‘Godfatherism’ is a system of government in which an influential party member assists another member in leadership. In Layman’s terms, Godfathers are referred to as the ‘Jagabans’ of political parties who dictate the socio-political happenings of the state or political party. They are individuals who continually annihilate opportunities for impoverished credible candidates and impose on the free will of the citizens. These individuals do not only have the financial power to win over a state or an election but also veto power – which usually comes with violence, corruption, and coercion. A belief that these godfathers are mere financiers of a campaign would mean a belief that ‘Rome was built in a day’.
Political godfatherism in Nigerian politics has eaten deep into the nation’s political space and economy. It has led to political slavery, puppetry leadership, and dogmatic citizenship. A concept of governance that forces its citizenry to accept Pyrite as Gold – which eventually becomes nuisances in office; with no vision or practical solutions to the ever-increasing issues and challenges in the economy. The best way to describe these Pyrites would be in Fela’s words.
“Zombie no go go unless you tell am to go, Zombie……”
The screams of the 1999 victory soon became wails and gnashing of teeth as the forefront runners of past republic teamed up in what seems to be called ‘Democracy’. Democracy is a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. The right to vote or be voted for was murdered before it was birthed to the nation.
Democracy, designed to bring about; rule of law, free and fair elections, independence of judiciary, political equality and respect of fundamental human rights but took a different turn with the advent of chronic ‘Godfatherism’ in the political scene, the Nigerian democracy is characterized with; rigging elections, political violence, bribery and corruption, looting of funds, disenfranchisement and electoral malpractice, nepotism, tribalism, bureaucracy, insurgency and religious disputes. The Anambra crisis that erupted between Chris Ngige and his supposed Godfather Chris Uba is a testament to these notions. The current situation of things in Lagos state also lays credence to the effect of ‘Godfatherism’ in our democracy.
However, we as citizens must begin to eradicate this menace that has eaten deep into the Nation’s political structure. We must begin to emancipate ourselves from the beliefs that constrain us as a people, rather we must ask the intelligible questions that would ensure voting incredible and accountable candidates, questions like;
- How competent is the candidate?
- Can the candidate deliver on the job?
- What are the values of the candidates?
- What track record does the candidate have
- Does this person have integrity?
- Does he/she have the capacity to effect change in the country?
- Is the candidate committed to nation building?
- What has he/she done to help the immediate community?
Until we begin to ask these questions and make our choices based on the right answers, we would continually be bound politically by the chains of Godfatherism.
Howbeit, we as a people and nation need to change our mentality on what politics is, and what it should be. Let’s begin to embrace a new way of choosing leaders and elected officials – who enshrine principles of transparency, public accountability and are competent, have the required character and courage to lead Nigeria into being a prosperous nation.
By Afolabi Bodunrin, a volunteer with EiE Nigeria.