EMAMEH GABRIEL takes a look at the recurring soured relationships between political god-fathers and their godsons and how it has affected the politics of their localities and beyond.
Not until the advent of the Second Republic in 1979, the concept of god-fatherism was alien to Nigerian politics, though it was insidiously creeping into the system unnoticed to most Nigerians who were particularly not familiar with this practice that there are political power brokers and influential politicians, who most often call the shots as to where the political pendulum swings.
The practice has been described by watchers as the will of the masters against the will of the electorate who do not only possess the electoral mandate but also give it out in trust to their political proteges.
As the tradition gained traction in the last decade, this practice has firmly established itself as a guiding principle in the contemporary Nigeria politics causing an average politician in Nigeria to believe that without a godfather he or she cannot win elections on a fair play.
The crux, many analysts have averred, is not only for godfathers to continue to call the shot in proxy even after serving out their tenure but also to maintain their structure to enable them remain relevant in the polity.
However there are those who have defied the wishes of their benefactors and either won; that is for the lucky ones who played their card better or get consume by the wrath of the godfather. To them, patriotism and the oath of office they took cannot be substituted for loyalty to a single individual playing god.
After many elections in the past, results have so far shown that many of the godfathers have lost out in the struggle to remain in power through proxy. Since 1999, the few godfathers that have installed their deputies or key allies after the expiration of their tenures have had different sad tales to tell. Across the country today, there are a number of godfathers begging for political rehabilitation after being relegated by their godsons while others still hold sway because of their huge political capital.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was a factor to the rise of former President Goodluck Jonathan to prominence which eventually saw the latter rose from a deputy governor to the governor of Bayelsa State in 2005. Obasanjo also in the course of the death of President Yar’Adua, played a significant role in the enthronement of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2009 and subsequently during the 2011 presidential election.
It was to Obasanjo’s delight who never wanted his former 2IC, Atiku Abubakar, to ever mount the rostrum of the nation’s number one job that he had to dance across the country, selling his preferred candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, to Nigerians in 2011.
Unfortunately, barely three years in the saddled, the former President fell out of favour with his godfather, Obasanjo, who constantly sneered him with criticizing and open letters. Reason, it was alleged, that Goodluck Jonathan had refused to play the puppetry role his benefactor had wanted him to, which of course would have sum up to him being a ceremonial president, ruling in proxy while Obasanjo was to call the shot.
While it was alleged in other quarters that Obasanjo was no longer happy with Jonathan due to high rate of corruption that had tainted his administration even in the face of the international community, others have said Obasanjo became more infuriated as his godson no longer take advice from elders of the PDP.
‘’Jonathan doesn’t like criticism. He doesn’t like people who criticise him in his face and doesn’t listen to genuine advice. Even people like Obasanjo who put him there found it difficult to correct him. That was why Obasanjo was writing letters. Even Edwin Clark who called him his son, found it difficult to correct him’’, former Military Governor of Plateau State and PDP BoT member, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman told Leadership in an exclusive interview.
Obasanjo battle with his former godson marked the beginning of Jonathan’s ordeal as a president. Jonathan’s ambition to seek a second term in 2015 further heightened the hostility between him and Obasanjo. Like others who survive the war waged on them by their godfathers, Obasanjo indeed became the demagogue who helped the opposition campaign to send Goodluck Jonathan packing from Aso Rock in 2015.
A game woven around father, son and sister, the case in Kwara between the senior Saraki and his son Bukola Saraki, now the President of the Senate, took Nigerians by stun. The elder Olusola Saraki, the former godfather of Kwara, a position his son Bukola Saraki had assumed before his demised, had always played the role of godfather of Kwara politics.
Elder Saraki had after successfully making his son, Dr Bukola Saraki, the governor of the state in 2003 and subsequently in 2007, had insisted against Bukola wish to make his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki the next governor of Kwara state.
But his plan failed because his son, Bukola as the outgoing governor of the state had anointed another candidate to succeed him. This clash between the titans of the Saraki dynasty forced Olusola Saraki into retirement before he passed on.
Tinibu who is undoubtedly the best political tactician in Nigeria till today but almost got his fingers burnt in 2007 when he settled for Fashola to succeed him.
Fashola was Tinubu’s Chief of Staff and was the least expected to fly the flag of the then defunct ACN in the eyes of party loyalists who help Tinubu built the party from AD, to AC and then ACN. Like others who had earlier jostled for the ticket of the party, Fashola belonged to Tinubu’s inner cycle and understood the working of the government just as he had the ears of his principal better than other politicians in Tinubu’s cabinet.
Fashola got the blessing of his godfather, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and enjoyed his support till things fell apart along the line 2010 when Fashola started making moves to install his successor against the wish of Tinubu. Each of them wanted to anoint the next governor of Lagos State and they were both locked in fiercest political battle of their lives over who succeeded Fashola
It then appeared that Fashola was reminding his former boss that he too had come of age after eight years in the saddle to be recognised as a godfather too.
Against all odds, Fashola adamantly installed Akinwunmi Ambode and the once cordial relationship between him and Tinubu hit the brick wall due to this political differences and vested interests. Although Tinubu had debunked rumours of a rift between him and his ‘godson’, the simmering cold war provoked a barrage of defamatory articles against Fashola. But analysts disagreed with Tinubu’s position saying the unsubstantiated claims bordering on financial impropriety, the timing of ill publications carefully crafted to give impetus to a more sinister motive to nail Fashola. They said the media was against Fashola with circulated defaming articles, the motives were intended to undermine Fashola’s chances of being pencilled down on Buhari’s ministerial list. Although both Tinubu and Fashola are still working in the same page for the sake of their party, the ruling APC, their relationship still remain frosty till today.
The row between Kwankwaso and his former deputy, now Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, was the least expected from the duo going by their relationship in the past and political history. The political history both men had shared for almost two decades makes their case one many still find very difficult to conceive. Outside politics, they should be best of friends for life if the relationship was best managed.
Until late 2016 when the cold war between Kwankwaso and his godson, Ganduje, started manifesting in their relationship, it would be best imagined that the duo would make a perfect reference whenever how best political loyalty and partnership can be maintained even with a change of baton.
However, this was not so as the once rosy relationship between the duo became estranged in no time.
Many had said Kwankwaso deserves some commendation for finding his deputy worthy to take over the baton of leadership from him given that as it seen in most cases where governor/deputy relationship is characterized by suspicion, hatred and mistrust.
The bone of contention between the two friends whose relationship had become soured is that the new man in Kano is not ready to build on the legacies of the Kwankwassiya family as laid down by his boss.
Ganduje had sometime in 2016 revealed that his former boss had queried him over his policies and style of leadership, while condemning the pensioners housing scheme of Kwankwaso, saying his former boss built an estate that those meant for cannot afford due to costly prices.
Also, Ganduje had openly disowned the 1, 800 teachers employed by the ex -governor on the premise that they were employed on the twilight of the administration just as he openly ridiculed the red cap uniform that is the identity of the Kwankwassiyahs political structure.
Things have gone down well between the both of them and Kwankwaso was at a point prevented from entering Kano State.
Despite efforts by some key party members to settle their differences, Ganduje’s stance on free hands to govern the state without Kwankwaso interference halted these efforts till recently when the latter left the APC for the PDP, in what he described as unfair treatment to him and his supporters, to get control over his own structure.
Unlike Tinubu who still has the political structure of Lagos State under his control, former Anambara State governor Peter Obi got his finger burnt when he picked his political godson Willie Obiano as his preferred candidate to fly the APGA flag in the 2016 governorship election in the state.
Like Kwankwaso and Ganduje, Peter Obi and Obiano relationship has a long history. They did not only work together in Fidelity Bank but were also classmates in the primary school.
Peter Obi’s decision, like other of his political godfathers’ peers, has eventually cost him a huge political capital forcing him out of a party he singlehandedly built in Anambara State.
The relationship between the duo became strained even before Obiano was elected governor of Anambara State, though it was not clear what led to the misunderstanding during the governorship campaigns.
It can be inferred from the attacks and counter attacks from both sides that the fight between Peter Obi and his godson was more financial related than loyalty on the part of Obiano.
While it was believed in some quarters that it had to do with the management of campaign funds, others said the former governor, Obi, after close observation of Obiano shortly after the party’s primaries, felt that his choice of a successor might after all, not be the best.
Reports had it that Obiano was not actually in the picture even if Obi had insisted on keeping his promise of ceding the governorship slot to Anambra North. How Obiano came into to race still remain a mystery to the likes of the then secretary to the state government, Mr Oseloka Obaze, who is from Ogbaru in the same Anambra North senatorial zone, and Prince Idigo, a lawyer from Aguleri royal family, as his likely choice.
Indeed, Obi carried out the campaign as if he was seeking re-election and the main drive of their campaign was continuity, like every other governor would have expected from his successor, which was why the Obi’s government was flagging off new projects and paying contractors till the end of the administration.
During the handover ceremony, Peter Obi had announced that he left over N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor.
Unfortunately, as was expected; shortly after the handover and with the already existing feud between the two friends, newspaper advertorials carried by Obiano’s supporters started debunking Obi’s claim of leaving N75 billion for his successor as stated in the handover note, saying the former governor left so much liabilities and a large number of uncompleted projects for his successor.
They also accused Obi of employing so many people into the civil service and conducting local government elections, the first in 15 years, at the tail end of his administration.
While Obi had consistently accused Obiano of failing to stick to their campaign promises of continuity, was left with no choice but to dump APGA for his former party, the PDP in 2016.
Apart from the case in Benue State between former governor Akume and his rebellious godson, Samuel Otom, one of the feuds between the godfather and godson that have continued to make the rounds is that of Akpabio and his godson Governor Udom.
In Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio and former governor of the state seemed to hold the ace, playing the role of the godfather till 2015. After holding sway twice as governor of the state, he did not only secure a ticket for his election to the National Assembly but also single-handedly installed his SSG, Udom Emmanuel, as his successor.
Hardly had Akpabio lose his immunity and executive powers of a governor, than the marriage between him and his protégé and successor, Governor Emmanuel Udom become soured due to war of supremacy.
Their fight started on the inauguration day of the new government in the state when Governor Udom was alleged to have been forced by Akpabio to name the Akwa Ibom stadium, which was initially known as Nest of Champions, after his successor. The change of name was greeted with public condemnation such that it went further to fuel public perception that the new governor would always be a rubber stamp of his predecessor.
However, to mollify the anger of some close political associates who were visibly angry with the new Governor for playing to the gallery and trying to be seen as a loyal godson even on his swearing in day, Udom was said to confessed that he was forced to make the pronouncement against his wish.
While it was alleged by sources closed to the governor that he was also forced to sign an agreement with his former principal, the crisis between them even got worsen over the choice of nominee for the position of Secretary to the State Governor (SSG).
Akpabio who had insisted that it was either his nominee or nobody, was believed to have orchestrated a plot with his loyalists at the eve of the inauguration of the state house of assembly to first block all nominees needing legislative approval from the Emmanuel Udom until his candidate for SSG is announced and to commence the process of impeachment should the governor fails to keep to his own term of the bargain they duo allegedly entered into before the election.
The Governor was alleged not to have budged over Akpabio’s threat as he stood his grounds that appointing Akpabio’s choice candidate as SSG would amount to a permanency of the Akpabio’s administration and as such offend the feeling of the people who had looked forward to a new administration.
For Akpabio, according to source, the appointment of his loyalist as SSG was an insurance against being sidelined, relegated out of political relevance or being probed. It was alleged in some quarters that such appointment was part of a pre-election agreement between Akpabio and Udom which the later cannot deny or refuse implementation.
Unconfirmed reports further have it that Governor Emmanuel Udom was taken aback after discovering the huge debt of the state left behind for him by his predecessor.
In the same vain, he had to sack 5,000 teachers recruited by Akpabio on the basis of the recruitment process, the governor had in January sacked.
Akpabio had in January accused his successor of marginalising his Ikot Ekpene senatorial district in the scheme of the things in the state.
Just as the war between the duo ensued, Akpabio had on Wednesday August 7, officially left the PDP for the ruling APC. Some have alleged among others that the former Akwa Ibom governor left to save his neck from EFCC net others have said he left because he could no longer endure riding on the same boat with his successor and want to take charge of the party structure in the state.
While Akpabio had said he left because he could no longer associate with the characters in his former party, Governor Emmanuel Udom has wished him the best of luck on his new political sojourn.
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