El Rufai’s pyrrhic prattle against political godfathers
When Governor Nasir Ahmad el Rufai decided to adumbrate on the nagging issue of containing the irritating presence of political godfathers in Lagos, his postulations attracted national attention, not only because of his boldness, but based on the location and occasion he chose to wax sanctimonious and victorious.
To a great extent the relevance of the governor’s treatise, not minding that it came off more as kettle calling pot black, is that it alluded to the titanic confrontation that is to unfold.In the first place, Lagos State had just witnessed a bold display of the usual arrogant bluster of political godfathers, where history was set in the manner a serving governor (Akinwunmi Ambode) was denied a second term, not for lack of performance, but according to whims of the godfathers.
Secondly, there have been talks about some subterranean power play against a background of a possible succession battle in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to which Lagos and El Rufai have oiled their guns.To an extent, the recent event at the Bridge Club, where the Kaduna State governor made his strident remarks against the political orientation in Lagos State, where an individual programs the electoral outcomes, may be likened to incubation rooms where coups were plotted in the days of the military. Such deadly plots begin with innocuous displays that sound messianic love for the downtrodden but, the end thereof are always bloody.
Setting For Verbal Darts
NO sooner had the Kaduna State governor released his verbal darts on how to displace a prominent political godfather in Lagos State than questions as to who invited him and possible predisposing factors began to fill the public space.It happened that the person who posed the particular question that elicited El Rufai’s conjectures has been an estranged political ally of a former Lagos State governor and chieftain of APC.
Being a notable grassroots politician in the state, Mr. Muiz Banire must have been moved by experience to throw up the issue for discussion by the guest speaker. One question that remained answered was whether the Bridge Club, which was before the event not well known, put up the programme to cross fertilize ideas on the issue of godfatherism, especially in the light of ongoing nomination of candidates for cabinet and other federal appointments.
Prior to El Rufai’s visit and in the build up to the 2019 general elections, both Banire and other stakeholders of Lagos APC were at loggerheads with a former governor of the state and national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, through whose instrumentality successors after his tenure ended in 2007 emerged till date, thus leaving him in the mould of godfathers.
The culmination of the power play by the godfather was the truncation of the second term ambition of the incumbent governor, Governor Ambode. Before Ambode was denied the APC gubernatorial ticket in Lagos, at the national level, attempts by Governor El Rufai and six other of his colleagues to extent the tenure of the immediate past national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in office were thwarted.
Sources within the party disclosed that the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, pulled many strings to ensure that the former Edo State governor was denied a second term in office.
In the place of Oyegun, Tinubu’s man Friday, Adams Oshiomhole was favoured to step in as national chairman of the ruling party. This turn of event placed Tinubu in prime position to carry out his political designs in Southwest, especially Lagos State, where the incumbent was displaced. Notable among the strings was the insistence on direct primaries, where governors would be largely helpless.
That also influenced the outcome of 2016 Osun State gubernatorial election, thereby increasing the former Lagos State governor’s reputation as political godfather. Against that background, it could be seen that the Kaduna State governor’s visit to Lagos was opportune moment to speak on the excesses of godfathers.
It could therefore seen that when he answered the invitation to speak at Bridge Club ceremony, Governor El Rufai saw that as a golden opportunity to take up the proxy battle for the soul of APC while requiting the godfather for orchestrating the diminution of governors, especially for stopping a performing governor in Lagos to a single term.
The ‘Log’ In His Eyes
WHILE he made national headlines with his salvo against political godfathers in Lagos and Southwest, Governor El Rufai glossed over his own excesses back home in Kaduna.For the larger part of four years, Governor Rufai put his expertise in political mischief into national limelight in his unrelenting spat with the senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial district in the eighth Senate, Shehu Sani.
In a bid to ensure that he hounded Sani, who vacillated in quitting the APC, El Rufai defied the party’s leadership position on automatic tickets for its Senators by replacing Senator Sani with his special adviser on Political Matters, Mallam Uba Sani in a kangaroo primary election.
Attempt by Oshiomhole to infringe on the process based on his claim of party supremacy was met by a strong-arm tactic from the Kaduna State governor, who was all out to deal ruthlessly with those who opposed him.Even before the spat with Senator Sani degenerated, the Governor was also battling his deputy, Bala Bantex, through exasperating policies against the people of Southern Kaduna, from where the deputy hails.
The culmination of that sour relationship was the replacement of Bantex with the former Secretary of Kaduna Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), Hajiya Hadiza Balarabe, as his running mate for the recent gubernatorial election in the state.While stakeholders of the party cried foul over the nomination of Dr. Balarabe as running mate on account of her Muslim faith, El Rufai remained unruffled about the implications of the Muslim/Muslim ticket on the sensibilities of the multi-ethnic state.
Senator Shehu Sani had condemned the resort to Muslim dominance in the governorship, saying that Kaduna being a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state “people of all faiths must be treated with equal respect and dignity.”
Then there was the case of Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, whose house was pulled down for his political differences with the Governor. The one-storey building, located at No11B Sambo Road, Ungwar Rimi, Kaduna State, was pulled down at 4 a.m. by a combined team of heavily armed military men and officials of the state Urban Planning and Development Agency (KAPSUDA).
Although the government claimed that the building contravened urban building codes by converting its use to political purposes instead of as a residential property for which approval was granted, the demolition was seen by most right thinking persons in the state as a further demonstration of the Governor’s strong arm tactics and intolerance for dissent. Just as godfathers do in order to dominate and annihilate.
Hunkuyi’s faction of APC had suspended Governor El Rufai, who has the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari, for anti-party activities and actions capable of causing disharmony in the party.The demolition of the house at 11B Sambo Street, which served as the factional secretariat and from where the suspension order was issued, was seen as the Governor’s response to such effrontery. It did not stop there. Senator Hunkuyi’s private residence was also threatened as he was asked to pay up within 30 days a tenement rate of N30.4m or have the building go the same way as the one on No 11B Sambo Street.
It was with a similar threat of demolition of his building in the heart of Kaduna city that the governor frightened Oshiomhole, the APC chairman and Tinubu’s ally from intervening in the political differences between him (El Rufai) and Senator Shehu Sani.
Between Tinubu, El Rufai
COMING to Ikoyi Lagos to offer tutorials on how to reclaim the power of the electorate to elect their leaders from godfathers was very convenient for Governor El Rufai. But against the background of how he exercises his mandate in Kaduna State, it could be seen that the diatribe was coming from one potentate to another.
During the recent general elections, while Tinubu hid behind some chieftains of APC, notably the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) to execute his political designs, El Rufai operated as a one-man riot squad.Again, while the former Lagos State governor employed the atmospherics of bullion van to enhance the electoral advantage, the Governor of Kaduna took refuge in scare-mongering and psychological warfare, including threats of demolition and reports of mass killings in parts of his state.
Against the foregoing, it could be deduced that the verbal exchanges between the chieftains of APC are intended to signal the imminent showdown in the ruling party in the buildup to the midterm convention and 2023 poll.Whatever the “An Evening With His Excellency, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Kaduna State Governor” put together by the Bridge Club was meant to achieve, the guest speaker’s decision to dwell on political strategies underscores the anticipations for 2023.
“We must begin now to reach out directly to the voters. In Lagos about six million registered to vote but only about a million came to vote. If you are able to reach about two million of those voters directly then you would have secured their support and be in a position to do without the godfathers,” el Rufai stated.
The governor seems to have forgotten to reflect in his template the fact that the demographics in Lagos are not same with those of Kaduna State, where he is seen as a tin god. Also, the fact that the Governor puts his closeness to President Buhari into good use in his political machinations should not be discounted from his claim of dislodging godfathers of his state.
The way the Governor battled teachers and beggars in Kaduna contrasts with Tinubu’s approach to people, especially the organization of transport workers, market women, artisans and professional groups.El Rufai’s Lagos canticles might sound good to those opposed to Tinubu’s clout and political style, but it could be seen as coming at a great cost to the cohesion and internal stability of APC.
If the contemplation of a possible El Rufai/Fashola or El rufai/Fayemi presidential ticket in 2023 is at the root of the Kaduna State Governor’s verbal pugilism in Lagos, he would learn that theory and practice are often poles apart, and above all, that Kaduna, where he foisted a Muslim/Muslim governorship, is not same as Nigeria. But what is in this for the downtrodden is that their tormentors might be used by divine intervention to cancel one another and set the stage clear for the ultimate liberation!