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[OPINION]: The ways of the godfathers - Segun Adeniyi

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Against the background that there is no fresh recruitment in the already over-bloated civil service—at both federal and states—where salaries are no longer guaranteed and at a period most of the private companies are downsizing as a result of the harsh operating environment, it is no surprise that many Nigerians are now looking for the easy way out of their economic challenge. That perhaps explains why there are more people seeking political offices than at any other period in our history, going by the list of those contesting the 2019 general election across the country. From presidency to the governorship to the state and national assemblies, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are now pinning their survival hopes on winning, by hook or crook, elections into public offices.

Even those that are not directly involved are conspiring with politicians to “purchase” their forms in what has become a lucrative enterprise, especially since Nigerian politicians don’t take responsibility for anything, including their own ambitions: They are always being ‘begged by the people’. Instructively, Senator Shehu Sani (who else?) said at the weekend that he was approached by “a group of youth struggling for daily bread” to announce that they bought a nomination form for him as part of the ongoing drama of deceit while another politician offered him pepper spray and handkerchief to rub his face to induce tears that would be attributed to his concerns about “the plight of the masses” while collecting or submitting the nomination form at his party secretariat.

In a milieu where the only thriving industry is politics, all kinds of tricks are being conjured by office seekers though it must be said that Nigerian politics has always been an Abracadabra game: The more you look, the less you see. That perhaps explains why we are in the season of spiritualists and marabouts even when I am inclined to believe that as our democracy progresses, our politicians will also begin to see those charlatans for what they truly are. Afterall, it took Harry Houdini, a famous illusionist who testified before a subcommittee of the United States Congress in February 1926, to expose the futility of “fortune telling” and sorcery to which many American elected officials and politicians were addicted at the period.

However, the real challenge of our politics is the role of godfathers: the political contractors who help people to power as an investment on which they seek bountiful rewards. This is also their season. Not too long ago, I encountered a professional who left to serve his state before getting a rude awakening in politics. From the position of a powerful aide to the governor who eventually completed two terms, he sought to succeed his boss by becoming governor himself. After preliminary consultations, he was directed to go and get the endorsement of a prominent godfather in the state (which I will not disclose to protect my source).

The meeting with the said godfather, according to the man (let me call him Dr X) who recounted the tale to me, started on a convivial note, especially when the first request sounded seemingly harmless, in the circumstance: “You know people like us invest in politicians with the expectation to secure contracts and make money when you people get to your cosy offices…”

That is not too much to ask for, Dr X told the godfather, “after all, as our fathers would say, those who serve in the altar must also eat from the altar.” With that sorted out, the godfather said, “There are a few other things you should understand. The party will pick your running mate and all the members of the State House of Assembly. When you become governor, the party will also pick two thirds of the commissioners with specific portfolios like works, finance, education, health and a few others.”

At this point, it was dawning on Dr X that this “party”, which clearly meant the godfather himself, was determined to run rings around him as governor but having come this far in the negotiation, he decided that it was better he concluded it. Dr X told the godfather that the demands of the “party” were not too much but that they were subject to further negotiations. Then the godfather went back to financial matters. “On contracts, I think you should know that the profit margin has to be 70 percent. Meanwhile, your monthly security votes will also be shared 50-50 with the party.”

To these propositions, Dr X could not hide his anger as he asked the godfather how anybody could possibly offer a 70 percent profit margin for contracts but all he got by way of reply was a mere shrug, a sort of take-it-or-leave it response. All the market analysis made by Dr X made no impression on the godfather. As far as he was concerned, this was not an issue subject to negotiation. From that point, Dr X decided it was pointless arguing as more and more ridiculous demands were made by the godfather. After the list was exhausted and Dr X said he would consider the terms, knowing that no right thinking person would follow such an agreement, the godfather shook his hands warmly and said: “If you agree, we will put everything in writing and both of us will sign.”

This, to Dr X, was carrying the whole thing to a ridiculous level. Assuming he signed, how can anybody enforce such agreement? So, he verbalised his thoughts. “Sir, I know a little bit about law. This sort of agreement is not binding and I cannot sign it. But if I really want to deceive you, I will sign such document because I know that it cannot be enforced anywhere.”

For a while, there was silence before the godfather then offered what Dr X thought was a reassuring statement. “I think you are right. We can then proceed to the last stage which is to take an oath in three shrines, one in each of the three senatorial districts in the state.”

When Dr X expressed shock at this demand, the godfather smiled and asked, “Why do you pretend to be shocked? Did the governor, your friend who sent you to me, not explain these things to you? How do you think he got to office?”

Undaunted, Dr X made a counter offer: “Sir, you are a Muslim and I am a Christian. I can swear with the Bible but if you prefer the Quran, I can also swear by the Quran. In fact, I can swear with both the Bible and the Quran if that will satisfy you. But I won’t go to a shrine.”

Shaking his head, the godfather said neither the Bible nor the Quran would help his cause. The oath had to be taken at shrines. That was where the conversation ended and I can report that Dr X, who is back to his professional calling, did not do a deal with the godfather. But many politicians in our country, including those who give loud testimonies in Church, have at different times succumbed to such deals and diabolical methods to achieve their goal as Dr Reuben Abati explained in his “Brief Manual of Nigerian Politics” on Tuesday.

While we will come back to this issue another day, the lesson is simple: When politics is not driven by a desire for positive change in the lives of ordinary citizens but rather by desperation for power in pursuit of private interest, the godfathers and their collaborators in the occult world will always be in the business of determining who gets what – to our collective detriment as a nation.

Fayose’s Challenge to EFCC
Whatever you may say about Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose, there is no doubting the fact that he has the courage of his convictions, regardless of what those convictions are—and that includes the fact that he does not like this reporter, as he last year told me at a Nigeria Governors Forum session to which I was invited by the Director General, Mr A.B. Okauru. But it doesn’t really matter. On Tuesday, Fayose submitted a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), pledging to make himself available on October 16 to clarify whatever issues the commission may have with him.

Fayose’s move came against the background that shortly after the result of the June gubernatorial election in Ekiti State—won by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi—was announced, there was a gloating statement from the EFCC official Twitter handle: “The parri is over; The cloak of immunity torn apart, and the staff broken. #Ekiti Integrated Poultry Project/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3bn fraud case file dusted off the shelves. See you soon.” Although the statement was deleted after public uproar, it was clear enough evidence that the EFCC had targeted Fayose for the selective justice for which the institution has become notorious.

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