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Effect of Godfather in Modern Nigerian Politics

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi

By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

Politics globally requires constant research and continuing proactive discussions with the electorates on methods to improve and develop the respective societies. It is not supposed to be an individual approach. However for most Africans what they refer to as politicians are individuals with possession of high dose of diabolical lifestyle. They make themselves enemies of their society once elected by their lifestyles.  They never believe in reality of achievement in the orthodox ways. After all many of them have been failures in business, in the classrooms, in farming, artisanship and all other economic life. Politics is otherwise a very noble profession providing a genuine avenue and opportunity for individuals who can make sacrifices to bring their dreams to improve the lives of the people in the various communities. Any politician in the 21st century will be required to consult books, have mentors and employ a research team and modern computer facilities to advance their courses.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih

Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih

The concept of being a godfather or a godmother is not new in the literature or in many societies. It has been used as a way to sponsor the way of an individual who may be less privileged or whom one so loved that must be assisted to attain a higher ground. For example, when a child is born the parents may wish to honour a family friend at the child’s naming ceremony by inviting the family friend as the godparents of their newborn. Similarly at the wedding of a young couple a family friend, especially one very close to the groom, bridegroom, or the families of the children wedding, may serve as their godfather or godmother as the case may be. Hence the idea of political godfather or godmother is primarily noble and could be used to mentor younger politicians to maturity. There is nothing wrong is serving as a political godfather or accepting to be mentored into political life by a more experienced godfather.

Recently in Nigeria politics, especially in the current dispensation called Fourth Republic many regional and centralised individuals have been recognised either as godfathers or godsons. The females have been low-key in this concept but whatever goes for the male politicians would go for their female politicians. In African politics only a fraction of the women as still participating because of the social huddles and challenges placed on their way. A serious African woman has to decide whether to run for a political office, or develop her profession, or work on her home by attending fully to the needs of her children and even her always away-husband. On the other hand men see politics as part of their natural field of endeavour even when it may conflict with their read careers or rub on the relationship and upbringing of their children. In this way, and because of inadequate preparation, a young politician would embrace what may look like a carrot and stick from a relatively older or wealthier known figure around him as a godfather. The initial hope is that the political godfather could enhance and influence his eventual political success. At that stage of desperation we have since found out that many of the would-be godsons enter into written or verbal agreements and covenants.

Meanwhile most of the godfathers in Nigeria politics are either First or Second Republic politicians who have become regional ward-lords, or an ex-military brass that was able to rise to visible military political life during the opportunity military junta politics provided them through the use of gun and seniority. Military politics was just opportunistic and use of brute force, a bit of seniority and comradeship and very little on ability, accountability or performances. We have also observed young but wealthy nonpoliticians acting as godfathers. One denominator is common with most Nigerian godfathers; they want their money back and at exorbitantly high profits. In fact they would not see anything wrong if the annual budget is brought fully to their personal control in addition to many other candidates they would sponsor for appointments at different levels.  Another class of interaction with the godsons in government houses across Nigeria is the demand of many godfathers to have political control in addition to financial control. Their weird or genuine wishes must be obeyed or their godson would be impeached.

The godfather-godson relationship would usually soon hit at the rock when either the godfather’s requests are considered as abnormal, incessant, and presented with element of arrogance and pride. On the other hand we have noticed many of the godsons that jettisoned their godfathers soon after becoming his Excellency or occupying a high office on appointment. Whereas most Nigerian godfathers see the relationship purely on business most godsons always forget too soon the covenants they signed off carelessly in the desperation. We even learned that a godson went to the oath taken between himself and his godfather with a Bible hiding secretly under his armpit believing the hiding Bible would break the agreement. We know that the Bible encourages us to honour our agreements and not to enter into any agreement we know we would not be able to honour.

The reasons why a thing like mentoring younger generations by relatively elderly ones is in a sorry state are legends. Nigeria value system is in shamble and politics is confused with a money making avenue. Politics has to be allowed to evolve from the axis of love for development of humanity and community organisational approach. Politics and its assessment should be on how many other lives are improved and how much of the infrastructure is improved. A properly oriented value system would lead to such understanding. The second class of confusion is the people that put themselves up for elections that are often less than qualified and many of who could not be mentored. In addition we have very few people that could be approach to guide Nigeria politics.

It is like the situations we have on campus when those who graduate with first class refuse to come back for postgraduate studies whereas third class graduates are hurrying back because they fail to get jobs and not their love for research work. If you develop your laboratory with such background the future of research could be damning. We rather expect research works to enthusiastically commence in our laboratories involving trainable hands and heads. Unfortunately the few first class graduates are sought after by all avenues and only a handful of them are left for research. The notion of first class here should not be confused with university graduates with first class honours degrees; most Nigeria private universities award first class degrees and only time will tell if such mass awards merit adequate scholarships required. So also it is in politics. Just as there are very few supervisors on campus even so there are very few trainable students. There are limited individuals that can mentor a politician. Many African politicians actually want to be praised and not to be taught or advised. They see the chains of political advisers and hangers-on as political favour and payback on promises during campaigns instead of expert advisers that are truly needed.

The fact that Nigerian politicians are failing their societies can be measured by the functional infrastructure on ground, number of viable jobs created, improvement on national economy, availability of new factories created in their communities, availability of food stuffs, reduction the inequality of opportunities in incomes, housing, and the like. On the other hand an index of a successful godfather is a successful godson or god daughter. Our immediate observation is that there has never been an ideal godfather in Nigeria political field; the existence of regional politicians like the Awolowo, Azikwe, or Sadauna of Sokoto notwithstanding. A road map of where the community should be on the social and economic scales must be produced by a mentor for his mentored and divorced of payback discussions. The dynamism of politics demands that both the godfather and his godson should have only one objective; to ensuring that the younger and less experienced politicians are well trained and focused in ideology and practice. For example in western politics, how a candidate voted some many years back could decide the outcome of his current quests. A politician should be very consistent, focused and persistent, not one moving around from one ideological axis to another within months and on regular basis. Therefore if Nigerian politicians had been failing it might have been due to lack of genuine mentors or untrained individuals parading themselves as politicians while there were not. Politics is an art of its own where factor of money is very insignificant in practice.

Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi,

ipinyomira@yahoo.co.uk or/and raipinyomi@unilorin.edu.ng



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1 Comment for “Effect of Godfather in Modern Nigerian Politics”

  1. It would have been much better for the writer to include current or past situations involving a mentor and mentee that went wrong or resulted in disaster. Unfortunately, most of Nigeria politics today involves one form of ‘godfatherism’ or another, hence the horrible political climate in the country.

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