By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Crisis appears imminent in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, over the party’s insistence to field Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the incoming 9th National Assembly.
The party had, last month, endorsed the duo for the positions, following which many senior members of the APC keyed into it.
But a sudden realization by some of the senior party members that the endorsement was a bad omen for them regarding who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 is generating ripples which may tear the APC apart along ethnic lines.
Another issue reportedly being considered by some of the senior party members, especially from the North, for backing out of the party’s decision is the perception that supporting the two candidates, who they say are the allies of a former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, would amount to giving unlimited political powers to an individual.
According to them, giving unlimited powers to an individual is inimical to the country and the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
Tinubu is speculated to be scheming to succeed Buhari in 2023 even though he has serially denied the claim.
To realize the objective of stopping him, however, the northern senior party members, Sunday Vanguard learnt, have initiated moves, reaching out to other leaders in the North.
The plan, according to a source, is to storm the Presidential Villa any time soon to arrange a new set of candidates for the two topmost offices of the 9th National Assembly.
The new moves are subsumed under the new narratives springing up against godfatherism by some northern leaders.
Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that some powerful individuals around the President, a couple of northern governors, some emirs and lawmakers in the National Assembly have already keyed into the plan.
They are said to be rising in unison, regardless of their political leanings and religious backgrounds, against what they considered as an individual from the South becoming too powerful in Nigerian politics.
To this end, they are rooting for candidates that would not be seen as allies of a godfather.
But while the resentment is mute in the Senate probably because the zoning of the Senate Presidency to the North-East is right, it has reached a disturbing crescendo in the House of Representatives where many members-elect feel that the seeming micro-zoning of the speakership to Lagos State, South-West, which already has the Vice President, was a call for disenchantment.
Lawan is from Yobe State (North-East) while Gbajabiamila hails from Lagos.
Another factor they are citing is equity and justice and this has prompted the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to champion an agenda for a North-Central candidate.
The zone is said to have been marginalized for 20 years without producing either the Speaker or the Deputy.
Dogara, who was re-elected as a federal lawmaker, is not a member of the ruling APC and may not return as Speaker in the 9th Assembly, but he still wields influence in the House.
el-Rufai’s comments in Lagos
A dependable source, who craved anonymity, confided in Sunday Vanguard, saying that the feeling of imposition of candidates and the politics of 2023 were the developments that mostly jolted the present narrative against godfatherism being championed by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, and Dogara.
The source was quick to cite el-Rufai’s recent journey to Lagos where he, at a forum, canvassed the destruction of godfatherism, especially in Lagos politics.
el-Rufai, also a widely speculated politically ambitious man with a presidential ambition in 2023, counselled Lagosians on how to defeat godfatherism, boasting of dismantling such in his home state.
He had 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.
“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.
“With about N2 billion, if you start, you see these guys with black ties, they will give you the N2 billion. Many of the godfathers are either on paper or in the mind of people in politics. They are defeat-able.
“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”.
Dogara’s sermon against godfatherism
Similarly, Dogara, while delivering a keynote address at a conference organised by the #NotTooYoungToRun# Movement for young lawmakers elected at both the national and state levels, on Tuesday in Abuja, spoke against godfatherism.
He said: “Unfortunately, the leadership model we have practiced so far is the kind of leadership that produces sycophants who are expected to serve their political godfathers and not the people. Our so-called leaders have mastered the art of political witchcraft so much so that if you are independent-minded, you are automatically disqualified and, if for any reason you are picked, then you have to surrender your soul for them to eat in small bites until you become their worshipper.
“In the midst of this pandemic sycophancy, our so-called godfathers expect us to fit in and not to stand up to be counted or make a difference. We need leaders who will lead us to build a nation and serve others, not godfathers who demand that we worship and serve them rather than serve the people.
“For you, trailblazers who carry the burden and the promises of a generation that must not fail, if you are ever going to get there, it must be on the wings of discipline that produces character. This is because without character, you cannot be men and women of influence and without influence you cannot change anything.
“Character means that you cannot be separated from your word, a quality no godfather in history has ever possessed. Character is not only that your word is your bond but that you are actually what you pretend to be. While godfathers always pretend to be something other than whom they really are, leaders do not. Imagine where we will be as a nation if all these godfathers that litter the political landscape become what or who they pretend to be.
“You must be reminded that true greatness only comes while serving others and not when serving yourself or godfathers. Above all, what will define you as a triumph in this journey is like I have said, discipline because everything that has ever gone down is traceable to indiscipline
“If you have followed closely the antecedents of the National Assembly, it has often charted its leadership course. A leadership of the legislature that is determined by external interests will never find the convergence to legislate for the people or hold the executive to account. It is in this regard that, as fresh legislators who are youth, you need to demonstrate acute perspicuity that you will define the kind of leadership that will be answerable to you, the representatives of the people and the people you represent, not to some godfathers who live only for themselves”.
Joe Igbokwe’s response to el-Rufai
Rising in defense of Tinubu over the remarks of el-Rufai, the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos Chapter of APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, reportedly regretted that many have failed to recognize the many sacrifices of Tinubu.
In a statement, Igbokwe said, “He (el-Rufai) was making reference to Asiwaju Tinubu. The person that threw up the question is Muiz Banire, and you know the relationship between Banire and Asiwaju. But Lagos is not Kaduna.
“They want to be like Asiwaju, they want to command respect, they want the world to accept them the way they have accepted Asiwaju, they want to get great followers like Asiwaju BAT, they want to be admired the way people admire Asiwaju, they want the people to love them the way they love Asiwaju, they want to stand tall anywhere they go like Asiwaju, they want to attract attention like Asiwaju, they want to be celebrated and honored like Asiwaju, they want to be worshiped the way Asiwaju’s great followers worship him, they want to be lifted up the way God has lifted Asiwaju up, they want to be noticed like Asiwaju, they want to stand out like Asiwaju and they want to influence decisions at all levels like Asiwaju, etc.
“But in actions and deeds, they are not like Asiwaju. In character and in tolerance, they are not like Asiwaju. In commitment and hard work, they are not like BAT.
“In grace and empathy, they are not like BAT. In temperament and love for humanity, they are not like Asiwaju. They cannot surrender their home to the people the way BAT has been doing. They cannot fight for others the way BAT does.
“They cannot deny themselves freedom for the sake of others the way BAT does. They cannot stand for the ordinary people the way Asiwaju does. They cannot be trusted the way we trust BAT.
“They cannot give the way BAT does. They cannot sacrifice what BAT has sacrificed for humanity for close to 40 years. They cannot live for others the way Asiwaju has done for years. I can go on and on but he who must lead others must first lead himself.”
The Ndume candidacy
Sunday Vanguard gathered that it was against the background of the fear of Tinubu that the northern lawmakers are converging to resist the imposition of anyone as Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
Our source pointed out that the new development was what also reinforced the feeling in Senator Ali Ndume to renew his campaign for Senate President against the party’s choice of Lawan with an unusual vigour.
“The new narrative against godfatherism by the northern leaders is not unconnected with the House leadership tussle. They are realizing that giving too much power to one person or zone can be very dangerous much more for 2023”, the source said.
“I can tell you that the northern lawmakers are realigning. They are seriously considering someone from the North-Central zone for the House speakership to balance the power allocation. This time, even the South-East is being factored in. Remember that the North-West has produced the President and South-West, the Vice President. APC has zoned the Senate Presidency to the North-East. But why would Ndume up his campaign suddenly? Why would el-Rufai take his counselling to Lagos of all states of the federation? Something is in the offing. I pray for their candidates anyway. But the support for the favorite choices of APC will wane shortly. The game is on”.
Dogara’s group settles for Bago
Another source in the House of Representatives told Sunday Vanguard that Dogara’s camp has opted for Hon. Mohammed Bago for the speakership and may have met this weekend to cement plan for formal adoption.
Recall that there are two aspirants for the speakership from the North-Central who had been campaigning on the factors of equity, justice and fairness.
They are Bago from Niger State and John Dyegh from Benue.
Another aspirant, Hon. Ahmed Wase, from Plateau State, had, last week, collapsed his campaign team into that of Gbajabiamila, hoping for the position of Deputy Speaker.
But Bago and Dyegh have vowed never to back down their aspirations until the emergence of a new leadership.
The source, who initially expressed fear in the winning possibilities of Bago, however, stated that the camp had no doubts about his competencies and capabilities to lead the 9th House, saying he’s got the requisite legislative skills and acumen.
The source said: “It appears the Dogara group wants a Speaker to come from the North-Central because of the fact that they want fairness and then those of us from the North-East, a school of thought is saying we should just relax because of the fact that the Senate President is coming from there. “And the other school of thought is saying on the issue of the Senate Presidency that the South-West is not fair. So if somebody is not fair, you can’t also be fair to get your own.
“If you have a candidate in the North-West that you think can stand and defeat them, that should be considered. So in the Dogara faction, the first person they are considering is Bago but, again, this decision was taken about two weeks earlier but could not be officially communicated to the group because, when news started filtering that they may want to settle for Bago, people had the belief that Bago may not be a candidate that can defeat Femi.
“Some caucus members within the Dogara group, with his endorsement to select a candidate, actually settled for Bago in the North-Central knowing full well that Wase has backed out and has decided to go for Deputy Speaker in Gbaja group. Then John Dyegh is not a member of Dogara group. He is on his own. You know, he was the DG of Wase initially but on his own now. “But the people think we cannot adopt somebody who’s not from our group because we don’t know where his loyalty is. Whoever asked him to contest, we cannot be sure of him. So, the only person left now is Bago.
“Some people are saying why can’t we go back to the North-East and choose between Namdas and Betara and say to hell with the zoning matter? This is what is dangling but a final decision has not been arrived at. The other problem Bago is facing is that his governor has not endorsed him.
“Initially, his governor endorsed him but it’s like Asiwaju and co have gone to him to say ‘what’s the problem?’ They asked him not to support him. That’s the problem at the moment. So, people are now feeling that if the governor of his state is not supporting him and he cannot point to one single member, then how can we be sure that he can beat the main challenger? But the truth is that he is only candidate that everybody is sure can run the race from the beginning to the end. You know, this is another quality that we are also looking for. If you nominate him, you can be sure he will run to the end no matter the intimidation. But again, the problem, people want to win an election.
“There are some candidates in the Dogara group that say if it is Bago, they are going to put forward their ambition. But then, that does not mean that Bago matter is dead. It is not dead. People are saying that we have to sit down this weekend and iron this thing once and for all because the momentum is on Gbaja side. If you don’t do anything here, there could be problems. So, this is scenario.
“Another angle is that el-Rufai group has finally realized that Gbaja is not the project of the President, he is the project of Tinubu and he has tried to mobilize people. They have even started holding some nocturnal meetings that they should forget about Gbaja and do another candidate. They didn’t give a specification as to where but the first thing is to solve Gbaja matter. He is Tinubu and 2023 project. Of course, you know that the South-West is eyeing the presidency.
“The man (el-Rufai) has realized it and that’s why he went to Lagos. Even the members of the camp who initially were spearheading the project have started withdrawing that this thing cannot work. So, it is obvious that the initial support Gbaja was having will not fly. This is what is happening at the moment. This decision was taken just between yesterday and today.
el-Rufai talking to governors, emirs
“And el-Rufai has been able to talk to some governors and emirs in the North that they cannot surrender the Federal Government to the whims and caprices of Tinubu and the main people around Buhari are buying this idea as I speak. “They don’t want to come out and challenge the President’s candidate but you know el-Rufai is a stubborn person. He can do it. And they believe he should continue. In fact, they are asking many of the aspirants to stay in the race so that they can overheat the system to give them the opportunity to say ‘OK, we told you that this thing will not work’, to get legitimacy from the Presidency.
“Initially, to be fair to the President, he wanted to have Gbaja as his project not even Tinubu’s project because he said that when Tinubu came to him, he did not even bring up Gbaja story, he was talking about his wife being Deputy Senate President and then, the President said ‘no, it cannot work’. So, when he realized that his wife thing cannot fly, that was when he now threw his weight behind Gbaja. And the President was wholeheartedly for it but because of the pressure coming from the North that Tinubu wants to be President, even Senator Ahmed Lawan is Tinubu’s ally, so they said there are too many Tinubu’s allies: Speaker, Vice President and about five Ministers.
“So they asked him, ‘Mr. President, what then do you, as a person, control?’
el-Rufai wants to be President too
“There are some governors backing el-Rufai because he too wants to be President. The bulk of the support for Gbaja is from the North-West and el-Rufai is from the North-West. By the time he succeeds in changing these people’s minds; and they were holding on this matter to meet the President when he returned from his London trip. “And the President is not saying anything. He seems to be enjoying what is happening. Up till today, he has not mentioned from his mouth ‘let’s do Gbaja’. He has never said it in any function. Anytime APC says it, he doesn’t deny. He will just keep quiet.”