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Nigerian political godfathers at war

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
24 September 2018   |   3:00 am
The typical Nigerian campaign circle revolves around the influence or formidable reach of the persons. Looking at it from another perspective, one can assert that the single issue that has come to define and dominate the typical electioneering or campaign periods in Nigeria right from post-independence period up until 2018 has always been the conversations…

Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, speaks at a party meeting in Abuja Febuary 17, 2015. To supporters Tinubu, a Yoruba Muslim, is a wily political operator with a passion for getting the job done and a knack for picking bright, committed technocrats to do it. To critics he is a ruthless godfather who doles out lucrative contracts to his friends’ firms, insists on installing his man in office and is capable of sending in street thugs if he fails to get his way. Picture taken Febuary 17, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

The typical Nigerian campaign circle revolves around the influence or formidable reach of the persons.

Looking at it from another perspective, one can assert that the single issue that has come to define and dominate the typical electioneering or campaign periods in Nigeria right from post-independence period up until 2018 has always been the conversations around the influences and powers of political godfathers to successfully hand pick their stooges who would be anointed to run for one political office or the other. 

Politics is obviously the biggest business in Nigeria because those who wield political powers at the centre determines who gets what because the redistribution of national wealth is skewed in favour of the less than two per cent of the populace that constitute the power making elite. 

These persons hold courts in their magnificent private mansions erected from the resources of the entire federation whilst they were actively controlling the topmost echelons of political power.

In retirement out of political offices these persons are still regarded as king makers or political godfathers. 

Some have regional control of their spheres of influences whilst others are in charge all around the country. 

The self centred interest of these tiny political cabal has unfortunately become the center of attraction during political campaigns. 

These godfathers with national influences are usually visited by persons seeking the tickets of the two dominant political parties of PDP and APC.

They also own significant stakes in the influential media industry. 

These godfathers sometimes combine their positions as traditional and religious leaders and essentially most of them have linkages to former powerful military Generals.

The military called the shots in Nigeria’s politics for nearly three decades. 

In other words, what is conventional about campaigns in civilised societies like the United Kingdom, Germany, much of continental Europe and United States of America is not what worries aspirants to political offices in Nigeria.

In those Western civilized entities, those who seek for elective offices, have it at the back of their minds and indeed within their subconsciousness that the welfare and wellbeing of the people of their respective nations define the Kernels of their campaigns. 

Even in the United States of America whereby there are popular voters and the electoral college which can be likened to an exclusive class of political elite or elitist constituents, the people and what will make them generally happy and to live meaningful lives is at the core of their campaign messages.

America and much of Western Europe are at home with the theory and practice of utilitarianism whereby the greatest happiness for the greatest number governs their unique political ideology. 

In our contemporary times, we can speak about certain influential families in the United States of America for instance that can be likened to members of political dynasties by virtue of their remarkable successes recorded in such families in terms of the caliber of office holders from such families but by and large there is an absence of political godfathers. 

There are such families like the Kennedy, the Bush; the Clintons.

John McCain who recently died from brain cancer was an institution politically. 

For instance, if political dynasties or godfathers were to be instrumental to who picks the tickets of the two major parties of Republican and Democrats, then a rookie and total outsider like Donald Trump could not have succeeded in becoming the candidate of the Republican party who proceeded to win the election by trouncing/defeating the democratic party that presented Mrs. Hilary Clinton who can be considered as a member of one of America’s illustrious political dynasties. 

Hilary became both a Senator representing New York and the Secretary of state before and during the Barack Obama’s Presidency. 

Obama was an unknown quantity when he emerged the first ever black American President which tells you that the voters are the real owners of the sovereignty of the USA. 

In Nigeria, you need the backing and supports of political godfathers to stand a fighting chance of standing for elective positions of all categories even for such a lowly rated political position such as that of local councillorship.

Development economists as well as political analysts, have come to reckon that the over bearing influences of these godfathers are to be blamed for the sorry state of our politics and the terrible ecomomic downturns. 

Political godfatherism has stifled democracy at the local government level even as godfathers in the 36 states who are governors violate the constitution with impunity by hand picking their errand boys and mistresses as council officials even as the revenue from the federation account that should go directly to the local government towards development of local infrastructures ends up in what is called joint accounts which are stolen by most governors. 

Nigeria’s politics suffer from the suffocating forces of lack of good governance, lack of transparent recruitment processes and the emergence in key positions of persons not sufficiently equipped and trained to control the different levers/platforms of political power configurations.

Rights from the pre-independence epoch to this contemporary time, the Nigerian political environment has been populated by crass opportunists and persons who at best can be described as belonging to the third eleven, that is if we are to assume that the political leadership map is like that of a football team.

The issues of corruption, collapsing infrastructures and poor governance records characterised by political instability, economic challenges and general state of insecurity that confront Nigeria as I write, can be traced to the overwhelming dominance of political godfathers who determine the fate of all political aspirants rights from the local councils up to the office of the president which is the highest in terms of control of the executive arm of government. 

These godfathers corner all the juicy contracts to fix the infrastructures and can as well deliver poor jobs or no jobs at all even as their stooges holding political offices lack the will power to demand accountability. 

The people are made to behave like mere spectators even whilst their commonwealth are shared by these opportunists and predators. 

For instance, in 1999, Northern born military generals such as Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and many others were instrumental to the anointing of the erstwhile military head of state in the 1970’s General Olusegun Obasanjo who was freed from an illegal imprisonment to become the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and for delivering him as the winner of the election that heralded the transition from military to civilian era.

The former military general, who served two terms between 1999 and 2007, then chose his successor in the person of the younger brother of the military General who was his military Chief of General Staff when he (Obasanjo) was military head of state in the mid 1970’s.

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died before the end of his tenure making room for his vice Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to succeed him with the backing of the traditionally known political godfathers including the general Obasanjo who had initially picked him to become the vice president to the then governor of Katsina State Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was railroaded into office as president.

Jonathan then proceeded to win a fresh term as president in 2011.

To be continued tomorrow.