When several ambitious Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) top-guns jumped ship ahead of the 2015 general election, initially forming the n-PDP and eventually defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC), he held firm and stood by his party, on principle. Of course he couldn’t have been accurately described as lacking ambition. This steely forbearance was developed under the inspired tutelage, vision and discipline of late Northern sage, Mallam Aminu Kano. This encapsulates the substance and measure of the man – Alhaji Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State.
He has simply demonstrated with fetching panache that in history, men are defined by how astutely they manage and direct the energy of ambition. Former foreign affairs minister under the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime and ex-governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido is indeed no less a child of providence and a man destiny has prepared for leadership at a much higher level.
But then providence never promised any man an easy path! It’s then little wonder that his life story is replete with gripping challenges as well as compelling triumphs. Sometime after his transformational governorship of then rustic Jigawa State, agents of state came baying. Ex-governor Lamido is being prosecuted alongside his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, and two others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 27-count charge bordering on abuse of office and money laundering.
Ever courageous and a strong believer in a just, progressive Nigerian state, Lamido has submitted himself fully to the trial process. Justice Ibrahim Auta, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, assigned the case to Justice Quadri when Justice Ademola who was handling the matter went on suspension following corruption charges against him and his wife. But following judgment exonerating Justice Ademola and wife, defense counsel Agabi requested that the Chief Judge return the case to him. But in another twist, Justice Ademola has been retired.
More specifically, Lamido’s case was started with allegations that he collected kickback from the Dantata And Sowore Construction Company while the company has clearly stated that, they gave a company owned by his son where he was a director a sub-contract to supply them bitumen and they have delivered and got paid. There are no allegations that he diverted money from the state treasury.
The criminal justice administrative system in Nigeria lays emphasis on the speedy and daily hearing of such cases and Lamido has been attending the hearing of the case promptly. But despite the required speed to conclude proceedings, it is still dragging.
The perception that the current administration are going after opposition politicians is perhaps inadvertently given credence when viewed against the backdrop of the kids glove with which they deal with glaring corruption allegations against prominent members of the ruling party. Even a well-known senator of the ruling APC (Senator Sani from Kaduna) accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of treating top members of the APC accused of high corruption with perfumes while cracking down on opposition politicians with insectides.
With the 2019 general election not far off, Lamido is likely to draw more offensive fire from forces that are essentially afraid of his indisputable clout. Not a politician to beat about the bush, Lamido has informed his party that he will contest the 2019 presidential poll.
With a candour that has come to define the man and his politics, Lamido recently laid out his approach. In his words: “A political party has its own kind of authority and by my upbringing and culture, the party is very important. We need to pull Nigeria out of despondency and the first thing that I chose to do was to intimate the party faithful that I am offering myself for the job should the party consider me worthy of flying its flag because I believe that it is time that we share the same concern for our country. PDP is the only party that can set things right in this country.”
The other PDP politician who has made his presidential aspiration known is Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, although this position is at odds with the party position which has zoned the presidency to the North. With former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s return to PDP with an unhidden presidential aspiration, the stakes in the party are raised. As in every election cycle, 2019 offers Nigerians yet another opportunity to elect a visionary leader who will unite instead of divide the country. But who really is Sule Lamido?
An illustrious and respected ambassador of Bamaina, in Birnin Kudu Local Government Area of Jigawa State, Lamido commenced his political career with the grassroots and the people oriented conservative Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, of the late Mallam Aminu Kano. Here, he internalized the critical virtues of humility, simplicity, empathy and political decorum. His broad vision of life and deep understanding of the evolution and challenges before the Nigerian state, he is arguably a front-row northern politician best positioned to resolve the recent political tension between the North and South which has resulted in the call for restructuring to ensure that Nigeria’s corporate existence is not threatened.
Navigating with a virtue that is scarce with Nigerian politicians – tolerance of opponents – he articulates his political positions with uncommon insight, grace and inoffensive authority. It could be recalled that during the General Ibrahim Babangida’s political transition arrangement, Lamido joined the Social Democratic Party, SDP, where he held the position of National Secretary.
Along the line, he was jailed by General Sani Abacha for speaking out against the latter’s plot to perpetuate himself in office as a military head of state. He became a PDP member under General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition arrangement and was appointed Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister under the newly elected administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2003 having been initially considered for the position of Vice President. Some of his achievements as Foreign Minister include his strong advocacy against human trafficking especially Africans in general and Nigeria in particular.
He also championed international awareness against the impact of corruption against young democracies such as Nigeria, and advocated for “an international instrument” against transfer of looted funds abroad. In his capacity as Foreign Minister, Lamido assumed the Chairmanship of Group of 77 countries or the ‘G77’; he was praised by his fellow Foreign Ministers for his leadership qualities. As an ex-governor of Jigawa State, his legacies are still been celebrated.
As governor, Lamido transformed the desert enclave called Jigawa created by the Gen. Babangida on 27 August, 1991, into a mega city with access roads to neighbouring states and countries in addition to an International Airport which the government and people of Niger Republic patronise thereby increasing the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR.
Through Dutse Capital Development Authority (DCDA) and the Jigawa State Housing Authority (JSHA), Lamido initiated and transformed the state capital into a modern city with adequate housing for the inhabitants. During his gubernatorial tenure he also encouraged local businessmen to invest in the state as a tourist destination by offering free plots of land and basic infrastructure.
To discourage street begging in order to encourage gainful employment and training to the less privileged in the society, he offered street beggars a monthly incentive and skill training to stay off the street. As a man who understands how education can transform lives and give hope to the downtrodden, Lamido as then budgeted N2 billion in 2007 for the educational sector development with specific target of rebuilding schools and providing basic teaching materials. Understanding the role of qualified teachers in the development of the educational sector, he invested additional N450 million for the training of teachers on core courses in Junior Secondary Schools in the State.
Asked recently to assess the present administration which jailed him and his two sons for alleged corruption, vintage Lamido requested the press to distinguish between corruption and allegation of corruption. He went on to challenge anyone with proof of corruption against him to go to court.
Unquestionably today, Nigeria is at crossroads and urgently needs a bold, visionary leader come 2019 that will provide, bold, just, inclusive governance where no parts of the country are marginalised. That personality is Sule Lamido.
– Sani writes from Abuja
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