Edo 2016, and danger of Godfatherism
Nigeria’s long years of military rule brought about militarised leadership in the country. With the return of democratic governance in 1999, the country returned to the path of freedom, equity, elections and constitutionalism. Disappointedly, cabal crept in and hijacked the democratic and election processes in the country. That was the commencement of godfatherism syndrome in the country’s politics. A syndrome, which perverts democratic processes through undemocratic means for the benefit of the members of the cabal at the detriment of the people. At a time, the syndrome became a democratic tradition and norm in the country.
The godfathers who usually enjoy the backings of the powers-that-be then dictated the dynamic of political power both at states and national levels. They were worshipped like God by power-seekers, and their homes became a Mecca of sort. Prominent among them were Chief Chris Uba, Sir Emeka Offor, Late Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Tony Anenih alias “Fix It” and others. It was Anenih who announced in 2002 while serving as Minister of Works during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock in 2003. Anenih stated further that the then 21 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors would be given automatic ticket in 2003, thereby foreclosing any transparent primaries in the party. Just as dictated earlier by Anenih, President Obasanjo and the PDP governors with the exception of Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State were issued automatic return tickets in 2003 to the disappointment of many Nigerians and party faithful, especially party aspirants. It was the height of political impunity in the PDP and the beginning of the party’s disastrous end.
Anenih also extended his godfatherism activities to his home state, Edo, where he operated like a political colossus, dictating who gets what, how and when in the party and the governments at will. He and his party had a field day for a while in the state until 2007 when the people of Edo State voted against Anenih and his party, PDP during the governorship election. Not even the PDP’s manipulations in the election could save the party’s candidate in the court of law as the court declared Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the defunct Action Congress (AC) the winner of the election. That was how Anenih’s godfatherism activities and PDP’s inglorious days ended in Edo State through the people’ votes.
Greatest beneficiary of the demystification of political godfatherism in the state was Comrade Adams Oshiohmole who overwhelmingly enjoyed the support of the people. Voters voted massively for Oshiomhole during his second term bid against the PDP candidate, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) that was imposed on the PDP by Anenih and his cohorts against a popular and acceptable aspirant. Since then, PDP in the state has never known peace, especially now that the party is not in control of power at the centre. Having murdered sleep by political godfatherism and imposition of candidates during elections, PDP lost not only followership, but leadership in the state. It is a hard lesson the ruling APC in the state must learn from, and avoid like a plague. But ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in the state, if the APC fails to manage the primaries well, the party will go the way of the PDP in the election. There is already growing apprehensions and concerns among the people of the state over the growing political godfather activities of Governor Oshiomhole. Today Oshiomhole who was severely critical of Anenih’s godfatherism posture is doing everything possible to muscle the party hierarchy and impose his godson, Mr. Godwin Obaseki as his successor. He has been going round the state trying to sell the candidacy of his preferred successor.
The governor and his foot soldiers have in a recent meeting tried to cow some of the party governorship aspirants to drop their ambitions and support that of his godson. But they have vehemently opposed him, asking him and the party leadership to create a level playing ground for transparent primaries. These are enough signs of what can befall the party in the election. A party that won election on platform of change mantra cannot afford to support political godfatherism and other undemocratic tendencies that destroyed the PDP and the political space in the last 16 years. President Muhammadu Buhari and other elected APC members in the last general elections were not products of political godfatherism and Edo State should not be different. If Oshiomhole feels that his preferred aspirant is popular and acceptable, he should not be afraid of presenting him for a free and fair party’s primaries. The beauty of democracy is that the minority will have their say, while the majority will have their way.
• Adiga, a public affairs analyst and human right activist wrote from Benin City, Edo State
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