By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Former governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Sule Lamido, has served notice of his intention to throw his hat in the ring for the position of Nigeria’s president in 2019. It is his right to do so. He has the requisite backing of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the concurrence of the constitution of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to make certain his bid.
Nevertheless, he needs more than the rights conferred on him by these constitutions to win the election. As a presidential aspirant, he has to appeal to the sensibilities of the vast majority of his party men and women, more especially the delegates who will vote at the primary, with his reform agenda. This is the surest way to clinch his party’s ticket.
The battle, within the PDP for the ticket, is not going to be a tea party. It is going to be fiercely fought because the party is shorn of the overwhelming superintendence of a sitting president. What this encourages is a free course for many presidential aspirants to tread.
Lamido is lucky to have a head-start. He is the only one who has, so far, rolled out the drums to herald his own coming. He is not hiding behind a finger. But that is how far luck can take him. He should, therefore, brace up for challenge within the party from other presidential hopefuls.
This is where choices based on comparative advantages and selfish political interests will weigh in. The capacity of the individual aspirants to address the nation’s economic problems as well as their acumen, political ideals and ideological inclinations will largely define who clinches the ticket.
The path to the presidency anywhere in the world is, unarguably, long, tortuous and challenging. Lamido is conversant with this cosmopolitan reality. He is politically prudent to know there is a great deal of heat in the kitchen. Having, therefore, headed for the kitchen in spite of the shenanigans that have been constructed around him, he must stay on.
Perhaps to intimidate him from going into the race, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as early as last year, charged him with corruption and money laundering offences, along with his son. That pre-emptive move by the EFCC finds explanations in a very recent history of presidential politicking.
Ahead of the 2015 presidential election, some powerful forces in the PDP had been opposed to Goodluck Jonathan seeking a second term in office. One of the power centres, coordinated by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, rooted for a Sule Lamido candidacy.
The argument then was that in 2010, in order to get the widespread support that saw him become the candidate of the party and president, Jonathan had agreed to a term of four years in office, after which power would revert to the north of the country. But that proposition, fuelled by revulsion and antagonism rather than consensus, could not be pushed through.
It is irrelevant whether Jonathan fought back or the people around him did. His candidature was eventually foisted on the party. As has been explained by Lamido in some of his newspaper interviews, he and, perhaps, those promoting his candidature, had to reconsider their strategy in the face of the universal fact that it is always difficult to defeat a sitting president in the primary of his or her party.
Jonathan was allowed to exercise the right of first refusal. What happened, thereafter, is fresh on our minds. He lost the presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari who, as it were, is the potential presidential candidate of the APC as far as the 2019 presidential election is concerned except he or existential happenstance decides otherwise.
Back to Lamido, because of the abandoned mid-stream project sponsored by Obasanjo and his clique on their failed voyage to stop Jonathan from being the PDP standard bearer, he has not found it difficult to revisit his desire to be president. The agent of the state-the EFCC- did not also find it difficult to move against him to stymie his presidential ambition.
Those who are arrayed against Lamido, perhaps, know that he is strong-willed and tenacious. Maybe, they also know that he is capable of enjoying cult following in the north. Therefore, they presuppose that tarring him with the brush of corruption should be enough to discourage him from entering into the presidential race. But, unfortunately, they are wrong.
The current economic difficulties confronting the nation under Buhari’s presidency have made a Lamido presidency an attractive option. Other aspirants will, certainly, excite the Nigerian people who are desirous of a change of “the change” they foisted on themselves in 2015 when they expressed their preference for Buhari instead of Jonathan.
This is where the aspirants will have to prove their individual mettle, regardless of who the APC is presenting for the presidential poll. But the odds are against the ruling party for presiding over a shambolic political economy. There is growing hunger in the land. The purchasing power of Nigerians has continued to ebb away due to runaway inflation, nay stagflation.
Arresting the economic drift, together with saving the nation’s economy from recession, is one of the critical issues that will determine the shape and texture of the 2019 presidential poll. Nigerians need a Lee Kwan Yew who can take the country out of the aggravating economic quagmire. It is one thing for Lamido to take up the gauntlet to run for the presidency; it is another thing for him to have what it takes to restructure and redirect our economy on the path of recovery and sustainable growth.
This is not an unconscionable attempt to de-market Lamido. It is, rather, a patriotic service to interrogate his capabilities. Once beaten, they say, twice shy. Nigerians will, this time round, shun bandwagon effects produced by mindless propaganda. Not again will Nigerians be satisfied with stupidly sentimental defences of any candidate. We will not accept “NEPA bill” instead of real certificates evidencing educational qualifications.
Lamido should throw everything at his disposal into the race if he has the capacity, education, intellectualism, temperament, clear-headedness and antecedent in government to coordinate a resurgence of our poorly managed economy.
There is no doubt Lamido is politically astute. He has an intimidating pedigree in politics. The fact is our nation is not in short supply of realpolitikers. However, I want to safely assume that Nigerians are tired of governance at the centre through the prisms of realpolitik, primordial sentiments and ethnic prejudice that conspire to starve economic pragmatism.
What we need urgently in our nation is economic renaissance by the hands of an intensely knowledgeable pragmatist who knows what to do and how to get personnel to assist him in propping up our prostrate economy.
We no longer need the ongoing joke of a nation with five or thereabouts foreign exchange rates that do not promote investment or inspire investors’ confidence in our economy. Sadly, everybody, from the uneducated to the intelligentsia, is talking about how the foreign exchange regime has been mismanaged such that soaring prices of even farm produce are attributed to naira exchange rate to the dollar, which is doing the yo-yo.
This, along with the inability to diversify our economic base to stimulate domestic production and accretion of revenue to bolster the nation’s earnings, is the scenario confronting us as a nation. Therefore, the choice of our next president will not be based on sundry sentiments or political shrewdness alone. Sound knowledge of the economy is obligatory criterion. Nigeria and Nigerians need a man who is imbued with the savvy to rescue the economy. Sule Lamido? I need to be convinced.
Mr Ojeifo, journalist and publisher, based in Abuja sent this piece via [email protected]