Friday, December 21, 2012

‘Godfatherism’ and Nigerian Politics


More facts are emerging about the nature and character of Nigerian politics. Recently, two ‘political heavyweights’ have spoken about the godfather politics in Nigeria. At a political rally in Akure, Ondo State on October 15, 2012 former Governor of Lagos State and leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu admitted being a political godfather though of a positive genre. He was quoted as saying “Mimiko (i.e. Ondo State governor) has called me a godfather, yes, I am a positive godfather and even, god fatherism is biblical and that is why Christians refer to God as their father. I play god-fatherism in the South-West for the good of our people. My godfatherism is for progress, it is for mentoring.” The former governor apart from agreeing to being a godfather said he spent millions of pounds on the election of the Ondo State governor during his legal battle at the tribunals to retrieve his mandate after the political heist in the State during the 2007 governorship election. The questions being asked are: what was the motive of the ACN leader to give such humongous assistance to someone from the opposition party? Was Senator Tinubu’s intention altruistic and noble? Would there not have been a pay-back time? Grapevine source opined that the Action Congress of Nigeria leader had hoped that the Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko would decamp from his party, Labour Party to ACN after his tribunal victory. But will there not be an additional financial return to the godfather? That is left to conjecture.
A news report in The Punch newspaper of December 14, 2012 also dwells on the godfather syndrome and its effects. Speaking at a retreat on capacity building for national, zonal and state officials of the Peoples Democratic Party at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on December 13, a former chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Dr Okwezilieze Nwodo was quoted as saying that: “Some governors are not performing today because they have to settle their godfathers first before settling the people of their states. When they get their monthly allocation, they first go to their godfathers, who will first take whatever they want before handing over the remaining to the governors.” He therefore counseled that his party (PDP) must imbibe the culture of internal democracy as leaders produced through this practice would have social contract with the people.
Dr Nwodo’s observation reflects what majority of political observers already know. In Anambra State, that was the trend from 1999 to 2003. It got so bad that the then governor could not pay teachers salary making them to down tools. The consequence was that a whole academic session was allegedly lost to industrial action. History nearly repeated itself in the same state between 2003 and 2004 but for the resistance put up by ex-governor, Chris Ngige against his political godfather, Chief Chris Uba. His refusal to part with the state treasury led to his abduction, purported forced ‘resignation’ and wanton destruction of Anambra government’s property.
These revelations, more than any other thing, is a validation of why politics has not transformed to good governance in Nigeria. There are no benevolent godfathers in Nigerian politics. It is basically a patronage system where political entrepreneurs hope to invest little to make a maximum gain, painfully, at the expense of the suffering masses whose hope of impactful governance get perpetually deferred.