Godfatherism is a universal issue that occurs in the political set-up of several countries. In Africa and particularly Nigeria, godfatherism thrives and this is one of the problems of the country’s politics, a situation which has somewhat affected governance and to an extent, the socio-economic life of the people. In simple words, godfatherism is bad and it cannot be disputed.
Like the mafia in some western countries, it is difficult for one’s political ambition to kick off without the endorsement of a godfather. This is particularly why you see photos of old men prostrating before younger men who have better clout in politics. You may call it humility but it is just ridiculous. Must you have a godfather before attaining any political position? Let us find out.
What is godfatherism?
Wiktionary defines godfatherism as a form of political corruption in which an influential individual handpicks another, an often less influential candidate, to attain leadership to exert authority or influence. It is a political strategy for a more powerful individual to impose a chosen candidate for a certain political position. It does not matter if the candidate is qualified or not, what matters is that he or she has the backing of an influential personality in a certain location.
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Godfatherism in Nigerian politics
Godfatherism has become entrenched as part of the political culture in contemporary Nigerian politics. Godfathers are people, particularly men, who have the power and influence to determine who gets nominated to contest elections and who wins in the election. An intending contestant must seek the blessings of a rich and powerful individual or individuals to get him or her into elective office. The implication is that contestants do not rely on their merit and popularity among the electorate, but instead depend on getting the backing of powerful people to help them get elected into office.
Experience has shown that it is almost impossible to be elected into a political office without the backing of a godfather in Nigerian politics. The situation is so bad that if you want to go into politics, one of the first questions you will be asked is: “who is your godfather?”, or “who is backing you?” If you do not have any as an aspirant or a candidate, you are more likely to fail than to succeed in the Nigerian political atmosphere.
Godfatherism is an investment in which an investor, the godfather, expects to profit at all costs, both legally and illegally. This is why the concept is a dangerous one. A godfather does not want to back a candidate with his influence and finances only to be thrown aside when that candidate gets into a desired political position. The repercussion is always damaging and the people at the receiving end are often the masses who cannot protect themselves.
Incidences have also shown that using a godfather to attain any position does not mean that a candidate is free to do what he or she wants. Successfully elected political officeholders must consult their godfathers first before making any move. Failure to do this carries several serious consequences, which include making sure that the candidate never returns to win elections ever again. Do you see why Nigerian politicians kneel, prostrate and bow down in worship of other politicians, who they deem as gods, as a tradition? It is not humility but an act of desperation that highlights the decadence Nigerian politics have suffered over the years.
The good news is that some politicians have been able to remove the shackles of godfathers around them. Powerful politicians like Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; and Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, have been able to destroy the hold of godfathers in their various states held over them. Nigeria still has a long way to eradicate the politics of godfatherism but there is hope. A time will come when political candidates are elected based on their own merits and not because they have the endorsement of a powerful figure.
Effect of godfatherism on Nigerian politics
Godfatherism is a corrupt poison that has eaten deep into the Nigerian political space. As previously stated, Nigerian godfathers are investors who expect to make profits from their investments. This often means an opportunity to loot public funds meant for the growth and development of the masses. Nigerian godfathers do not care about the people. They care about their pockets. This is why they go all out to destroy any political stooge that decides to act against their wish to have constant access to public funds.
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This takes us to another point. Politicians who attain their various political ambitions through the help of godfathers are often stooges to these godfathers. This means they are under the shackles of these godfathers as far as politics is concerned. The implication is that they cannot do anything on their own. They cannot work for the betterment of the people without approval from the godfathers. Just like zombies, they are controlled by forces that have taken away their own will. No wonder godfathers only endorse candidates they can control, not based on what they can offer to the people.
Most political office holders that have tried to get away from their clutches have either been unceremoniously ousted from offices and even politics entirely or have become so disillusioned that they have decided not to fight. After all, if you can’t beat them, you join them. Some with a little dignity left, have decided to leave Nigerian politics entirely and focus on their hustle.
This means many political candidates are selfish individuals who are not interested in helping the masses. The good ones have been suppressed and they prefer to be on the sidelines. Nigerians are suffering from difficult times because of incompetent politicians who should not have been elected into office in the first place. The rate of poverty and unemployment has risen. There is insecurity everywhere. The nation’s economy is almost comatose and yet Nigerian politicians are thriving with their ill-gotten wealth because there is no accountability.
How to tackle godfatherism in Nigerian politics
Sensitisation of the electorate to avoid being used by political godfathers to attain their selfish ambitions.
The legislature should prohibit godfatherism by making it a punishable offence.
The electorate should be sensitised that nobody has a monopoly of power. They should vote for candidates based on their merits and not who is endorsing them.
There should be proper enforcement of the campaign spending limit as contained in the Electoral Act of 2022. This will help control the amount of money thrown into politics by godfathers and other politicians in the country.
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