Godfatherism has been long-present in Nigerian politics. The primary problem of the phenomenon is that it always casts a shadow over the country’s democratic processes.
Recent events in Rivers state highlight the divisive and destructive nature of godfatherism, as Governor Siminalayi Fubara faces the looming threat of impeachment, allegedly instigated by former governor and current FCT minister, Nyesom Wike.
Godfatherism: A Deep-Rooted Problem
In Nigerian politics, the prominence of influential godfathers has become a defining aspect of seeking elective offices. A godfather acts as a benevolent figure who provides for their proteges’ needs, protects them, and helps them achieve their goals. This support is a long-term investment and the dynamic often leads to the exploitation of government for personal gain and manipulation of the political system.
The prevalence of godfathers in Nigerian politics makes it challenging for politicians without such patronage to succeed. This dependence on godfathers hinders transparent governance, as political leadership is frequently determined by financial influence rather than merit.
In cases where a godson decides to act contrary to the ideals of their godfather, there becomes a conflict. In Rivers state today, the rift between Nyesom Wike and Governor Fubara is a glaring example.
The Effect of Godfatherism on True Democracy
Governor Fubara’s commitment to independent decision-making, especially plans to revive the Shonghai Farm and other initiatives that would benefit the people of Rivers state, has irked his political godfather, Nyesom Wike. The alleged plans to impeach Governor Fubara demonstrate the divisive consequences of godfatherism on political stability and the disruption of governance.
Godfatherism erodes the principles of democracy, as it prioritises the influence of a powerful few over the will of the people. In no democratic universe should elected officials be accountable to such control. Governor Simi Fubara has been bestowed by the people the power to lead Rivers state, and should be allowed to do so without resistance or dictatorial influence by a former governor who now occupies a different and perhaps even more elevated position in government.
It would be difficult to imagine Nigerian politics without the presence of godfathers. However, people should see godfatherism for what it simply is—a threat to a true democratic government. Fubara now faces a secessionist struggle. He has to break free from the puppetry of his own political godfather, who undoubtedly played a role in his political career and rise as governor.