Godfatherism and Nigerian politics

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“That is very important if you say he will disappoint me, I am not the state; I am only one out of about four million Edo people. So his obligation and his loyalty should be to the people of Edo State. The oath of office he is going to subscribe to says that he will defend the constitution of Nigeria, he will do everything to uplift the quality of life of Edo people. Nothing in his oath of office will include ‘I shall not betray my predecessor’ because I have no interest to be betrayed.”

Those were the words of the out-going governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. He was fielding questions from journalists who had asked him if he was not worried that he might fall out later on with the governor-elect of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki, who is generally known as Oshiomhole’s political godson. The question obviously stems from the hostilities that have largely characterized, in recent times, the godfather-godson relationship in Nigerian politics.

For some apparent reasons, I do applaud people who are brutally honest to themselves. As they make critical and candid assessment of situations without giving to false and illusionary assumptions on the certainty of future events to gratify their self-importance. And Oshiomhole, with those words, has delivered a sacredly bitter-truth. Two instructive points can be taken out of the governor’s statement. One, he has vocalised his resolve not to be expectant that Obaseki, who he (Oshiomhole) helped in no small measure to secure the seat of power in Benin city, eternally defer to him in all political and policy considerations, either good or bad, as many godfathers are accustomed to doing. The reality is: failed expectations kill faster in Nigeria’s peculiarly intriguing and treacherous political landscape.

The other one, the most pungent verdict made by Oshiomhole, is that leadership should be accountable to the people and not to some self-appointed political warlords seeking to perpetuate themselves in the corridors of power.

And with such proclamations, the concept of godfatherism as we presently know it might just be nearing its end. I believe that such a strong conclusion will bring sound tunes to the ears of many Nigerians, especially the masses, who have been agitating that the so-called practise of godfatherism in modern politics is one of the main causes of underdevelopment in the land.

It is simply common sense that an idea that neither conveys a positive message nor favours the interest of the generality of the people should totally be abolished.

Meanwhile godfatherism, simply described here as a practice which allows an influential or experienced individual to act as the shaper of the trajectory of a beginner, is an age-long practice that is not only present within the political sphere but also alive in business life and even in religious settings the world over.

In many of the aforementioned instances though, godfatherism may not be the chosen term. That is why words such as mentor, role-model, etcetera are used to represent the people involved in the development phases of beginners in different circumstances.

But if there was ever anything positive inherent in this idea, what we have seen of it in Nigeria’s political elite, some of whom still strut the landscape of the country as godfathers, has made a total mess of the whole concept.

Though some observers have informed that there was semblance of godfatherism amongst the leaders that contributed to Nigeria’s attainment of independence in 1960, theirs was essentially driven by the quest for a better life for all and for the rapid development of the country.

Indeed, in that era, leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello, to mention a few who could clearly be referred to as political godfathers not only presented themselves as outstanding leaders whose ways of life were desirable by their followers, but also institutionalised political ideologies that remain reference points for good governance till date.

But since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 following long years of military rule, what the nation has seen as mentorship for aspiring political leaders has been a variant of godfatherism that essentially seeks to serve personal interest, undermine development and consistently threaten law and order in the society.

Recently, from Kano to Akwa-Ibom states, several political unrest and development challenges have been attributed to godfather-godson squabbles. In times past also, several godfather-godson feuds have fuelled divisive politics and stoked ethnic tensions with resultant negative impact on governance in the society. And these had impacted so negatively in governance. The feud between Governor Chimaroke Nnamani and Senator Jim Nobody in Enugu State; Dr. Chris Ngige and the Uba brothers in Anambra State and that between Chief Lamidi Adedibu and Governor Rashidi Ladoja in Oyo State are examples that readily come to mind.

Thankfully however, the ceaseless rebellion by many godsons against the wimps and caprices of their godfathers, which has continued to trouble and sink the retrogressive practice can also be of benefit to the entire population, eventually.

And just as Oshiomole has said that he had defeated the godfathers in Edo state to re position the state on the path of glory, an assertion that would be proven with time, efforts should be improved by all and sundry towards exterminating practices and tendencies that are hindering development and good governance across the country.

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