By Clement Adeyemi

The presence of political godfathers in Nigeria can be seen as a political conflict waged by the ruling elite against democracy, the people, and the entire nation, all to serve their own selfish interests. To achieve this, the reward systems heavily favour the ruling class in comparison to the salaries and allowances of workers in other sectors of the economy. Nigerian politicians have transformed democratic elections into opportunities for profiteering and battlegrounds where money, private armies, and thugs are utilized to ensure returns on investments and expedited access to accumulating wealth.

However, Rivers State has been engulfed in a reign of impunity, ego, and chaos in the past few months. This ongoing turmoil has created a daily state of trouble, leading to a situation that can be best described as a power struggle between two key figures – Nyesom Wike, the former governor of Rivers State and current minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and Siminalayi Fubara, the incumbent Governor of Rivers state. This conflict and drama epitomize the typical dynamics seen in godfather-godson relationship within Nigerian politics. The catalyst for the trouble in Rivers state may be due to Fubara revealing his intentions too soon. Within six months of taking office, chaos erupted, and he severed the ties that brought him to power. The Wike-Fubara feud has divided Rivers State along ethnic and political lines. Even if the conflict is resolved, its repercussions will persist. The Ijaw Youth Council and the Ijaw National Congress have issued threats, warning that any attempt to remove Fubara from office will be regarded as an attack on the Ijaw nation.

The current political structure in Nigeria enables political godfathers to exploit state officials, institutions, and resources for their personal gain, often at the expense of the common people. These godfathers manipulates the system to recover the money they invested in ensuring the victory of their preferred candidate during the election campaign. Regrettably, excessive manipulation can trigger violent conflicts as the godsons may retaliate. Examples of such incidents can be observed in Rivers State, as well as previous cases like Chris Uba vs Chris Ngige in Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo vs. Chimaroke Nnamani in Enugu State, Lamidi Adedibu vs. Rasheed Ladoja in Oyo State, Abdullahi Ganduje vs. Rabiu Kwankwaso in Kano State, Adams Oshiomhole vs. Godwin Obaseki in Edo State, James Ibori vs. Ifeanyi Okowa in Delta, and Bola Tinubu vs. Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos.

However, in some of the cases mentioned, the candidates managed to free themselves from the influence of their godfathers. For example, Ladoja fought all the way to the Supreme Court and was reinstated. Obaseki weakened Oshiomhole’s power, while Ganduje suppressed the Kwankwasiyya Movement and forced Kwankwaso out of Kano. Kwankwaso’s attempt to return is currently causing trouble in Kano State. Bola Tinubu of Lagos seems to be the only godfather who has survived. He is known for being ruthless, crushing anyone who tries to assert themselves after he has identified and nurtured their talents. Akinwunmi Ambode, who followed Fashola as governor, wasn’t as fortunate. He was denied a second term because his godfather Tinubu grew tired of him.

Nigerian godfathers aren’t interested in scholars and talented individuals. They want obedient followers. For instance, when Umo Eno became the governor of Akwa Ibom State, he knelt before Udom Emmanuel, pledging his allegiance. In Kogi State, after the off-cycle gubernatorial election won by Ahmed Usman Ododo, governor Yahaya Bello’s chosen candidate, both Ododo and his elected deputy knelt and bowed before the governor in a show of gratitude. The future of the relationships between godfathers and their anointed successors in Kogi and Akwa Ibom states remains uncertain. Godfatherism has become a major obstacle within Nigeria’s political system, particularly for the genuine working people’s party. Once in political office, the holder of the position becomes a mere pawn to their godfather, as the one who controls the finances also controls the decisions. Whenever the protege refuses to comply with the godfather’s demands, they are eventually ousted from their position. Genuine working peoples party is needed to end Godfatherism and enthrone pro-people political party that will adhere strictly to pro-people policies. 

Conflict is a War over Spoils of Office.

The conflict is largely a war over spoils of office. The ruling class having adopted neoliberal capitalism has the driving force for the management of the economy frees the wealth of society from coming under usage to develop the means of production as a means to end the huge army of unemployed working class youth. Political power is therefore nothing more than a ticket to amass wealth for members of the ruling class. This is the import of the Tinubu’s slogan of “emi lo kan” under which individual members of the ruling class will take turn to preside over the looting of the state.

The ruling class is practically not engaged in any economic or productive activity, which is why on the eve of exiting from power, all the instruments of the state is employed to installed a godson as successor who must have already demostrated the needed loyalty and will duly make the necessary return to the Godfather. The former Governor continues in reality to be in power, only not in name. He calls the shots, makes all of the appointment and determines who get what. This is the basis of the conflict between godfather and godson that translate to nothing else than underdevelopment for the working masses.

Which is why, the working masses, must not be seen for any reason whatsoever queuing either behind godfather or godson. together they need to be booted out. Wike with his control over Abuja still wants to call the shots in Rivers. Indeed, Tinubu more than anyone is the best of example of the above model. His control of Lagos, since he left power as governor in 2007, indeed is what has laid the basis for winning the presidency. Rather than be discouraged, other members of the ruling elites desperately want to follow in his example, unmindful of the danger it portends to democratic rights and ideals. More alarming is that it could easily be employed by military adventurers to torpido civil rule in the country.

It must also be noted that this ugly phenomenon of godfatherism in Nigerian politics has tremondously impacted negatively on working class youth. With both camps of godfathers and godsons building supporters of youths with which to strike terror in the other camp. These youths are equipped with the necessary resources and dangerous weapons, with which they soon independently launch out on their own engaging in acts of kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery, human trafficking, and drug abuse in villages, towns, and cities across Nigeria, when for one reason or the other they enjoy less patronage from the godfathers or godsons. The widespread poverty in the country hampers many youths’ access to higher education, while those who can afford it face the scourge of unemployment. Consequently, these vulnerable youths become susceptible to manipulation by memebrs of the ruling class. Instead of striving to develop their own potential, they find temporary solace in the meager financial assistance they receive from these godfathers.

The Genuine Working Peoples Party Needed

Godfatherism perpetuates corruption, nepotism, and favouritism within our government institutions, resulting in inefficiency and stagnation. The Genuine Working Peoples Party urgently needs to eliminate its grip and return power to the hands of the working masses. A Genuine Working Peoples Party will be completely devoted to bringing about essential changes in the political landscape and advocating for policies that benefit the working masses. How this will come about is not something that is clear already to the working masses. But the fortunes of the Labour Party in the 2023 General elections speaks postively to the possibility of a genuine Working Peoples Party, this is inspite of the fact the LP stood a big business supporter in person of Peter Obi in the Feb. 25 2023 Presidential elections.

It is clear indication that if a genuine Working Peoples Party were to emerged that it will automatically garner the support of the working masses from all over. The Trade Unions therefore have no excuse than to commence the task of reclaiming the LP from the ranks of the adventurers from either the PDP or APC. And if this proves difficult, the step can be taken to building a new Working Peoples Party that puts forward a clear opposition to neoliberal capitalism and commits to nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy.

This is the only path by which to bring an end to the domination of the polity by a ruling class that prioritize the safeguarding of these godfathers over the well-being of its suffering citizens. Neither can we expect the courts under the thumb of bourgeois law or it misspelled rule of the law can redress the situation. Notably, none of these godfathers have ever been held accountable by the court of law. At the same time, armed robbers and petty thieves are sentenced to death or life imprisonment by the nation’s judiciary. The working masses can therefore not look up to any other class but itself. Only genuine working people’s party winning power, abolishing capitalism and enthroning a government of the working masses, that effectively and democratically manages the wealth of the country, nationalising the commanding sectors of the economy, can an end be brought to Godfatherism and implement policies prioritising the people’s interests.