By Rawlings Okorie
THE frequent search for the best presidential candidate at each election cycle is akin to the biblical times where Moses was the messiah entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the Isrealites from slavery in the land of Egypt; but in the Nigerian instance, a President who will deliver the nation from economic hardship and lead her to prosperity. As the political climate gears towards the 2019, an array of ‘messiahs’ especially from the biggest opposition party – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have started jostling for the ultimate price. The few who have made their intentions known include Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Alhaji Sule Lamido; former Governor of Jigawa State and Foreign Affairs Minister and Waziri Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who recently decamped from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to rejoined the PDP to their chagrin.
Just as in every election cycle, 2015 was yet another opportunity presented to Nigerians to choose their ‘messiah’ and majority seized the opportunity to remove an incumbent PDP administration led by President Goodluck Jonathan to usher in the administration of the APC government led by the ‘converted democrat’ Muhammadu Buhari.
Prior to the 2015 election, most Nigerians were presumably fed up with the PDP hence, when the opportunity came, APC with its ‘Change’ mantra became a hit among the electorate who were already eagerly looking for the ‘messiah’ to deliver them especially as the price of a bag of rice had skyrocketed to N7,500 by January 2015 . So when they saw not just a common ‘messiah’ but a huge one for that matter in the person of an ‘incorruptible’ Buhari; the heavens were appreciated for instant answer to prayer.
After the election, most Nigerians were relieved that at least the sweeping into power of the this ‘incorruptible messiah’ will be the end of corruption and true to prediction his “I belong to nobody” speech left Nigerians in no doubt that they have ushered in ‘the one we have been waiting for’ at least until 2023. But when our ‘messiah’ began his Europe and America tour, the alarm bell went off ringing at almost every destination. In the United States, the 97% vs 5% dichotomy was unleashed; in United Kingdom where our ‘messiah’ boasted about how untainted he was, he was taught an arithmetic equation by his host, that since Nigerians are ‘fantastically corrupt’ and the President is a Nigerian, therefore he is also …..; in Germany while standing next to the most powerful woman in the world our man told the World press that Aisha is only fit for the “other room”. Since then, it has been one controversy after another.
As the 2019 presidential cycle nears, the searchlight for the ‘messiahship’ is continuing, two prominent Northern sons have already indicated their desire to seek for the office of the President on the PDP’s platform. They areAtiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa,who remains arguably the most experienced and Alhaji Sule Lamido. Of the two, Sule Lamido remains less controversial. This son of Bamaina, in Birnin Kudu Local Government Area of Jigawa State started his political career with the grassroots and the people oriented conservative Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, of the late Mallam Aminu Kano where he imbibed the virtues of humility, simplicity, empathy and political decorum, devoid of name calling that is currently lacking among most politicians in the country.
While Sule Lamido will be the last to acknowledge his fitness for the ‘messiahship’ of this country because of his political upbringing; his admirers will tell you that going by the recent political tension between the North and South which has resulted in the call for restructuring to ensure that Nigeria’s corporate existence is not threatened; few politicians based on political experience has the political sagacity to douse the tension by building a strong and enduring bridge between North and South than Sule Lamido. One of Lamido’s virtues is his admirable tolerance of political opponents. He makes his case with grace and authority which can convince any naysayer and prove his mastery of the topic under discussion. His ‘live and lets live’ attitude to politics could be traced to his political tutelage under the great and selfless leader, Mallam Aminu Kano.
During the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s political transition arrangement, Lamido joined the Social Democratic Party, SDP, where he held the position of National Secretary. He was jailed by Gen. Sani Abacha for speaking out against his plan to perpetuate himself in office as a military Head of State. He joined the PDP under Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition arrangement and was appointed Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister under the newly elected administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2003 having been initially considered for the position of Vice President.
Some of his achievements as Foreign Minister include his strong advocacy against human trafficking especially Africans in general and Nigeria in particular. He also championed international awareness against the impact of corruption against young democracies such as Nigeria, and advocated for “an international instrument” against transfer of looted funds abroad. In his capacity as Foreign Minister, Lamido assumed the Chairmanship of Group of 77 countries or the ‘G77’; he was praised by his fellow Foreign Ministers for his leadership qualities.
His legacy in Jigawa State as former Governor is still been celebrated. Having inherited a relatively small village within a desert which was created by the Gen. Babangida on 27 August, 1991, Lamido transformed this desert into a mega city with access roads to neighbouring states and countries in addition to an International Airport which the government and people of Niger Republic patronise thereby increasing the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. In his notification letter to his party, on his desire to contest the Presidency in 2019, he acknowledged the right of others while urging his party to be positive, repositioning itself to embrace policies that will benefit the masses.Nigeria is at a crossroad. She needs a bold leader come 2019.
Through Dutse Capital Development Authority DCDA) and the Jigawa State Housing Authority (JSHA), Sule Lamido initiated and transformed the State capital into a modern city with adequate housing for the inhabitants.
During his tenure as Governor, he also encouraged local businessmen to invest in the State as a tourist destination by offering free plots of land and basic infrastructure. To discourage street begging in order to encourage gainful employment and training to the less privileged in the society, he offered street beggars a monthly incentive and skill training to stay off the street. As a man who understands how education can transform lives and give hope to the downtrodden, Sule Lamido as Governor budgeted N2 billion in 2007 for the educational sector development with specific target of rebuilding schools and providing basic teaching materials. Understanding the role of qualified teachers in the development of the educational sector, he invested additional N450 million for the training of teachers on core courses in Junior Secondary Schools in the State.
Sule Lamido is a man not given to holding grudges against his perceived political enemies. In a recent interview he granted to a national daily, he was asked about the administration of President Buhari which jailed him and his two sons for alleged corruption; he politely told the press to distinguish between corruption and allegation of corruption as well as challenged anyone with proof of corruption against him to go to court. On the question of whether President Buhari deserves a second term, he said that Nigerians should be allowed to answer that question come 2019. On whether PDP can match the incumbency power of APC, he reminded the press that PDP also had the incumbency power in 2015 it lost to APC.
Sule Lamido is an enigma. He is not giving to self-praise. He weighs his words before altering them. He understands the concept of bottom up; that power belongs to the people hence he strongly believes that come 2019 the Nigerian people will discharge that role creditably and will not shy away from going to them to ask for their vote.
Sule Lamido may be too humble and polite to claim the tag of a ‘messiah’ but since Nigerians are still yeaning for salvation from economic and social emasculation from their leaders especially in the face of perennial failure of those elected to play that role, it is high time he and others who may be angling to occupy the highest position in the land should brace up and wrap the tag around themselves. No more time to shy away from being a ‘messiah’. After all, love him or hate him, Donald Trump was elected president of United States of America because most Electoral College voters were tired of their leader being politically correct. . Sule Lamido has the political temperament. He has learnt from the mistakes of others. He needs to be given a chance.
Rawlings U.Okorie, a Political Analyst and Management Consultant lives in Abuja