Adams Abonu pays tribute to Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State

When the political history of Nigeria since attaining independence in October 1960 is relived, mentions would be made of how certain individuals bestrode the national scheme of things. While some of these patriots, including the venerable pan Africanist, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe; influential political and religious leader of the north, Sir Ahmadu Bello; the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the inspirational Mallam Aminu Kano; et al heralded the independence movement and the politics of a new federation, certain others keenly emulated their bright sides and carried on with their patriotic ideals.

A roll call of political leaders who transversed generations and left indelible footprints in their trajectory would feature Sule Lamido, erstwhile presidential aspirant and political scion of late Aminu Kano school of political activism in the interest of the masses. Lamido’s rise from rural Bamaina in Birnin Kudu Local Government of Jigawa State, cutting his teeth under Mallam Aminu Kano’s distinctive political idealism, his inspiring penchant to stand for democracy even in the face of persecutions, how he brought innovation into governance and transformed Jigawa State into a model for many other states and his issue-based bid for the presidency, forms a critical point of discourse and captures the essence of this intervention.

Those who live to see the struggles of the founding fathers of Nigeria and witnessed the politics of the time depicts fabulous aura of those defining moments. Interestingly, Sule Lamido was in a group of his contemporaries who sought to be mentored by the political players of the time. Ideology defined the core of political permutations and created some sort of chasm between political leaders and their followers. In the north, the ideological differences between the politics of established conservatism of Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello and the alternate progressive platform offered by the venerable Mallam Aminu Kano characterised participatory association. The northern premier’s side of the divide sought patronage mostly from the ruling establishment while Mallam Kano espoused the ideology that the masses of people must be the fulcrum of any development force. While at the prestigious Barewa College in the 60s, Lamido embraced the progressive wagon labelled as “radicalism” by the conservative apologists and his intelligent participations brought him to considerable reckon.

It could be reasonably argued that Lamido’s keen observation of the politics of the first republic crystallized his political persona as an advocate for the fair aspirations of the masses. When he teamed up with the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, who would later become Governor of old Kano State; Alhaji Balarabe Musa; and other progressive ‘radicals,’ they created the needed platform to consolidate the gains of the movement. With the ban on political activities lifted by General Olusegun Obasanjo upon the convening of the 1977 Constituent Assembly, Sule Lamido contested under the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) for the Birnin Kudu federal constituency and deservedly won.

A defining point of Sule Lamido’s political reckoning manifested during the prime of the second republic when some crises in ideology erupted within the ranks of the progressives with a faction favourably disposed to a coalition with other political interests. Sticking to the foundation ideals of his party and in absolute loyalty to Mallam Aminu Kano, the young federal legislator resigned his membership of the House of Representatives citing the ideological shift of his party. This moral precedence remains unchallenged and defines the true character of Sule Lamido till date- a tendency to remain faithful to a worthy cause.

Military incursions into political leadership often leave civil agitations in their wake. The interregnum between the second republic and the reign of decrees further served as an avenue for Sule Lamido to channel his activism and stand for the wellbeing of the nation. The struggle to entrench civil democracy became the new preoccupation and started in the hay days of General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime with Lamido teaming up with other well-meaning patriots to nudge the junta towards common sense. When the regime tempered with the idea of belated elections in 1988, the National Salvation Party was formed by Lamido and likeminded elements which would later metamorphose into the Social Democratic Party, a platform for progressive leftists, though a contraption of the junta.

The entire polity was heated up to boiling point when General Babangida annulled the 1993 Presidential election largely believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola, candidate of the SDP and throwing another challenge for the ‘radicals’ to unite. Sule Lamido was then the national secretary of the party and his forthrightness was once again brought to bear. When General Sani Abacha overthrew the interim national government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan in 1995, it called for every voice of reason to rise to the monstrous orchestration and Lamido didn’t hesitate in sticking his neck out for country. At the height of the excesses of Abacha’s reckless regime, it took the courage of Sule Lamido and other patriots like Adamu Ciroma of blessed memory; Shehu Yar’Adua; Alex Ekwueme to stare the despot in the eyes through a letter they cosigned and expected to be delivered. He was arrested by the junta and thrown into Maiduguri prisons where he spent some dozen months and was released upon Abacha’s sudden demise in 1998.

With General Abacha’s despotic exuberance out of the way by divine providence, and the successive junta led by General Abdusalam Abubakar showing commitment to return the country to civil democracy, political activities preceding the 1999 General Elections picked up and Lamido became one of the founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s winning the presidential election on PDP’s platform paved way for Sule Lamido to be appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in June 1999. The task of redeeming Nigeria’s battered image among comity of nations and stemming the tide of looted funds became paramount and the minister judiciously justified the confidence reposed in him by the country. He contested and massively won the 2007 governorship election in Jigawa State and set to redefine leadership in the state.

Lamido’s landmarks continue to dot every corner of the vast state and have become a standard for measuring development strides in the entire northern region. A cursory visit to the state in 2012 further endeared this writer to the phenomenon that is Sule Lamido.

During the months before the 2015 general election, many keen analysts of Nigerian politics expected Governor Lamido to contest in the presidential election owing to his obvious visibility in the political sphere. His reinforced popularity became a threat to some elements in the Goodluck Jonathan administration and a horrendous mischief was orchestrated against him and his sons. He was later to agree to his party’s position to give the ticket to President Jonathan. His party lost the election and the rest has been an unfolding history.

Though Sule Lamido’s bid to fly the PDP’s presidential flag during the 2019 presidential election was unsuccessful, the experience has presented the radical realist the opportunity to transform into an African statesman of value. Lamido, in his very essence, embodies true patriotism and steadfastness to purpose. His wealth of experience accumulated over the years, the valuable impacts he brought to national development and his enduring political legacies qualify him for this status and Nigeria should be proud for this.

Abonu, a development journalist, wrote via