The battle for President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 is already causing ripples in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party, and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State are at loggerheads over who takes over as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
Both men are rumoured to be nursing the ambition of succeeding President Buhari in 2023.
El-Rufai, at the weekend, had taken a swipe at Tinubu’s dominance of the political structure in Lagos State, saying it was time to end godfatherism in the state just as he ended it in Kaduna State.
To free Lagos from Tinubu’s grip, El-Rufai said, one of the best ways is to start the campaign now by embarking on a study to understand why five million out of the six million voters in Lagos State did not vote.
“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.”
Speaking with our correspondent on Tuesday, a member of the APC’s National Working Committee (NWC) said El-Rufai was embittered with Tinubu for interfering in the process of who becomes the next chairman of the Governors’ Forum, a position currently occupied by Abdulaziz Yari, outgoing governor of Zamfara State.
While El-Rufai is lobbying to succeed Yari, thinking the position would further help him in realising his presidential ambition, Tinubu is angling for Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State on the basis that Fayemi, who was first sworn in in October 2010 is the most senior among the governors.
The source said: “Yes, Governor El-Rufai is unhappy with the interference of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the leadership process of the Governors’ Forum.
“While he is desirous of succeeding Governor Yari of Zamfara, Tinubu is disposed to having Fayemi occupy the position.
“I think it all centres on the 2023 presidency. Though both of them have not come out in the open to admit it, it is widely believed that both men are working underground on how to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, and they believe whoever occupies the position of the Governors’ Forum will have a key role to play.
“Most especially, El-Rufai believes that occupying the position will greatly increase his influence politically and as such is unhappy with the way Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, is meddling in the process.”
Reacting to El-Rufai’s statement on Tuesday, Joe Igbokwe, publicity secretary of the APC in Lagos, noted that Lagos was not Kaduna where El-Rufai ended the dominance of godfathers.
He also said anyone who wanted to achieve Tinubu’s status in Nigerian politics must work hard and do less talking.
“That was what happened; he 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. I have an article that I just wrote titled, ‘If You Want To Be Like Asiwaju, Go And Work’. I will make it available to you shortly.”
The article by Igbokwe reads: “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 the way Asiwaju has done for years. I can go on and on but he who must lead others must first lead himself.”