By Hamisu Suara
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as governor of Kaduna State, has enough problems on his plate. From the daylight banditry and the menacing activities of kidnappers who have taken over the major artery into Kaduna, his state capital, to the farmers-herders conflict and religious discord and insensitivity stoked by his Muslim-Muslim governorship pair, the governor has enough security issues to contend with. Elected for a second term apparently on the back of President Muhammadu Buhari’s popularity and a few weeks to mount the saddle again, El-Rufai is already setting his sight on the 2023 presidential election. And perhaps to smoothen his campaigns, he is engaging in lectures and talkshops.
It was in continuation of that, that El-Rufai came to town recently to lecture us on how to defeat godfathers. He spoke at a forum organised by a group called the Bridge Club, led by his private lawyer, Mr. A. U. Mustapha (SAN).
El-Rufai said at the forum that godfathers existed only on paper or in the minds of the people and that the key to defeating them was in going directly to the people. He boasted that he defeated and retired four political godfathers in Kaduna State without naming them.
Everything about the gathering was to unravel when three-time commissioner in Lagos State, Mr. Muiz Banire (SAN), got up to inquire from the lecturer how godfathers could be dealt with.
This is how El-Rufai responded: “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.
He added: “Here in Lagos, you have over six million registered voters, only about a million voted (in 2019 general election); 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”.
Both El-Rufai and Banire, it would appear, were using the word godfather as an allegory for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the APC National Leader. Asiwaju, it must be pointed out, became a godfather who ought to be retired in the thinking of Banire because he failed to get the backing of the APC leader to become governor after being in government effectively for 16 years (four years as Special Adviser from 1999 when Asiwaju came in as governor and commissioner for three terms of 12 years). Asiwaju was no godfather for all those years because Banire got all he wanted. The bubble burst only when he couldn’t get to be governor in 2015.
El-Rufai excoriates and labels Asiwaju a godfather, yet each time he encounters the same man, he grovels around him, apparently wanting to benefit from the power and influence of the same so-called godfather. You can then imagine how self-serving the person who asked the question and the responder. How altruistic are El-Rufai and Banire? Perhaps they are out to replace their alleged godfather with themselves as godfathers.
Now, let us examine El-Rufai’s assumptions and prescriptions. He said, and quite rightly too,that the key to being governor is to go directly to the people, pointing out that a princely sum of N2billion should be set aside over three to four years for the project. But El-Rufai forgot that if money could do it, the political figures like former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan and the duo of PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and outgoing Senate President Bukola Saraki would have long captured Lagos. Indeed, Obasanjo pulled all stops including deploying massive state resources in a bid to stop Asiwaju’s re-election as Lagos governor in 2003 and the emergence of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola as governor in 2007, but the people flatly rejected his overtures.
In 2015, former President Jonathan moved to Lagos from where he coordinated his and PDP’s plans to take over Lagos. Again, it was all to no avail. If money was all that was required, the duo of Atiku and Saraki would have foisted their PDP candidate Jimmy Agbaje, on Lagosians, as opposed to the people’s candidate, APC’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu, all in a bid to spite Tinubu for their disastrous failure in the 2019 elections. If money is all that is required to win elections, Muhammadu Buhari would not have been President today. Mallam Aminu Kano would not have been able to cast his name in iron in the minds of the people of Kano.
El-Rufai is averse to alternative views. Those who hold such views are categorised as enemies who should be hounded and their properties pulled down on flimsy grounds. If in doubt, ask Senator Suleiman Hunkuyiand AlhajiInuwaAbdulkadir, the APC National Vice Chairman, North-West. El-Rufai brooks no opposition. He is loyal to no one else but himself. Former President Obasanjo, in his book “My Watch” Vol. 2, said “El-Rufai’s penchant for reputation salvaging is almost pathological”.
The former president was nail on the head when he said El-Rufai lacked the capacity for loyalty and consistency. For the same man moving to ridicule godfathers was once godson to former Vice President Atiku who brought him into Obasanjo’s cabinet and politics. How did he pay him back? He castigated Atiku and stabbed him on the back when he needed him most.
But I think the people of Lagos know better. They have consistently made their choice along the progressive line. They know the leaders they can trust. The Asiwaju Tinubu that we know believes in the people. He connects very well with the grassroots. Asiwaju’s continued relevance flows from his recognition, appreciation and respect for the people. The people have always been the cornerstone of his politics and it’s from them that he draws his essence. This essence and the high esteem majority of Lagos people hold him is not down to money I think. No amount of money can do this.
Again, Asiwaju is noted for placing high premium on merit and competence. Some of the people he has supported to assume leadership positions in Lagos and beyond represent some of the best in the land. Leaders who believe in the people, invest in them and accord them the recognition and respect they deserve like Asiwaju will continue to enjoy the people’s support and admiration, as opposed to some midget with no redeeming value now masquerading as a true leader.
*HamisuSuara is a political analyst based in Abuja.