The alleged rift between Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his political godfather and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, over the latter’s refusal to support the governor’s second term bid, has brought the issue of political godfatherism to the fore, JESUSEGUN ALAGBE writes
A scene played out on Monday at the launch of a book written by the Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia.
At the unveiling of the book, ‘Africa Arise and Shine,’ which had many dignitaries, including Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in attendance, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State was initially seen standing between the author and the Chairman on the occasion, Dr. Christopher Kolade.
According to a video clip from the event, while the paparazzi were busy taking photographs of the dignitaries on the podium, Ambode was seen feeling unsettled as he was standing a bit far from Tinubu, his political godfather.
Not minding how the audience would react, the governor jogged past Osinbajo and Ovia and squeezed himself between Tinubu and another dignitary on the podium.
Expectedly, the scene evoked a mix of bewilderment, laughter and applause from those on the podium and several other guests at the venue.
Earlier before this moment, Ambode – who was invited to speak immediately after Tinubu – had caused the guests to burst into laughter when he jokingly described how powerful the APC leader was in the party.
After acknowledging the dignitaries, the governor said he was not competent to speak after Tinubu had spoken.
“Actually, I didn’t prepare to come and say anything and who am I to come and speak after the Jagaban (Tinubu) has spoken?” he asked, causing the guests to laugh.
Notably, that was the first time the governor and his political godfather were seen together in the public after several reports of an alleged rift between the duo over the former’s second-term bid.
Tinubu was alleged to have refused to back Ambode’s second-term ambition and instead endorsed Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a former commissioner in the state, for the 2019 governorship election.
Sanwo-Olu, who formally declared his intention to vie for the Lagos State governorship ticket on the APC platform, had also purchased his expression of interest and nomination forms.
He was said to have the endorsement of the Mandate Movement, a political group led by Tinubu. The chairmen of the 57 councils in the state except the two from Epe where Ambode hails from were said to have also declared support for him.
Even though it was claimed that some leaders of the party pleaded with Tinubu to endorse Ambode for a second-term, the APC national leader was said to have ignored the pleas, insisting that the governor should be ready to face the party’s primary against Sanwo-Olu and other contestants.
In a last-minute effort to ensure he secured Tinubu’s backing for his second-term ambition, Ambode was said to have had a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting was said to have followed an appeal by governors on the APC platform for the President to intervene and ‘save’ Ambode.
Nevertheless, no matter the eventual outcome, political observers said the alleged Tinubu-Ambode rift had again brought to the fore the dangers of political godfatherism in the country.
A political scientist and economist in Lagos, Mr. Sunkanmi Babatunde, wondered how one man could be allowed to dictate the affairs of “a mega-state” like Lagos.
He said, “From what filtered into our ears, Tinubu is not happy with Ambode because the governor is not subservient. There are claims that Ambode disrupted the state’s political structure by clipping the wings of some so-called owners of the state.
“There are claims he blocked some sources through which state funds usually flowed to these people’s pockets and they are not happy about it.
“While I’m not advocating Ambode’s return because I can’t say he has performed excellently and I don’t think he hasn’t also enriched himself with state funds, however, the rift between him and his political godfather showed how some individuals have taken hostage the lives of about 20 million people due to their selfishness.”
Babatunde argued that where democracy was working, Ambode’s second-term ambition ought not to have been dependent on the endorsement of the APC national leader.
He added, “The people should be the judge of who gets their votes and who doesn’t, not an individual or some power blocs whose judgment is clouded with greed and power.
“No matter how their rift ends, I really wish the electorate would make a bold statement in the next elections. Enough of this dictatorship in Lagos State and even in Nigeria as a whole!
“Where has political godfatherism landed us? In poverty, misery, poor infrastructure, among other negative indices. Indeed, we should all rise up and fight against political godfatherism, which is the same thing as dictatorship.”
On Thursday, the Socialist Party of Nigeria had also frowned on the style of political leadership in Lagos, describing it as a “dictatorship.”
The party stated that neither Ambode nor Tinubu deserved the public’s sympathy, adding that the disagreement between them should be used as an opportunity to “free Lagos from self-succession in power and installation of cronies as governors.”
“Neither Sanwo-Olu nor Ambode represents a future that will make Lagos work for its people, given the fact that they both represent the wishes and aspirations of big business and the moneybags.
“The struggle between the Mandate Movement is about business and profit interests of the contending forces of the ruling elite in Lagos,” the party’s Chairman, Rufus Olusesan, said via a statement.
Trying to take advantage of the alleged rift between Tinubu and Ambode, the Peoples Democratic Party in the state had during the week offered the governor its platform to contest next year’s gubernatorial election should he be rejected by the APC.
And then on Thursday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, advised Ambode to resist godfatherism in Lagos State.
“If it is correct that the godfather (Tinubu) is against Ambode, I will tell him (Ambode) to resist it. I will tell him to promote the interest of his state. Godfatherism is not good. It negates development,” the governor said during a TV programme, The Osasu Show,in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
After his advice to Ambode, the Rivers State governor went on to subtly throw a jab at Tinubu, saying, “No more godfatherism in Rivers State. We are not in Lagos State. Rivers State will not accept godfatherism. My concern is to do well for Rivers State.”
In the meantime, godfatherism has been a phenomenon in Nigerian politics for quite some time and according to an online dictionary, Wiktionary, it is said to be a form of political corruption peculiar to Nigeria in which an influential member of a party assists another person in the party to climb to leadership.
Speaking to our correspondent, the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Alhaji Razak Jaiyeola, said godfatherism was one of the reasons corruption was thriving in the country.
He argued that those responsible for the high rate of corruption in the country were often products of godfatherism, adding that without first identifying the causes of corruption, it would be difficult to fight it.
He said, “Corruption derives from two main sources – greed and need. Those who are corrupt due to greed are the high-profile thieves who need money to maintain their expensive lifestyle.
“These are usually found in political and public offices. And they are products of ‘godfatherism’ and nepotism. The other corrupt individuals can be found in the private sector. They are the ones who are not able to meet their daily obligations due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure.
“They will therefore need to be corrupt to pay their children’s school fees, buy cars, build houses, pay medical bills, and so on.
“But it must be emphasised that there is no condition under which corruption can be justified. So, in order to mitigate against corruption, the environment must be enabling enough to create the needed impetus for right actions.”
In a telephone interview, an Abuja-based lawyer and social commentator, Mrs. Hannah Yakubu, said it was unfortunate that godfatherism had permeated virtually every state in the country, thereby allowing some sets of people to dictate the destinies of the people.
She said, “The phenomenon is not only in Lagos State, it is also observed in some states across the country. Look at the case with a former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and his mentee, Udom Emmanuel; look at the scenario with the outgoing Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, and his deputy, Kolapo Olusola, whom the governor wanted to succeed him.
“Look at Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and Nwosu, his son-in-law, who he wanted to become the next governor of the state. Look at the actions of the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, trying to dictate who the next governor of the state should be.
“There are several other cases like that but one thing is common to all of them: they want to dictate who should rule after them and not who the people want to vote for. Godfatherism has killed this country and I think it’s only when we the people stand up against this phenomenon that it would stop.”
In his recent article, “Political party finance and godfatherism,” a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola, also stated that one of the problems militating against true development in Nigeria was godfatherism.
He said most politicians saw political godfathers as the most convenient means of winning elections, but that experience had shown that the patronage of political godfathers carried with it grave consequences, not only for the politician, but also for the public and the political stability of the country.
He said, “A few years back, it took the judicial intervention of the Supreme Court to restore the mandate of a governor in the South-West who was impeached by some members of the state House of Assembly, allegedly on the instructions of the godfather who had facilitated the election of the governor in question.
“In the South-East, another governor was alleged to have signed documents indicating that he would serve a single term only if supported by a prominent politician in the state. Numerous other examples abound of politicians who have essentially handed over the functions of their offices to their political benefactors, with the effect that most political office holders are ham-stringed in the performance of their duties.
“They must defer to their political godfathers for matters such as appointment of commissioners, appointment into the board of statutory corporations, etc.”
Speaking on the effects, Babalola said, “The stranglehold of godfathers on Nigerian politics continues to affect the aspiration of the country to the attainment of the best democratic policies in many ways.
“Firstly, it accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterised many elections in Nigeria. Secondly, this invariably leads to loss by the electorate in the electoral process.”
“Thirdly, the politician who eventually wins the election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no obligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will therefore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies and his godfather.
“Fourthly, the citizenry will end up being impoverished due to the fact that a leadership that is totally disconnected from the aspirations of the people has been produced by a flawed system.”
Bothered by the concept of godfatherism, the SAN asked, “What is it in our constitutional, sociological, economical and perhaps psychological make-up that permits the seeming institutionalisation of a practice or concept which is otherwise frowned upon, not only in better politically developed countries, but also in some with whom Nigeria can still be said to share a common history and circumstances of development?
“The answer in my estimation is not to be found in the stars. The way out of this quagmire lies in a holistic appraisal of our political system. Specifically, one way in which we may address the problem is to look at how parties in Nigeria are formed, structured and most importantly, financed.
“A situation in which the financial fortunes of a political party lie with a single individual or members of a select few is bound, not only to bring about, but also to further accentuate the ills associated with godfatherism.” – Punch
– Sept. 22, 2018 @ 12:12 GMT |