The menace of politics of godfatherism

Oshiomhole and Obaseki, before things fell apart

By Sylvester Asoya

As the governor of Edo State twelve years ago, Adams Oshiomhole was a flicker of hope in an age of unbridled politics of godfatherism. He attacked godfatherism, a deadly virus in Nigeria’s politics at the root and almost eliminated it in Edo State. In a few years, and fighting on the side of the masses, this former president of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC defeated and retired all the prominent political godfathers and their agents in the state’s three senatorial zones. In a short while, Oshiomhole became an instant folk hero and a liberator. He was hailed by the people of Edo State and his admirers across Nigeria for returning power to the people in a dramatic manner.

Today, the same Oshiomhole has reversed all the gains of his titanic battle with godfathers and other enemies of the Nigerian state. Edo is currently in turmoil over his disagreement with Godwin Obaseki, his political godson and the governor. For many political observers in Nigeria, Oshiomhole’s conduct is unbecoming of a man who yesterday, bravely resisted politics of self and subjugation by well-established and powerful politicians in Edo State who wanted everything.

To fully understand the irreparable damage godfathers like Oshiomhole do to Nigeria, just check out the viral videos of the bitter governorship campaign of 2016 in Edo State when the shoe was in the other foot. No one watches the name-calling and all the indignities Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole’s new godson suffered in the hands of his godfather without recognizing our misery. The terrifying scenes in those videos do not just scare; they stay with the viewer forever.

But Oshiomole is definitely not a lone traveler, he has company. So, it will be unfair to single out this former governor as the only politician that is guilty of this disease that has impoverished Nigerians and subjected the country and her citizens to ridicule.

In some quarters, godfathers are perceived as self-seeking and evil-minded individuals who live on the commonwealth of all Nigerians. But others less charitable, say godfathers are not only a threat to Nigeria’s democracy and good governance but also a major impediment to our unity and continued existence as a country.
We may not fully appreciate the evil of godfatherism until we pause and remember that since 1999, nearly all the elected public officials and appointees in all arms of government, from the president to the lowest persons are all products of godfathers.

So, in deciding who governs the rest of us at all levels in this digital age, merit and good breeding are thrown overboard. But that is the only way to accommodate the avaricious godfather’s family members, friends, domestic staff and other comic characters that are undeserving of the high offices they occupy. Even this current administration that claims to be fighting corruption rode on the back of godfathers. This reality defines our politics and everyone knows that we are going nowhere if godfathers remain unchallenged. Therefore, the cost of godfatherism on us as a people is indescribable. It accounts for the incompetence in tackling insecurity and related problems. It is also responsible for the absence of improved legislative standards, widespread corruption, lack of infrastructure, poor policies and ineffectual governance because wrong persons are everywhere. Godfathers are also the engine that drives nepotism, ethnic conflicts, gender inequality, electoral violence and manipulations, arson, assassinations, riots, rumour-mongering, hate speech and all kinds of impunities that we are witnessing today in Nigeria.

One good thing about this government of the All Progressives Congress, APC is that it brought our many years of visionless leadership and failure within a touching distance. Its predecessor, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP managed to hide our wretchedness during its horrendous 16 years misrule but everything is now in the open.
If I may ask: have you ever wondered how our so-called leaders made such a big mess of our country in the last two decades? Or why parliamentary debates are uninspiring and bland? Or why our judges no longer command respect? Or the reasons our courts give conflicting judgments? And why lack of personal effectiveness is now the prevailing culture in our public institutions? The root of these troubles and more are traceable to the evil and unscrupulous activities of depraved godfathers and their sons.

But it is midnight for godfathers and their sons in Nigeria because a revolution has started in Edo State. The rebellion in this South-South state offers hope and opportunity to rebuild a fractured country. Finally, the long-awaited chance to free ourselves from bondage, undue paternalism and the greed of a few is now here. But make no mistake about it; the uprising in Edo is our own version of the Arab Spring. As we all know, this revolt is not pleasing to other godfathers across Nigeria as we can even feel their uneasiness but Nigerians must remain sober and undeterred in their search for a better society.

Obaseki may have started this revolution inadvertently but we should remember also that he was for many years, a political godson and a beneficiary of an odious political culture. That is why we must take in our stride, the inevitable backlash trailing his panicky steps and self-preservation move to PDP.

So, even as the governor’s camp swells with political migrations, it is gratifying to note that he also faces fresh hurdles with each passing day. This is good because it will expand the conversation and teach some callous politicians who take the electorate for granted some useful lessons. Already, members of Edo Youths and Women United have withdrawn their support for Obaseki over what they called his unwillingness to shun godfatherism. According to them, joining PDP is synonymous with running from one godfather to another and this is unacceptable to them.

In the days ahead, more groups will desert the embattled governor but that is not the point. However, what Obaseki does with the on-going crisis and the fluid political situation in his state will definitely shape our political thought and address issues of citizenship, power, liberty, law, good governance, inclusion and justice.

After all is said and done, Nigerians must take ownership of this struggle to defeat godfathers and their cohorts. But to overcome this threat against our common good and heritage, every Nigerian of voting age must register to vote. We must also be more involved and circumspect by taking the conversation away from mundane issues like ethnic politics, differences in political ideologies and other narrow-minded topics that distract. Let us vote for only trained and competent people who are prepared for the heavy demands of office. It is now clear that everyone is tired of excuses from godfathers and incompetent leaders who hide behind lies to misinform the public. This is the time to end our country’s never-ending series of disasters, and all hands must be on deck.

The coming governorship election in Edo State will be very interesting and we are anxiously waiting to know where we are headed. However, the good in this season of absurdities is that our realities have aroused a resentful anger and consciousness among patriots and other right-minded Nigerians who want the best for their country. And with the royal vote against godfatherism and politics of Ghana-Must-Go from the Oba’s Palace in Benin City, I believe good times are here.

View Comments (1)

  • Good essay in view of the attempt to unveil the problems associated with perceived issue of Godfatherism , politics and Edo State politics in particular. But should ethics play a role in politics? Also should members of groups learn to align as situations demand? What are the possible outcomes of leaders employing the minority to upturn the majority in a democratic system as have possibly been the situation? What role has “ trust “ to play in any organisation, politics inclusive ? What are the possible impacts of lack of trust and cohesion on the party members, followers and the citizens at large. If we are able to positively resolve the above, may be we are on the right path . Too major issues, how was it that the State Assembly only functioned with a minority where about 14 members were rendered non functional. How was it that a minority of the Party Ward Exco succeeded in the Suspension of a national officer of the party . We must critically examine these issues, find reasonable solutions in an attempt to ward off possible future disasters that may be imminent and unproductive to the polity .