Nigeria’s democracy has always been the wrestling arena for the rich and powerful who are the enthroning powers of a system that favours and promotes their grip on the corridors of power. Since the dawn of this unbroken democracy over 21 years ago, those who are blessed with financial prowess have turned themselves into controllers of levers of power to determine the direction of the political pendulum.
Unlike in developed democracies where histories of politicians can be traced to their families spanning past decades – if not a century – constitutional government in our country is yet to leave footprints on our nation’s political history. Since attaining political freedom from the British colonialists on October 1, 1960, Nigerians have been more at home with military jackboots than the electoral ballot box.
Nigeria’s constitutional government was yet again temporarily terminated in the dying hours of 1983 when the Second Republic was overthrown. This military putsch killed the resurrected hope of another democratic experiment sacked by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu when on January 15, 1966, the five majors overrhrew the First Republic and killed Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other prominent regional leaders.
With the return of democracy in 1999, there emerged a breed of politicians whose financial prowess and vast connections endowed them with the ability to determine the direction of the political pendulum. While the PDP-led government held sway at the centre, names like Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Chris Uba, among many others, became the metaphors of godfathers in realising political ambitions.
Blessed with enormous financial empires, these political godfathers were known to have sponsored cronies and ensured their camels passed through the eye of a needle. Boasting on the capacity of their fat pocket to game the system, it thus became easy for Nigerians to say, “With good arrangement, devil can see God.”
It has been a long walk from May 1999 to September 2020 when the former Edo state governor and erstwhile National Chairman of the APC, Chief Adams Oshiomhole, was forced to kiss the dust as he sought to impose his godson, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, as governor of the state.
Not a few analysts had predicted bloodshed during the Edo state governorship poll. With both frontline parties of APC and PDP leaving no stone unturned to ensure victory, the atmosphere became cloudy threatening to rain blood and violence on the state. In a bid to avert the breakdown of law and order, the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, deployed about 30, 000 to join other security agents to contain the activities of party thugs and poll riggers that had threatened chaos in the event their preferred candidates did not emerge victorious.
While the bitter campaigns continue to rage across the nooks and crannies of the state, the fear of the unknown and the capacity of the godfather to undermine the process darken prospects of peace across the various polling units and wards in the state. It was even rumoured that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had already agreed to deploy the fearsome federal might to crush Governor Godwin Obaseki whose defection to the PDP had angered Ize-Iyamu’s camp for daring to be an ingrate.
After being abandoned midstream, with no political platform, Obaseki after meeting with Buhari had defected to the PDP, giving credence to several conspiracy theories that there was more to it than meets the eyes. While news of defections by Obaseki’s aides were awash in the mainstream and social media, the governor refused to be discouraged by the wild rumours that were fueled by anti-Obaseki’s media promoters.
Now that the electoral verdict is out and Obaseki has successfully secured a second tenure, not a few see this victory as the downfall of the former National Chairman of the APC. Some political analysts see the conquest of the former Labour leader as a dress rehearsal for 2023 where the various camps in the APC are plotting their survival strategies, less than three years before the general elections.
The triumph of Obaseki in last week’s poll remains a defining moment on how fast crumbling godfatherism in politics can be in the face of determined voters. When we rent democracy to men and women of financial prowess to corrupt the system, we become willing accomplices in the ruination of democracy.
For those who never believed that polls can be conducted devoid of thuggery and violence, last Saturday’s poll brought a refreshing hope for a country desperately seeking a political rebirth. The nonviolent conduct of the election would not have been possible without the cooperation of the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), security forces and the electorate, among others.
More than any time in the past, the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC rose to the occasion and refused to succumb to any form of inducement usually offered by wielders of political powers to turn the table against the popular will of the people. Despite fears expressed in some quarters that the deployment of no fewer than 30,000 policemen was aimed at intimidating the voting populace, the conduct of the security forces during and after the polls was commendable as they displayed patriotism and remained neutral.
The creditable conduct of both INEC officials and security agents would not have been possible without the insistence by President Muhammad Buhari that the election must be free and fair to allow votes to count. His congratulatory message to Obaseki on his re-election remains a statesmanlike deed in Nigeria’s journey and determination to make votes count.
The decisive role of voters in making their votes count ensured the success of last Saturday’s election. Against the backdrop of fear-provoking uncertainties that ripped across various polling units and wards in the state, the electorate displayed a resoluteness in standing up to defend their ballots. Unlike in previous polls where people were content with receiving peanuts and allowing political renegades to hijack the electoral process, the voting public fully took charge and worked towards ensuring the sanctity of the electoral system.
The high level of consciousness of voters and their willingness and determination to defend their choice, coupled with the transparent disposition of the electoral commission in uploading results real time on its portal from various polling units gave credence to the entire electoral process.
When the democracy process is done transparently, there is no way godfathers can hijack the system. It is only when we allow political dealers to have their way that we enthrone godfatherism whose interest is to control various levers of power in order to promote their selfish interests and that of their cronies.
What happened during the last Saturday poll in Edo state should be seen as a prognosis on the imminent death of godfatherism. When voters rise up to embrace their true roles in a democratic dispensation, no fat cats desirous of enriching themselves and their cronies can access oxygen to perpetuate their evils. The Edo people represent the hope of building true democracy from the selfish greed of godfathers whose dream is anchored on perpetuating themselves and their evil agenda.
For those who think they possess the right of subjugating the electorate and promoting their selfish agenda, the Edo poll serves as a red flag. They may have successfully done that in the past, but the storm of opposition as shown in the Edo poll is set to blow across our nation. When that happens, those who have kept our democracy in chains will have no option than be carried away and be atrophied by the democratic revolution. Our democracy becomes better when it is devoid of the manipulations of godfathers.