The Sun News

The fear of Sule Lamido

Ever since he resolved to stick with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rather than join the band of decampees to the APC, former Governor of Jigawa State, Dr. Sule Lamido, has become somewhat of a regular candidate for arrest, imprisonment and detention.

Of course, none of that is such a big deal for Lamido, a blue blood, who prefers to side with the Talakawas in his politics.

However, while we await the outcome of the latest travail of Lamido, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince anybody that what the former External Affairs Minister is facing is prosecution, and not persecution.

Lamido, a PDP founding father, and one of the party’s likely candidates for the presidency in 2019, is currently remanded in prison over a four-count charge of ‘inciting disturbance contrary to section 114 of the Penal Code, disturbance of public peace contrary to section 113 of the Penal Code, defamation of character punishable under section 392 of the Penal Code and criminal intimidation punishable under section 397 of the Penal Code’.

But that is not even the gist of the drama. The real story is that someone is alleged to be toying with the idea of granting the ex-governor bail on the condition that, Lamido must not only not talk to the press for three months, and also bars him from attending any burials or weddings. Now, what is the essence of being free, as a politician if you can’t politick? How did we get here?

But while I leave the courts and the lawyers to do the legal gymnastics, the naive redhead at the back of my mind tells me that there’s more politics, than law, in this unfolding drama. But then, in these climes, there’s a thin line between politics and law. And many of those on the ‘wrong’ side of the political divide know this too well. Whether in the disbursement of federal government patronage, prosecution of the anti-graft war or even in the sharing of legitimate entitlements, the sometimes -repressive federal might is brought to bear on errant regions, states and persons.

It’s a cross the Bameina-born politician has had to carry in recent years. It’s a price he’s had to pay for his rather intimidating political profile. Most times, he’s had to pay heavily for what his political opponents think he’s planning to do – even when he was yet to do it – or even contemplate doing it.

Even when his PDP was in power at the centre, the presidency (under Jonathan) was morbidly scared of Lamido. It became worse in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. Aso Rock goons did everything possible to cut Lamido down. And when they could not get him, they went after his children. One of them was docked for declaring only $10,000, at the airport, when he actually had $50,000 dollars on him. It did not matter that relations of other politically exposed persons passed through the same airport with more cash. The full weight of the law was brought to bear on the younger Lamido. The plea that the oversight was because the extra forex was to meet the medical bills of the younger Lamido’s wife, who was undergoing treatment in Egypt, did not impress the presidency goons.

And to confirm that there was more to the episode than met the eye, when mutual friends approached the Villa to intervene, the feedback from the Presidency was that Jonathan would not stop the trial, but would rather grant the young man presidential pardon when Lamido’s son is convicted. In other words, the young man must first be convicted and his, and his father’s image tarnished, before a pardon would then be granted. Politics! It was simply an opportunity to mortally wound the father’s perceived presidential ambition.

The EFCC, SSS and the police would later be unleashed on the ex-governor, even as he hadn’t told anyone he wanted to run against Jonathan.

This fear of his wanting to run for the presidency has now been inherited by the APC-led government, and Lamido’s troubles have continued from where the Jonathan government left off.

All manner of plot and conspiracy is read into everything Sule Lamido does and says (and Lamido will always talk. Like Emir Mohammed Sanusi II, he’s a radical royalty).

If Aso Rock is suspicious of Lamido’s every move, the new government in Dutse instantly hits the panic button at the mention of the name. I saw this, firsthand, in January when I visited Lamido in his country home. I saw how the authorities futilely tried to stop an ordinary New Year visit to Lamido by various youth groups drawn from virtually all over the country. It was that desperation on the part of the authorities that turned an otherwise innocuous visit into one huge carnival.

Now, the word on the streets of Jigawa is that if the planned local government elections in the state were to hold today, Lamido’s PDP would roundly rout the ruling APC. Unlike in other places where PDP members are decamping to APC, I’m told the reverse is the case in Jigawa, where APC chieftains are holding nocturnal meetings with Lamido.

That is probably why Sule Lamido’s rehash of the same statements that high-ranking APC chieftains got away with under PDP government has suddenly landed him in the dock in the government of a ‘progressive’ APC.

Of course, that does not mean that Lamido’s statement was not inciting. But I leave the determination of that to the Jigawa magistrate and the lawyers. This is even as we await what the police would claim they found in his Kano and Jigawa homes.

May Day blues

Much as I don’t want to mention names, my take-away from this Monday’s Workers Day celebration is that many of our government officials do not understand anything about the pressing labour issues in the country.

Every strike action is viewed solely from the political point of view: Who is sponsoring the action? Would they embark on the strike if Party A were still in power? Are the striking workers not agents of Party B, seeking to destabilise Party A’s government by other means? What believable lie should we tell the workers’ rally to win us more votes ahead of the next election? – Of course, they soon run out of lies.

And as soon as the strike is called off, government soon forgets all the agreements it entered with the workers. They return to their old ways until the next strike creeps up on them. That is why university lecturers, doctors and other hospital workers are forever on strike. Many of them have agreements signed since 10 years ago, which have not been honoured by government. Of course, I’m not moved by the lie that that government has no money. They do – at least, their lifestyles say so. They can’t be rollicking and frolicking in dollar-stuffed apartments and be telling us there’s no money.

Our politicians don’t know that N18, 000, which most of them have refused to pay, is not enough to transport any worker to and from work for a whole month. Yet, the worker still has rent, school fees, medical bills and feeding bills to pay, for himself, wife and children. And we don’t want civil servants to steal public funds or cut corners? Indeed!

Back to the May Day rallies.

Nothing better explains the disconnect between the workers and our leaders than what transpired at Eagle Square, Abuja, on Monday. For it is this disconnect that probably explains why one senior lawmaker would, in 2017, still be promising to quickly enact a law, backing the new minimum wage as soon as the executive arm sends the Bill to the National Assembly. He had no idea that the law already exists and is only not been implemented. It also did not occur to him that, if the Act did not exist, he does not have to wait for the Executive to submit any such bill – that he could originate the bill himself, if he felt so strongly about the plight of workers.

And as if that was not enough, another presidency official was talking about setting up a committee to look into a matter – a committee which had actually been literally constituted long ago, but which the Executive had refused to empanel and empower.

Any surprise then why the insulted workers upturned the tables and chased everybody out of Eagle Square? Nonsense! We can’t keep taking our people for granted! And at times like this, I remember that dangerous placard I first sighted during the Occupy Lagos fuel subsidy demonstrations: “Very soon, the poor would have nothing to eat but the rich”

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