When your people are secured, when your people are considered, when your people are contented, when your people are happy, they can be your first defense – Sule Lamido at a political debate in Abuja, September 9, 2014 It will be remembered for a long time as one of the most memorable deliberations on Nigeria’s contemporary problems due to its brilliant conception and the weight of its discussants. The Kukah Centre organized it and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Roman Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, himself moderated the discussion. To discuss the issue, Fixing Nigeria: The Nuts and the Bolts were two of the most successful state governors in Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State.
The Kukah Centre, whose focus is faith, leadership and public policy, selected the two governors to share their governance experiences. Fashola is an APC member while Lamido is a PDP founding father but both men have made highly appreciable impact in the governance of their states in the last eight years. While Fashola is credited with transforming the megapolis of Lagos, Lamido is credited with enormously transforming a rural state into an enviable position. The audience turned out in force at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, the venue of the discussion. It was filled to capacity by people from the all walks o of life. The moderator Bishop Kukah threw questions at the two discussants on security, economy, leadership and good governance in Nigeria. Sule Lamido’s responses reflected his rich experience as a politician of many decades’ standing, a top notcher in several political parties in four republics, a former federal lawmaker, a state and national party official, a minister and a state governor.
In his view, insecurity, he said, is collective problem that requires collective efforts to solve. He said the current insecurity problem bedeviling the country is not limited to the north- east since it has other facets such as kidnapping, vandalism, baby factories and the selling of human parts that prevail in other parts of the country as well. The problem must not be seen in isolation, he said.
Lamido also spoke thoughtfully on the subject of leadership and good governance. He said there has been a serious disconnect over the years between the leaders and the people such that the people have often lost confidence in governance as a whole. Recalling his experiences as Jigawa State governor, Lamido said he inherited a state that was metaphorically below sea level in terms of economic, educational and health care facilities. Most state institutions were on the verge of collapse, he said. He recalled that the first thing he did as governor was to assemble Jigawa indigenes to discuss how best to confront the multiple challenges facing the state. He said in the years since then, because there is commitment and political will, he has been able to follow up on all the advice he received at the forum to their logical conclusion. It has been the secret to the state’s transformation, he said.
Lamido also said the problem of Nigeria is leaders appropriating public wealth to themselves, their associates and their cronies at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve. For Nigeria to develop, he said a leader must focus on building strong institutions rather than rely on the good luck of having strong leaders. He also said we must avoid the practice of converting public institutions to private estates that serve individual interests to the detriments of the public good. His administration, Alhaji Sule said, focused on the building of strong institutions that would anchor the state’s development agenda, this is why his administration built a brand new secretariat and a judicial complex as well as made massive investments in education, health and human development.
Leadership, Lamido also said, is about trust and good governance while democracy is about people’s participation in the affairs that concern them. He spoke about how he dedicated telephone lines where he receives complains and advice from people across the state. During the first three months, he said he mostly received abuses and insults but later on, out of over 300 hundred text messages he receives on daily basis, 90% of them praised his efforts in various areas.
Lamido spoke at some length about his administration’s revolutionary approach to poverty alleviation which kicked off with the convening of the Talakawa Summit. He said the summit was very revealing to him and it propelled his desire to confront poverty head on. He said, “All those at leadership level in Nigeria must be ready to be accountable to the people while the citizens must be bold enough to demand for their rights from leaders.”
Asked about the economy, Lamido lamented the poor patronage of Made in Nigeria products. He said unless we abandon this attitude it will be difficult for the Nigerian economy to advance. He cited as examples of dwindling industries of hides and skins, textiles and cotton, groundnuts and cocoa, which he attributed to the poor patronage of products made from these crops. On President Jonathan’s planned meeting with state governors, Lamido said Dr. Goodluck Jonathon is his PDP- sponsored presidential
candidate but after the election he automatically becomes the Nigerian president. As such, he said, he would continue to give him advice just like any other governor in Nigeria.
On the whole, the discussion at the Kukah Centre was an important contribution and I hope this noble gesture should be a continues event to enhance good relationship among Nigerians, a source of enlightening the people and updating the citizens about the happenings in the society and it will be a platform for interaction and learning of politics of ideology and it will as well be an avenue to search for solutions to Nigerian’s many developmental problems and all those who attended went away with a portion of rich experience from two of Nigeria’s wonder governors.
Adamu Mohd Usman is Special Adviser, Media to Jigawa state governor