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The political viruses, By Dan Agbese

When Maureen Chigbo and I interviewed Dr Chimaroke Nnamani in his first term as governor of Enugu State, he was pretty

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When Maureen Chigbo and I interviewed Dr Chimaroke Nnamani in his first term as governor of Enugu State, he was pretty voluble about one of his early political achievements, to wit, ending godfatherism in the state. He rightly regarded it as an unusual feat because the godfathers had a firm hold on the politics of the state and made governance almost impossible. Nnamani told us that by ending godfatherism, he had freed the state from the dictatorship of the old politicians who believed they were entitled to monthly shares from the state allocation from the federation account. 

            I do not know if there are no godfathers in the state. I do not know either if, as a former governor of the state and now a senator, Nnamani resisted the temptation to become a godfather. Not many men of power and influence have resisted that temptation. Political irrelevance is a disease dreaded by our politicians. They fight not to catch the virus. 

            We can see that godfatherism is alive and well in the country. It is a virus in our body politic. All the state governors are godsons put in office to ensure the continued relevance of the big men who, in addition to being godfathers, call themselves stake holders, as if they have more at stake in our democracy than the rest of us. 

            Rev Father Hyacinth Alia, governor of Benue State, has cried out about the pressure put on him by some stake holders who would rather share the monthly state allocation from the federation account rather than let the governor use it for the benefit of the people. I am willing to bet that other state governors face similar pressures too – and are suffering in silence in order not to publicly antagonise their godfathers and ruin their chances for a second term in office.

            If some of us were ignorant of the ignoble role the godfathers play in our national politics, what is playing out in Rivers State is clear evidence that godfatherism is deleterious to our national politics. What is playing out in the state is not just power tussle between Nyesom Wike and governor Fubara. It is, more importantly the weakness in our leadership recruitment process which permits one man to control the process and instal his choice in the government house.

Fubara is Wike’s godson. He installed him as his successor. Wike’s control of the state power structure is total. In his eight years as a governor of the state he did titanic things with the state fund. When he failed to make it as Atiku’s deputy presidential candidate, he took to using money to sabotage his own party, PDP, to prevent Atiku from getting the ultimate political crown. He funded the so-called G5, being a group of PDP state governors who fed from his hands and were obligated to do his political will. President Tinubu rewarded him by appointing him FCT minister. Ignoble roles have their own rewards.

Wike is a powerful politician. We can say that again. He not only installed the state governor, but he also installed the state legislators and the state commissioners. Fubara is a figure head governor. He has no real powers to rule the state. On the orders of Wike, the state legislators defected from PDP to APC. So did the state commissioners. Wike succeeded in dissolving the government of his own state. He has so far failed to remove the governor, but he has crippled the state administration. It is a troubling situation. It is an expose of the rotten under belly of our national politics. The strong men rule through proxies.

No one has told us why the strong man is doing what he is doing but we know that godsons and their godfathers play by certain rules, part of which is the latter’s unquestionable right to control the state treasury. If the godson abides by this rule, there is peace; if he does not, there is wahala. The treasury is always the problem. 

In almost all cases godsons cannot grow wings. They cannot assert themselves. Trouble comes when some of them try to act like men and assert themselves. There may be a soul of goodness in the dirty drama in Rivers State. It will test our constitutionalism and maybe, just maybe, protect our constitution from serial abuse by men who swore an oath to protect and defend it. 

The supreme law of the land provides that legislators who defect from their parties that sponsored them shall lose their seats in the house.  A brave judge in Rivers State has so ruled. PDP and APC as ruling parties have abused this constitutional provision and given protection to the defectors who clearly acted in shameless breach of the constitution. Timid judges have always spoken from both sides of the mouth and sided with those who traduced the supreme law of the land. If a higher court upholds the judgement of the lower court, our constitution may be allowed to breathe. It would be one foot in the door of constitutional government in our dear country.

This, to be sure, will not loosen the grip of the godfathers in our leadership recruitment process. We will continue to have men and women imposed on the system in breach of the system for the simple reason that the role of the African big man shall neither diminish nor perish from the face of the earth. But na small, small we dey catch monkey.