The proxy war going on between an influential leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has taken a new twist with the declaration by the founding national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, that godfatherism is essential for the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

He said mentorship is what everyone in any endeavor needs to grow and succeed in their preferred career just like in politics but some self-seeking politicians have chosen to attack the idea by referring to it as godfatherism in their bid to wield influence in a political party they don’t believe in its ideology, obviously as a veiled reference to el-Rufai’s comment on how to end the menace of godfatherism in Lagos politics.

“You are free not to join any political party. You are free to contest as an independent candidate. It is fraudulent, however, for you to join and win elections on the platform of a political party and subsequently form another group to override your political parties’ injunctions. Your legacy, by so doing, will belong to those of the selfish leadership. Like most learners serve article-ship before qualifying as Accountants; and like most lawyers serve tutelage before being professionally competent, so must a university lecturer seek mentor-ships before rising to professorship. In the same manner, the lower the hierarchy of a political party member, the more mentorships he required to rise from mere canvasser, to ward organizer, to party officer and to election candidature within his chosen political party. It is these political mentor-ships that are being presently euphemistically negated as “godfatherism” by the neo-money politicians struggling to use money to hijack influence from political parties whose ideology they do not care to respect. And that was why the Sixth National Assembly ignorantly promulgated the nonsensical theories of “internal democracy” into the Electoral Act of 2010 which now results in big-money politics to the present day Nigeria”, the former Osun governor declared in a mail to newsmen.

When newsmen called him to clarify his position, Chief Akande who is a known ally of Tinubu named el-Rufai as a product of the system he now wants to criminalise. “It is not about defending Tinubu or responding to el-Rufai’s statement about defeating godfatherism, I am defending common sense. You just don’t wake up one day and say you want to become a politician; you would need people who are more experienced to mentor you. El-Rufai learnt from some mentors, if you want to grow, you must learn”, the APC leader stressed.

Governor el-Rufai, had about two weeks ago insisted he has no apology over his comment that “godfather can be defeated” in Lagos State.

The governor had at a forum organised by the Bridge Club in Lagos prescribed steps to curbing godfatherism in politics. He said he had retired four political godfathers in Kaduna. He also suggested how to retire godfathers in Lagos politics. Observers quickly analysed the governor’s remarks as an attack on former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu, regarded as the godfather of Lagos politics.

Mallam el-Rufai’s comment followed a question by Dr. Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Lagos politician believed to be in good terms with Mr. Tinubu, fueled the conclusion that el-Rufai was targeting the former Lagos governor. Tinubu’s supporters had since then taken on the Kaduna governor, attacking him through various media platforms.

But speaking after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House on May 13, Mr. el-Rufai said he was unperturbed by the criticisms and has no apology for his views.

Referring to Mr. Tinubu, he said, “We are in the same party. We get along very well as far as I am concerned. I don’t know if he is the godfather of Lagos.”

He then restated his view that generated the controversy: “What I know for sure is that we have retired godfathers in Kaduna and I have told those that asked the question that there are six million voters in Lagos. And only one million voted in the last elections.

“So, there are five million people you can bring to the electoral playground and you can defeat anyone if you work hard. But it’s hard work, it’s four years. That’s what I said. If anyone feels offended by that, that’s his business, not my business. I have no apology. I don’t apologise for my views. I don’t need to explain anything to anyone. This is a democracy. There must be room for people to express their views.”

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