Godfatherism: Clipping Tinubu’s wings


Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State does not need much introduction given his contributions to Nigerian politics in the last two decades, but a wave of political gang-up appears to be gathering in the North to whittle down his power and render him irrelevant in the new political equation of the country

By Olu Ojewale

IN his own right, he is a political giant and unabashed godfather. He is equally an astute businessman with a network of friends among prominent Nigerians, especially in the South West. In fact, with the chieftaincy title ofAsiwaju or leader, he is generally regarded as the unelected leader of the Yoruba in the South.

But in recent times, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has become an irritant to some political friends and party members, especially in the North, for being who he is. They view his apparent political ambition to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in office in 2023, as a big threat.

Trouble seemed to have started on Saturday, May 4, when Governor Nasir el-Rufai was a guest in Ikoyi, Lagos, at an event organised by the Bridge Club tagged, “An evening with His Excellency Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State.”

During the question and answer session, Muniz

Nasir el-Rufai

, a former Lagos State commissioner, had asked el-Rufai what professionals in Lagos could do to grab power in the face of godfather politics. Without mincing words, the governor replied: “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’ meaning 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.”

Nevertheless, he went further: “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.”

He also reminded anyone who would like to take up the project that it is not a mean thing. “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 defeatable. We retired four of them in Kaduna State within a four-year time and they are gone,” he said.

El-Rufai’s statement has since been provoking national discourse and creating more interest across the country.

To discernible minds, the controversy seems to be premeditated to send a signal to the man also referenced as lion of the Bourdillon, that he is going to find himself in political wilderness. This is because about three days after a similar statement emerged from another source in the North.

As if on cue, Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, while delivering his keynote address at a conference organised by the #NotTooYoungToRun# Movement for young lawmakers elected at both the national and state levels on Tuesday, May 7, made a similar remark about 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.”

Both statements by El-Rufai and Dogara rightly seem to suggest that Tinubu’s grip on Nigerian politics is seriously under threat.

Muiz Banire

For instance, in the current leadership struggle at the National Assembly, it is equally believed that Tinubu factor is playing a major role. Reports said that ahead of the inauguration of the ninth National Assembly on June 10, 2019, members of the House of Representatives from the northern region have begun moves to stop imposition of speaker and deputy speaker on the lawmakers.

It will be recalled that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has since adopted Ahmed Lawan, a senator from Yobe North as its choice for the Senate presidency and Femi Gbajabimila, a representative from Lagos State, as its favourite for the speakership of the 9th House of Representatives. But since it had come to the realisation of members of the two chambers that both men are the candidates supported by Tinubu, they are now regarded as an imposition on the party.

It was learnt that though many had keyed into the party’s choice earlier, the realisation of the politics of 2023 has become glaring that some of them have now made a u-turn from their earlier position. It is gathered that a group of Northern legislators are therefore, working assiduously to ensure that the candidates supported by Tinubu are not elected. Besides, Dogara argued recently: “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 youthful, 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.”

Another school of thought said that since Tinubu did not deliver the whole South West for President Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential election, his influence in the region is waning and should not be given too much power.

A similar scenario is equally playing out in the Senate where Ali Ndume, a senator from Borno State, is defying the party hierarchy to renew his campaign for the presidency of the Senate. “The new narrative against godfatherism by the Northern leaders is not unconnected to the House leadership tussle. They are realising that giving so much power to one person or zone can be very dangerous much more for 2023,” a legislator who does not want his name in print was quoted recently in the media.

In any case, it is obvious that the speculated ambition of Tinubu to contest for president in 2023 has prompted the current narrative against godfatherism. Besides, Tinubu’s ambition, it seems, is also seen as a threat to that of El-Rufai, who is also believed to have a similarly ambition in 2023.

But neither Tinubu nor El-Rufai has been bold enough to tell Nigerians about the purported ambition. In fact, the former Lagos State governor, who also holds a title of Jagaban, which means leader of warriors, has refused to be drawn to the battle on godfatherism. He appears to have left the battle to the APC Lagos State.

The party, indeed, took the gauntlet on Monday, May 13 while reacting to

El-Rufai’s tirade that he had no apology for asking Lagosians to revolt against Tinubu.


In a swift reaction, Joe Igbokwe, the spokesperson of the APC in Lagos state, in a statement said: “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 honoured like Asiwaju, they want to be worshiped the way Asiwaju great followers worship him, they want 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…”

Perhaps not to be outdone, the El-Rufai National Media Support Group in a press conference on Wednesday, May 15, in Kaduna, insisted that the issue of godfatherism needed to be viewed with all seriousness, as it inhibits youths’ development, making the youth dependent on moneybag politicians.

Musa Aliyu Kalli, the national chairman of El-Rufai National Media Support Group, who addressed the press, said that the governor’s comment should serve as a tonic to correct the notion of moneybag politicians, who capitalised on youth’s vulnerability to use and dump them after election without recourse to their future.

According to the group, the governor’s statement on godfatherism needed to be seen as a corrective measure to help rejuvenate Nigeria’s democratic governance.

Writing on the theme: “El-Rufai knows how to retire Tinubu” in The Punch, on Thursday, May 16, Abimbola Adelakun argued that since El-Rufai, Banire and others are all the products of the same system that Tinubu thrives in, they cannot pretend to be revolutionaries but mere political rabble rousers.

“For some of us, the direct hit at Tinubu was not unexpected. From the way he was thrashed after 2015 elections and recycled into consequence when the 2019 election was pending, one could tell that he would soon cast back into the lightless room of political irrelevance. The task of thrashing him again is even more urgent now that he is rumoured to be contemplating the 2023 presidency. So, El-Rufai’s verbal rocket is well-timed,” Adelakun wrote.

Nevertheless, Adelakun said the governor’s advice on how to wrestle power from Tinubu is not workable, but only to sound a note of warning to him.

“So, now, to unseat Tinubu in Lagos will require far more than mobilising people to the polls. There is a far more effective strategy that has been used by the ultimate godfathers in Aso Rock to level down the empires of their political opponents, and it is called the EFCC. That agency has long been instrumentalised by politicians to fight political enemies more than corruption and that is why they are the perfect tool to fight Tinubu. Rather than potshotting Tinubu from a distance like a coward, El-Rufai should tell his paymasters to send the EFCC to Lagos.

They should start looking into the books from 1999. They will find more than necessary, enough to not only retire the godfather, but also bring the entire APC house of lies down,” she said. Will the godfather/godfathers in Aso Rock be willing to go the length? Time will surely tell. For now, let the debate continue.

– May 17, 2019 @ 16:50 GMT |

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