FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
[email protected]
Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria
THE PLIGHT OF A DISILLUSIONED ELECTORATE: THE GODFATHER-EFFECT IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

Ambode, Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu at APC Convention, Abuja

"Who did I support in 2014? Ambode. Life is dynamic. It's those who made me the leader of the structure in Lagos who said it was what they want. It's only if you have followers that you're a leader in democracy. If I look back and I don't find them again; if I don't respond to them, if I fail to accede to their request, I would have failed the leadership test. "This is not personal; it is beyond me as a person. Every democratic constitution is preceded by 'We, the people'. So, I had to submit myself to the wishes and the yearnings of our party. This is an elixir for the general election. Ambode Akin, he's doing well, yes; he hasn't been a good party man; not only the glamour, not only about brick and mortal. A talent is determined by character. For you to become an influential person, you have to respond to the yearnings of the people. This is politics; democracy, one man, one vote."

- Bola Tinubu, the national leader of All Progressive Congress (APC), Punch Nigeria, Published, 2. Oktober 2018.

he above statement again exposes the intrigues and perhaps, the age long political absurdity that confront the Nigerian political system, encoded in the expression "godfatherism". Many a time choices of words can be devastating and implicating, especially when they are given out in a manner that presents the speaker as a "superman". Thus the above statement is credited to a political superman, who took the centre stage to announce impending era of a "son", whose manner of life and approach he considered dynamic and appreciable but at the same time, repugnant. As the bearer of the statement rightly indicated, there is a conglomerate of 'super-craftsmanship', which has given rise to the above dichotomy of appraisal that would eventually see the political son in question leave his office and position after his first tenure in office. To realise this grid on godfatherism, makes the victim, the incumbent governor of Lagos State, the first civilian governor of the State who must vacate office without any case of military coup, rejection and protest from the electorate or official proof - after due process and in accordance with the rule of law - of misconduct of office or misappropriation of public fund, which invariably may have resulted in a juridical impeachment. The argument on a social media of an avowed statesman, that "…It's those who made me the leader of the structure in Lagos who said it was what they want", remains shrouded in ambiguity, and given the Nigerian system, it can become yet another debacle in the recklessness with which we sacrifice the helplessness and imposed dormancy of the Nigerian electorate at the vested interests of a few, that have constituted themselves into "political leviathans". A thing cannot "be" and "not-be" - all at the same time. If Ambode is working, as should be understood when one reads the line of argument from the political superman, it means he may have been dedicated in giving the democratic dividends to the electorate that produced him. What then are we meant to understand as "the structure in Lagos", the leader of which resides in the personality of the political superman? Does this structure exist independent of the electorate, who are the real electoral sector in a democracy? Whose opinion and rights does the leader himself represent: the electorate or the politically acclaimed king-makers in the Nigerian context? Where do we locate the common men and women on the street in the political intrigues playing themselves out within the almighty "Centre of Excellence" - Lagos?

The Disregard of Antecedent

The incumbent political 'artefact' in Lagos State - the antecedent that saw the emergence of governor Ambode - was made and produced by an electorate who exercised their rights freely and responsibly. It was a process and a mandate, which were freely decided, voted for and entrusted on a political person, whom the masses considered worthy to represent their will. That was the antecedent, regardless of the fact that the present 'victim' was, before now, the 'beloved' in the almighty hands of the king-makers. What a perfect description of all that boomerang represents? But the salient question remains: where actually do we locate the link between the electoral antecedent in Lagos State and the 'ego-driven" politics of the selected few, who constitute themselves into political leviathans. In such 'leviathanic' power-grip: the common men and women on the street become only instruments for successful vote count, but only to be dumped aside as 'dead woods' in decision making; every decision made from the 'hade" of the kingmakers must be swallowed hook, line and sinker as the almighty "causa finita" binding on all, who dare not lift a finger of opposition; the political intermediaries, who conglomerate as people's representatives in both State and National Assemblies become as well surprisingly hypnotised and incapacitated because they must fear the lion's den and must seek favour and vested royalty; in such leviathanic power-grip, the celebrated figure that finds himself sitting on a borrowed throne, and who is meant to believe that he has grip on the 'political-?F?" (mandate of leadership) dare not deviate from the instructions of the 'masters' even when the common good is at stake - but they all portray the political hollowness and recklessness characteristic of Nigeria's political scenery.

To disregard the antecedent of an electoral office, which brings to the fore the civic responsibilities of a geo-politically recognised electorate, brushing it aside with a wave of hand, is a crime against freedom and human rights. Such affront will be further debilitating in a social structure, especially, where reasons for actions are shrouded in pre-meditated political renditions, which set words and phrases in conflict against one another - all in the effort to deceive the politically weak - the common man on the street, and impose the agenda of the godfathers. The statement under evaluation is designed in this line. Whenever a polity suffers hijack in a given political economy, the invariable draconic consequence is always the reign of a united few, who disregard and disdain the electorate, imposing their will on the whole structure that builds up an electoral and political institution. That is an exact form of Machiavellianism in praxis and it simply means, "…the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct". The duplicity seen in the acknowledgement of Ambode as the 'well-doer' and at the same time as "not being a good party-man", awakes in the mind the bulging question surrounding political party constituents in the Nigerian context. Within the Nigerian case, most political parties are designed fiscal-based associations, where first, the aspirants fight dirty and at all costs to be admitted into the circle; where only the powerful and the materially rich can afford to obtain or buy the ticket, while the knowledgeable, developers and socio-economic and political visionaries are strictly barred; where the designed party structure functions only to enrich the elite-minority as well as the designer of such institutions, but to the impoverishment of the majority, who remain dehumanised and enslaved by all forms of socio-economic exclusions. But there remains so many open wounds in the hearts of all who felt disregarded and disrespected by the recent turn of events within the 'Centre of Excellence" - Lagos; by all, especially the common men and women on the street, who are still searching to locate the place of "We, the people…", as alleged by the statement above, in the recent decision that is about to throw out a dissident so as to welcome a new 'party-royal'. The stage is set, but people are watching.

Marxism, the ideology of which greatly influenced the communist Europe, set out to oppose the extreme power grip and control, which capitalism welded in the Europe of 17th Century, seeking to destroy its hold on the general political economy. But later, Marxism in its extreme form, Communism, found itself entrenched and trapped in the opium of almost the same crime it has set out to fight. To a relatively temporal victory, it challenged the dominance of 'capitalism' and sought to develop an alternative ideology, but this gave birth to the excesses of 'communism' - just a movement from an extremely developed market and economic ideology - capitalism, to another form of extremism that stripped the individual of the basic rights to private property. But the shortest distance, with a cord of unity, between capitalism and communism remains the political and economic force of the few. In the case of capitalism, it is the selected few - the bourgeoisie; in the case of communism, it is the political and often dictatorial elites seen as proprietors of the State, who take over the means of production and control property, all set against the backdrop of economic enslavement of a majority, who remain tied to the borderlines of socio-economic boundaries, designed to keep them perpetually marginalised. The global experience shows that the same age-long ideological and institutional pacts still play themselves out in various forms, approaches and praxis. Employed as an analogy within the context of this write up, the Nigerian political trend, which idolises few individuals as the godfathers, thereby allowing the imposition of their often vested interests to prevail upon the generality of the citizenry, still brings to the Nigerian political stage the gang of egoistically motivated political capitalists and neo-communists, who are stopping at nothing, other than to tell the rest of us that our freedom of decision is and remains compromised. Of course, their greatest desire is "to become an influential person", as was alleged in the above statement from a statesman. But the Nigerian godfathers should know that until we learn to respect opinions of the 'electorate at the grassroots', governance in the Nigerian context would remain defectively ephemeral, ideologically marginalising, developmentally deficient, as well as politically victimizing - in all, the polity would remain an epitome of political disillusionment and strategized exclusion of the body politic.

Perhaps the antecedents of the political robbery, which became the bane of the geo-political area now known as the "Light of the Nation" - Anambra State, between the fateful years of 2003 and 2007, may serve as deterrence. It was a critical time in the history of a geo-political zone, when a single family hijacked the governance of the State, taking it to an illegal custody and thereby replacing democracy with a form of political radicalism that brought the godfather-ideology to its extremity. Of course, the same family was the political machination that oversaw the enthronement of the then governor, Chris Ngige, who would later, in a clash with the 'political titans', try to break a tyrannical bondage, that kept milking from the State billions of Naira, which nobody accounted for. It was at the exact point of an attempt to break the status quo that the godfathers reminded him of the danger of one sitting on a branch and at the same time being instrumental to the cutting of the same branch he or she is sitting on. At what the godfathers considered a breach of contract in the form of non-remittance of the mandated sum, which must be paid to them once the federal allocation to the State - the public money - arrives, hell was let loose. This led to the making of a lasting and shameful history that recorded, for the first time in Nigeria, the kidnaping of a sitting governor on a broad daylight. It was really the reign of lawlessness and political excesses, and the whole world watched how we were able to wash our dirty linens on both national and international scenes, of course, in a callous show of disregard for the rule of law. But it went a long way to expose the horrors of 'godfatherism' and how it can cost a geo-political entity fortunes that should have otherwise gone into development and capacity building. It was really a celebrated culture of waste and greed, coming from a minute few, who saw and still see money and material wealth as the only definition of existence.

As the general political climate in Nigeria, and particularly in Lagos is gradually charging up, the body politic - the electorate, must be reminded that the price the "just" and the "freeborn" are condemned to pay, especially when the right steps are not taken, would be the imposed reign of the group of self-made political mafias, whose bank of bedevilling political ideologies is never bankrupt with maliciousness, witch-hunt, covetousness, subterfuge, and their likes. Because it is happening in Nigeria, no detailed analyses and reasons have been given to substantiate the "not being a good party man", leaving the mind bordered with lingering questions, as to what the content of this disloyalty is. Who breached the contract first - the now dissident son or the godfathers? Is the root of the problem fiscally or ethically based? - And by the way, why did the "dissident son" never waste any further time or put up a disdaining voice in a show of disappointment, before mounting the media again to congratulate the same personality he made caricature of, before the primary election, by presenting him to the world as "a convict, who was arrested for spending fake dollars in a club". They all show the level of nonchalance and disregard of integrity. The electorate is disappointed.

The Need for Innovative Political Ethics

To the general electorate in Nigeria, it is time to do something new, develop a new approach and innovate a socio-political response to the plights that keep us in bondage, made inevitable by the actions of a selected few. Setting the mind anew towards innovative political core values is an urgent task we the electorate must decide to take up. Basic to such values is the outright rejection of any further socio-political art that disrespects our rights to political and socio-economic inclusion. Insistence, even to the point of organised and non-violent revolutions, is a step in the right direction. In this form, our innovation ethics with regard to politics and governance would be value-driven and not money-driven, as the Nigerian political space has always shown. In pursuing such value-driven innovations, we the electorate would be able to rescue again the "people's power and will", which always suffer chains of attack, abuse and disregard, by a Nigerian political system that accommodates only the few, who can never fully relinquish power, but strategically change baton with their likes, in a disgruntled and ravaging "son-father" relationship, which has made the rest of us become only 'remnants' within a socio-political whole, where each one of us is a firstborn. Innovation is defined by creativity and creativity is never an attitude of the feeble-minded. Therefore, it is time to eschew all forms of weaknesses so as to merge actions with the right decisions. Innovative political and socio-economic transformation in Nigeria must reject all forms of political "Greek-gifts" in the forms of money, bags of rice, garri and beans, motorbikes and their likes, which our politicians flatter on selected groups of helpless and poverty ravaged citizens, especially at the dawn of elections into political offices, so as to give multiplier-effect to vote counts. Such actions are insults to human dignity. The purpose of good governance is not to provide temporal solution to a 'demanding stomach' but to create viable institutions that can employ citizens and give them socio-economic and psychological security. It is all left to us - the Electorate.

Regard for Leadership Ethics

In the final analysis, the ethics of political leadership demands an uncompromised respect for the electorate as well as the obliteration of all forms of personal and vested interests of the political leader or group of leaders in matters of collective interest. Godfathers should know this. A disillusioned and repressed electorate, due to the imposition of the political will of a few, remains corrosive to a political economy and would continue to threaten peace and stability. Responsible leadership is inclusive and not exclusive. Being inclusive, therefore, it has to embrace "the responsible use of power in order to define and reach ethical goals for all human beings…"1, not just for a selected few. We therefore remain disillusioned as electorate when we do not consider it timely to ask the right questions, insist on getting the right answers and resist uncompromisingly all forms of imposed 'will', even to the point of risking jail and prison terms or paying the ultimate price.

1. Stückelberger, Christoph, Responsible Leadership Handbook, For Staff and Boards, Geneva, Globethics.net International Secretariat, 2014, p. 7.


NEWS SECTIONS