Godfatherism and the compromise of internal democracy in Nigeria politics; presented by Comrade Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo- S.S.A. to Edo State Governor at Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria’s seminar. 16th October, 2010. Protocols.

By Edo Benin

It is with a great sense of responsibility that I accepted the task of presenting a paper at this august gathering; however, I chose to coin a new title because it is most contemporary and germane issue in our body polity. I recalled I was asked to speak on WHO IS A LEADER. Let me say that a LEADER by every dictionary definition is “one who leads a group”; but whether that person was elected or selected or forced he/she into power remain unanswered question. This is the crux of the matter in our states and country, today.

This paper seeks to define the following terms or social concepts i.e, godfatherism; and 'the compromise of internal democracy' in relation to their impacts in our polity. For me, godfatherism, means, the symptomatic expression of bourgeois power in doing or undoing a common cause of action or public interest. It assumed a notorious dimension because of its preponderance for evil in our contemporary society, so much so that at the mention of the word (godfather) what comes to mind is the American-mafia film in which a certain gun-wielding and drug cabal held a whole nation in captive. On the other hand, 'the compromise of internal democracy' is the manifest disdain for the rules of politics based on financial inducements or blackmail. Democracy has its origin from two Greek terms 'demos' and 'kratein', while the former refers to majority of people in the ancient Aristocratic Greek society, the later refers to 'rule' or leadership. When British explorers interfaced with the Greek people, they christened this so theorized rule as 'democracy'. It must be noted that ancient Greek society was very aristocratic in nature and slave-owning was a pre-dominant feature. Over time, some slaves were granted pardon and where so referred to as 'the free men or free slaves'. The free men rented farm lands from the aristocrats, work all day long, at harvest; they gave certain per cent of their farm produce to the aristocrats. They were oppressed and they ideologically sought the overthrow of the aristocratic class or rule, therefore, they needed the support of the slaves. A class struggle emerged between the class of the free men and the slaves on the one hand and the class of the Aristocrats (otherwise called the nobles) on the other. Ironically, great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle were the intellectual members of the aristocratic class; they also had slaves in their custody, despite their very novel contributions to philosophy, science and political systems evolution.

It is on this premise that I most humbly differ with the definition of democracy by President Abraham Lincoln of the United States “democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people”. My grouse against this definition is that it did not specify 'majority' which is the underpinning factor of democracy. This is why, the ruling elites often times recites the definition by Abraham Lincoln as a justification for their selective approach to politics as opposed to free and fair election. The definition is controversial and very ambiguous. In one of my unpublished books (The Community), which I intend to launch this year, I challenge this universally acclaimed definition of Abraham Lincoln, because, as a Political Scientist, I have a duty to make informed contribution to social-political phenomena, in order to give a clearer premise to the understanding of society and the dynamics of power.

My definition of godfatherism has both positive and negative connotations; this is because there are tangible realities in which we refer to as its positive side. I give you a classical example, a talented young man developed a musical template which he believes will make wave when it is produced and marketed. His efforts to get a partner hit the rock, as his potential sponsors in the business turned him down on account of his refusal to join their secret cult. For survival sake, he chose to work in a 'beer parlor' as an attendant situated in the city centre. One day, he helped a customer fix up his punched tire at the restaurant, even inside a heavy rain. The customer was impressed by the sincere effort and most surprising to the customer was the attendants' refusal of the money gesture. The customer resorted to invite the attendant into his car for one-on-one talk. The attendant said his main problem is his un-waxed album which he was optimistic will make a strong musical sense in Nigeria. The customer turned out to be the grand patron of music producers, and he offered to intervene in the young man's Endeavour. Finally, the dream music was produced and marketed with no concession to the customer cum godfather. The man referred to as customer in this story exhibited godfatherism because he caused the chain of cultism to be broken in favor of a beer-parlor attendant without any parochial interest. His main consolation was that, when the musician becomes great, he could be of help to his children and relations.

In the political sense of godfetherism in a monetized polity like ours, you find a person or group of persons who imposes the least qualified aspirants on the political party by compromising all internal democratic machineries. In a nutshell, the godfathers in Nigerian politics are a set of oppressive elites whose stock in trade is the 'installation' of unpopular persons to fill vacant or un-vacant political offices using very crude means and blackmail. My investigation into why they prefer unqualified persons is that when the chips are down, the beneficiary becomes a slave to the cause of the godfather, because he knows he would had never being there if not for help of the cabal. The inclination to this style of social and political interaction assumed notorious dimension during the civilian rule of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007; as most of his clienteles embarked on “fixing up of people with questionable records” into public offices . It was this period for instance that names like Chief Adedibu, Mr. Fix-it signals fire for fire if you are not on their good books. Unless we have forgotten, it was this period that the Bini parlance of loyalty was coined, i.e, “uma loyal, urioya” .

A dialectical dimension of godfatherism is referred in Political Science as patron- clientilism. In this notion, there exist vertical and horizontal relationships between the real godfather and his foot soldiers that are called clienteles. These latter set of people are perceived as godfathers in their respective area of operations or dwellings; but they have a boss who gives the final say. The primary essence of Political Science is to investigate the root causes of problematic phenomena, relying on all known scientific paradigms; and proffer quantitative and qualitative solutions. Quantitative in the sense that, there are reasonable generalizations for upcoming investigator to rely on as guide when handling similar cases in future. I make bold as to say that godfatherism was responsible for the abysmal failure of the last two administrations in Edo State. Up to appointments of political appointees, they were not made based on rational evaluation of appointments seekers; and the Governors were not courageous to cry-out because they knew that so many skeletons will be let loosed. So they kept their cool, ironically, their political career are being crown with disdain or questionable.

Let make a few comments the leadership charisma of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the democratically elected Governor of Edo State. The process by which Comrade Oshiomhole emerged as Governor of Edo State is a true reflection of democracy. This is because; the mass of our people didn't need the vision of the German auto-pause to realize that the preceding administration was opportunistic and almost unproductive. The people of Edo State irrespective of tribes and inducements by leaders of the ruling party, decided to vote en mass for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. On the day of the Governorship election, people trooped out in huge numbers to exercise their franchise; stayed till the results were counted and declared; they thereafter followed the Retuning Officers to the various collection centre's and ensured that the results were declared exactly as previously collated; they trooped to INEC headquarters to witness the triumphant declaration, unfortunately, they met a brick wall. After the peoples dream was aborted by INEC's questionable results, some of us stepped up the legal engineering processes with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by ensuring that a dependable legal framework was put in place to synthesize the major grounds of violation of the Electoral Act by INEC. With gratitude to God almighty, and appreciation to the Comrade Governor, I made my input to ensure that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole's stolen mandate was restored. It was a very 'long walk to freedom' with apologies to President Nelson Mandela. Today, we recall our contributions with nostalgia and a sense of victory and satisfaction that it was not a wasted effort after all. We are all witnesses to the State's transformation, except those who refuses to see and acknowledge good things.

With due respect, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is a phenomenon who deserve to be intellectually appraised; especially, dispassionate effort aimed at chronicling his struggle to reclaim his stolen mandate; to dislodge 'negative' godfathers who held our state in captivity for ten years; and build a State which will be the pride of Nigeria. What you are doing today by organizing a seminar to re-orient yourselves on the challenges of youths engagement in Civil and political movements will be recalled in the future, especially in a bid to unravel the 'men behind the scene' of Edo state development.

Thanks for listening, congratulations. I wish you a successful event.