (Muhammed) died, Abiola came in with a claim that he was owed, I think, about N45bn for contracts executed by International Telephone and Telecommunication for the Ministry of Communications. The military high command at that time said no. He went round the Emirs in the North to lobby and the emirs asked that they (military) should please pay the money. They (military) said they cancelled the June 12 elections because if they made him President, he would take his money and the country will become bankrupt. Those who were close to Abacha should know this, because Abacha was then one of the big shots; they were all aware. There was this Bosnian war going on in Yugoslavia. I said sir; the Nigerian people are very innocent. This is like the case of a Bosnian woman raped by a Christian Serb who got pregnant. Yes, it is true that the pregnancy is a product of rape but this is also my flesh and blood, I cannot kill it. This (election) is my baby, my flesh and blood, I will not kill it. I said so. We went through a process and expenditure, the campaign, the Election Day and even the entire government machinery was involved in the election which we won and you are now coming with the excuse that you owed some money. That’s your problem. The baby is my baby. Yes, it is a product of rape but I can’t kill it. At that time, the Nigerian mood had been worked to go against June 12.
There were organised rallies all over Nigeria even National Republican Convention governors coming to support (Ibrahim) Babangida. In the National Assembly, (Iyorchia) Ayu, who was the Senate President, was impeached because of his stance on June 12. They put in Ameh Ebute and protesters were mobilised by state governors to Abuja on solidarity visits. I can also remember Hajiya (Abibatu) Mogaji was the arrow head of the anti-June 12 rallies in Lagos. I remember her coming to Abuja – because she was very close to Babangida – she brought women (protesters) from Lagos to Abuja. I mean no offence. All the mallams and clerics, Nzeribe and Association for Better Nigeria, all of them, they were all there. When I say there was too much treachery, it is true there was. Kabiru Rabiu from Kano and I went to Abiola. We saw him very frightened. He told us they were coming to kill him. We took him in a car. We were the only people he trusted in this world, Rabiu, a driver, and I, and we sneaked him out of his house in a car. The story of June 12 is a very sad history of political adventure. (Shehu) Yar’Adua felt betrayed by Kingibe and he decided to punish him by instructing his supporters to vote for Abiola during the Jos convention. The (SDP) governors blackmailed Abiola into picking Kingibe as running mate. So many things happened.
What do you make of the posthumous GCFR award to Abiola and the GCON given to Amb. Babagana Kingibe?
This administration has been on board for more than three years. It never talked or thought about June 12. I think Professor Wole Soyinka captured it very succinctly that for the time Abacha was there, Buhari never said anything about June 12. He said by the time you were there with Abacha, you never talked about June 12. How do you honour Abiola and then praise his tormentor? It was a case of opportunism. Simple! Nobody was consulted. Who were the key players at that time? Call them. Call (Prof. Humprey) Nwosu, call Tony Anenih, call Tofa, and ask what happened on June 12. You can then, based on very genuine premise, instigate the process to make it more credible than opportunistic. The people of Kano voted Abiola and rejected Tofa, their own son. Northerners all over gave Abiola their votes against Tofa. We should see June 12 as the sincerity of Nigerian voters. The North was able to vote their son out to install Abiola. This government is simply acting on instincts about elections; it is simply desperate for power.
You spoke recently about the growing culture of hate speech especially in the North. What were you driving at?
In the North today, we have preachers insulting each other because a government has come with a culture of hate. Speak and the government will come at you, barking and harassing you to keep quiet. If you speak against any bad thing in the government – which is your right – they will take it personal and say you are speaking against Buhari. He is Nigeria’s President, like it or not. Whether I like him or not, he is my President. Whenever I disagree with him, I will say sir, ‘I don’t agree’, it’s my right. If you look at Buhari’s campaign speeches, they are laced with hate. He was on record during the campaigns saying ‘in pursuing my ambition, cast your votes and count them. Protect it. If you are touched, kill’. He said it.
Some have said the PDP brand is so damaged that a change of name is required and that governors Nyesome Wike and Ayo Fayose are the people calling the shots. Is this true?
Before we went into the last convention, so much was said. Wasn’t it? They said we couldn’t do it. They kept on whispering into our ear. No matter what you are going to say, in any convention, there are people who determine the outcome. There are factors; there are events and there are circumstances. There are people who guide the circumstances. There were elections in 2015. All of us in the North lost elections; people in the South-South won their elections. They withstood all the APC machinations and onslaught. As governors, they are supposed to be visible. If my party were to be the one in Jigawa, my governor would be very, very visible, but then, we lost out. So, naturally, those who are very visible are those who won their elections in their states. For prevailing against and surviving APC, you are now condemning them; come on, you should commend Wike, Fayose and the governors of Enugu, Bayelsa and others for having the capacity to win the elections against all the machinations. Look at Rivers State, the killings and the maiming to terrorise but they won the elections. If you say it’s all about Wike and Fayose, whom do you want to guide us? El-Rufai? They were abusing us when we were going for our convention. I told them to wait for their own. They will be bringing ambulances to pick bodies. We saw what happened during ordinary congresses. They will simply kill themselves.
If you become President, what would you do with June 12?
If I become the President, I will put it in proper perspective. I will go into the archive and bring out the genuine results and if Abiola is the winner, I will call INEC to announce the results and I will then go through the process and make sure we pay the N45bn he was owed because that was the main thing they said led to the annulment. I will withdraw the honour given to Babagana Kingibe, because he doesn’t deserve it. He betrayed June 12 and followed his kinsman (Abacha), going by the tribal bond, to undermine June 12. They picked Abiola and locked him up. I will put in place processes and procedure and see how best to properly honour Abiola through due process.Punch