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Edo 2016 and danger of godfatherism

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Nigeria’s long years of military rule brought about militarized leadership in the country. It was an era better imagined than experienced. With the return of democratic governance in 1999, Nigeria returned to the path of freedom, equity, fairness, rule of law, period elections and constitutionalism.

But quite disappointedly and unexpectedly, a 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 by power seekers, and their homes became a Mecca of sort. Their words were laws and oftentimes above the law. 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 administration 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 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 revolted with protest votes against Anenih and his party, PDP during the governorship election. It would be recalled that before the election, Anenih had preference for Senator Odion Ugbesia as governorship candidate of the party, but Obasanjo opposed him and imposed Prof. Oserehimin Osunbor on the party as its governorship candidate.

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) winner of the election. That was how Anenih’s godfatherism activities and PDP inglorious days ended in Edo State through the people’ votes. PDP godfathers paid dearly for their sins and it was end of dark era in the politics of the state.

The greatest beneficiary of the demystification of political godfatherism in the state was Comrade Adams Oshiohmole who overwhelmingly enjoyed the support of the people. That was why the 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 till date, PDP in the state has never known peace and may not know peace in the nearest future, 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 hard lesson the ruling APC in the state must learnt from, and a trap the party must avoid like a plague.

But it seems obvious that 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 over the growing political godfather activities of Governor Oshiomhole. The situation deserves quick intervention of the Presidency and the party’s national leadership.

It is public knowledge in the state today that Oshiomhole who was severely critical of Anenih’s godfatherism posture is doing everything possible to muscle the party hierarchy and impose his godson, Godwin Obaseki as his successor. Oshiomhole has told everyone who cares to listen that he will dictate who succeeds him. He has been going round the state picking political fights with the people, while 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. There are enough signs of what will befall the party in the election if Oshiomhole and his allies are allowed to impose unpopular candidate on the party. From the governor’s actions and inactions ahead of his exit from office, it seems he is working for the success of the opposition PDP in the election.

It was recently alleged that passport photographs and signatures of some delegates are being obtained by the state government under the guise of emergency employment to cow and hoodwink them into a compulsory endorsement of governor’s preferred aspirant. Delegates to the primaries have been allegedly placed on a monthly salary of N20,000 effective December 2015 including a fertilizer scheme for Edo North delegates. There is urgent need to call Governor Oshiomhole to order before power drives him out of the way to detriment of the people of Edo State and the APC.

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.

Nobody is or will be against Oshiomhole having an interest on who succeeds him because it is his personal and legitimate right. But such interest should not override the general interest of the party faithful and general public. It is not out of place that the governor’s choice of possible successor may be at variance with that of the majority members of the party faithful and the people, but such is not unusual in a democratic practice. After all 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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