Demonising Sule Lamido

Former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.

Former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, is once again in the news for the perceived incorrectness of his political gambit ahead of the scheduled July 1 local government election in the state.  Lamido, who ruled the state for eight years (2007 to 2015), has his eyes on the position of president in 2019.  And he is single-mindedly pursuing the aspiration, despite perceived moves by the powers-that-be to scuttle it.

The anti-graft agency is prosecuting him in court for alleged corruption and money laundering offences committed while in the saddle as governor.  Two of his sons have been charged along with him.  That matter is pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja.  He is innocent until proven guilty. However, recently, Lamido set the stage for another confrontation with the administration and he is being taken on a voyage of legal remonstration in a magistrate court in Jigawa.

The issue this time round was that he offended the sensibilities of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled government in the state with his utterances on the forthcoming local government council poll.  The state government became panicky over Lamido’s alleged call on his supporters to cause trouble during the local government election if the party in power tried to manipulate the process and its outcome.

The government reportedly petitioned the police, which invited Lamido to its Kano zonal office where he was shown the video clip of his inciting statements while addressing his teeming followers in a meeting.  The police kept him in their custody on Sunday, April 30 and charged him before a magistrate court on May 2, 2017 with criminal intimidation, incitement of the public to disrupt the peace and criminal defamation.

Although, he has since been granted bail on self recognition while commencement of his trial for the offences has been fixed for July 5, this year, the truth of the matter is that Lamido’s travails are all about 2019.  Those who are after Lamido are committed to taking the winds off his presidential sail.  They have ample opportunities to achieve their predetermined objective.

Indeed, it would appear that Lamido is, himself, playing into their hands, providing them with the arsenal to bring him down.  But that appreciation is only superficial.  Appreciated much more deeply, his actions could be measured and strategic. Those who are versed in the politics of northern Nigeria know how strong the cord of the kindred spirit is.  There is a socio-cultural dialectic that underpins political interactions in the north, which produces a passionate support for any identified leader who relates with the needs of the people.

The people are long suffering. They are always ready to accept promissory notes once they believe in any leader either on his merit or on regional representation and/or offering.  President Muhammadu Buhari enjoyed a cult-like following in the far north.  This worked well for him in his election. His people’s belief in his capacity to take care of their yearnings and aspirations as a people was imperative.

Now that they are not getting returns from the optimism they invested in Buhari, whose ill-health has largely distracted him from governance, the people have become forlorn and appear ready to re-invest the same optimism and support in the presidential aspiration of another of their own, not inclined to look southward. What the leader needs to do is to show proclivity to the wellbeing of the talakawas- the poor masses who account for the huge voting population in the north and who are also used to promote political violence in the event that reasonable expectations are not met after the election.

And this is where Lamido kicks in. He is a progressive politician whose philosophy of governance finds ideological anchorage in the accommodation of the talakawas in the primary focus of government- welfare of the people. It is moot if fidelity to this ideological leaning resonated in his offerings as Jigawa governor.  This philosophical model particularly enjoys sociopolitical ferment in Kano-Jigawa axis, where historically politically, the late Aminu Kano, the father of talakawa politics, defined his eon.

Lamido’s political trajectory has portrayed a politician who is at home with his people.  Some of those who relate with him closely say that he is not disconnected from the people in spite of his participation in party administration and government at very elevated level.

Thus, Lamido finds it easier to mobilise the people for popular action.  The powers-that-be are understandably uncomfortable with his politics, growing popularity and acceptability in the north, particularly the north-west, which is the zone of President Buhari.  Interestingly, he is also of the Fulani stock with Buhari.

This certainly makes it a win-win situation for the influential ethnic nationality, which, together with the Hausa, has enjoyed a primacy of place in the nation’s hegemonic configuration since independence in 1960. It is therefore clear to the power brokers in the country that a challenge by Lamido to Buhari or any other candidate the APC produces in 2019 will be a tough one for the ruling party to contend with.

There is even an argument that the outcome of the 2015 presidential election would have been different had the PDP presented Lamido as its candidate. The search for Goodluck Jonathan’s replacement, spearheaded by the like of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had actually narrowed down to him.

What informed the endorsement of Lamido’s presidential aspiration in 2015 by Obasanjo and some prominent political figures in the country may not have changed approaching 2019.  Rather than interrogate the factors, the panicky measures being taken by the ruling party to encumber Lamido are now proving to be counter-productive.  They seem to be producing a domino effect for him.

While attempts are being made to demonise him, his people in the far north are becoming more sentimentally attached to him. That is the socio-cultural nature of northern politics the inherent inclination to identify with any leader that is hounded and oppressed by the powers-that-be.  It is particularly so with Kano-Jigawa axis which does not shy away from oppositional politics. If the powers-that-be were intelligent, they should review their strategy of demonising him.

As it is, the people are no longer concerned about the nitty-gritty of the legal issues woven around Lamido. The sentiment is that he is being intimidated to drop his presidential aspiration.  And, this is what will likely fuel a greater support and more passionate identification with his aspiration. Before long, his political effects would have spread throughout the north.  This, I believe.

Ojeifo is an Abuja-based journalist.



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