GODFATHERISM AND ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIAN POLITICS
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The concept of “Godfatherism” has its origin in Christianity. Godparents are chosen as surrogates to help biological (or adopted) parents raise a Christian child to become a Godfearing law-abiding adult, Anakwenze (2004).
In Nigeria, one of the most dominant features of the Nigerian political arena is the prevalence of the phenomenon of Godfatherism, which constitutes one of the major basis of political elite class recruitment. Godfatherism as a concept gains it popularity from the film “The Godfather” in which Marion Brando as the main actor, showcased the phenomenon of a Sicilian family or mafia dynasty (the corleones), that maintains control over a drug cartel in the city of New York against all odds. In this context, the Nigerian Godfather’s political characterization is that who maintains political control of a given environment, in which willing political godsons or clients are sponsored to political positions, whereby upon ascension to power are manipulated, and directed whimsically and capriciously by their mentors –the godfathers. It is on the basis of this peculiar feature of the Nigerian political Godfather, that Nnamani (2003) argues that, the phenomenon’s dynamics in Nigeria involves mercenary politics that is oiled, and projected to willy-nilly produce the desired political result for the godfather, using all disposable tactics within his reach. In this case, Nnamani (2003:79) has asserted that; the archetypal godfather in Nigeria is more than the ruthless Mario Puzo’s Kingpins in the Italian Mafia setting. While the fictional godfather is characterized as “shadowy, dare devil recluse with near mythical powers of enormous proportions”, which is to attain a further greasing of the ever increasing vast financial empire, the Nigerian type added characterization of conceit, avarice, ego, loquacity, pettiness, envy, strife, crudity and confusion.
Godfatherism as a concept has deeply permeated the Nigerian political landscape and consists in the idea that certain persons have the wherewithal and means to unilaterally and single handedly determine who gets a party’s ticket to run for and win elections with elective positions in government.
There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the most critical civic engagements that characterized any liberal and competitive political system is the conduct of elections. It is an important exercise in the sense that if freely and fairly undertaken, it produce outcome that is mutually agreeable to all contestants and the electorate. In this wise, political leadership which emerges from free and fair electoral process enjoys consistent and considerable support of the citizenry; again, its legitimacy is recognized and acceptable to all. Thus, Ikpe (2010:50) avers that the extent to which governments of states are recognized and accepted as legitimate depends on how they are seen to have complied with electoral procedures laid down by law.
In the whole scenario of the electoral process, political godfathers are those influential and highly-placed individuals who fund gladiatorial actors and activities. They bring their political godsons to the limelight of the political arena. Godfathers introduce his godsons to people that matter. Problems and rancour usually arise where the godson, after having clinched power with the support of the godfather covertly or overtly attempts to sideline the godfather. This may be as a result of the overlordship of the godfather wanting to dominate the government and dictating for the godson and giving directives as to how the administration should be run.
Godfathers are therefore the vehicles for delivering victory to predetermined winners in electioneering process in Nigeria. The orbit and fulcrum of this study will be based on the thesis that the emergence of godfatherism in Nigeria’s political landscape is a manifestation of profound moral malaise inflicted on the Nigerian society by the bad governance experienced under the protracted military interregnums in the country during which the moral and normative structures of the society were weakened by the inept, corrupt and unprogressive successive military regimes. The des tabilizing and debilitating effects of this for democratic consolidation provide the justification for this topic.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The crux of the problem of godfatherism in Nigeria lies in the fact that it robs political office seekers of their independence and rational sense of judgement, sloughing off their dignity and reducing them to mere puppets, stooges and surrogates of their godfathers. This places them at a disadvantaged position and makes them subservient to their benefactors in order to retain their goodwill. In consequence, godfathers wield an abiding influence in terms of the cabinet members chosen by the godsons to man sensible positions.
In the purview of Nigeria’s political development, the operation of godfathers has constituted a major political problem that affects the democratization process of the country. In this wise, theorists as Togbolo (2003) have asserted that it contributes to the excessive electoral violence and political dictatorship that pervades the Nigerian political landscape. According to the UNDP (1997) Godfatherism is one of the most important factors responsible for electoral malpractice in Nigeria which pertinently leads to misgovernance, subversion of democracy and political corruption, among others. This influence is also felt in other areas of administration to the detriment of the masses. The predatory tendencies of godfathers drain the treasuries of state governments in Nigeria and Ibiono Ibom in particular. This is because of the fix amount which godsons have to pay back to their godfathers for supporting them during electioneering campaigns. Such amounts obviously attract usurial interest because godfathers reckon that their support is a form of investment which they expect to yield interest. In a bid to repay the godfathers, government coffers are bled of funds which become unavailable for developmental projects.
Godfathers therefore promote an entrepreneurial sense of politics in contradistinctions to its conventional civic sense. In consequence, the stakes of politics are raised, especially in an emerging democracy, and makes consolidation of the democratic institution difficult, Gambo .There is no gainsaying the fact that the anomic political behaviour of godfathers is a miniaturized version of a morally decadent society whose foundations have been shattered by corruption, bribery, graft, to mention just a few.
The orbit of this study will be to explore ways of reinculcating sound and noble political behaviour in the godfathers of today with a few to promoting the developmental aspirations of the people. The influence, manipulations and maneuverings of political godfathers in electoral process in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State will be amply touched, while at the same time encouraging them to imbibe sound political culture of the Nigeria’s First Republic Godfathers.
1.3 PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
This study set out to conduct appropriate investigation on the concept of godfatherism and electoral process in Nigeria’s politics in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. The study therefore has the following objectives:
To find out why godfathers are driven by the sense of self-enrichment, using godsons as surrogates to promote their parochial interest.
To compare and contrast the consensus sense of electoral system by political godfathers within democratic setting.
To analyze why political godsons are being robbed of their independent rational sense of judgement and personal dignity by their godfathers.
To carry out appropriate investigations into the performance and conduct of the godfathers and the behaviour of their political godsons during the period of canvassing for an election. For instance, giving of oath by political godfathers to political godsons.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study promises to be an invaluable addition to the bulk of literature available on the issue of godfatherism in Nigeria and in Ibiono Ibom Local Government in particular. It will be a source of guidance to public office seekers on how to source for funds to contest elections, alerting them to the dangers of overdependence on godfathers for financial support. Public office seekers should have enough money to fund their electioneering campaigns before nursing the ambition to contest in an election. This will disabuse the minds of political godfathers of the idea that politics is business.