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Nigerian political system and Godfatherism

Written by Shaba Mafu

The concept of godfatherism is morally regarded as a misnomer in the public sphere. But looking closely, the concept assumes another nomenclature in other areas of life. For instance, godfatherism is in the issues of admission into higher institutions of learning. Godfatherism is also noticed in the areas of employment in the name of nepotism.

On a milder and more subtle masquerading of the concept, a godfather may also be called a mentor. In the academics or social life, the word mentor could objectively mean well because the mentee may never have seen or benefited directly from his mentor. He only aspires to share the same qualities of his mentor. For instance, many would love to speak and write like the literary icon, Professor Wole Soyinka while having nothing to benefit directly from the academic guru.

This is the semantic difference between a mentor and a godfather.On the political scene, a godfather is the one whose ‘offspring’ is tutored, held by the nose, and led around to tacitly do his bidding while the offspring pretends to serve the generality of the people when elected into an office. Godfatherism is one of the indispensable factors in Nigerian politics.  It is a deliberate sign-up to the slavery of the beneficiary of this ill-driven concept. The offspring of a godfather is most times an unqualified candidate by the normal standard, picked up from nowhere to stand for an election in the midst of other qualified contestants.

This beneficiary is usually someone who is adjudged to be pliable in the hands of their slave-masters. He is pulled out of the blues and initiated into the ‘cult of the elites’ and meant to possibly undertake a secret oath of loyalty – first, to the godfather and his cronies, then subsidiary loyalty to the electorates. The beneficiary is made to basically implement only the policies and programmes approved by the godfathers, therefore perforating his independent mind and thinking of this victim of imperialism. Like a typical new recruit to a secret cult or a new student of an institution, the beneficiary may not know the long-term implications of the oath of secrecy and loyalty he is entering into, by agreeing with the deal of the political ‘imperialists’.

If I may quote Pastor W.F. Kumuyi in one of his messages, he said that “most people do not know the future consequences of their present actions” – this is the lot of the slaves of godfatherism. On the other hand, like the typical fetish African priests, the godfathers see the political end from the beginning and therefore craft their ways to arrive at such ends, with surreptitiously deadly dispositions.When the political offspring is padded like a tubeless tyre into the political office, he is expected to begin to majorly execute the policies and programmes of the godfather in the course of governance.

The beneficiary is usually treated to a dilemma when, having inaugurated an Executive Committee, dances between humans and the gods to fulfill expectations. While the Executive Committee might be bamboozled to adopt some unpopular policies crafted for the ultimate benefits of the godfather, some may not be comfortable with them because the policies may not be tailored or wired according to democratic dividends. The ruler blinks fast every time he attempts to convince his colleagues. When under pressure, he runs to the godfather for palliatives/ameliorations. He is usually under pressure from the both Executive Committee, Legislative Council, and his godfather himself.

When he can no longer endure the pressure from the Executives or the legislature, there will be threats of resignations from the Executives or even outright impeachment threats from the sides of the legislature. The product of godfatherism especially in the political space of Nigeria is usually an unhappy leader. The problem of such an individual is when his shock absorbers are faulty or become weak enough to accommodate the travails associated with signing a deal with taskmasters.

At the end of the day, the electorates brand such as an under-performing leader who needs a replacement. While that may be true to some extent, the leader was actually dancing to the music of a secret drum played by these ferocious godfathers.The greatest undoing of beneficiaries of godfatherism is when they become naïve and amateurish enough to confront their godfathers maybe simply because they are opportune to access the fortunes and powers of the office. Such “ingrates” would unknowingly have been treading on self-planted landmines. For instance, in the current imbroglio between the embattled Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, it is common knowledge that he is a product of godfatherism. His political godfather is Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In the process of time, the Governor fell off with his benefactor. He raged and did all he could do to rubbish his godfather. From a wise perspective, he would have treaded cautiously.  

Suspicion is rife here that he may have bad advisers who propped him on for a very futile battle.Fast-forward, he faced a Screening Committee of his political party for nomination into primary elections coming up on the 22nd of June, 2020, with the same certificates that ‘qualified’ him in 2016 gubernatorial elections in Edo State.

While his godfather who would give him the greatest political blow in his life was smiling at his amateurish foe, Obaseki in his childish innocence or ignorance rushed to the Screening Committee with his controversial certificates. He was woefully disqualified. Obaseki laid landmines for himself. He was blown off irredeemably with his wings of self-delusion. His predicaments could have been salvaged if he had not fallen off with, not only his godfather, but other critical stakeholders of his political party, the All Progressives Congress, the APC.Ordinarily, there could have been two options fashioned out for Obaseki, by his political party if all was well with him and his godfather from time immemorial. These were: first, the All Progressives Congress, his political party could have asked him to keep his controversial certificates and presented only his Ordinary Level Certificate which would constitutionally qualify him as a gubernatorial candidate, scaling the primaries effortlessly. This they knew quite well, but Obaseki had to pay for his atrocities. He fought the gods and the godfather.

On the other hand, if the APC as party would want to avoid the embarrassment they were treated to in the Bayelsa State elections where the Supreme Court nullified the results of the party’s candidate twenty-four hours to the inauguration, Obaseki would have been made to reach a gentleman deal with his party –  to step down for a more qualified candidate,  and then rewarded with a juicy political appointment afterward, either at the State or national level. But that cannot be in the present circumstance! He fought with the gods. He must pay for it.The challenges of godfatherism in Nigerian politics are enormous. It cages the beneficiary, brings underdevelopment to the affected constituency and to the country at large. It encourages corruption and ineptitude in governance.

While godfatherism cannot easily be expunged from Nigerian politics, it behooves the beneficiary to be highly diplomatic; an astute player of politics, and a “balancer” between his benefactor, the government, and the electorates. It takes a man who is humble or seen to be humble by his “employer”, to avoid playing into the hands of these taskmasters. Whoever benefits from godfatherism should learn to touch the two ends of the pendulum; if not simultaneously, then at least very close to it.

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