With the exit of Chief Tony Anenih as the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, #PDP, the role of godfathers in our politics has again been brought into focus.
We grew up to know about the concept of godfatherism through some Christian traditional practices: The person your parents choose when you were born or one who serves as sponsor for a child at baptism is regarded as godfather if he is a man.
With time, the concept assumed a wider dimension as any male sponsor or guardian could be your godfather. In the ’50s and ’60s, the activities of the Sicilian mafia were transported to the United States and attracted a sort of cultic following. So, various confraternities and cult groups all over the world have adopted the godfather hierarchy.
You choose your godfather from the top: the one that sits at the top of the hierarchy is the Capo Di Tutti, the head or the godfather amongst godfathers. In contemporary times, we can assume the godfather to be any man who makes things happen for you.
And so, we have godfathers in government, in the judiciary, in our ethnic cleavages, army, police, and so on. It got to a stage that without a godfather link, your job career could be stagnated. It was that bad.
The focus of this piece is political godfatherism in Nigeria, how it has impacted our lives and whether it is still relevant in contemporary Nigerian politics. Godfatherism exists everywhere. In the US, you have the Kennedy and the Bush families, but the difference is in the mode of operation and usage.
From inception, Nigerian politics have always been anchored on god fatherism. Herbert Macaulay handed over to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Zik became godfather to many others. Godfathers are also seen as role models: somebody falls in love with your carriage, eloquence, integrity, hard work, etc and then adopts you as his godfather.
Such is the case too of Chief Obafemi Awolowo; he became the god father of the Yoruba West in the politics of the ’50s and ’60s, while, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, held sway in the North. Till today , many who were politicians in that era see him as their godfather.
The picture of the above is such that if you do not owe allegiance to anyone one of them and you want to come into politics, you will not be recognised. The candidates of the North must have the backing of Sir Ahmadu Bello, in fact, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, was a direct nominee and former subordinate of the Sardauna; so the wishes of the sardauna was the wishes of the prime minister.
The rebellion of the godsons started with Chief Ladoke Akintola, who dumped his own party leader Chief Awolowo and formed an alliance with the Northern political elite; the fall out of their conflict led to the first military involvement in our politics and subsequent events that we are yet to recover from.
Since then, we have seen military godfathers who have formed themselves into cliques of coup plotters: you either belong or you are banished to irrelevance. We have also seen ethnic godfathers, because the central position is so juicy, every tribe that holds sway uses the opportunity to feather its own nest.
Incidentally, the dynamics and behavioural pattern of our politics have brought another set of people: these are the rebel god sons. They use the godfathers to get whatever they want and when they assume positions of control, they dump their sponsors. As it is, some people have the money but no technical ability to run government; while some have the brains and ability but no money. There are also others who have gone through mentoring under incumbent rulers.
So, there is usually an arrangement for the sponsor or godfather to be compensated. Usually, it is in the form of contract awards, percentages and other forms of rewards, including allocation of positions in government. Overtime, the demands of the godfathers became so stifling that personal interests usually override national or common interests. We saw the battle between Adedibu and Ladoja, Nwobodo and Nnamani, Amaechi and Odili, Akpabio and Attah, Atiku and Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Obasanjo, Jonathan and Obasanjo and many more. Such relationship were defined by betrayals and parting of ways.
There are exceptions like Bukola Saraki in Kwara, Edwin Clark over Jonathan; Obasanjo, Anenih and the big money bags. It is claimed that Jonathan’s inability to extricate himself from such godfathers and the strong women around him, contributed to his failure in the last election.
For me, the notion of god fatherism is not a bad idea, if such could be used to generate awareness for the populace on their rights, privileges and good governance. What is wrong with our Nigerian godfathers is that they use their position to suppress the wishes of the people through the imposition of unpopular candidates. As a result, such imposed candidates do not owe their allegiance to the masses but to the godfathers.
The godfathers are relevant to the extent at which they can bring succour and development to the people and not in the promotion of their personal interests.
Thank God President Buhari has made it clear in his inaugural speech that he belongs to no one but to all, translated to mean that he will not fall into the strangle hold of any godfather or cabal. With Buhari’s influence, background and training, it is hoped that the activities of godfathers in the affairs of government will boost positive developments for our democracy instead of the other way round.
Mr. Sunny Ikhioya , a commentator on national issues, wrote from #Lagos.
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