Lamido in the Dock! By Adagbo Onoja

On July 9th, 2015, Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State was docked on a 28-count charge of alleged corruption and related offences. He was subsequently remanded in prison custody till September 28th, 2015. He might have been granted bail along with his two children by the time this piece is published. As his chief publicist for 10 years, spanning his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs and the first half of his eight years in the Jigawa Government House, I must certainly be one of the most concerned about this. Notwithstanding the rupture and my exit from the government in June 2012, I feel touched and deflated by this turn, ideologically speaking. How a ‘PRP Governor’ as he permanently reminded himself could get entangled must worry all those who related with him politically.

But mine is not a sentimental solidarity with Lamido or an uncritical condemnation of him. Rather, I am more concerned with the mystery of fateful entangling, one way or the other, for scions of Lamido’s tendency. That, for me, is the matter for deep reflection. In the case of Dr. Bala Mohammed, one of the finest brains behind the Rimi regime, it was through physical violence in 1981. Dr. Bala Usman, another very fine brain, this time behind the Balarabe Musa regime died of malaria attack in 2006. For Balarabe Musa himself, it was impeachment in 1981. Now, Sule Lamido is in the dock, a drama whose outcome – winner or loser, might not be as important as what seems to be the contradiction at work that scions of a tendency so people oriented somehow never manage to get past one or the other several temptations, traps or mechanisms of the system as shown above. The case of Lamido is very interesting.

In 1999 when Obasanjo made Lamido the Minister of Foreign Affairs, his first main political appointment in life, some members of the public worried whether he was a good fit material for the portfolio.  His reply was that he knew he wasn’t an NIIA product but he was a product of a tendency that understood what diplomacy can be about. His own worry was a different one: how nothing compromising should ever come from either he or any of us his aides. Although he did annoy quite a number of people by his carriage and his artillery language, he remained within limits in terms of a political office holder’s conduct.

In 2007 when he surprisingly got drafted into Jigawa governorship contest, won and subsequently invited me to join him, the first three days were devoted to a single question: how would a ‘PRP Governor’ in 2007 add value to the Rimi/Balarabe Musa landmarks in the Second Republic and raise the stakes of performance in office in Nigeria? Till today, the PRP governors in the Second Republic have no equals in the conception and operationalisation of political power in Nigeria. Rimi leads in this regard as the one whose government gave birth to the observation of May 1st as labour day in Nigeria. Before his government, there was nothing like that in Nigeria. And his is not like what obtains today whereby leaders talk endlessly in ethno-regional or religious terms. To Rimi is also the credit of raising the minimum wage above that of the federal authority then, again a contrast to the ethno-regional discourse of federalism in Nigeria today. As governor of Kaduna State in 1979, Balarabe Musa put on the table of public policy in Nigeria an agro-industrial strategy that is still referential. These were the benchmarks after which Lamido sought not just to model his regime but also surpass.

And it was the reason our first three days of my arriving in Jigawa turned out to be critical sessions between him and I initially before a Lagos journalist with radical roots joined us. That was how his inaugural address titled “Expanding the Frontiers of Democracy in Jigawa State” developed. Only he, I and the Managing Director of a printing press in Abuja ever knew anything about the content of that inaugural speech before it was delivered on May 29th, 2007 at what is now Aminu Kano Triangle in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital. For many years thereafter, it remained one document that he returned to read, commending me each time he did, forgetting how he was also editing it with text messages even when we were set to print.

The logic of this narrative must be obvious: it must be an issue for the whole society to reflect upon for a journey which started on a high minded ideological note like this to end with its leader in the dock on charges of alleged corruption. I think the society is already doing this as we can see in the diversity of the reactions so far. While some people see it as nemesis for a Lamido, others see differential treatment in the initial refusal of bail while others suspect vendetta, although the question of vendetta by whom will be equally complicated: by the Jonathan regime or the current one? Anyway, the issue is not being perceived in a restricted technical sense of whether he stole money or did not. It is the sort of storm or a sensational drama Lamido who fancies himself as some generalissimo would love being at the centre except that this drama is for real and is playing out in the cold reality of the dock. It connects to the theory of problematic fate for scions of the radical tradition in the North. Where is the problem? Is it in the nature of populism or in the nature of the individual populists and their psychology of power?

What message has this for President Buhari who though has no formal connection with Mallam Aminu Kano and the radical tradition is, nevertheless, the face of populism and even on a grander scale in Nigerian history? Would he see any connection between the fact that Lamido started in a very determined manner, transformed Jigawa from a frightening hamlet in 2007 to whatever it can be called today but only to end in the dock just as he (Buhari) who resisted corruption throughout was still brought down in 1985? He is very lucky to have a second chance to, hopefully, unmake the past. But can he say his greatest worry now is not how to undo the multi-trap system that is glocal before a Buhari paradox? Some thoughts for food!