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Between Jonathan And Lamido: Renewing An Old Beef

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
01 December 2019   |   4:12 am
The pain of loss goes deep. And, just as success demands no explanation and failure permits no alibi, to fail on many occasions compounds aches and pains.

Goodluck Jonathan

The pain of loss goes deep. And, just as success demands no explanation and failure permits no alibi, to fail on many occasions compounds aches and pains. That truism could explain the recent exchange between two prominent leaders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido.

Former President Jonathan knew defeat in 2015, when he made history as the first incumbent President to be a handed a crushing defeat by an inchoate amalgam of erstwhile fringe political parties. But before his defeat in 2015, former governor Lamido was touted as one of the candidates to lead PDP’s charge into the election.

Although both men pretended to work together during the electioneering preceding 2015, the recent gubernatorial election in Jonathan home state of Bayelsa, provided an opening for the two to cross words based on their old animosities.

The former Jigawa governor had shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced David Lyon, the APC candidate in the Bayelsa gubernatorial poll, as winner, taken to his twitter handle to bemoan PDP’s loss.

Perhaps, piqued that the ruling party in the state, which produced a Nigerian president in the person of Jonathan, should lose the governorship, Lamido blamed the former President, alleging that he compromised the election to save his neck from possible prosecution over the decade-old Malabu oil deal.

It was possible that Jonathan’s recent visits to the Presidential Villa inspired Lamido to the conjecture. On the former President’s first visit prior to leading the AU observer mission to Mozambique, the former Jigawa State governor speculated that he (Jonathan) must have gone to put words across to President Muhammadu Buhari for his former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki, who had been in incarceration since 2015.

Shortly after the Bayelsa State governorship election was won and lost, Dr. Jonathan not only received some APC leaders in his country home, including the governor-elect, Lyon; but was also seen again the in the Presidency.

Employing his instincts as a grassroots politician, Lamido hit his Facebook page. And through a post by his Special Assistant on Media, Mansur Ahmed, he accused the former President of working against the interest of his party, PDP, to escape the Malabu oil graft probe.

“And finally compromising Bayelsa State with the Malabo oil 1billion Dollar scam for his freedom!” Lamido posted. The former Jigawa chief executive was later to sustain the narrative in an interview he granted a national newspaper, stressing: “The leadership of APC and the government are blackmailing Jonathan and I think I can say it anywhere that he traded this for his own freedom…Jonathan worked against his party, because he was very, very angry with (Governor Henry Seriake) Dickson. It was because he (Jonathan) sure knows his problem with Buhari and his government. And the issue of Malabu, I think, played a key role.”

But, stung by the gravity of the allegation, former President Jonathan dismissed Lamido’s claims as absurd, saying that the narrative was intended to serve as cheap blackmail.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former President said he was not in the habit of responding to interviews of that nature, adding that when in office, Lamido was one of the governors that worked closely with him.

However, Jonathan said Lamido must have been “seized by some inexplicable resentment and held on to the lie currently being pushed by few mischief-makers to the effect that Jonathan helped the APC to win the governorship election.”

The Jonathan camp recalled how Lamido at the expiry of his second term mandate lost the governorship poll in Jigawa, wondering whether it would be proper to conclude that the former governor “cut a deal with APC, helped the ruling party to procure victory at the polls and take over his state?”

The former President stated: “The fact is that it is not only in Bayelsa State that the country had experienced such a situation where PDP or even APC had lost elections to another party. Holding Jonathan responsible for PDP’s loss in Bayelsa without first investigating the issues that determined the fate suffered by the party in the state is not only disingenuous, but also detrimental to the image and aspirations of the party.

“However, one thing is clear: In his anger and apparent bile-filled disposition, Lamido, an otherwise astute and erudite politician, obviously dropped the ball by electing not to speak responsibly like a statesman. Lamido, we believe, is too smart not to realise when the pot conveniently calls the kettle black, it is a grand design to confuse, deceive and cover up the truth.”

As if the rebuttal was not enough, the Presidency came out to add its voice to the curious allegations by the Jigawa State’s former governor, stressing that claims that former President Jonathan was blackmailed to support the governing APC were “false and irresponsible.”

While the Presidency seem to be in a hurry to exonerate itself from allegedly intruding in the Bayelsa State governorship election, it was also possible that it wanted to preserve the credibility of Lyon’s victory, especially against the background that the governor-elect would contend with a House of Assembly dominated by PDP lawmakers.

Observers believe that the Presidency’s involvement apart from adding weight to Lamido’s accusations, also gave the impression of a newfound camaraderie with the immediate past President.

Some commentators said that that much could be deduced from Mallam Shehu Garba’s argument when he spoke to journalists in Abuja on the matter. According to the Special Assistant on Media to President Buhari: “The former president had been out of power for almost five years, without any previous allegations of government blackmail cropping up.

“There were more than enough reasons for Jonathan to work against his party, in the just concluded Bayelsa elections, without interference by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Anyone who has been following the politics of Bayelsa State should be aware of the sour relationship between Dr. Jonathan and the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson.

“That’s more than enough reason for the former president to decide to work against his party if indeed he did. We really must stop this habit of blaming President Buhari for everything, including issues that are not his business.’’

Garba, who was at one time a newspaper editor and President of Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), also vented the Presidency’s pain on journalists, remarking that it was incredible how a newspaper allowed Lamido’s interview with its “unfounded claims.”

Old Animosities
Yet, despite the combined attacks on the immediate past Jigawa State governor, it is possible that he (Lamido) spoke out of disappointment at PDP’s unexpected loss to the opposition APC in Bayelsa State, especially given that he is among the few foundation members still in the party. May be, his love for the party prompted him.

Also, Lamido might have reflected on the fact that he remained committed to PDP from its inception against all odds. Above all, he must have recalled how he accompanied his colleagues in nationwide diplomatic visits to eminent stakeholders in effort to rescue the party.

Those who have been following the politics of PDP from inception said Lamido was still at pains over how outsiders who came into the party and enjoyed political prominence, had to disappoint the party in a cruel manner.

A top PDP chieftain from Kano State confided in The Guardian that Lamido was not happy that former President Jonathan was hobnobbing with the leaders of APC at the same time that the party was involved in a crucial election in his home state.

“So, he (Lamido) was bitter that Jonathan has behaved the same way as Obasanjo by turning his back on the party that gave him the highest political office in the country. And to tell you the truth, without PDP, there is no Jonathan,” he stated.

But going beyond the recent developments, it could be recalled that Lamido suffered big disappointments in his political progression at the hands of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The first time was in May 2010; shortly after the Bayelsa-born former vice president mounted the saddle as Nigeria’s substantive president.

Former President Umaru Yar’Adua had died midway into the first term, which he won on a joint ticket with Jonathan. With the eventual ascension of the former Vice President to the office of President, the search for a candidate to deputise him was on, and former President Obasanjo was said to have been positioning Sule Lamido, who by then was serving his first term as governor of Jigawa State.

At the end of the day, instead of Lamido or Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the former Kaduna State governor, the then President Jonathan settled for Architect Namadi Sambo, who was at that time the incumbent chief executive of Kaduna State.

Then again, towards the tail end of his second term in office in 2015, following a purported agreement by President Jonathan to occupy the office of President for just one term to make up the joint ticket with Yar’Adua, Lamido projected himself to pick the PDP ticket for the 2015 General Elections.

While the agitation for presidential power to return to the north gained momentum, an underground campaign for Lamido for President 2015 took a life of its own, such that on a visit to Nasarawa State, the then President was amazed to see campaign posters bearing the pictures of Lamido and the then Rivers State governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.

Worried by the disturbing developments, some members of President Jonathan’s cabinet, including the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Bello Adoke, convinced the President to take action to quell the Lamido for President campaign.

Coincidentally, in the days leading to the announcement of timelines for the 2015 General elections, Lamido’s son, who was taking his wife to Egypt to attend to her health challenges was apprehended at the Airport with $40, 000 and taken into custody for currency trafficking.

From that entanglement, the former Jigawa governor was later charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged abuse of contract awards to companies in which his family had interest.

Although Lamido explained that he did not join his former colleagues in defecting to APC at the build up to the 2015 poll, a lot of people believed that he was constrained by the EFCC case.

To some extent, it could be the entanglements between Lamido and EFCC that Jonathan’s media aide was alluding to when he stated: “One thing is clear: In his anger and apparent bile-filled disposition, Lamido, an otherwise astute and erudite politician, obviously dropped the ball by electing not to speak responsibly like a statesman. Lamido, we believe, is too smart not to realise when the pot conveniently calls the kettle black, it is a grand design to confuse, deceive and cover up the truth.”

Following PDP’s loss of the 2015 general election, most stakeholders trace the downward slide of the party to former President Jonathan’s inability to balance his political interest against the political future of the party and its strategic relevance to Nigeria’s democracy.

And so, in their recent spat there are traces of old animosities creeping back, especially the feeling that narrow interests were wrecking the PDP platform, thereby raising the question: Between Dr. Jonathan, a former President and Alhaji Lamido, a foundation member and former governor, how long will their renewed feud last?