Godfatherism in Nigeria has been here quite long. Ever since Nigeria launched its democratic rule, and freedom from military dictatorship, godfatherism has been the new style for political imposition. The imposition of candidates has taken so much time and political space in Nigeria, and this has continued to bedevil the country from progressing beyond the godfathers’ allowed capacity.
Literarily, godfatherism and leadership are not the same and do not have the same meaning. Even though, all godfathers are leaders, not all leaders are godfathers. This conviction arises from the real meaning of a godfather; political godparents ought to provide inspiration and support, including financial help for a particular cause. The achievement of this cause ought to be the focus of a positive minded leader, but the godfather instinct has made the monetary aspect a major point of focus once the goal has been achieved. Leadership, on its own, is the ability to guide, direct or influence people as the head. But the role of leaders does not include financial support to the followers but just to provide direction and influence. Hence, financial support which has turned to financial dependence in Nigerian leadership lexicon is the thin line that separates a leader from a godfather; a clause which most political followers in Nigeria have become so engrossed with. Hence, when you hear them calling someone a political leader, the next thing that comes to mind is the level of his financial muscle and prowess. Questions like “How much does he have to give to the party? Hope he’s not a stingy man?” become the next thing to consider. This misconception has left Nigerians at the mercy of politicians while the financially strong politician have turned to godfathers overnight, thus using their strength to milk the nation dry after putting their political puppet in position of authority.
From the Adedibus in Oyo State, to the Igbinedions in Edo, these states had once been politically kidnapped, and this trend has continued to bedevil us, with most attempts to correct the situation proving abortive. However, some politicians have attempted and successfully dislodged godfathers in their respective domain. But whether they are not a new set of godfathers is a question for another day.
Oshiomhole, the current National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, was the first major politician to bell the monstrous cat called godfatherism in his state, Edo State of Nigeria. But he didn’t do it mainly because he is strong, agile and mentally positioned to fight the Igbinedions, whose patriarch is the godfather. One thing, he has the support of the people. He did it because the entire state was tired of being contrived to a single position continually, with their faith of growth and development unknown. He was able to succeed in demolishing the godfather’s stronghold in Edo State because the people needed urgent change in their political destiny. They needed to breathe fresh air of relieve, economic growth and political freedom. Hence, Oshiomhole enjoys maximum support and was able to dethrone the godfather from his exalted high place during those years. The whole of Ibadan, arguably the largest city in West Africa, was thrown into wide jubilation, when the mighty Chief Adedibu was removed by God from his ‘godfatheristic’ throne in Oyo State.
But, can we call Tinubu’s grip on Lagos a form of godfatheristic grip? Can we say the influence of the King of Bourdillon in Lagos is undemocratic and self-serving? The truth is Tinubu’s form of political control in Lagos has been laced with some form of grassroots politicking. This has made his influence grow by the day in Lagos State, unchallengeable in the current circumstance and this will possibly continue till an unforeseeable future. This is the point of separation between Tinubu’s style and the other seeming godfathers earlier mentioned. Hence, detachment from the Lagos citizenry and deciding to pursue selfish while neglecting collective societal interests will spell the beginning of the fall of his dynasty.
The reason for this sort of conclusiveness is because any politician seeking to remain as relevant as possible must ensure that the people are given the highest form of relevance in the decision making process by allowing the people to decide what they want and allowing their wishes to come to pass. Doing this, such politician will be seen more as a leader than a godfather. The bane of the current crop of leaders in Nigeria comes from their inability to accept but sidelining the people’s wish in their continuous quest for power, money and influence. This has led to the downfall of many politicians in the political history of Nigeria.
Thus, in the recent political occurrences in the country, godfatherism in some situations and some circumstances is not as problematic as we think it is, if it is aimed at ensuring that the people’s wish prevails and not to serve the selfish political interest of the political class. Leaders that makes the citizens’ interest to rise above their personal interest are much loved and at the same time, gain more power, influence and wealth in the process of serving the people. This conforms to the ninth rule of Henry Fayol’s management principle as those pursuing community interests also achieve their own interest at the same time. However, sidelining the people’s wish in order to give relevance to individualistic wishes could spell doom for politicians. Leadership in its most basic form requires much listening ability from a leader. Listening leaders are good leaders and I call them ‘democratic godfathers’. If the likes of the ‘constituted authority’ in Oyo, Ogun and perhaps Imo states had listened and chosen to follow the will of the people right from the beginning of their tenures, maybe their end might not have been so ridiculously disappointing.
Ayodele Patrick Akodu wrote in from the Department of Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State