Over the years, many politicians in Nigeria rose to stardom with the assistance of their godfathers. Others assumed position of authority due to their concerted effort to be relevant. Some pundits believe that since 1999, the concept of godfatherism in politics has increasingly assumed a prime place in the political architecture of the country.
In most cases, those assisted by godfather ended up dancing to the dictate of their benefactor. However while some silently endured the pain and trauma as they try not to rock the boat, others challenged their godfathers to a duel, and in most cases, the godson ended up bitting the dust and being rubbished politically.
Still, while some manage to stage a comeback, others remained political irrelevant after the face-off with the godfather, often due to the respect the godfather commands in the political sphere.
But there have been exceptions over the years. A case study is that of erstwhile national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole and the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki.
Oshiomhole played a crucial role in his emergence as the governor of the state in his first term in office, but the good relationship went soar before he could complete his first term.
Obaseki’s major offence was that he stopped some of the alleged largesse extended to party chieftains and failed to constitute boards which are used as political patronage for party members.
He was also accused of not patronising contractors who are Edo State indigenes, rather he chose to give contracts to contractors outside the state.
Those who felt deprived, lodged complaint with Oshiomhole since his testimony of him spur the electorates in the state to vote him in the first stead, they felt he would be in the right position to checkmate him.
The demands of the party supporters and pressure by Oshiomhole to have his way in the political calculation in the state pitched him against the governor.
Many moves were made to bring about a truce between the two, even intervention from prominent party members could not broker peace between them.
Despite the challenges which look uncountable the governor did not give up, he rose up to the challenges, he was optimistic that, his achievements in office would sway the people to his side when it is time for the APC primaries.
But he was denied the opportunity to participate in the primaries, as the party National Working Committee saddled with the responsibility of screening the Governorship aspirants disqualified him on the excuse of inconsistencies in his certificates.
The situation paved way for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to return to APC as a counterforce to Obaseki. He enjoyed the support of Oshiomhole and became the party candidate in the election.
Obaseki, not ready to take chances, approached the PDP and eventually emerged its flagbearer.
While the seeming oppression of Obaseki won him sympathy, another issue which works for the interest of the governor is the broadcast made by former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, urging the people of the state to vote out Obaseki.
Some people in the state questioned the moral ground upon which Tinubu was dictating to them to vote, a situation which energised the “Edo no be Lagos” movement.
Interestingly, Tinubu, dubbed the godfather of Lagos politics, had had an encounter with his godson and former governor, Ambode, whose second term ambition he worked against. So his intervention during the polls proved to be counter-productive, some analysts opine.
What’s more, while Oshiomhole was governor of Edo State, he vowed to retire all the political godfathers in the state. While he bragged retiring some influential politicians in the state, the people of the state also felt, he should be given the same dish he served others.
Even with the Edo scenario over, many pundits believe that political godfatherism still exists in the polity. With elections still very expensive, those who believe that godfatherism is far from over, maintain that it might still continue to dictate the political pace in the country. Others, however, believe that the times are beginning to change.
The presidential candidate of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Dr Onwubuya Abraham BreakForth said, “We are getting wiser and our political experience and dispensation is getting more exposed.
“The people are getting to know that the problem of Nigeria is bad leadership by the time somebody manipulates and put you in power, he will demand so much from you that you may not be able to serve the people.
“So now Nigerians are beginning to understand that we have to vote for people who can lead us. So godfatherism is already going. It happened in Akwa Ibom between Udom Emmanuel and Godswill Akpabio. It also happened in Benue State, Edo State, Sokoto State, Kano State.”
According to him, the political godfatherism is gradually dying in Nigeria and through “our political experience we are becoming more matured, awareness creation is also increasing every day.
“Even in Delta State we still have the problem of Godfatherism and we believe between now and the next election more political Godfatherism will die.
“I’m calling on all Nigerians to come up fully and participate in democratic processes if we come up fully and vote the person of our choice and also protect our vote the Godfatherism will not have a say in our democratic system,” he said.
Also speaking a lawyer and political commentator, Johnson Omede (Esq) said godfatherism has become one of the unwritten rules in the Nigeria politics and democratic system.
According to him, it now appears as though the will of the people no longer prevail but rather the will of a godfather.
“So the democratic system we practice in Nigeria becomes much of a milage because we do fully realize a democratic system because of godfatherism.
He maintained that the most important and amazingly scenario is the recent polls in Edo State.
“In fact, this is the most popular election in Nigeria so far that one will say that godfatherism in Nigeria is going to be a factor in itself. Oshiomhole being the governor of Edo for eight years and former national chairman of APC, one would say he is a political godfather in Edo State and as a part of his political calculation he brought in Obaseki but I do not know what happened along the line he broke up with Obaseki.
Obaseki took the Bull by the horns and went into the polls. By Obaseki’s doing, Oshiomhole was demoted as APC national chairman and Oshiohole did not stop there he wanted to pay back he went home and brought up the same man he once castigated to come and contest with Obaseki.
“But you see when godfatherism goes to an extent the stupidity become the order of the day. I must give thanks to Mr President because he stood totally unbiased in respect of Edo election no intervention from the national level.
“In totality, I can say confidently that the issue of godfatherism is already take away in the Nigeria politics,” he said.
The presidential candidate of Grassroots Development Party Of Nigeria (GDPN) in 2019, Davidson Osibor Akhimien said, “He believes that godfatherism will definitely give way because the people are becoming more enlightened.
“One of the things about politics in Nigeria is the illiteracy and lack of enlightenment of majority of the electorates who do not even know what their rights are.
They do not know what they want from the government because they do not have the knowledge of what their rights are. But as we begin to evolve as a society, democratic transition processes and democratic consolidation will begin to occur.
“You can also find out that the people are becoming more enlightened about what their expectations are and with the enlightenment, there will come liberty and freedom and that can translate into the political class.”
He noted that there is yet another thing that brings about this godfatherism. “It is the exorbitant cost of party participation or candidate in the election from the point of few funds and at the level of picking up a form contesting for a position even at the level of the party itself is so exorbitant.
“You know it is not a business and when good people or credible people who can deliver may not have the financial resources to be able to meet with the demands of the party, what happens in that regard is that those who support you with finance will begin to act like godfathers.
“It is a twin problem but as electorates become more enlightened, the government must also put in place policies to deemphasise the cost of participation or active involvements in terms of candidature and aspiration through political parties.
“Government must also step in to control the cost so that it will be affordable to people and nobody would step in and say okay you do not have funds and I’m the one sponsoring you and all that. So, if we can eliminate this I think godfatherism will give way.
“Finally the term godfatherism itself is an apparition and that is why there will always be a problem between godfatherism and the godson because nobody is anybody’s God so a better term would have used to justify that but as long as God term is used to describe man there will definitely be consequences. There is always a split between the Godfatherism and the Godson as far as Godfatherism is a concern,” he said.
National coordinator of Vanguard for Protection of Rights of Citizens in Nigeria, Sharon Faliya Cham said that “If you can see clearly, especially some of us that are seeing to be sympathetic with the APC, and also the body language of Mr President and other national stakeholders of the party, we welcome what happened in Edo State even as bitter as it is to some of us but we welcome the development.
“The reason is very simple, what happened in Edo State was bound to happen and the reason is simple to understand, when Comrade Adams Oshiohole as national chairman of the party, he started playing a rough game with his governor and some us felt alarmed. We felt that as national chairman if he is having a problem with his governor he should have deployed other diplomatic means of engaging all the relevant stakeholders of the party to resolve that crisis from the beginning and not to allow it to escalate but he allowed it to escalate to the point of doing all he could to deny the governor the ticket of the party and what he also did was he went and brought somebody from the main opposition party.
“There are others APC people in Edo State that he would have brought up and grown that person and present him to Mr President and say this is the guy I want to replace him with Obaseki but rather he went and brought somebody From a party that worked against your party and that was the biggest mistake he made.
“Oshiomhole has a good legacy in Edo State, he has done well when he was the governor but the way he conducted himself in this election people may no longer remember his legacy and that is why politicians need to be very careful of how they conduct themselves, their ideology, and lack of consistency.
“Now you see clearly that people have demonstrated that this message of godfatherism is a reasonable message so they had refused it now.
“In the case of Benue State, Governor Ortom become governor particularly in his second term by also using the same message that he was battling godfathers who wanted to control him and I think to a large extent the people believed in his message and gave him the benefit of his second term. Now I’m also sure if in 2023 Ortom want to play godfather it will be very difficult for him. The same applies to so Ganduje of Kano State and Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
They need to be very careful in 2023 if they want to play godfather. The message is clear and the people get to understand it,” she said.
As it stands the debate over whether or not godfatherism will fade away remains a matter of conjecture. Already as 2023 pans into view, most political actors, particularly those who occupy elected officers are already scheming to have persons they feel comfortable with to succeed them.