Last edition of Saturday Punch’s interview with the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN, is a clincher that things are fast falling apart in the political empire of National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu.
Of course, Banire is one of Tinubu’s closest political foot soldiers having served as commissioner in the cabinet of the former governor for eight years. However, his position on the upcoming local government election in Lagos State indicates a lot of discontent in the house. But some political observers suggest that Banire’s disaffection goes way back than today.
A lawyer and academic, Banire was believed to have aspired to be governor of Lagos State at some point after his service as commissioner. Rumours had it that Tinubu had other preferences and did not hesitate to show his hands to Banire. When it became clear that the godfather was not interested in supporting his ambition, the legal luminary dusted his wig and gown and headed back to the courts. Which is the thing about politicians who have what a friend of mine calls, a second address. They do not regard aspirations to public office a-do- or die-matter, unlike those who have made politics and government their sole means of livelihood.
Now, you may wonder why Tinubu did not support Banire’s ambition as alleged. The truth is that no political godfather in this country would allow anyone with a discernible political structure become governor in a place where they hold sway.
The idea is that with a political base, it would be easy for such a politician to rebel and overthrow the one who “made” them governor. Political kingmakers in Nigeria are as a result, in the habit of giving out the ram but holding on to the leash. They relinquish power in fact but would indeed, prefer to guide the person who has taken over from them.
A practising politician may refuse to allow such a travesty once he attains office. And it is easy to upset a so-called godfather by a governor who now has power added to political clout. A time-tested godfather’s strategy to retain hold on power is therefore, to ensure, as much as possible, that well-rooted politicians do not attain executive power.
Granted that things do not necessarily work out as planned for these godfathers as we saw in the breakdown in the relationships between the late political strongman in Kwara State, Dr Olusola Saraki, and the late former Governors Adamu Atta and Mohammed Lawal in 1983 and 2003 respectively. But the general philosophy is to curtail the chances for a rebellion by not giving power to an ambitious person from the outset.
This is why a Tinubu would prefer a lawyer with no political base of Babatunde Fashola’s personality or a retired civil servant like AkinwumiAmbode to the Banires and Ganiyu Solomons of this world. This, in addition to his own personal demons, was one of the reasons why Fashola failed in his belated bid to have a say in the choice of his successor.
But a very common undoing of political godfathers in Nigeria is their ever present penchant to overplay their hands. All over the country, politicians who have attained a measure of cult following strive to have a hand in every pie, no matter how insignificant.
So, from deciding who would be governor in the states, they also dictate who would become senators, members of the House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly. They do not stop there, they superintend over the choice of councillors and of course, chairmen of the local government councils.
Most often, the electorate contribute nothing to the decisions of who their representatives are! The godfather would frequently just send a list from the state capital and whoever is so favoured gets the crown. But like the over-confident tree climber who goes beyond the branches to place his legs on leaves, political godfathers usually get carried away by their sense of importance and ultimately meet their career waterloo.
Again, a good reference is Saraki who engaged his son, Bukola, on the political field in 2011. This was after the latter had served as a two-term governor, learnt all the tricks and appropriated all the political capital possible. The old man took the gamble to unspeakable defeat.
This was the same situation between former Governors Jim Nwobodo and Chimaroke Nnamani. The latter would also get his own raw deal in the hands of his successor, Sullivan Chime. Powerful politicians do not just know when to stop until they meet a wreck in the hands of an embittered former ally.
This is the signal that events surrounding the election of the APC candidates for the local government councils in Lagos State gives. You will recall that the primaries organised to selecte candidates to fly the party’s flag for the election scheduled to take place on July 22, ended in a free for all at the end of May. During that event at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, aggrieved party supporters smashed ballot boxes over allegations of imposition of candidates at the election. Scores of delegates and others present fled in different directions as a result of the fracas, even as some were injured. The accusation is essentially that party leaders in the state were interested in foisting some candidates on the electorate. It was a reaction most unexpected in the politics of Lagos State.
Of course, the line would be that Tinubu does not have a hand in the situation, which is currently eating at the existence of the APC in Lagos State. But that would only be calling a dog a monkey for the people. Keen observers of politics in Nigeria will note that the first thing that strong politicians aim for is the structure of the party. This is understandable because it would be impossible to play the imposition game without having the executives of the party at your beck and call. In fact, that is the root of most of the party squabbles that we see in Nigeria, in spite of all denials.
Even Banire tried to exonerate Tinubu in the Saturday PUNCH interview when he said: “Let me tell you, I do not even see Asiwaju as a godfather, because he is not the person directly involved in that charade…Asiwaju wasn’t the one that came to the field to destabilise the process. Blame the party structure in the state.” But what Banire did here was to tell of the follies of a deaf man before his only son. He was invariably sending the piper to his benefactor.
And that is not a good thing for the Tinubu political clan. The strength of any leader is in the cohesion that exists in his home and having the home front confront all challenges en bloc.
This is more so for Tinubu who evidently has a lot of other contentions outside of Lagos State. In response to one of the questions put to him in the interview under reference for example, Banire subtly conceded that the alleged frozen relationship between Tinubu and the National Chairman of the APC, could be responsible for the non-intervention of the party at the national level in the crisis that the local government election has created. No matter how much they deny it therefore, Tinubu and his supporters are not having the best of times in the global APC, a reason for Tinubu not to insist in winning one battle to lose the war.
One of the lessons I have learnt from a close watch of politicians in the past couple of years is that a politician is as good as how well he is able to hold is home front. A leader, political or otherwise but more so, political must preserve his forces and keep his forces by all means. He must not alienate them or perpetually impose his interest on theirs. That is the easiest way to lose their confidence and once he loses that, he is on his way to his expiration as a political leader.
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