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Menace of godfatherism in Nigeria

By Afolabi Aribigbola

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Over the years in Nigeria, one tradition that is fast becoming the order of the day is that one must have a big man or woman somewhere before you can become someone or occupy some juicy political positions in the country.

This obnoxious tendency has become widespread in the country to the extent that many people including youths have been turned into errands boys to godfathers and money bags in their survival struggle to occupy positions of authourity and influence in government/MDA. Of course, this is made possible by the understanding and prevailing practice that one cannot occupy a juicy political position based on one’s credibility and merit but based on favouritism. This tendency that is fast becoming the norm appears to be retarding the progress of the different parts of the country have been placing many political office holders in the pockets of godfathers. This has generated a lot of crises in the country in the past and have not allowed government to run well to meet the needs and aspiration of Nigerians. The ongoing crisis in River state is a typical example of the effects of godfatherism and imposition of candidates in the country. This again for the need for progressive minded people to again interrogate this retrogressive practice in a bid to bequest and develop an enduring democratic governance in Nigeria.

 This is necessary because of the ills that have been associated with the ugly development in the past in the country. The term godfatherism have been used primarily in Nigeria to refer to the wealthy and powerful figures who exert political influence behind the scenes while often remaining out of the limelight. They are individuals that have amassed huge wealth and will used their largesse to establish a network through which they can influence political developments in their town, state and the entire country. They are the people that determine those to stand for elections and who should be voted for by the people. Many discerning Nigerians have over the years detested and criticised the overwhelming influence of godfatherism in determining those to occupy important government positions. And that the tendency has not been helpful in recruiting good quality people into government positions.

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That it is not yielding the desire results of allowing individuals to freely offer themselves for positions based on their ability, experience and competences. Indeed, the obnoxious godfatherism practice and tendencies have continued to thrive with even the younger generations of Nigerians joining the train of attaching themselves to godfathers that may at times be illiterate or people of questionable character and background. Why does this retrogressive practice thrive in the country despite the realization that it is not good and a practice that is inimical to the progress and sustained development of the country and her people. What are the consequences of this practice and how can this be reversed or stopped in the political landscape of the country.

This practice is flourishing in Nigeria because poverty has inflicted on Nigerians by the leaders  over the years. Majority of Nigerians have been pauperized by the political class often succumb to the dictates of the so called money bag because many of them often depend on handout from such people to survive the difficult times in the country. Thus, the incursion of money politics has taken over electoral activities and its outcome because votes are nowadays openly bought and sold with impunity in all parts of the country without exception. Beside the issue of monetization of elections in the country illiteracy and poor education disallow many people to think for themselves also contribute to the syndrome of godfatherism in election processes in the country. Of course, the menace has far reached consequences including determining who occupy important sensitive government offices in the country. One of the consequences of godfatherism is that it limits popular participation in governance because the godfathers often impose their political protégé or those they can control in office . This is so because often competent people that would adequately represent the electorate are denied such opportunities that are given to people that have godfathers and cannot discharge the responsibilities of the office secure for them. Over the years this have allowed mediocre and poor candidates that cannot contribute to issues and debates to represent the people at the expense of better qualified and capable people. Godfatherism over the years has engender crisis while limiting political participation of the people.

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In many societies in the country the attempt by godfathers to impose their preferred and anointed candidates beyond promoting incompetency in handling government affairs have caused crisis and even riots in several areas and cities in the country. It has assisted significantly in promoting and enhancing hydra headed corruption problem in the country. In this context the candidates that emerged through godfatherism will seek to repay what was expended by those that sponsored him and to achieve this they will need to embezzle government money through many unacceptable means including award of overinflated contracts, awarding contracts that will never be executed and acceptance of poorly executed projects from contractors that would have served as sponsors of such candidate. More damaging to the future of the country is inculcation and initiation of the coming generations into the retrogressive practice of godfatherism.

The coming generation is already imbibing and cultivating the culture having godfathers because of the tendency that you cannot become somebody or occupy good position of authourity or secure good employment without any godfather that will sponsor and support you. Consequently, many of the youths are beginning to align themselves with some leaders including those that have been known to be of shad questinable character.  Unfortunately, despite the acknowledgment and widespread position that godfatherism is inimical to the growth of Nigerian society, it is still very attractive to the people that continue to use it as a platform to obtain government position whether or not they are qualified and competent for the position. Since it is already affecting the quality of governance in the country, it is right and proper to seek ways and means of removing the menace from the political ambience of Nigeria. This is essential if the country must move in the path of sustainable development in which it can meet the needs of her citizenry. In the first place the role of money in politics must be drastically reduced.

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It is because political parties charge exorbitant money to purchase application form by prospective candidates that encourage money bags and people of affluence to take over the whole process. Also, politics has been promoted to become flourishing business  venture especially the youth. Many of the people that are calling themselves professional politicians need to be reoriented to change and look for employment instead of scavenging for crumbs from moneybags and people of affluence.  There is also the need to sensitise and educate members of the public on the inherent dangers in permitting godfatherism to continue to grow and thrive in Nigeria. Merits and competence in electing and appointing people into position of responsibility need to be emplaced and instituted in the country. A situation where godfathers and money bags dictate who occupy positions of responsibilities cannot promote the desired sustained development and governance of the country. This can be achieved through embarking on massive public awareness campaigns on the menace of godfatherism towards dismantling it in its entirety in the country

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