The supremacy battle within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress (APC), over who controls the levers of power ahead of 2023 presidential election came to a head in Lagos last Saturday when the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai urged Lagos professionals to team up and retire the ‘godfather’ of Lagos politics, Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
El-Rufai who spoke at an event organized by the Bridge Club, tagged ” An evening with His Excellency Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state” said defeating godfathers can only be achieved when politicians reach directly to the people for support.
Narrating how he overcame godfathers in Kaduna state, he said,“Godfatherism. This is Lagos. Let me tell you something sir; you know, Kaduna State used to be like that. There were three or four politicians in Kaduna that you could not become anything unless you had them on your side. Those were the godfathers of Kaduna politics and you had to carry them along and you know, the three words, ‘carry them along’ mean paying them regularly.
“But we chose a different path and the long and short of it now is that after this election in 2019, we have retired all of them; we had to.”
He said tackling voters apathy in the state is key in the battle to retire godfathers.
“Here in Lagos, you have over six million registered voters, only about a million voted (in 2019 general elections); five million did not vote. If I want to run for governor of Lagos, I will start now. I will commission a study to know why those five million registered voters did not vote; where do they go on election day? Then I will start visiting them for the next four years. I will try and get just two million of them to come and vote for me; I will defeat any godfather. The key is to go to the people. The card reader and the biometric register have given us the tools to connect directly with the people. I assure you if you do that for the next four years, connecting with the people; the tin godfather, you will retire him or her permanently. But it is hard work; it requires three to four years of hard work. So, if you want to run in 2023, you should start now” he said.
He added “With about N2bn; if you start, you see these guys with black ties, they will give you the N2bn. Many of the godfathers are either on paper or in the mind of people in politics. They are defeatable. We retired four of them in Kaduna State within a four-year time and they are gone. One of them boasted that he put me in the government house and he would take me out.”
El-Rufai’s advice was in response to a question asked by a former commissioner in Lagos Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN, an estranged godson of Tinubu. Banire was the immediate past National Legal Adviser of the APC and the chairman of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). Banire was confirmed as the chairman of the Asset Management Company by the Senate in October 2018 despite protests against his confirmation by Senators from Lagos state loyal to Tinubu.
The Kaduna state governor’s remarks was not unconnected to Tinubu’s tight grip on Lagos politics. El-Rufai is a member of a cabal within the Aso Rock Villa that is opposed to Tinubu’s influence within the APC. Tinubu is believed to be scheming to fly the APC’s ticket in the 2023 presidential election,an ambition that does not go down well with El-Rufai’s camp and is determined to stop the former state governor. Outgoing governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode, Minister of Works and Hosuing, Babatunde Fashola, Ogun state Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi and Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu all former protégés of Tinubu reportedly working with the camp of the presidency to whittle down the influence of Tinubu within the party in Southwest.
It will be recalled that after the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, Tinubu was sidelined by Buhari when making key appointments and decisions. Keen observers believe similar fate awaits the former Lagos state governor after the inauguration of Buhari for a second term on May 29.
The current battle the Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello is facing to retain his ticket for second term is believed to be among the infighting within the party. Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu is facing similar battles in the sunshine state with loyalists of Tinubu jostling to replace the governor as APC flag bearer.
The coming months will determine which camp gains the upper hand in the unending power play in the party.