By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
SUBTLE trouble is brewing at the Presidency over the last-minute decision of Jigawa State Governor, Dr. Sule Lamido, to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in next year’s presidential election.
The two-term governor’s decision is said to have rattled President Jonathan and the party, which had long concluded that the race would be a straight fight between the president and others from the opposition parties.
In fact, given its internal permutations, the PDP believes that Jonathan would have a smooth sail to the election, as no other candidate would be able to challenge him and get victory at its planned national convention, which some see as a mere formality for the incumbent to be crowned.
However, Saturday Vanguard gathered from very reliable Presidential sources that there is apprehension in the Presidency following the confirmation of Lamido’s plans.
One of the sources said that the Presidency and the PDP had initially dismissed the rumoured ambition of the governor with the hope that it was mere speculation that would fizzle out with time.
A reliable source said that based on the information that Lamido had concluded plans to run for the presidency, Jonathan immediately summoned him to the Presidential Villa to clear the air on the issue.
One of the sources said that Jonathan was shell shocked when Lamido stormed the Villa recently and told the President openly that he was keen on running in the next polls.
“At that point, the President was shocked to hear from Lamido that his presidential ambition should not be seen as mere rumour, as he had made up his mind to run against him,” a presidential source said.
“The way Lamido spoke with the President showed that he was not ready to back down from the race and the way he spoke about the matter was a bit unsettling to Mr. President, who had all along regarded him as one of the governors, who could not move against him,” the source explained.
Lamido was said to have told the President that he had made up his mind to contest against him in the next polls despite a deliberate attempt by forces opposed to his ambition to frame him and his children up.
The governor, it was learnt, told the President that he was upset by the frequent embarrassment of his children by some agencies of government over allegations that one of them passed through an airport without declaring $40,000 in his possession.
He is said to have also drawn the president’s attention to the fact that there was a deliberate attempt by government agencies to tarnish his family’s image all in a bid to make him drop his presidential ambition but that he was not ready to back out of the race.
The action of the governor is said to have angered the Presidency, which promptly reported him to the National leadership of the PDP and asked it to call him to order.
It was learnt that Lamido was emboldened to go for the top job by some of his governor friends and prominent Nigerian leaders, who are uncomfortable with the way things are going in the land.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a friend and father figure to Lamido.
Almost at the same time early in the month, documents began to fly about that Lamido received gratification of N1.3 billion from two contractors, who had completed two projects valued at N13 billion.
Although an EFCC agent admitted last night that the agency had been investigating the Lamido family for a long time, he denied that the information on the N1.3 billion bribe allegation was instigated by the Presidency.
“Let me tell you that since we arrested Lamido’s son at the airport over non-declaration of $40,000, our operatives have been investigating the family’s account and it is not at the instance of the Presidency as some people are alleging,” the EFCC official said.
But confronted yesterday to confirm or deny his rumoured ambition, Lamido declined to make a categorical statement on the matter.
The governor however foreclosed the possibility of going to the Senate as is the practice of most of his outgoing colleagues.
According to him, the atmosphere for him to become president is not yet there, adding that it is better for him to seek a higher office than to go the legislature to make laws after implementing laws passed by others for eight years.