One of the emergent angles to the September 19th governorship polls in Edo State is the now trending cliché that political god-fatherism in that state, died with the re-election of Godwin Obaseki as governor.
He had contested as a cross-over candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to which he decamped from the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the face of stiff opposition to his political aspiration to contest for a second term in office as governor of that state, by his traducer in chief, Adams Oshiomole. The latte is the immediate past governor of the state and former National Chairman of the All Peoples Congress (APC). Oshiomole’s questionable enterprise of trying to spite Obaseki by frustrating the latter’s bid for a second term simply turned out to be a playout of poetic justice, as if he was dramatizing a rhyme from the popular song by Jamaican musician Jimmy Cliff that “the harder they come, the bigger they fall, one and all”.
Hitherto the duo of Obaseki and Oshiomole were inseparable and the latter was instrumental in facilitating the emergence of the former as governor in 2016. But that was until Oshiomole became meddlesome in Edo politics after his two terms of eight years as governor of Edo State. For Obaseki to deny him the unrestricted foray into Edo politics and thereby hijack the power structure of the state by Oshiomole became vengeful, and started laying booby traps and the proverbial banana peels for the former to slip on and fall. The recent polls offered the ultimate opportunity for Oshiomole to rub Obaseki’s face in the mud. At least so Oshiomole thought and boasted openly about, with the APC candidate in the polls, Osagie Ize Iyamu serving as the arrow head of the bring Obaseki down agenda. That of course, was until the enterprise ended in futility for both Osagie and Oshiomole.
That Oshiomole’s questionable enterprise at trying to play an omnipotent factor in Edo politics has been to the discomfort of not only the incumbent governor Obaseki but every well-meaning Nigerian within and outside Edo State is an understatement. Many Nigerians had prayed for a day when political god-fatherism and high-handedness by public officers as represented by Oshiomole would end. The outcome of Edo State polls offered a glimmer of hope over such expectation. At least for once, even the godfathers also cry – notwithstanding that such is with crocodile tears or otherwise.
However for those who see the Edo State misfortune of Oshiomole as the end of god-fatherism in that state, their expectation remains for all practical intents and purposes, premature. And as it is for Edo as well as the rest of country, the mere denial of a powerful godfather from asserting his will on the politics of a community cannot translate into the death of godfatherism. For in its barest context, what happened in Edo State is a case of power shift from one political god-father to another. For in Nigeria politics flows from, and is driven at any level by godfathers. From the north to the south and east to the west, except the godfather declares, nobody acts and not much happens. That is how pervasive the syndrome of political godfatherism in Nigeria is and will remain so for some time to come, unless a situation arises that can tame the dispensation, at least to manageable dimensions.
In a generic sense, godfatherism is not an intrinsically vile dispensation but denotes a dispensation whereby the godfather provides care, guidance and protection for a ward. Virtually all communities provide for mentors and guardians to cater for the welfare of the less disposed members of their groups. In fact the altruistic and benevolent godfathers, constitute the cherished blessings of any society that has them. However the picture changes when the godfather plays his or her role with malevolence and the intent of exploiting and even emasculating the community for selfish reasons which often run in conflict with public interest.
In the contemporary Nigerian setting of an emerging democracy, the problem of godfatherism features individuals who often tend to dominate and supplant public weal with their personal interests, often with the wealth and werewithal gleaned from the common patrimony of members of the society. With such largesse they aim at railroading elements that will serve their interest into leadership positions in the community. For such who succeed, government becomes their personal estates, with which they can do and undo at will. It is this situation which is antithetical to the ethos of democracy that makes political god-fatherism an anathema to Nigerians and largely spawned the ‘revolt; against Oshiomole in the Edo State polls.
However as has been stated earlier, he is not alone in the class, but enjoys good company with a wide variety of potentates comprising powerful politicians and business moguls, state governors, traditional rulers as well as denizens of the underworld in whose case deploy terror to achieve relevance in the social order. All of these godfathers have common interest in muzzling dissenting voices around them.
Already, with Nigeria inching towards the 2023 general polls, permutations of who will play which role, how and where, have dominated the country’s public space with sundry godfathers calling the shots at different points and levels. A typical instance is that featuring the 2023 presidential race in respect of which permutations have reached fever pitch, and has even impacted on the processes and tempo of governance at virtually all tiers of governance. And in a developing country like Nigeria where government dominates the economy any interference with the routine process of administration translates into failure of governance.
With godfathers that are committed to drive only their selfish interests, the public weal remains compromised, and government loses the democratic credentials as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. What rather is operational in Nigeria is a distortion of the democratic ethos whereby governance in the country is of the godfathers, by the godfathers and for the godfathers. The people are left at the mercy of the godfathers, as mere fodder for the benefit of the same godfathers.
Incidentally, the situation has a notional escape route which is through the constitutional powers granted the country’s legislature to oversight governance at every tier. According to the Constitution only the legislature can sack the President and governors who are the most potent godfathers. Even at that, with the President, governors and other godfathers dictating the business of the legislature and virtually hand-picking the bulk of membership of the linstitution at various tiers, they still hold the ace.