Estranged political ‘godfathers’ and ‘godsons’ in supremacy test

Ahead of the March 9 governorship election, the political arena has sprung to life among power blocs in states, where a perennial battle for the control of the power levers have always have always led to a clash of interests between those known as political godfathers and their godsons. KUNLE ODEREMI, BOLA BADMUS, KOLA OYELERE, JOHNSON BABAJIDE, INIOBONG EKPONTA write on the situation.

ANAMBRA State typifies the spectre of macabre dance in the political arena in Nigeria since 1999. A sitting governor was abducted from Government House by agents working for supposed gangs comprising political demagogues regarded as godfathers to Dr Chris Ngige, who among other things was accused him of reneging on pre-election contractual agreements. The operation conjured the images of a patron-client relationship.

In a Mafia-like style, a self-declared godfather employed a band of thugs in concert with policemen to abduct his godson for reneging on agreement to allow the ‘kingmaker’ determine all political appointees, have access to the largest share of state’s allocation, and instantly pay him a sum of N2.5 billion as part of his efforts to re-coop his investment in the political chess game.

A similar scenario soon played out as the late “strongman of Ibadan politics”, Adedibu took on his godson, Governor Rashid Ladoja, governor of Oyo State over similar disagreement over allocation of money political appointments, just as the late main power broker in Kwara State then, Dr Olusola Saraki, squared up against his godson, Late Governor Lawal Mohammed.

Since then, the battle for supremacy between godsons and their godfathers has assumed different shades and colours with the latter trying to firm up their grip of their political empires by all means. The epicentres of such power tussle include Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Sokoto and Lagos with the change of political affiliation playing a major role. This particularly so in such cases involving Senator Godswill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom state who left PDP for APC and is at daggers drawn against his godson, incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel; Senator Aliyu Wamakko, the godfather of incumbent Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Senator George Akume of Benue State against incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom; Senator Musa Kwankwaso against his godson, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje in Kano State. Ganduje was deputy to then Governor Kwakwanso for eight years, beginning from 1999. In Sokoto, prior to their sour relationship, both Wamakko had described Tambuwal in the build up to the 2015 elections as a “patriot who is religiously committed to the even socio-economic development of the state.” The defection of the governor from APC to rival PDP has further worsened their mutual ties.

In Lagos, former governor of the state, senator Bola Tinubu remains the de facto godfather of politics, having stamped his authority on who occpupies the Oval House, since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule.

The flexing of muscles between godfather and godson also occurred in Abia State when a former governor of the state, Orji Uzor Kalu tackled then Governor Theodore Orji, who the former had assisted as his Chief of Staff to emerge as his successor in Government House. The cold war between them was exacerbated by the decision of Orji to float the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) following his irreconcilable disagreement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the defacto leader of the PDP under which Orji governed the state.

In neighbouring Anambra State, the relationship between incumbent Governor Willie Obiano and his thitherto godfather and now presidential running mate of the PDP in the February 23, 2019 election. Mr Peter Obi went wary shortly after Obiano assumed office. Their tie predated their sojourn into party politics, as both Obi and Obiano had not only worked together at Fidelity Bank, but were also school mates at the famous Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha.

Cross Rivers State equally recorded a semblance of the patron-clientele relationship that took a nosedive on the altar of political gerrymandering. Both Donald Duke, and his successor, Liyel Imoke, went their separate ways over some curious issues pertaining of the state of situation on ground after the change of baton in Government House. Ironically, Imoke and the incumbent, Governor Ben Ayade, are also said to be in no love lost.  Before now, Ayade was said to have described Imoke as a brilliant leader who left behind a secured and buoyant state. However, the tune has since changed with claims that Imoke was not pleased with the governor’s leadership style.

In a study entitled, Godfather and political patronage: Godfatherism and the future of Nigerian democracy, Akinola Adeoye of the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, notes that “Politics of godfathers involves the ‘anointing’ of a godson who is expected to win an election by using the influence, wealth, political structure and political experience of the godfather. In return, the godson reciprocates by loyalty and regular consultations with the godfather. Godfatherism, in its simple form is a term used to describe the relationship between a godfather and god-son. Godfathers are slightly different from mafia and election sponsors.” He added that all professional callings have those that could be ascribed the status of godfathers, which some call king makers. In fact, the First Republic boasted of many power brokers, whose modus operandi was primarily based on charismatic leadership with vision and unambihguos commitment to service altruism, as opposed to clique interest. It was on the basis of visionary leadership that Adeope categorized the set of political leadership Nigeria had at independence. in 1960. His words: “Erudite politicians like Obafemi Awolowo in the West, Azikwe (East), and Aminu Kano (North), held the aces as regional godfathers in the 1979 electioneering process. The failure of these godfathers to live above ethnic politics aided the ascendancy of Shehu Shagari as Nigeria’s president in 1979. Awolowo tried in vain to install Pa Alayande during the old Oyo State governorship race against the younger Bola Ige; Jim Nwobodo declared Azikwe as his godfather, while Balarabe Musa triumphed rode combined his populist mentality with political affiliation to late leader of the Talakawas (commoners), Aminu Kano to become the governor of Kaduna State in 1979. They knew the relevance of such names in winning election, and there was peaceful coexistence between the two parties. These leaders never imposed their interests on the godsons in a thug-like fashion, instead both worked harmoniously for the entrenchment of good governance.”

Other experts say the syndrome of godfathers in politics may have come to stay, given the heavy monetization of politics in the country. In fact, an Associate Professor of Sociologist at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko, Ondo State, Dr. Rufus Tinuola, observed that the trend appears to have encouraged the gradual dominace of the political space by the generations of some political leaders. “I am not sure the issue of godfatherism can be eradicated because the cost of contesting for an election here is too much. This is why the people in power keep recycling their children in power so that they can keep perpetuating themselves in positions of authority. I am not sure it can be eradicated as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. We can only be talking of solution to such problem in countries where elections are not expensive.”

But with emerging dynamics in the buildup to the March 9, governorship poll, will the empires of political godfathers crumble and substituted by a new set of fiefdoms?

 

Lagos political godfathers and their godsons

In Lagos, the governorship contest will be between the APC’s Babajide Sanwo-Olu and PDP’s Jimi Agbaje as the leading candidates, while other candidates such Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Dr Adetokunbo Pearse of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Mr. Muyiwa Fafowora of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) are also in the running for the number seat in the state.

But watchers of political developments in the state, the contest, in the real sense, is a battle of wit, strength and resolve between godfatherism and those opposed to it in the politics of the state. The godfather factor played a major role in determining who should be fielded for the governorship race, most especially in the ruling APC, though it was not so pronounced in other parties.

For the ruling APC, which has become neck-deep in playing the game masterfully, the incumbent governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has since become a victim, as his dream to contest for a second term in office has since been dashed by his political godfather, the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who has long become a master in the game of backing whosoever he wants in such exalted position without blinking an eye.

Now, in spite of the efforts made by Governor Ambode to impress his erstwhile political godfather to enable him go for a second term in office, all such efforts have come to naught, as he has since been replaced with Sanwo-Olu. This development has upset the APC, creating a rift between Tinubu and Ambode, with the duo making pretences about mending the strained relationship.

The fate that has since befallen Governor Ambode, where he has to be stopped from picking the party’s ticket to contest the 2019 and win back his seat, couldn’t have been imagined by Nigerians. Before he was confronted with that fate, the governor had somehow become a celebrity of sort among Lagosians, who were daily celebrating him with endorsement after endorsement. The endorsements, which did not even leave out party leadership and caucuses, including State and National Assembly caucuses, came to an abrupt end when Tinubu accused the governor of not taking care of party leadership and members of his administration. He lost the party ticket to a new political godson, Sanwo-Olu, based on that pronouncement coming from his political godfather, ahead of the party primary, which he still participated in, notwithstanding.

The cold war has taken many dimensions including the near-impeachment of the governor following the face-off with the legislative arm over the 2019 budget proposal. With the last-minute intervention of no other person than the godfather himself saving the day for the governor.

Following the resolution, the governor has since complied by formally appearing before the 40-member parliament to present the said budget, which deliberation had since been commenced upon and final passage expected to take place by April after the conclusion of the 2019 elections.

While sources very close to Governor Ambode’s camp would always dismiss any form of belief that there is any political feud between the governor and his political godfather, what they easily agree to is the fact that the cordiality that once existed between the duo can no longer be said to be there anymore. It is gone forever and things cannot be the same, they all chorused. The row between the political godfather and his erstwhile godson, no doubt, is already taking its toll and has become visible, especially in the way the ruling party went about its campaigns in the state.

As political parties, without exception, continue to corral for votes in states and across the country ahead of the elections Ambode, who is still aggrieved with the state of affairs, has not left anyone in doubt as to where he belongs. He was more in tune with joining the campaign train of President Buhari, and could be seen following him across the country, than he was seen in the campaign train of the governorship candidate of the party in Lagos. This development has led to a situation whereby not a few people had begun to point an accusing finger at the governor that he has been working for candidates of other political parties. For instance, they have accused him of financing the campaign of the governorship candidate of the leading opposition PDP, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, and also the candidate of another opposition party in Agege area of the state, where the incumbent Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, is also seeking a re-election into office.

With the edging out of the incumbent governor out of the race, a feat that was not possible with former Governor Babatunde Fashola, much as they tried then, but with new revelation indicating that Fashola was only lucky due to the fact that the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was not controlling the centre, the Lagos chapter of APC appears to be much troubled, few days to the governorship election.

Unlike before, the party had to organise many stakeholders’ meeting to convince voters in the state. One of such parleys held last Thursday, which took place at the party’s secretariat on ACME Road, saw Tinubu, who is also a former governor of the state, passionately begging the Igbo community in Lagos to vote the APC in the coming elections, reminding them of the favours they had all enjoyed in the state, including quality education and healthcare, among others, for themselves and their children, while sadly recalling the poor voting they gave to APC in 2015 in areas such as Oshodi, Amuwo-Odofin, where the Igbo are in large population.

But the challenge of godfatherism is not limited to the ruling APC. In 2014, the opposition PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, emerged, having been allegedly hand-picked by the leader of the party in the state, Chief Olabode George, who is also a former Deputy National Chairman of party. But in 2018, the game plan changed, as George and Agbaje had long fallen apart, a situation which made the Lagos PDP political godfather to back another candidate, who eventually failed to pick the party’s ticket. This situation created an initial setback in the party, with both camps keeping a distance from each other for a while until a stakeholder’s parley came up at the Lugard, Ikoyi office of George, where party leaders, including Agbaje, gatherered to declare an end to any hostility in the party and pledged to join his campaign train to enable the party win the forthcoming polls.

 

Kano guber: Ganduje, Kwankwaso test supremacy

The incumbent governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and his immediate predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who now represents Kano Central in the Senate, have been age-long political associates. It would be recalled that both of them were members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 when they contested governorship primary election in the party. The result then produced former Governor Kwankwaso as winner, while the incumbent governor, Ganduje, came second.

Considering the strength of the two, the leadership of the PDP in Kano State then decided to harness their potentials so as to win the election without much stress. Thus, chieftains of the party, including the late Dr. Abubakar Rimi, Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Ambassador Aminu Wali, among others, resolved at an elders’ meeting then that it would be better for the party to present a Kwankwaso/Ganduje ticket for the electoral contest. Kwankwaso became PDP’s governorship candidate, while Ganduje became the deputy governorship candidate. It was with this arrangement that they went into the race and won the election.

To underscore their bond, after the two were sent out of office in 2003 by Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the then governorship candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Dr. Kwankwaso was appointed minister of defence, both Kwankwaso and Ganduje were still together as political friends. Indeed, Ganduje served as personal assistant to Kwankwaso when he was minister of defence.

As luck would have it, both men came back as governor and deputy governor between 2011 and 2015 on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). After Senator Kwankwaso left office in 2015, Ganduje became governor. Then came the political horse-trading of 2015 that culminated in cross-carpeting between the APC and the PDP. It was at this point that the two political gladiators parted ways. While Senator Kwankwaso dumped the APC for PDP, Ganduje stayed in APC and eventually became the party’s standard-bearer for governorship seat.

Now, Senator Kwankwaso, is supporting his former Commissioner for Works and Housing, Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf, who happens to be his in-law, as governorship candidate of the PDP.

Meanwhile, one would recall that immediately Senator Kwankwaso dumped the APC for PDP, another notable chieftain of the PDP, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, also defected to the APC. Political analysts were quick to note that the decision was based on the premise that Senator Kwankwaso came to the PDP and was given almost 70 per cent control of the party in the state.

Also instructive is the fact that other notable members of the PDP who were also nursing ambitions to contest gubernatorial ticket of the party equally left the PDP the alleged anointed of Kwankwaso had been given the ticket.

The foregoing is the background of the reason, the governorship election in Kano State, according to many analysts, is not between Ganduje and Yusuf, but between former Governor Kwankwaso and incumbent Governor Ganduje. The later is expected to use the election to stamp his authority and political supremacy.

Going by series of campaigns and defections across the two major political parties, especially the defection of former Governor Shekarau to the APC, it is evidently certain that Shekarau’s grassroots political support across 44 local government areas of the state will add political value and votes to Ganduje’s quest in the election.

It is equally clear, if things work according to political permutations, that the Muhammadu Buhari factor will work in favour of Ganduje, in the sense that Kano is believed to be the president’s political stronghold. If Buhari wins Kano in the presidential election, that result may swing certain percentage of vote to Ganduje’s side.

When Sunday Tribune sought the opinion of one of the strong supporters of Ganduje, the state Commissioner for Rural and Community Development, Alhaji Ilyasu Musa Kwankwaso, who happens to be a nephew to Senator Kwankwaso, said, the former governor (Kwankwaso) had lost political relevance in the state.

According to him, the incumbent governor would defeat Yusuf “because Senator Kwankwaso forced him on the party and most chieftains of the PDP have left the party. For now, Senator Kwankwaso is a lone ranger in the PDP.”

The younger Kwankwaso added that with Mallam Shekarau, the Buhari stronghold factor and “Ganduje’s acceptability” what is on ground would spell political doom for Kwankwaso’s anointed candidate.

However, analysts have said considering the popularity of Senator Kwankwaso, coupled with the fact that people regard him as a fearless politician, he might still be holding the aces.

It is believed that Kwankwaso worked well when he was governor, especially in the area of education, a development that paved the way for many poor children to get foreign scholarship. Many of the parents of these children, when interviewed, said they would mobilise for Kwankwaso’s anointed governorship candidate with the hope that if his candidate emerges next governor, such gesture of scholarship would come back.

Apart from this, many people believe that Senator Kwankwaso played a very important role in the 2015 presidential and governorship elections which gave victory to the APC both at state and federal levels.

According to analysts, it is also certain that the way President Buhari got 1.9 million votes could have solely depended on how the former governor campaigned as well as certain steps he took to convince the electorate to cast their votes for Buhari and Ganduje. Therefore, it is believed that if Kwankwaso deployed the same system that paved the way for the APC then for the PDP now, it could bring to naught APC’s hope of victory at the poll.

Apart from all these, the candidate of the PDP himself, Alhaji Yusuf, has some political values that the PDP, under kwankwaso’s leadership may benefit immensely from. According to many, Yusuf hails from Kano metropolitan part of the state, as against Ganduje who is from outside the state capital.

Besides, Yusuf is from Gwale Local Government Area which produces one of largest number of bloc votes in the state. Information gathered indicated that the people from this local government have resolved to vote for their Son.

Another factor working for the PDP’s candidate and Kwankwaso’s political empire in particular is the Kwankwasiya, the political group known with Senator Kwankwaso. This set of people, regarded as die-hard supporters of the former governor, are scattered all over 44 local government areas of the state. They worship and believe in whatever Senator Kwankwaso directs them to do.

But looking at the entire issue from another angle, many people are of the opinion that the PDP made a very costly mistake by allowing the crisis between Mallam Shekarau and Senator Kwankwaso to degenerate to the level that forced  Shekarau out of the party. The argument is that had Shekarau remained with the PDP, he would have added value to the party’s chances during the election. According to an analyst, the worse aspect is that “Mallam Shekarau is also contesting for the senatorial seat currently held by Kwankwaso, though he (Kwankwaso) is not re-contesting for the seat.

It has also been argued that outcomes of Kano State elections are usually not easily predictable. Events of the past, many have said, have proved this. They are quick to mention that nobody believed that Senator Kabir Gaya could defeat the late Alhaji Magaji Abdullah, just as it was not believed then that Shekarau could defeat Kwankwaso in 2003. It is with the same token that people didn’t believe also that Kwankwaso could come back after eight years and become governor.

With all the permutations on ground, both candidates’ chances in the election can be safely put at 50-50.

 

A’Ibom guber: Godfather vs god son, where will the pendulum swing?

With barely one week to the crucial governorship poll in the Akwa Ibom state, ‘The Land of Promise,’ has become one huge theatre of political war.

At stake is the Hiltop Mansion and the major gladiators are the immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the godfather, who had since drawn the battle line with his estranged godson, Deacon Udom Emmanuel.

The duo, who had since parted ways following some irreconcilable differences, are locked in the fierce battle for the soul of the 31-year-old state.

Senator Akpabio, former Senate Minority Leader, is angling to oust his former man Friday, whom he single-handedly imposed on Akwa Ibom political space, even as a perceived total political green-horn in 2015.

As the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2007 and 2015, when he held sway as the governor, Akpabio’s words then were laws that must not be flouted.

Akpabio’s influence seems to have waned, but not beyond redemption as he was still able to install Udom. The emergence of Emmanuel, after about one year of being rail-roaded into the system as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), jolted a lot of political watchers of the unfolding events of that era.

However, to be able to maintain the status quo, the governor along with the Director in-charge of his campaign organisation, Divine Mandate, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, armed with ‘Only God’ as the dominant slogan, have been taken campaigns across the 31 Local Government Areas.

They anchored their points on the fact that like other governors since 1999, Emmanuel must be returned for second term given the fact that he has in the last three years proven his mettle especially in the implemetation of his five-point agenda of industrialisation, women and youths empowerment, infrastructural consolidation, job creation and political inclusion.

Added to these is the fulfillment of his promise to run what he described as true and efficient fiscal administration that would usher in a robust economy with a complimentary prosperity for the people.

The arrival of two aircraft manufactured six years ago, he said on Wednesday at the inauguration at Ibom International Airport, would kick-start the operation of the first state-owned airline in Nigeria and the whole of Africa.

According to him, this and other achievements would recommend him for re-election when the chips are finally down on March 9, 2019.

But the opposition led by Akpabio has been in the fore-front of rubbishing all the administration had achieved since 2015, querying: “why is it that they are commissioning projects in Rivers and other states and they are not commissioning in Akwa Ibom?”

He, therefore, urged the people to rise with their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) against the administration that has brought poverty and underdevelopment to the people.

But all of these intimidating postures have forced Emmanuel out of his shells to begin to launch his credentials and appeals to the electorate which has led to a large swathe of the voting public having sympathy for him over Akpabio’s campaign of threats and intimidation against the administration.

But the outcome of the polls according to followers of political trends since Akpabio’s defection could be too close to call, but submitted that some few details including what they described as “Akpabio factor and federal might” could push the contest beyond the reach of Emmanuel.”

Only time will tell if the state’s might of Emmanuel and his track-record of achievements in the last couple of years would put him in good stead to be able to pull the chestnut out of the fire as the people watch.

 

Benue: The Akume, Ortom tussle

That there is a rift between Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his former political godfather, Senator George Akume, is no longer news. How the duo would play out the battle of superiority in the governorship election holding on March 9 is what the people of the state, nay Nigerians, are waiting eagerly to watch.

Recall that Senator Akume had helped to ensure that the result of the governorship primary of the APC went in favour of Ortom after he lost the PDP primary in 2014, thereby becoming a political kingmaker to Ortom, who went ahead to win the governorship election. Political analysts in the state also give the credit for the victory in the election to Akume. Since then, the duo enjoyed godfather-godson relationship until 2018, when the duo fell apart.

Though no one could give the exact reason for the strained relationship, with the governor putting the blame on the doorstep of Akume, observers in the state have submitted that inordinate ambition from either side might have been the cause of their fight.

Since the relationship was severed, the duo had, at several for a, vowed to use the yesterday’s and March 9 elections to show their superiority. While the political godfather is seeking another term in the Senate, Ortom is seeking re election and interestingly, the duo are from the same senatorial district.

As a result of the Akume-Ortom tiff, the battle for the governorship seat in the state has been heated and fierce, with Akume already propping up Emmanuel Jime as the candidate of the APC in the election, to square up to Ortom.

Though political observers in the state have submitted that the outcome of the presidential and national assembly election will shape the governorship election in Benue State, those in the know have said that issues of herdsmen terrorism and killings as well as the performance of the state governor in the last four years will also be key issues that will guide the electorate.

Ortom has boasted that he would ensure that Akume loses out in yesterday’s election, a development that analysts would make the coast clear for him in the governorship contest.

One of the observers, Adayin  Kajo, said, “but if APC wins the presidential election and Akume loses his senatorial bid or both win the rescheduled election, Ortom may have extra work to do if he wants to get a second term

“The opposition party in the state is already boasting about the possibility of deploying federal might to the state and you cannot wave this aside.

“Though, I heard that the governor is also boasting of state might, but with a presidential directive, people would not like to confront the federal might,” Kajo argued.

Other watchers of events in the state have also expressed the view that though Ortom might have lost a godfather in Akume, Benue is not short of political godfathers and he would find solace in the fact that the immediate past president of the Senate, Senator David Mark, Dr Iyorchia Ayu and the immediate past governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam as well as a former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, are in his new party to neutralise any possible federal might the APC might be relying on.

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