Former President Goodluck Jonathan says conflict arising from politics of godfatherism is largely because the existing political parties in the country lack internal measures to rate the performance of a governor and resolve conflicts at the state level. PATRICK ANDREWwirtes.
When godfather, godson tangle
Estrange relationship between godfathers and their godsons is a regular feature in Nigerian politics. Rarely do the godfathers and their godsons maintain a sustained frictionless relationship, and in fact, in some cases such relationship hardly last the life span of an administration.
Of course, the bone of contention is almost always the control of the party structures or reins of power. Often, the contenders insist on capturing every element relevant to influence and authority of the man on the saddle and be the sole emperor that calls the shot.
And so the battle for supremacy basically has always been for the control of the state political structures and usually between immediate past governor of the state and the successor that he assumed he had installed to cover his ass, do his biddings, and lubricate his political ego.
Between Obaseki and Oshimhole
Take the most recent case involving the current All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and his godson and successor in Edo state government house, Godwin Obaseki.
The matter revolves on whose favoured candidate emerges the speaker of the state House of Assembly. Well, essentially whoever controls the reins of power from the perspective of the state assembly is certain to dictate the political pace in the next governorship election. Oshiomhole is disappointed with the loyalty of his protégée and would stop at nothing to ensure that Obaseki does not secure the party ticket for a second term, despite being an incumbent governor.
Of course, there is the precedence in Lagos where a sitting and evidently performing governor in the person of Akinwunmi Ambode was denied a second term ticket and therefore eased out of the office not for non-performance but for not being ‘a party man’ whatever that means. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu-the godfather- ensured the people’s mandate went elsewhere and today Ambode is just another fall guy from the ever increasing stable of a ‘benevolent’ godfather.
And so in Edo state, Obaseki, determined not to go the way of Ambode, took early and clear steps to circumvent the influence of his erstwhile godfather by ensuring his favoured candidate emerged the speaker of the state assembly. He had watched with clear focus the attempt by Oshiomhole to foist his man Friday on the assembly, and being politically battle ready swiftly took steps to undermine whatever influence Oshiomhole thought he wielded over the state’s political structures.
While the governor backed a former majority leader of the assembly, Frank Okiye, ex-speaker, Victor Edoror representing Esan Central reportedly had the blessings of Oshiomhole.
9 over 24 victory
Forget the arithmetic, it’s odd, but that’s politics. It’s all about magic and indeed all well that ends well, depending on your aptitude for political jealousy.
It seems at first the odds had favoured Edoror after 19 out of the 24 incoming legislators-elect attended a meeting called by Oshiomhole, a development that could have dealt a huge political blow to the governor’s re-election ticket of the APC, if allowed to stay.
In fact, buoyed by the numerical strength, the 19 pro-Oshiomhole members-elect had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on Obaseki to immediately and in consonance @with section 105 (3) to issue a letter of proclamation for inauguration of the new assembly to avoid vacuum”.
Obaseki obliged, but at his convenience and only after he had initiated a water-tight plot that swept the carpet off the jerry-like feet of his hitherto mentor. Only 9 members-elect obviously loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki of the 24 members-elect showed up for the oath taking/inauguration ceremony. And the rest, like they say, is history.
Well, Akpabio had been dealt a blow by Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, Gov Ganduje broke free from Musa Kwankwaso, and many others. It’s recurrent and has assumed a dimension one can’t treat with kid gloves on account of the implication of the ugly trend on Nigeria’s nascent democracy.
Wisdom of an ex-president
Now, former President Goodluck Jonathan thinks he has the answer to the dreaded godfather and godfather imbroglio. First though, he identified the cause and then offered solutions.
He should know having resisted all enticements from an ex-president who sought to ‘pocket him’ and make his o yes man. And Jonathan said some state governors and their perceived godfathers heat up their state’s polity and engage in a bloody political fight over the issue of second term ticket basically because of institutional frailties.
While attending an enlarged meeting of stakeholders and PDP faithful in Bayelsa Government House, which was the first one since leaving office as president, he opted to warn albeit tacitly ahead of the November 16 governorship election in the state that Seriake Dickson must not tow the unholy path of some ex-governors who fought their successors or godsons barely months after handing over the reins of power to them.
Fittingly, Jonathan said the reason while godfathers engaged in needless battles with their godsons is largely because existing political parties in the country lack internal measures to rate the performance of a governor and resolve conflicts at the state level.
Himself a former governor, who by providence succeeded his political mentor and godfather, late Alaiyeseigha and was later also to succeed yet another of his principal, Umar Musa Yar’Adua who suddenly succumbed to the cold hands of death, said were there strong institutions which could provide the parameter for appraising a governor, dependence on godfathers for political relevance won’t have arisen, and therefore would have been a non-issue.
The former president recalled that he had once forwarded a memo to the national caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when he was the Vice President of Nigeria for certain provisions meant to strengthen the office of the governor and set certain parameters for performance evaluation. He said it was not accepted then but was later brought up recently during the last amendment of the party constitution.
Addressing 58-members Bayelsa PDP Elders Advisory Council at its inaugurated, Jonathan said he was glad when the PDP, as a political party, amended its constitution and created a body known as the PDP Elders Advisory Council at the state level thereby putting in place a mini-Board of Trustee at the state level with powers to resolve crisis and make quick and unbiased decisions.
Elders Advisory Council
According to him, “I’m indeed happy when the PDP incorporated the Elders Advisory Council at the last amendment. I did not take part in the amendment but I remember that when I went to Abuja as vice president, I sent a memo to the caucus of the party and one issue I raised was one that will put some people at the State level to resolve conflicts.
“I was pleased when it came up again and it was because I know that the elders advisory council will play a key role in resolving disputes among party members. There is no way party members will play politics and go in the same direction. It has never happened anywhere in the world. While we are pursuing our interest, we should consider the interest of the party.”
“I observed that in most cases, we don’t have people that have the authority to resolve conflicts at the state level. There is the need to have a mini-BoT at the state level. They should be party elders.
“Sometimes, there is conflict between those at the centre and the state governors because of the fear that god fathers are not ready to give them a second term in office.
“That makes the governors to consolidate their hold on the state and the party and push other people not in support of his interest out of the party. You will then see a heated polity and tension. For the PDP, as a party, to survive and reduce tension, they must come up with a standard way of assessing the state governors.
“Anybody that at least meets up requirement for performance should be given automatic ticket. A governor would not then be afraid that one godfather will not give him a second term ticket for him to start in-fighting. With these in place, the state governors will carry everybody along because the issue of in-fighting will impede his victory at the general elections.”
On the issue of primary elections by political parties, Jonathan expressed concern over the waste of time and resources by the PDP on the processes of electing party candidates, noting that the PDP spends too much time on party primaries.
“Most other political parties don’t spend so much time and resources and energy doing party primaries. That is why they are more cohesive. If party members fight during primaries, it is mostly difficult to come together for general elections,” he said.