Alhaji Lawal Kaita was the former governor of Kaduna State in 1983, under the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He lasted only three months in office before the 1983 coup brought an end to his rule. Between 1980-1982, he was a Special Assistant to President Shehu Shagari. In this interview, he spoke about the Southern Kaduna crisis, and the shocking political changes that have taken place since the second republic. Excerpts.
In 1983, you were the executive governor of Kaduna State, and shortly after your exit, many crises happened. What do you think is responsible?
Well, I remember when I was a governor of Kaduna State. We were fighting for the creation of Katsina State, and the late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi came to my office and tried to persuade me to stop the agitation. He said Kaduna State without Katsina will be a trouble spot. There would be constant trouble between southern Zaria and Northern Zaria. But I told him, sir I can`t stop it because we want our own independence.At the time, many people were against state creation, just to avoid these crises. General Shehu Musa Yar`adua was against it, and so also was Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Abubakar Gumi foresaw this and told me to stop, but here we are today, Katsina State was created and Kaduna is in crisis.
But why did you continue with the agitation despite all the persuasions?
Because we were suffering too, and why should we continue to suffer? At that time, the best thing to do was to fight for our own state. That was why we continued.
Can you tell us some of the sufferings that triggered your quest for the creation of Katsina State?
Of course yes. You see, even the federal statutory allocation at that time was a blessing. The fund helped in developing your own area. Look at Katsina now, we are peaceful and development is everywhere.
But, what do you think is responsible for the crises?
It’s all about selfishness and struggles for religious and political relevance. Nowadays, people lie without tolerance and respect for each other, and obviously, it’s the result of bad behaviors.
As a governor then, how were you able to steer the state without such crises?
I was only there for three months, so there was no crisis throughout that time. More so, we ran an honest and transparent government that respected everyone’s culture and religion.
Recently, a sitting governor was said to have called on Christians in Southern Kaduna to come out and defend themselves. What is your view on that?
It`s highly irresponsible for a sitting governor to address his Christian counterparts to come and defend themselves. As a public figure, he should learn to encourage peace not violence.
What political changes have you noticed between the Second Republic and now?
The political changes in Nigeria are shocking. In our time, there is dedication and commitment, and money was not our priority. What people so much care about is ideology not money. You cannot influence people with money. When I was ousted from government, I just had N133,000 in my wife`s account. I only survived with that N133,000 and this house. But now, governors are billionaires. I keep wondering how somebody could have such huge amount of money as a public office holder.
There were calls, especially from the southern part of Nigeria, to restructure the country into viable regions, what is your take on this?
I will not comment on that.
Buhari overthrew the government when you were a governor and you would later go on to help him. Why?
He overthrew us, but we feel he should be given another chance to prove himself.
President Buhari has spent 2 years in office, do you also believe he has good intention for the country?
Yes, very good intentions.
But, there are complains even by his wife that he is being caged by a cabal, which has affected his performance. What can you say on this?
The Buhari I know has good intentions for Nigeria, and cannot be caged. I know Mamman Daura personally. He is very nice, very intelligent, very committed and hard working. So, for those who still believe that Buhari is caged, they are wrong. He is strongly independent.Maybe the economic recession is biting people very hard and there is no good response from the government. And for ordinary people, even food to eat has become increasingly difficult. So, however much you try to persuade people that Buhari is doing well, people will not believe you.
They said, during our time, we the PDP people, we were stealing money but people were happy eating. But now, nobody is stealing anything, according to them, but we are not eating, we are suffering. Where is the money?
I don’t think Buhari is caged. He is doing what he thinks is right and his people are supporting him. But, what is right in their own opinion is not what we Nigerian believe is right for us.
What is your assessment of the government?
Well, the assessment of the government is that it`s doing what it believes is right. They said a lot of money has been stolen by the PDP people, they are recovering the money but yet the ordinary people are suffering. People are suffering.
At 84 years old, you still look healthy and agile, what is the secret?
Luck and contentment. I am quite happy with what I am. Money is not my problem. But, this interview should stop here. For 20 years I have not given such interview, and it`s because of you. (Daily trust)