Sule Lamido and the Thorny Path to Presidency -By Garba Shehu

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The episode involving Aminu, the son of Sule Lamido, the Governor of Jigawa State who was arrested on suspected money laundering charges signifies a resurgence of an establishment pattern in power politics in Nigeria. There is nothing new in this incident. What is new is the nature of the reaction of the governor and two, the seeming naivety, and the outright stupidity of his son.

Governor Lamido has raised his hand that he wants to be the President of Nigeria in 2015. That means that he wants to join the others in the contest with President Goodluck Jonathan, a man whose body language says that he is a candidate in that election. Does anyone assume that they will give him a free pass?

Anybody still in doubt about the fact that there was a motive to discredit the performing Governor of Jigawa State should go back to the statement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and read it one more time. Apart from hinting that the young man was on a money-laundering mission for his father, it gave a further impression that the boy had been doing several trips overseas on money laundering on behalf of the Governor. The question a good reporter should have asked the EFCC is: if they knew that the Governor’s son was engaged in the illegal transfer of money on behalf of his father, why did they give him a free pass always? Why did they wait until now, when Governor Lamido is in the running for the Presidency? Don’t also forget the fact that this, or another of Lamido’s sons was in the past thrown into detention by the Farida-led EFCC so as to keep him in check. At that time, Lamido was in support of  Northern Presidency.

Secondly, and this is to help Governor Lamido, it is hard to see how a governor would put his son in the line of danger because he wants to smuggle USD 40,000 abroad. A suspected crime has been committed and the stupidity of the Governor’s son should be blamed for this. To drag the governor into the alleged crime of his adult son is to play politics with the matter.

The insignificance of the amount involved, USD40,000 also makes a mockery of the attempt to drag the governor into the episode. This amount is too small for a Governor. When Governors steal or launder money, they do that in millions and billions. Whoever knows what is going on in this country must be aware that very few governors, ministers and other top government officials command respect when it comes to these matters. When people see a government vehicle flying the national flag and accompanied by a fleet of escort cars go through the road, the temperature of the citizens rises and the local people standing there fire out the great corruption stories of their leaders in the most abusive language imaginable. Forty thousand dollars is too little to have a governor involved.

A second issue is to look at the Governor and his kind of politics. We can then understand why his own son, not that of another governor could also be seized at the airport. Lamido makes enemies easily because of his combative style of engaging his adversaries. His own redoubtable image as a feisty adversary, ready to take on all comers, including the Presidency and the ruling party leadership marks him out as one of the few tough eggs to crack in the political arena. Nigeria does not have democracy as the Western countries do. What Nigeria has is political feudalism, which is a sorry state of affairs. So for leaders like Sule Lamido in the prevailing social and political climate, the idea is to discredit the few who are perceived as performers. “If we cannot rise to the height of a person, pull him down to our depth – we want equality,” the opponents would be saying.

Lamido, who leads the unruly horses in the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF must be reigned in so as to save the President not only from the frequent challenges they pose to him but to save him from the disgrace of failure to win a second or is it a third term in office. This is something that we have seen in this country before. President Obasanjo branded his deputy, Atiku Abubakar with all of the negatives one can imagine in order to disqualify him from succeeding him after eight years in office. As it is in this case, the EFCC was used to good effect. As a part of the fault-finding efforts, the privately-owned bank, Bank PHB was twice sealed in Lagos and Abuja  in search of incriminating financial records to nail Atiku Abubakar. During such raids, the EFCC did not allow staff and customers to leave the bank for nearly the whole day. On one occasion, they had to beg the raiders to allow a pregnant woman who had come to collect money and had spent all day there, to go home at 6:00pm. At the height of this show of power, the Nigerian government requested the United States authorities to search the official aircraft of the Nigerian Vice President on the false claim that the vessel was used for money laundering. Of course no such thing existed and no search was conducted.

It is sad that the executive arm of the government has perfected the art of using muscle power to deter better candidates from running for office. If democracy is ticking in Nigeria, we will not have such muscle-flexing and suppression. The latest incident involving the family of the Jigawa State Governor is a tight slap on democracy and the time has come for the people of our country to take a call and choose between true democracy and the on-going mockery show.

An important lesson that our leaders and other politicians should take away from the incident involving the Governor’s son is that children and other family members should as much as possible be kept far from offices occupied by them. A good politician is one who knows how to manage his office well and to manage the home front even better. In this, you have good examples in President Shehu Shagari, Vice President Ekwueme; Vice President Atiku Abubakar and even military leaders such as Generals Buhari and Abdulsalami Abubakar.

I don’t have flattering things to say about the adult son of a governor who would pack money into his suite case and thinks that he is too important to be asked to make a declaration by the customs. Yes, we are a people with dual standards. But Lamido’s boy was simply stupid to think that they would ignore his infraction(s) even for the fact of the contest for power in which his own father is involved.

The earliest hint that anyone got that the out-going American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton is launching a bid for the Presidency in 2016 came from an innocuous memo to the staff of Bill Clinton Foundation world-wide. In it, they were told to be on their best conduct, for the actions they consider small or unimportant might become matters of intense interest or scrutiny. This memo was issued as soon as President Barack Obama was returned in the election for his second term in office.

Let our leaders learn to keep their houses in order.

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