This is all about the end of political godfatherism. The political godfather is one who comes off as a guardian angel, promising to guide and deliver you into political office. Watch out! He is the greatest example of the biblical wolf in sheep’s clothing. Not only is his plan to ultimately devour you, but his stomach is also a bottomless pit set to swallow the bulk of resources of the state; all the while claiming to be a saviour to you, and your deliverer from obscurity.
When Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the erstwhile labour leader, decamped from the Labour Party (LP) to the Action Congress (AC) to run for governor, his resonant declaration was that he would end ‘godfatherism’ in Edo State. All through the period of his administration, neither (late) Anthony Anenih nor the very flamboyant Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, erstwhile ‘godfathers’, could raise their heads, or even utter a sound. As a matter of fact, they both fled to Abuja where they virtually remained ‘in exile’ – the governor ensured that their home state remained too hot for them to stay in.
But then, come the time for him to hand over power, the “anti- godfather” himself took on another toga altogether, and completely changed his tune. His running mate who had all the while been preparing for the seat was dumped at the last minute with the governor picking Godwin Obaseki as his successor, and seeing to it that he got the party ticket.
Obaseki’s emergence as the 10th governor of Edo State in 2016 effectively made his predecessor his de facto godfather- and what oppression did Oshiomhole lay upon Obaseki! For someone who had said he hated godfatherism, the Edo godfather turned out to be the ‘harshest’ person any man could have wanted to have as a godfather.
Just like the Akwa Ibom godfather before him, Oshiomhole single handedly picked the deputy governor, the entire State Executive Council as well as all principal officers of government; and even allegedly advised the deputy governor and the House of Assembly members to impeach Obaseki if he ever “proved stubborn!” Party executives at state level were similarly handpicked in hazy party elections.
Now the direct outcome of such a scenario is that these chosen officers never bother to work since their positions are already guaranteed. The backing of the godfather is all that is needed. Then after four years the people would grumble and complain about the governor, saying he did not do anything all through; whereas he was only being set up, and made to look bad.
Akwa Ibom was most fortunate to have a quiet but lion-hearted governor in Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who had earlier on enunciated the Dakkada philosophy to the state. To prove that he himself was a man of his words, Governor Emmanuel stood up and looked the godfather in the face and reportedly told him, “But Your Excellency, it is the state governor that appoints the commissioner for works!” That foresighted appointment greatly enabled the successful execution of a number of projects in the governor’s first term.
In the course of time the godfather and godson fell out; and predictably the godfather used the swan song of non- performance for his campaign against Governor Udom Emmanuel. He went as far as saying that in four years, all that the governor had achieved was to build a personal house for himself at ONNA, his hometown.
Meanwhile, today the godfather himself cruises in and out of the greatly improved state airport complex – even on a new state-owned airline. Governor Emmanuel picked the team, including Captain Mfon Udom of the former ADC Airlines, who ensured speedy take -off.
Even once as a senator, the godfather had suffered a car crash and was flown abroad for treatment, prompting his fellow senators to ask him: “What of the specialist hospital you built, why didn’t you go there for treatment?
The specialist hospital which was left standing as a mere pretty monument was powered to life, made functional and is recording medical feats today because of the Governor Udom Emmanuel medical intervention. Talking about the financial burden of these godfathers, recall the incident once at Aso Rock Villa under the Obasanjo administration between the Anambra godfather and the then Anambra governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Chief Obasanjo had been horrified upon hearing the “sharing formula” and had sent the two men away in disgust!
Aside from this, these “governor- godfathers” are always in the habit of leaving huge debt burdens for their successors to handle – alongside their insatiable financial demands.
Governor Godwin Obaseki must have decided that he would face his work and bear his lot and that would be his formula for a second term in office. But no! The godfather decided he would organise the ‘Ambode Treatment’ and send Obaseki into political oblivion. But the godfather never reckoned with the will of the people, which also gingered “the will of Obaseki” to move on and seek the gubernatorial ticket on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Besides, Edo State had always been a PDP state until Oshiomhole came on board a few years back.
Upon Obaseki securing the ticket, the godfather was unrelenting; unleashing verbosity against him. Threats were dominant as electoral campaigns thickened. Violence, arson, killing and injury to opposition supporters reigned supreme. It was just like the “Warsaw Saw War” that was promised the Akwa Ibom people by the former godfather. In all this, there was one inviolable quality of these two governors which made them unconquerable by the godfathers – their willingness for service to the people. Udom Emmanuel came to Akwa Ibom and took up the prestigious appointment of secretary to the state government (SSG) without salary.
For Godwin Obaseki, he served as the chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team in the Oshiomhole administration. His service was rendered on voluntary basis. In the end, their political trajectories remained unassailable to their rampaging political godfathers.
Edo people stood firm. The outcome was a victory for democracy; a victory for the PDP, a resounding victory for the will of the people.
Most especially, the victory signaled the ‘deliverance’ from political brigandage of godfatherism. Godwin Obaseki of Edo State is today free from such encumbrances just as it was for Governor Udom Emmanuel and the good people of Akwa Ibom State in 2019. Surely, it is the rescue from the bondage of godfatherism.
Princess Mikky Attah is a public affairs analyst – Twitter @mikky_princess