By Fredrick Nwabufo
The campaigns of the first-tier contenders in the Edo governorship election have been largely ensconced in the agitprop of godfatherism. While Godwin Obaseki, incumbent governor of the state, claims he is wrestling against the forces of recidivism who have held Edo down and who want to keep lording it over the state as godfathers, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his challenger, struggles to shake off the tag of being a flunkey of these ‘’patrons’’.
According to Obaseki, his re-election will end godfatherism in Edo. In fact, the governor said his cardinal mission in the state is to end godfatherism. But what is the plausibility of this noble quest? Will Obaseki’s re-election really sever the pharynx of godfatherism in Edo? Is he sincere about interring the remains of this atavistic scourge in our politics? Or will there be a re-alignment with the godfathers from the party on which stump he stands?
On Ize-Iyamu, I think he knows he runs with a baggage. He is like a sprinter who goes into a race with heavy locker-room chattels in tow. He grapples with a credibility crisis. His proponent, Adams Oshiomhole, is his Achilles heel; so, he swedges against himself and his promoter, seeking redemption from the burden of Oshiomhole.
Most of Ize-Iyamu’s public statements have been on the defensive. He never ceases to remind everyone that “the only person who is really my godfather is God himself”. In his desperation to shake off the soiled garb, he said on a programme on Arise TV in August that Oshiomhole was his “staffer”.
He shrieked: “…So, for somebody like me to now describe him as a godfather or say Oshiomhole is my godfather…. On what basis? We have had history of robust engagement. We have disagreed and come back together; so, what you see is mutual respect. Oshiomhole is working for me; he is campaigning with me because he is also passionate about his party winning Edo and you can’t take that away from him.”
But one thing stands clear: Obaseki cannot end godfatherism in Edo and Ize-Iyamu cannot wash himself clean from the stain of godfatherism even if he uses hyssop. They are both products of the same primitive political system and bastions of the same order.
Our political process is cannibalistic; it is dog eat dog. National interest succumbs to group and individual interest in our brand of politics. It does not reward rebels or people of independent disposition. To chance on political office, you must contort your principles and personal integrity to fit into the agenda of the keepers of the political platforms, notoriously regarded as the “godfathers”. The godfathers control these political platforms. They hold the reins of political progression.
It is the reason I believe Obaseki cannot end godfatherism in Edo. In fact, he has only switched godfathers. Those who offered him the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket on a limb – after he was rejected by his former party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) — did so at a great cost. It is obvious to a neophyte of political readings that the “owners” of the PDP did not offer their platform to Obaseki to run for a second-term in office without some trading. The owners of the party will certainly seek to recoup their investment. The insularity of interest is supreme in our anachronistic politics. And to aver that godfathers must be localised within a state or a political entity is minimising the vulgar tentacles of godfatherism. Godfathers are like colonialists; they exist even on the fringes but with proboscis deep into the guts of every state, country, sector and institution. It is really ludicrous — Obaseki’s campaign theme of extirpating godfatherism in Edo as if a godfather(s) must come from Edo or be resident there.
Interest is not locational and godfatherism defies religion and ethnicity. The alleged godfather of Oshiomhole, Obaseki’s predecessor who is catholic, is a Muslim from the south-west, and he has been since the former APC national chairman was governor in 2008 — after his political platform, the Labour Party, entered into an entente with Action Congress Party which gave him a solid structure and backing to achieve his ambition.
So, Obaseki should save himself the twaddle of ending godfatherism in Edo. I believe he has projects to show for his first term in office. He should campaign on them. Latching on the godfatherism trope betrays his performance vacuity. The people of Edo want good governance – beyond replacing an old obnoxious order with a new one.
Really, as long as the present political ecosystem subsists, godfatherism will remain in Nigeria. This is why we have to fight as people to liberate ourselves from the noose of these troglodytes. Whoever wins the Saturday governorship poll in Edo, the status quo will remain unchanged.
Yes, I am pessimistic. I have my reasons.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist