Last week, Kaduna state governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai made a strange incursion into Lagos politics. After a rather forgettable, anodyne presentation before the Bridge Club in posh Ikoyi Island, the Kaduna governor was fed a question from one of his newest lackeys, Muiz Banire. The question centered on godfatherism in Lagos politics. el-Rufai pontificated that he had the formula to end godfatherism in Lagos. If Lagosians would follow his advice, presumably they would be rewarded with a governor just like him.
Too narcissistic to understand the irony of what he was proposing, el-Rufai left Lagos quite full on himself, not realising Lagosians would consider a governor like him to be a most unjust punishment. If el-Rufai were to ever present himself in Lagos for any elective office, Lagosians would resoundingly reject the offer, sending the self-absorbed el-Rufai quickly packing.
Here two observations must be stated. One is clearly implied by el-Rufai’s statement; his was an attack on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the acknowledged national leader of the APC and architect of the APC’s Lagos political structure. The other is less clear but equally pertinent. This scene was contrived. Both the question from Banire and the answer from el-Rufai were premeditated. This was not an organic, spontaneous exchange. The whole thing bears the taint of orchestrated mischief.
The question then becomes why would el-Rufai break the norms of political conduct by coming into the state of a loyal leader of his own party for the sole purpose of criticising that leader who just weeks earlier had supported his hotly contested re-election in Kaduna? The true answer has little to do with the presence or absence of godfatherism in Lagos politics. el-Rufai barely cares for the people of Kaduna let alone for the well-being of Lagos. Something else which el-Rufai would rather not name was stirring his bile. We shall identify it for him. Half of the true answer has to do with the short memory of a political ingrate. He remembers nothing done for him which means he owes no political debts. The other half of that answer deals with the unbridled presidential ambitions of that political ingrate.
Although we are not yet finished with 2019, el-Rufai is positioning himself for 2023. He sees Asiwaju as the lead contender for 2023 and thus the major obstacle to realising his power lust. Because of this, his prior envy for Tinubu’s political feats has transformed into bristling hatred. He thus sallies into to Lagos to insult Asiwaju and by extension all Lagosians because he cannot contain his anger. That his public attack against a fellow party member contravenes the morals of political conduct and may serve to alienate him from the people of Lagos means nothing to el-Rufai.
Although a man well into maturity in terms of age and formal education, he has never been able to contain his rage and anger. Age and education can little compensate for character. el-Rufai must plunge and start a fight where none exists. Restraint is alien to him. He must ignite his own switch. If Asiwaju had owned property in Kaduna, el-Rufai would have bulldozed it. It was rumoured that el-Rufai threatened to drive a bulldozer to Lagos himself but was restrained by frightened advisors. Instead, he had to satisfy himself with hurling words at Tinubu.
That el-Rufai is captive to such wild paroxysms is a warning. Tinubu has not made known any future ambitions he may have. It is equally conceivable that Tinubu will not seek the 2023 party nomination as it is that he will. Yet, el-Rufai has cast Tinubu as a mortal enemy simply because the latter may one day exercise his constitutional right to seek office. el-Rufai thus is not looking at the 2023 as an exercise of democratic expression. He sees it as some sort of birthright that at all others should recognize and concede to him as if by the force of some immutable if unnamed ordinance.
Against this backdrop, el-Rufai’s supposed opposition to godfatherism is another point of irony. el-Rufai is nothing but the by-product of political miseducation by his two godfathers, Atiku Abubakar and former president Olusegun Obasanjo. From them, he learned the traits that would characterise his political career. He learned adherence to regressive, elitist politics and policies, disloyalty, greed and the placement of personal ambition above collective well-being. The sad thing is that el-Rufai learned from this terrible twosome all too well.
To be loyal to the wicked craft into which they had baptized him, el-Rufai had to be disloyal to his former masters. After ingratiating himself to Atiku to get a choice federal appointment, el-Rufai later backstabbed Atiku so that he could jump into the bosom of Obasanjo. When Obasanjo did not anoint him in 2007, el-Rufai turned to savage Obasanjo by writing that tattletale book of his. el-Rufai tried to angle close to the late President Yar‘Adua who was smart enough to rebuff him. Before then, el-Rufai had been one of the PDP’s most vocal cheerleaders. It was Yar’Adua’s rebuff that led el-Rufai out of the PDP, into the CPC and now into the APC.
In all his political travels, el-Rufai has been unencumbered by principle or ideology. The thirst for power is what fuels him. A man who flirts with many parties, is a man who is nothing but a party of one. el-Rufai is no more of the APC than he was of the PDP. He is of and for himself only. This explains why he can publicly attack a leader of the party when that leader has done nothing to him. Thus, he seeks to be the flag bearer of party by starting fights within the party.
In reality, el-Rufai is the worst person to ask about political godfathers. He has learned politics from two of Nigeria’s worst. Theirs was an education where the elder eats its young or vice versa; in any event, a devouring must take place. el- Rufai has mastered this game but his mastery of it should not be mistaken for knowledge of democratic good governance. What he has learned are but the pathologies of a medieval court not the enlightenment of modern democracy.
Before he comes seeking to educate Lagosians, he needs to backtrack a bit. He needs to find some mentors, some godfathers of a more benevolent texture who might teach him wisdom, personal restraint, loyalty, tolerance of others and the rudimentary principles of progressive governance. Whether el-Rufai likes it or not, these principles are much more alive and operative in Lagos than in his governance of Kaduna.
Instead of trying to teach Lagos to conform to his image, he would do better for his own people if he learned the benign, productive lessons Lagos has to offer. We have not the problems that he has caused in Kaduna.
Before we end, we must bestow on Muiz Banire a special citation. We don’t know what dog biscuit el- Rufai has fed Banire, but we hope it is a tasty morsel. Banire is clearly the dunce of the first half of the year. How foolish it was for him to seek advice on Lagos from el-Rufai who knows nothing about this state. Banire has lived all of his life in Lagos and has been involved in Lagos politics for decades. Yet, he must seek counsel from a governor who turns the people of his own state into enemies at a clip of 100,000 per year.
Banire has benefitted like few others from the political structure of Lagos. If not for that structure, few people would know him. No manner of local or national prominence would be his. Still, many times he has fought against that structure. Each time he has failed, only to apologize for his misdeeds and be accepted back into the fold.
This time, Banire has put himself into a hole and seems intent only on making it deeper. We wish him well in this novel way of extricating himself from the pit which bears his name. If he sees el-Rufai as his salvation, he will be digging for an eternity. During that eternity, there will come a day when el-Rufai will step on Banire’s head to get to where he wants to go. Let those who have ears.
– Nasheed writes from Abuja
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