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Interrogating the emergent forum of demystified godfathers

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[FILES] Senate President Bukola Saraki PHOTO: TWITTER/ BUKOLASARAKI

Emerging indicators point to the nexus between godfatherism in politics and impunity. That explains why the anomalous political relationship finds greater expression in ruling parties. Although godfathers dominated the polity during the 16 years’ dominance of the national political space by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the attempt to sustain that malefic system in the present dispensation has met with public disapproval leading to disastrous outcomes.

APC’s godfather tactics
Lagos State, where the godfather escaped the censure of the electorate by the whiskers, has become an exception. Fourth Republic Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whom his fawning acolytes like to eulogise with the nebulous title of national leader, was handed a surrogate sixth term by virtue of having his preferred candidate returned again as governor, thereby extending his influence in the running of government and politics of the state.

But others who were desirous to be in his shoes were not that lucky. Given the evolving realities, it could be this club of emergent godfathers that would likely serve as backcloths to infuse discipline in Nigeria’s political behaviour.

Furthermore, the club would also help the public to examine how far the present dispensation could go in instilling the appropriate democratic culture, especially internal democracy in the management of political parties.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) succeeded in dethroning PDP through its lofty promise of bringing about change in the way things are done in the country, particularly in the areas of politics and governance. However, the experience of the past four years has exposed the lack of well thought-out scheme of effecting change or doing things differently. From the second-guessing approach of its former national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to Adams Oshiomhole’s swashbuckling sole-administrator style leadership, APC ran into troubled waters by its lack of consensus building.

Although the party’s inclination towards direct primary approach of candidate selection was in sync with democratic norms, the failure to canvass that style before the party caucus to gain the buy-in of stakeholders robbed the initiative of popular endorsement. Disappointingly, the party leadership ended up enthroning double standards, because while it sought to make the state governors subject to the supremacy of the party, it created an uneven atmosphere for the application of the model.

Faced with this ambivalence, some state governors decided to appropriate powers available to them by virtue of incumbency, by trying to be their own referees in a game that required the party’s dominance. It was this attempt to dictate the terms of engagement that threw up emergent godfathers in the party.

Governors Abdullaziz Yari, Ibikunle Amosun, Rochas Okorocha and Abiola Ajimobi fell into this bracket. Smarting from the challenge of parallel congresses, APC under Oshiomhole decided on a programme of creating few godfathers thereby setting the stage for an animal farm scenario.

It was in the attempt to confront the uneven gradation that the party was creating that the governors fell out of favour. Yet, while they blamed the party chairman, Oshiomhole, they failed to see the entire shenanigans as the creation of an emerging godfather who did not want to cede authority or share responsibility with any other.

Unfolding events in the polity show that the decision to reconfigure the power structure in APC was not entirely that of Oshiomhole alone. President Muhammadu Buhari and Tinubu seem to be the other two legs on which the party now stands alongside the national chairman. However, in essence the entire architecture has been designed to have one godfather, Buhari, with two vassals or viceroys.

While speaking when he received his Katsina Middle School classmates, President Buhari noted with exultation that the incoming National Assembly would be peopled by majority of APC lawmakers, stressing that it would help a return to the January to December budget cycle. What the president seems to have left unsaid was that the emerging scenario leaves him as the final clearinghouse on who gets what in the party and the legislature, particularly on the crucial issue of floor functionaries in the twin chambers.

It was a fact that was lost on the governors as they battled Oshiomhole, because while they pledged their loyalty, they could not look deep enough to reflect that they were dealing with a former military officer who was tutored in the art of decoy and camouflage. Having achieved the unfolding setting, the president knows that the governors who would soon lose the executive powers would be left with no option than to kowtow to him and abide by whatever dictates or designs he wishes to pass through his viceroys.

Demystified godfathers
Governor Amosun showed how far he has come in the art of political warfare. But while he was able to win his senatorial ticket, enthroning his preferred candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, on the alternate platform of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) could not sail through. Forces arrayed against him in the Southwest, which did not want him to take over APC structure in Ogun through the backdoor, rallied round Dapo Abiodun.

With the development, Senator Amosun would most likely remain in APC after May 29, 2019 at the mercy of Governor Abiodun, who by virtue of his new office would become the leader of the party in the state. And being a senator, it is not likely that Amosun would decide to play opposition or isolate himself, especially having declared that he was not going to abandon APC or President Buhari, who he has shared close political friendship for long.

But, could friendship with the president augur well for Senator Amosun later in the day, after he was embarrassed by a purported suspension from the party? The fact remains that when push turns to shove, the president does not raise a finger, particularly when his interest is not affronted.

However, even as the outgoing Ogun State governor escaped disgrace based on his perceived political pedigree, others in his class, including Ajimobi and Okorocha were not that lucky.

Senate President Bukola Saraki and Senator Godswill Akpabio are two other godfathers that the present dispensation did much to demystify. While the forces against Saraki played on mass psychology and grassroots sloganeering to scheme him and his preferred governorship candidate out of relevance, Akwa Ibom electorate defied Akapbio and his federal might appeal.

Now that Kwara State has got what it wanted through o to oge (enough is enough), what remains to be seen is how far the new leaders would tackle the challenges of governance and deepen the democratic culture they promised.

The governor-elect has expressed his intention to reopen the notorious Offa robbery, which amounts to a declaration of war on criminality and insecurity. Yet the governor-elect needs to map his plan and work quietly to meet expectations.

Abiola Ajimobi

Not much has been heard about the academic certificate forgery issue that trailed the emergence of the APC gubernatorial candidate. But the fact that Saraki, Atunwa and outgoing governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, have congratulated the governor-elect, they have set the pace for peace that Kwara that deserves.

During the election, the Senate President faced three-sided battles. He was the Director General of PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, even as he sought another term in the Senate and smoothen the ground for the party’s governorship standard-bearer.

As a politician, Saraki might have bitten more than he could chew, because even a strong soldier does not fight wars on two fronts at the same time. Now that he has played the democrat by conceding defeat and also congratulating the winners, it seems he wants to give the new leaders opportunity to deliver on their mandates to Kwara people.

In Akwa Ibom, it is a case of double jeopardy for Akpabio and Nsima Ekere, because in the absence of a strong political foothold of their party in the state, there is nothing left as their bragging rights to dictate to APC stakeholders how the state should be brought to the mainstream. Although loyalists have started flying the kite of a possible presidency appointment for the former PDP minority leader, such a gesture would come only as political magnanimity rather than electoral worth or political clout.

And so the boisterous Akpabio would most likely find himself going to the presidency to genuflect and shout sai Baba, for political relevance rather than be in a position to make serious input into the dynamics of APC’s power organogram.

Ajimobi and Okorocha are victims of their own political misfortunes. Apart from stoking internal strife in their states through policy dissonance and self-adulation, the two outgoing governors acted as if the people never counted, never mattered. But the people rose and they both fell like a pack of cards.

In the next dispensation, it would be seen how the experience of these demystified godfathers help to inculcate decorum and restraint in the polity. The new leaders should reckon that triumphalism would dispose them to repeating mistakes they took advantage of.


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