PDP Presidential Primary: Understanding Sule Lamido’s Struggles, Criminal Prosecution -By Mansur Ahmed

Filed under: Political Issues |

It is about 132 days to next year’s presidential election. But it is less than 24 hours to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary, holding in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Owing largely to the failings or otherwise of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, which happened by accident about four years ago, Nigerians are understandably looking the direction of the opposition PDP for rescue and succour.

Sadly, if the party fails at the convention, God forbids, Nigerians and the party would have to endure another pain and the bastardisation of the country’s socio-economic and political lifestyle for again another tortuous four years.

 

 

There are about 12 presidential aspirants. But only one man will pick the ticket. In deciding who to pick, PDP delegates must take into cognisance our heritage and our history. Where we are coming from and where we are headed? To plan for today and look forward to tomorrow, we must take stock of what transpired yesterday. Our recollections of yesterday will no doubt help us to navigate seamlessly through our today and tomorrow.

While it is true that it is not all those who participate in struggles or revolutions ultimately benefit from it, what is wrong if a survivor of a struggle turns out to be a beneficiary, especially when such a beneficiary did not set out from day one to benefit for the struggle? It is in this context that the past struggles of Alh. Sule Lamido and his quest for the PDP’s presidential ticket will be situated.

The fact that Lamido declared his desire to govern a country on a platform that was at the time enmeshed in crisis of confidence, when others members of the party were deserting it, shows his implicit faith in the PDP. When together with Sen. lorchia Ayu, Prof. Jerry Gana, late Chief Alex. Ekwueme, late Mallam Adamu Ciroma, late Chief Solomon Lar, late Chief Bola Ige, late Sen. Ella, and late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, they confronted late Gen. Sani Abacha of blessed memory on the need to vacate the stage and allow democracy to flourish, Lamido, may perhaps never know a day like this will come. Himself and Rimi were picked and locked up in DSS cells, in Ilorin and Maiduguri respectively. They were only released after the sudden demise of the late Head of State.

When then President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in, in 1999, he met a country that was a pariah nation and within two years in office, with Lamido as his foreign minister, the status was reversed.

In Africa, Nigeria together with South Africa and Algeria formed a formidable tripod that gave Africa direction in the comity of nations. In the West African sub region, political stability was restored.

An important landmark of Lamido’s legacy that benefits the oil reproducing states in particular, and other states and the country in general, was in the areas of maritime bilateral agreements between Nigeria and the states of Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe which stopped Cameroon’s prayer before the ICJ for the maritime delimitation of its territory with Nigeria when Equatorial Guinea intervened by presenting those agreements entered into before the court. But for these agreements maybe part of Nigeria territorial waters would have gone to Cameroon and with it loss of hydro carbon and other economic benefits.

In the IBB’s transition programme that culminated in the June 12 1993 presidential election, he tried to govern Kano, he was stooped. Jigawa State was created and he naturally moved there. There again, his political influence was unrivalled. But to stop him at all cost, he alongside others across the country was disqualified on the grounds that government wanted “new breed” politicians to take part in that transition.

But when a task is prepared for one by God to carry out, no one will do it, except that person whom God has chosen to do the job. From 1991 when Jigawa State was created up to 2007 when Lamido became the governor, there was no basis for referring to the state as being part of the 36 states in the country.

In spite of the fact that he met huge debts, upon assumption of office in 2007, he did not borrow from any financial institution; yet, he was paying the debt and at the same time building a new Jigawa, with the meagre resources of between N2.3 billion and N2.4 billion, as monthly allocation, from the federation account.

There is hardly any structure you find in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which you don’t find something close to it in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital. Talk of the Three Arms Zone, Jigawa has its own; the Eagle Square in Abuja, there is the Aminu Kano triangle in Dutse, the State’s broadcasting house, dwarfed what we have as NTA headquarters in Abuja, just as the Rasheed Sekoni Specialist Hospital, Dutse, could compete favourably with the National Hospital in Abuja.

Apart from probably Kaduna and Bauchi, Dutse is the only state capital in the north, where you find residences of all the emirs in the state capital, built by government. And even in the South-west, where traditional rulers are also revered because of their enduring significance, there is no state capital, where one can find such a thing, though symbolic and significant. Ironically, that of Jigawa was conceptualised and executed by a man many erroneously believed was anti-establishment and anti-traditional rulers.

Also, apart from probably Abuja, the official residences of the Speaker, his deputy, the deputy governor, Chief Judge and Grand Khadi, in Dutse, are second to none in the entire country. Lamido believes in building institutions. He believes that doing so would inspire confidence in the people of the state. He said the biggest challenge any government faces is human development, which according to him is because “human beings by nature are very insatiable. When you elevate them to a particular level, they would want to move to another level and so when you restore a state which was almost grounded, the expectation becomes high. So whatever you do is a further incentive for more to be done and it is going to be a continuous thing. But my dream is to have the best set of human beings in the world –everything perfect, ideal, everything which commands decency, self esteem and self worth, to be in Jigawa. And so, whatever we do daily is further incentive for us to strive for the development of the state.”

It is not possible for one to travel to Jigawa State today, without Lamido’s exploits in the place catching one’s attention. That was why he was referred as a good “Repairer,” and that his type was needed to fix and restore Nigeria. It was to his administration’s credit that President Muhammadu Buhari was saved the stress of having to travel by road or hopping on a chopper to Dutse from Kano, during the president’s state visit recently. President Buhari landed on an airport built from the scratch by the Lamido’s administration. The runways and equipment are of international standards are far better than most airports in the country. He also built a full-fledged state university and an academy for the gifted, whose students have been making waves in WAEC and JAMB examinations.

Talk of politics of principle, apart from him and a few others during their time in the 80’s, no politician has ever resigned his elective position in government after defecting to a party other than the one on whose platform one was first elected. Lamido, late Rimi and their group did it after defecting from PRP to the NPP.

Ironically, it is this same principle that is responsible for his criminal prosecution today. He was seen as a good material for 2015, but Lamido thinks otherwise. According to him, denying the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, a second term ticket was tantamount to passing a vote of no confidence in the president, insisting that no serious party does that. But those working for the government then were uncomfortable with him. That is why, each time he is asked about his case, he tells you it was a fallout of the ‘civil war’ within the PDP in the build up to the 2015 election.

Otherwise, how can a governor’s son launder just 30, 000USD for the father? How can a governor’s son travelling with his wife and daughter for the daughter’s medical treatment be arrested for money laundering? I leave you to interrogate that.

As if that is not enough, several investigations on contracts and finances of Jigawa were carried out with the sole aim of getting Lamido prosecuted, but they could not find any fault.

Disappointed, they went into forensic transactions of companies that were working for Jigawa state and found two or three that did some transactions with two or three companies whose Directors are Lamido’s sons. But they would not file criminal charges against him because he stood his ground of not contesting against President Goodluck in the PDP or jumping ship to contest under a different political party. Unfortunately for Lamido, his party lost not only his state but the presidential election despite all his campaigns, to the displeasure of the APC.

The APC government not caring that during the campaigns, Sule Lamido’s factory in Kano was burnt down, took on him as its number one enemy using the purported investigation reports it inherited. Thus, after handing over, he was picked up and detained by the EFCC. The Federal High Court in Dutse and Kano were on vacation then and the government had to fly a Judge to Kano. Lamido, his sons and their companies were arraigned and their plea taken and were remanded in prison custody. The Judge left and Lamido had to apply for his bail before a vacation judge in Abuja who granted him and his sons bail with one condition that he deposits his international passport with the court.

When the courts resumed from the annual vacation, the case was assigned to Justice Ademola. When Lamido and his sons were charged before Justice Ademola, their plea for the second time were taken and remanded in prison custody in Abuja before being granted bail the second time.

None of the charges alleged that Lamido and his sons took any money from Jigawa State coffers, none of the charges alleged Lamido gave his children contracts as government’s publicity against him showed, none of the charges alleged that Sule Lamido inflated the costs of any of the contracts awarded, particularly to the companies that gave contracts to the sons’ companies. Rather the essential elements of the charges alleged that Lamido as Governor influenced some two or three private companies to award contracts to two or three companies whose Directors are himself and his sons. But they are telling Nigerians that Lamido and sons milked Jigawa dry, just to make them look like common criminals. Today, the case had gone before not less than five Judges with elaborate publicity but less evidence. For instance, after presenting 18 witnesses before Justice Ademola, the EFCC turned round and accused Justice Ademola and Lamido’s lawyer, Joe Agi SAN of impropriety and went on to arraigned them before a court. In the interim, the case was moved to another Judge but before the new Judge could take witnesses, Justice Ademola and Agi were discharged and acquitted. Lamido’s appeal to the new Judge to take back the case to Justice Ademola, who had gone very far with it, was rejected. Lamido went to the Appeal Court and the Appeal Court granted his prayers that Justice Ademola should take back the case and conclude it. Justice Ademola was compulsory retired the very day the Appeal Court’s judgment was passed.

The case was then assigned to Justice Dimgba to commence a fresh but before Justice Dimgba could mention the case, the EFCC lawyer in the case wrote a letter to the Chief Judge appealing to him to send the case to some particular judges, if not persecution what is the business of EFCC in insisting that particular judges hear the case?

If Sule Lamido and his sons indeed milked Jigawa dry, as being insinuated, will there have been money to build the gigantic infrastructure put in place in Jigawa by the Sule Lamido administration?

Perusing through the charges against Lamido, they are essentially that (1) Lamido as Governor used his position to influence some private companies to award “small, small contracts” to companies that he has interest in and termed them “sub contracts” or that (2) the contracts were not truly contracts but “bribes neatly covered as contracts…”, and each payment was presented as an offence. Thus, even a payment of say N10 million is presented as a bribe to Lamido.

But how on earth can a person be accused of receiving bribe but the purported giver is not joined in the case when the said giver is not the complainant? Or how can contracts entered into by two private companies come up as a case of a governor using his influence? The prosecution will have to prove that these jobs were from the contracts awarded to the companies by the Jigawa State government.

Recall that after he left office, he was also arraigned on trump up charge of incitement by the Jigawa State government, where he spent about four days in detention. But the mere fact he was discharged and acquitted shows clearly that he was all along been persecuted and not prosecuted. Who knows, if the on-going trial too had been allowed to go on, Nigerians would since have passed their own judgement.

The point I am driving home, especially to the PDP delegates in particular, and Nigerians in general, is that, do not be deceived, his trial, though sad, does not in any way inhibit him from flying the party’s ticket if he is found suitable, capable and courageous enough to confront the APC machineries. The APC is obviously praying for a push over as candidate. The constitutional provisions regarding a citizen’s eligibility to contest are all spelt out and Lamido has not breached any of them by his trial.

We were all in this country when Senator Iyiola Omisore won his election from the prison to the senate. As I write, Senator Joshua Dariye, who though has been convicted, has filled his nomination form to run for the senate on the platform of the APC. He is able to do that because he is on appeal.

Talking about persecution, sorry prosecution? Lamido should take solace in the fact that he is not alone in this persecution and prosecution games currently going on. The list is long: Sen. Bukola Saraki, Dalhatu Bafarawa and Sen. David Mark, who shortly before he declared to run for the office of President, was a guest of the EFCC. Atiku Abubakar’s several proactive court appearances made nonsense of all efforts to persecute him. Thank God, Lamido did not collect the campaign fund, for which some are standing trial till date. Regardless, no one on earth can change destiny.

Mansur Ahmed writes from Abuja.

 

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