2015: Weep not for Sule Lamido But the North By Adagbo Onoja

I do not have any official relationship anymore with Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, having resigned my appointment in his government since June 14th, 2012 and I am not looking for anything from anybody other than stabilize in academia for which I have been preparing myself for some years now. But the speculative story in the Abuja based Leadership (August 20th, 2012) to the effect that OBJ has endorsed a Lamido/Amaechi presidential ticket, come 2015, cannot pass without a response from me as me. This is because that story is contradicted by the much I happen to know about the credible but yet an imaginary ticket. Above all, it behoves on me to stand today by what I said or wrote yesterday. This, I believe, is the path of honour since serving in the Lamido government will remain a part of my CV for life. I should only stop defending yesterday if I were to be contradicted by something horrendous.

It is also important to warn that the logic of that story is not its truth or falsehood but hanging Sule Lamido’s perceived presidential ambition on Obasanjo’s sponsorship with a view to making it unacceptable to Obasanjo’s many political enemies. Sule Lamido might be the target but the story itself is an unmistakable signal of how the North will bleed from internal struggle for power between the various fractions of its elite, come 2015. Given the heterogeneity of the North and the lack of a central authority reining in everybody, there is no way there won’t be such struggle when a choice is to be made. However, it was assumed that, in the context of an office which has eluded it, the region would strive to avoid open fight among contenders in 2015.

This assumption has been questioned by the Leadership story and it is worrisome because it was the moment Nigerian leaders of Northern origin started employing manipulation, intrigue or deception in their statecraft that the end of Northern hegemony began. My contention is that the story in question is fundamentally a product of intrigue, manipulation and misinformation. First, this is not the first time the same Leadership has come up with that sort of story. In May 2010, it ran a front page lead story to the effect that Obasanjo had positioned Lamido as Jonathan’s Vice-President. It was a very laughable story because by then, Jonathan had already received the two criteria for the appointment, all of which automatically excluded anybody like Sule Lamido. I am sure the president and those who knew what was going on in the Villa laughed out their hearts regarding how such a story found its way into the newspaper except if it was an SSS job. Logically, if the first story about OBJ positioning Lamido for Vice-Presidency was a figment of somebody’s infertile imagination, this too must be another one.

Two, the story about Obasanjo endorsing Lamido/Amaechi for 2015 is just a replica of the first, a strategy by a section of those fearing the possibility of real and imagined alternatives to themselves. Otherwise, the idea of a Lamido/Amaechi pair was never there before the publication on May 21st, 2012 of a centre spread material I wrote, titled, “Sule Lamido and Rotimi Amaechi: The Communion of Nigeria’s Ultimate Trouble Makers”. This was published in no less than four newspapers viz Daily Trust, The Nation, Daily Sun and Blueprint. Neither Lamido nor OBJ had any input into it. It is a different thing if it appealed to them after it came out but Lamido, for sure, read it for the first time in the newspapers like any other person. It was a continuation of my unprompted liking for a Lamido president of Nigeria, an inclination which took roots from a number of things I observed while working closely with him as a foreign affairs minister and later, as a governor. Of course, he has his baggage, just like most of us but there are things that even his worst enemy cannot deny him because they are empirical or provable.

That was always the basis of my inclination thereto, inserting in an advertorial in Sunday Trust, (October 26, 2010, page 8), for example, that his aides were surprised that, instead of stepping out himself, he was stepping out for Goodluck. It was a risky enterprise even though the advertorial did proceed to rationalize GEJ as a matter of duty. In fact, the presence of some visitors, including a former minister, saved me from Lamido’s indignation when he saw that portion of the advertorial because it was never with his permission.

And it was the same inclination that informed the Lamido/Amaechi article in May 2010. I was not even in Government House, Dutse, anymore but at the University of Ibadan when Governor Amaechi visited Jigawa State earlier that month. I only saw pictures of the visit as a member of a mailing list. But I had been to Rivers State earlier in March, 2012 on an NGO related research on governance scrutiny assignment. The assignment required of me to look around and then talk to the governor in the context of his coming to power in spite of the forces against him.

I carried out the assignment but I did not get to talk to Amaechi because his aides said he was busy. But I came away from my tour convinced that the guy was a clear leadership model. The conception, design and implementation of his primary schools alone should give him any serious leadership award in Nigeria. Added to the stories I heard about him and cross checked from an academic who was a NANS activist at the University of PortHacourt with him suggested that he is what, for want of a better term, I would call the ultimate purposive rascal. So, when I heard of his visit to Jigawa, it crossed my mind that in Lamido and Amaechi, Nigeria might find the two purposive rascals that a former Chief Justice of Nigeria has been wondering how the country could find to salvage it. That was how the Lamido/Amaechi article came up.

Suspecting how Governor Lamido would react, I did not send it to him electronically but to someone in Kano who was to ‘compel’ him to read the hard copy and who would tell me how he felt. Fortunately or unfortunately, the person had traveled out of the country and I was only to know of this when he called me from where he was about my assignment to him. By then, I could only send a text to the governor that I had written something about Amaechi’s visit to Jigawa State which I asked a named person to take to him only to discover that the person was not in the country. I added that already, many of the newspapers I gave the material had gone ahead to print it in their advance pages because I thought his ‘silence’ meant approval, not knowing my messenger had traveled. I joked that should the material turn out unacceptable to him, I was not in fear of any reprisal since I was already several hundred kilometres away from Dutse.

That was how Lamido, not to talk of Obasanjo, read it like any other reader. Of course, OBJ and Lamido have been together since 1999 and a Lamido presidency could have featured in their discussions but certainly not the Amaechi dimension before the piece in question and certainly not in the notion of a done deal that Leadership presented in its story based on what a source told them.

Three, if it was because Amaechi visited Jigawa, that makes the story even more problematic. Governors Murtala Nyako, Magatarkada Wammako, Babangida Aliyu, Ibrahim Shema, Ibrahim Yakowa have also been to Jigawa in the last few years.

Four, Lamido positioning himself or being positioned by someone has been the recurrent hearsay in Nigerian politics in the last 5 years, peaking during the first spasm of Umaru Yar’Adua’s sickness that the Jigawa State Government had to issue a statement then.

I have gone into details not in defence of Lamido but in defence of my thesis that the story in question benefited from a manipulative agenda. And that if that is how the Northerners are going to go about 2015, then there will be more problems than necessary. It might be Lamido this time but another person next time. It goes against the background of the imperative for the North, should power rotate there, to use the opportunity to demonstrate that it is not in the interest of social safety to give just anybody power in the name of democracy. This, it can do by producing a presidential candidate based on executive search. Whoever an executive search produces, be it Atiku, Buhari, Bukola, General Gusau, Gov Lamido or those yet to announce their intention, so be it. The North has been the theatre of unwarranted bloodshed since 1981. That must stop through a less acrimonious leadership selection process that ditches crude scheming, manipulation and intrigue. For the umpteenth time, it must be said that the road to greatness must be great or it is contradictory.