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El-Rufai’s tweet as metaphor for 2023 presidential permutations

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Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai PHOTO: TWITTER/ELRUFAI

When Kaduna State governor, Mallam Ahmad el Rufai, decided to echo a Yoruba proverb about masquerades, he did not leave his readers in doubt as to the geopolitical position of the subject or subjects of his analogy.
  
Right from the second anniversary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly when President Muhammadu Buhari began to show signs of fatigue and malaise, el Rufai, who made a name for himself, while he served as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has not left anyone in doubt about his interest in who succeeds Buhari.
  
Consequently, most of those who read the governor’s cryptic tweet did not fail to interpret the political undertone, especially how much it revealed about the shadow boxing between the north and Southwest caucuses of the ruling party.
 
But coming at a time when the number two citizen, the incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was undergoing his political baptism into brinkmanship, most readers found it a bit tough trying to situate whether el Rufai was attempting to kill two birds with one sling or hitting the one already down in the canvass.
 
“The moment the masquerade begins to think he is the God, the masquerade will be unmasked and reduced to be a laughing stock that is lower than a human being.”
 
The fact that he prefixed Yoruba proverb to the anecdote was ostensibly to remove possible ambiguity from the minds of Nigerians. But it was obvious that the Kaduna State governor was referring to masquerades in the Southwest geopolitical zone.
 
Juxtaposing his recent prognostication to a previous jab when he tutored the likes of Muiz Banire and other chieftains of Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) on the strategies of dislocating political godfathers, it could be safely argued that the masquerades el Rufai was talking about are not only from Southwest but also in APC.
   
By the nature and timing of the analogy, it is also possible that the former minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was referring to calculations and jostling for the commanding heights of APC, particularly the scheming for the 2023 presidential ticket of the party. 

Breaking The Code
OBSERVERS said unlocking el Rufai’s code was made easy by his direct explanation that his assertion was based on a Yoruba proverb. Going by that and for the fact that Lagos is well known for Eyo, and recalling how he agonized over the antics of political godfathers, it is easy to deduce whom the masquerade under reference was. 

 
Perhaps, recalling how the APC chieftain helped to determine the outcome of the December 2014 presidential primary in Lagos, the Kaduna State governor must have reflected on the 2023 contest by disclosing plans to deconstruct the ‘masquerade’ so that it would not be able to play a similar role.
 
Conversely, others believe that based on the inability of Vice President Osinbajo to fully break the cycle of influence of the cabal in the Presidency, el Rufai could be alluding to the elaborate plans by the remnants of Buhari inner circle to take the supremacy battle to the Pastor’s backyard.

Shadow Battlegrounds
SOME supporters of President Buhari are in a serious dilemma over what would happen after 2023, knowing that their wish for the incumbent to do a ‘third term’ is a forlorn wish. They know that just as the party was founded around the President, the search for a successor would make or mar the party. So, the earlier they begin to send out provocations.
  
While some APC stalwarts express the hope that the presidential ticket should remain in the north to consolidate the party, others argue that such a plan would negate an understanding of power-sharing that is in place since 1999.
 
Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, in an interview with The Guardian said although every political party tries to adopt strategies that could give it a victory, gladiators should recognise the fact that democracy is different from a military regime, where certain decisions are taken by fiat.
  
Yakassai maintained that political parties are not superior to the electorate, stressing that with a credible electoral system the idea of voting for kinship or on the basis of region or religion would no longer be tenable.
  
But, some APC stalwarts nursing the ambition to be president, like el Rufai have been clamouring for an end to zoning, arguing that zoning is not only absent in the party’s constitution, but also enthrones mediocrity. 
 
Yet, APC insiders confided in The Guardian that the Kaduna State governor decided on the anti-zoning argument after some stakeholders impressed it upon him that the Northwest should be ruled out in the schemes to retain the presidency in the north.

 
“The conversation has been going on regarding how the party would settle the issue of its presidential ticket. Some of us in APC from the north met informally and hinted on the need to streamline our position on the matter.
  
“We discovered that the voting strength is in the north, so we said that in order to promote fairness, the northeast, which has not produced a president since Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, should be encouraged to view. It was then that names of el Rufai, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu came up. Some people said Ambassador Babagana Kingibe should also be involved.
  
“El Rufai was told to forget his ambition on the grounds that he is from Northwest and due to his involvement in countless controversies. He put up the argument that we should not forget that democracy is a game of numbers and therefore there is no basis to pre-select those to contest or not. That is how the idea of merit came up,” the source narrated.
  
He stated that it was as a result of the Kaduna State governor’s determined effort to try his luck in the 2023 election that some players decided on an alternative platform in preparation for the expected showdown in APC.  
 
Nonetheless, while some calculations seem to be between the Northwest and Northeast, some of the elements from the Middle Belt recently announced that they were pulling out of the north, contending that they would not continue to play second fiddle to Arewa in the scheme of things in the country.
 
According to the President of Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Bitrus Pogu, the zone decided to leave the ‘hegemonic north’ led by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) because right from independence, “the core-north has been using the Middle Belt to make up their number so as to continue dominating leadership spheres.” 
 
The implication of this new thinking in the north is that even the demographic advantage, which proponents of retention of power in the north beyond the Buhari years are basing their argument is already imperiled.
 
In the light of new alliances being forged, would Buhari’s third term avert implosion or negative energy in the ruling party? That also is debatable; because despite attempts to diminish the input of Southwest in the triumph of APC, there is no guarantee that balkanising the Southwest caucus would produce commensurate result to return the party to a winning frame.

Southeast Conundrum
ON paper, Southeast looks as a possible substitute for Southwest. But some commentators point to the heavy APC base in the Southwest to doubt the possibility of the party generating enough votes from Southeast to match the figures from Southwest.
 
Rival Enugu State chairman of APC, Deacon Okey Ogbodo, said the party could have fared better in the zone if not for the influence of pretentious candidates that came to cause confusion in the party few weeks to the election.
 
Ogbodo also blamed infighting among some notable leaders in the Southeast caucus for the mediocre election result, even as he expressed optimism that the new leaders of APC in Southeast are determined to change the fortunes of the party in the zone.

 
But, despite Ogbodo’s optimism, the reality on the ground is that Southeast voters seem determined to tag behind Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for his signature programme of restructuring than lining behind an APC Presidential candidate from the zone.
 
Moreover, some APC members in the zone expressed dismay that the leaders of the party in Southeast had to do under the table arrangement with state governors to enable the party’s candidate garner 25 percent of votes cast in their respective states.
 
A source in one of the state chapters disclosed that nobody knows the nature of understanding the governors entered into with the APC leaders, stressing that all that would influence the fortune of the party in 2023.
    
With such apprehensions, it is possible that should the governors choose to join APC for the presidential or senatorial ambition, they would end up displacing original APC members thereby stoking further disunity, especially given the popular notion that one of the Southeast governors is keen about serving as a presidential running mate.

Potential Casualties
GOING by Governor el Rufai’s parables, the scramble for Buhari’s successor would lead to dislocation and unhorsing of some political big names. APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, recently denounced the campaign posters announcing his presidential ambition in a possible joint ticket with Governor El Rufai.
  
Until he came out to deny ownership of the posters, words had made the rounds that, as far as the cabals were concerned the former Edo State governor had overstayed his welcome. It was gathered that in one of the ministerial lists drawn up by the Presidency, Oshiomhole’s name was being contemplated, as well as a possible ambassadorial posting.
  
It is also taken for granted by the Presidency that the undressing of a big masquerading would not be complete until his proxies in the party headquarters are decapitated. The forthcoming governorship election in Ondo would also give clues to what would become of Southwest APC in the buildup to the 2023 election cycle.
 
With the recent videos by Pastor Tunde Bakare announcing himself, it is also possible that in the final analysis el Rufai’s masquerade would not only be just one figure or a zone but the entire APC, which will be unclothed, to bring to an end an interesting fantasy.


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