Political leaders in the country have a lot to learn from a former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido on how to develop the country with lean resources, writes Ali Muhammad Gantsa
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt, an inspiring figure in America’s political history and the country’s former president, who once remarked that “Politics defined by convictions and ideologies are the ones fashioned to meet the needs of the people and a politician who lacks a sense of conviction along ideological lines is a like a prankster.” This implied that politics and leadership should be premised on a set of ideas that aim at improving humanity and the choice between competing ideas defines a political leader’s dispositions.
It is this reflection of politics, as a means of serving humanity and the ideological underpinnings that brings to focus, the political career of Sule Lamido, a brand name in Nigerian politics and paragon pragmatic leadership. To set the records straight, the recurrence of the well-read statesman in the political evolution of Nigeria since the country’s adoption of the presidential system of government in 1979 is a reflection of his steadfastness and the strength of his convictions.
After Nigeria’s fractious civil war, which lasted a dreary three years with attendant humanitarian disaster on both sides of the crises, the country began to seek a return to civil democracy. The military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo finally fulfilled the commitment to return the governance to civilian leaders and there emerged a crop of new leaders with a predisposition towards continuing with the visions of the founding fathers.
Among the new ‘men of timbre and calibre’ were young and ebullient folks like Greg Mbadiwe, Jim Nwobodo, Abubakar Rimi (of blessed memory) and others with Sule Lamido featuring prominently. The revered Aminu Kano’s politics of social democracy was more appealing to the duo of Lamido and Rimi and the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) became a ready platform. Instructively, Lamido contested the 1979 elections into the House of Representatives and was among those elected from old Kano State. Then ensued a trajectory of distinctive political service that inspires great followership.
An instructive aspect of Lamido’s eventful days in the House of Representatives during the First Republic was his readiness to step down from the House as a matter of principle when leadership crisis engulfed the PRP. The young legislator positioned that since he won election on the party’s platform, it would only be fair to PRP when joining the Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe-led Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) merger. Therein lies the strength of conviction of the politician of stature.
When the country’s democratic experience was truncated in December 1983 by the military coup masterminded by General Muhammadu Buhari, Lamido and his lieutenants did not rest on their oars but rallied together to put pressure on the military to return to the barracks.
With successive General Ibrahim Babangida’s lifting of the ban in political activities in 1989, it was an ideologically-disposed Lamido that teamed up with other democrats to form the Social Progressive Party (SPP), which was later to metamorphose into the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a party he later served as Kano State Chairman and National Secretary.
All this while, he characteristically stuck to his gun in ensuring that the right things were done in the gear up to the annulled 1993 presidential election presumably won by his party’s standard bearer, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
The essential part of Sule Lamido’s distinctive style of politics emerged better in the pro-democracy activism that greeted the Sani Abacha draconian junta. As the country wallowed in the dark days of the dark-goggled despot, Lamido galvanised other democrats like Adamu Ciroma, Solomon Lar, Abubakar Rimi, Iyorchia Ayu, et al to ensure that democracy, and by extension, sanity returned to the polity.
Upon a meeting of like-minds at the Kaduna residence of Mallam Ciroma, a group – the “G8” was formed with the objective of providing veritable grounds for democratic activism. Though the Abacha junta would later throw Lamido and Rimi into detentions in Maiduguri and Illorin respectively for daring the despot, the amiable and courageous Lamido had written his name in gold in the political history of Nigeria’s journey to enduring democracy.
When General Abdusalami Abubakar released political prisoners including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Lamido came out of prison and joined other democrats to form the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – “a party that offers every Nigerian a political platform regardless of primordial sentiments,” as he is wont to say.
While Sule Lamido served in the administration of President Obasanjo as the revered Minister of Foreign Affairs, he brought his solid political experience to bear in reviving Nigeria’s battered image among comity of nations. In that position, his intolerance to graft was evidenced in his clamour for international support against money laundering from developing democracies and the successful renegotiation of Nigeria’ accumulated debts owed to the ‘Paris Club.’
As Governor of Jigawa State between 2007 and 2015, Sule Lamido redefined leadership by turning around the fortunes of a hitherto neglected state in terms of all development indices. Before his assumption of the governor’s seat, his predecessors had attained national infamy by recklessly plundering the state, leaving behind a misgoverned state.
Lamido restored the sense of dignity for the average Jigawa State citizen by focusing on human capital development while also transforming the infrastructural base of the state. Landmark projects like the Dutse International Airport, the Sule Lamido University in Kafin Hausa, the remodelled secondary schools that dot every corner of Jigawa State; his unalloyed commitment to improving the lots of the commoners and artisans by giving them skills are all part of the Lamido legacies in the state. Chief executives of states of the federation have a model of how to truly develop a state with lean resources from the Lamido example.
At a time when the citizenry is traumatised by the failure of the prevailing leadership in the country to meet their earnest expectations, national attention is turning the way of Sule Lamido to bring his experience garnered over time to salvage the diving prospects of the nation. While there would be lessons to learn from his eventual gracing of national leadership, how he responds to this beckoning responsibility will be another lesson in political leadership.
-Gantsa, a political activist, wrote from Kano