Apologia: Though the most trending issue at present is the yacht yaks, my offering today will not dwell on it. Nor will I want to talk about the army of deliberately befuddling narratives on the yacht from the Nigerian authority. Today’s is also not about the familial invasion of the hallowed chambers of state last week, nor the previous presidential speech from Iya L’oja, the First Daughter, with the Nigerian flag flying, warts and all. Nor is it even about the automobile palliatives for the First Family.
Like the Georg Wilhelm Hegel dialectics, I believe all these are theses and antitheses which will soon form a synthesis.
By the time this opening glee, the theatrical entrance song preceding the play, finally unfolds, I pray we find the encore that we have lost.
Sorry, I digressed. Today is about the duel between Nyesom Wike, the Fuhrer of Rivers State and lately, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and his godson, Fubara Siminalayi, current governor of the State. It is instructive that Wike the godfather in Rivers is, on its flipside, a godson in the FCT where he superintends as the 37th Nigerian State governor, a la the recent Nigerian Supreme Court judgement. Only recently, the FCT got approval for its pulling out from the Treasury Single Account (TSA). No Minister of this humongous State economy had ever got such unexampled but suspicious exemption ever since the creation of the TSA. What is the dominant psychology that has kept the Wikes on the top burner of Nigerian politics? Why is godfatherism a disease that will live with us for a very long time to come? Is Wike a protege of a cancerous blight that has the dual tendencies of being evil and good in equal proportion?
In 1934, German Chancellor and Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, paid a highly publicised visit to the Friedrich Nietzsche archives at Weimar, a city in the State of Thuringia, Central Germany. Weimar was a focal point of the German Enlightenment. It was also home to leading figures of the literary genre like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. To the world, that visit by Hitler was weird and awkward.
So the Fuhrer came to the Nietzsche archives on the invitation of Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, younger sister of Friedrich, who became the curator and editor of the late German scholar’s manuscripts. Forster-Nietzsche was to be later accused of mal-editing Friedrich’s unpublished writings to fit her German ultranationalist ideology, as against Nietzsche’s anti-Semitism and nationalism. Hitler was accompanied on that visit by his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. At the reception room, Hitler held and contemplatively admired the bust of Nietzsche. No doubt calculatedly programmed, the photo that emerged therefrom was to paint the bones of Friedrich bad, even in his graveyard. He was held by some people as the godfather of Hitler’s massacre. A Hitler photograph having an incestuous conversation with Nietzsche specifically drew in the minds of those who saw it a diabolical connection between the two Germans. The photograph eventually found its way into the German press, captioned, “The Fuhrer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilised two great popular movements: the National Socialism of Germany and the Fascist Movement of Italy.”
As told by the duo of Jacob Golomb and Robert Wisrich in their introduction to the book, Nietzsche, godfather or fascism?, apart from Germany, the country of their birth that was the common denominator, Adolf seemed to have nothing in common with Friedrich. While Adolf was an Austrian-born German politician, dictator from 1933 to the day of his suicide in 1945, and one who initiated the World War II by his invasion of Poland in 1939, apart from Mercedez Benz, Nietzsche was one of Germany’s most enduring exports to the rest of the world. Adolf was not only central to the perpetration of the Holocaust, the genocidal rout of about 6 million Jews and millions of other victims of his brutality, he is the world’s most notorious demon ever. On his flipside was Friedrich. Globally acclaimed German philosopher, the young Friedrich, in 1869, at the age of 24, became the youngest human being to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His work spans philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism and fiction. He was known for his love for aphorism and irony and drew inspiration from Greek tragedy, science, religion, among others
Last week, like the Hitler of Nigerian politics that he has become, Wike would seem to be standing by the reception of the den of Ibadan political warlord, Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu. Adedibu, in the life of the current republic, had engaged the ex-governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja, in a godfather-godson tiff that nearly crashed the State. He was the indisputable and unforgettable godfather of the politics of Western Nigeria. Literally, Wike was simultaneously admiring the busts of Adolf Hitler and Adedibu. He didn’t seem to mind the din of noise that is the paterfamilias of the Ibadan, Molete den of Adedibu.
That same week, in his familiar gutturals, Wike’s coarse voice sounded round the length and breadth of Nigeria, grating through hearts like a load of laterites being offloaded from the quarry. It was akin to a violent downpour without any forewarning. Rivers State suddenly convulsed in the manner of a sick child. It sent Nigeria scampering for remedy for this dying-and-coming Abiku godfather-godson child birthed by Wole Soyinka. The city of Port-Harcourt literally quaked. Wike’s godson and governor of the state, Siminalayi and his loyalists, against the Wike group, got enveloped in a drama that lasted for close to 48 hours. Port-Harcourt, the capital of the State, witnessed such a seismic shake with Fubara said to have been shot at by a police team allegedly obeying the orders of ex-Governor Wike. An impeachment process was then begun against Fubara. The House of Assembly which witnessed the bulk of the drama suddenly exploded in an explosion which greatly damaged the complex. Not long after, President Bola Tinubu waded into the crisis and peace, of the graveyard ostensibly, returned to Rivers State.
The issue of godfather and godson and its effect on Nigerian politics have however remained unresolved. Though in a paper he entitled Explaining ‘godfatherism’ in Nigerian politics, Prof Isaac Albert had provided the foundation of the concept of godfatherism in cultural and historical contexts in Nigeria, predecessor-successor godfatherism in Nigerian governmental politics actually began in Nigeria in 2007. In the process leading to the 2007 elections, exiting governors of the time, armed with stupendous wealth from administering their states from 1999 to 2007, assumed the role of godfathers, sponsoring anointed successors to take over batons of power from them. They were apparently taking their cues from Abuja where Olusegun Obasanjo had done the same with Umaru Yar’Adua. From tinkering with the political process, to bankrolling elections and selections with billions of State funds, virtually all of the governors eventually succeeded in extending their stay in power through protégés.
However, no sooner had they emerged governors than these anointed godsons began to burst the bubble. And the cookies began to crumble. Some of the cookies were immediate while many took longer time to shatter into smithereens. In Lagos, the Tinubu-Raji Fashola experiment, what many saw for almost four years as matrimony worthy of example, exploded towards the end of the first term. James Ibori too succeeded in making his first cousin his successor in Delta. The godfather continued to reap dividends of his ‘investments’ in the godson. The godfather was the de facto governor, determining the political barometer of politics, its finance and what prebends to be given to political hirelings in the distribution of the largesse of power. Not until the re-election campaign of Fashola in 2011 did the cracks begin to be noticeable, revealing the godfather/godson as proverbial seeds in a walnut pod. You remember the cryptic phrase, “may your loyalty never be tested…”? The godson was between the devil and the deep blue sea.
In many other states at this time, the matrimonies suffered ruptures almost immediately. In Enugu, for instance, Sullivan Iheanacho Chime was still governor-elect when he started to undo all that his mentor and godfather had put in place. He spent eight years trying to pull down the Ebeano political structure that midwifed him. Orji Kalu suffered the same fate in Abia, where his erstwhile chief of staff, T. A. Orji, who was in the EFCC custody while his election was taking place, eventually emerged governor. Orji spent his years in government firing ballistic missiles at Kalu who spent billions of state funds to skew the process in his favour. This was replicated in virtually all the states, even in the 2015 elections where anointed godsons, having mutated to become godfathers themselves, attempted to foist their own godsons too as successors. For example, Chime’s godson, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, eventually became his political pallbearer. In Anambra, Peter Obi, while shopping for a godson, sidestepped the generally accepted skewer-minded political class, and walked into the supposedly sane banking hall in search of an urbane, corporate world executive. He got Willie Obiano. Less than a year after, the strange, somber-looking Obiano had transmuted from the gentleman who couldn’t hurt a fly into a stone-hearted political principality who strenuously presided over Obi’s political funeral and nunc dimitis. Same is replicated in Kano where Umar Ganduje, erstwhile Rabiu Kwankwaso’s lickspittle, became a hydra-headed monster who eventually swallowed his ex-boss. I am told that Emmanuel Uduaghan surreptitiously did in his cousin, James Ibori, even while serving his term in the UK slammer. The story of political betrayal, otherwise known as attempts by political godsons to be men of their own, has mutated dangerously ever since.
But, who actually is the betrayer, or when is a betrayal? Is it when the godson, who feels that millions of people in the State would be in at least four-year servitude if he continues with the sworn agreement to funnel State funds into the godfather’s bottomless esophagus, and thus repudiates all his commitments to the godfather? Or the godfather, whose mindless savagery and greed was behind the concept of godfatherism ab-initio?
The truth is that godfatherism has become a major feature of Nigerian politics. It is a political process which features a deliberate corruption of the electoral process and power structure by a dominant political mentor, otherwise known as the godfather. The godfather skews the political process in favour of an anointed candidate, with the aim of securing returns in form of bribes, offices or prestige. How this is done is that the godfather deploys wealth, power and position, mostly ill-gotten, to secure party nomination for the godson, sponsors their candidacy and manipulates the electoral process to their advantage. It can be likened to a political slave trade where the godfather, after succeeding in foisting the candidature of his godson on society, sits quietly thereafter to reap dividends of his evil machination. The repercussion on society is that merit is sacrificed and state funds are funnelled into repaying the “good” of the godfather.
In every election cycle since 2007, the same political malady of godfatherism has replayed itself. I forgot to state that, at the core of this scramble by governors to clone godsons to replace them is a frenetic desire to keep the skeletons in their cupboards safe from the world’s prying eyes. Many of the governors, after pillaging their states blind, so much that if the world gets to know details, they ordinarily should be tied to the stakes and shot, embark on a process of putting veils on these maggots-dripping cupboards. They would be done for if “an alien” succeeds them! So they look for the most pliable of their coterie of hangers-on and fawners to succeed them. In many cases, they choose protégés implicated in state looting, who would not play the Judas on them without also going down the drain. This is why commissioners of finance or protégés with whom governors have transacted illicit businesses during their tenures are most times the surest picks. You can thus understand a threatening statement attributed to Siminalayi against Wike during the pendency of the crisis last week. He had allegedly claimed that Wike should not forget that he was his Accountant General. Whatever that meant.
Against the run of play, Wike had chosen Siminalayi, presumably due to an EFCC manhunt for him. At a point, the commission declared the man who is now governor, Harrisonba Betty Princewill, Lekia Bukpor and Dagogo Roderick Abere wanted in connection with what the EFCC called a case of “criminal conspiracy, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds and abuse of office” that totaled the sum of N117 billion. So those who queue behind Siminalayi today who think the issue is about Wike and Fubara and the progress or lack thereof of Rivers State are mistaken. It is about the esophagus of the godfather and his godson.
Expatiating on the hub of devilry that godfatherism is, Chimaroke Nnamani, in a paper delivered on June 2, 2003 with the title, The godfather phenomenon in democratic Nigeria: Silicon or real?, had said, “Take it or leave it, the archetypal godfather in Nigeria is more than the ruthless Mario Puzo’s kingpins in the Italian Mafia setting. While the fictional godfather is characterised as ‘a shadowy, dare-devil recluse, who combines immense underworld financial muscle with near mythical powers of enormous proportions’, which is to attain a further greasing of the ever-increasing vast financial empire, the Nigerian type has the added characterization of conceit, ego, loquacity, pettiness, envy, strife, crudity, and confusion.” With this, you can understand Wike roaring about how he created a political structure in Rivers and how no one can be permitted to destroy what he erected. In Nigerian politics, inside that conundrum of “political structure” is buried maggots, blood and destinies of people.
To be sure, there are godfathers in every clime. According to Prof Albert, godfatherism conjures different meanings to different people. In many parts of Europe and America, the godfather is simply a cuddly uncle and in the Catholic Church, “a young man trying to become baptised or married… is expected to have a godfather. The Catholic Church’s godfather is simply chosen from among the larger congregation and need not be a relative to the godson.” He counsels the young godson on how to live a responsible life. Godfatherism also exists in France and can be found in the term ‘godfather of industry’ for a depiction of corporate titans. American University professor, Richard Joseph had sliced the issue with his spatula in his famous theory of prebendal politics when he said that the relationship between the godfather and godson is instrumental and extra-legal. The main goal of the transaction is for the godfather to use the client to attain selfish goals while the latter aims at the same. The godfather manifests in the politics of developed countries and Latin American countries, something in the mould of criminal underworld groups who sponsor politicians at election times, in exchange for protection and contracts.
Prof. Albert also admitted that the kind of patron/client relationships between Wike and Fubara have cultural roots among many Nigerian peoples. It began in Hausa with the maigida who received kolanuts for help he rendered; manifest in Igbo as Nnam-Ukwu (my master) and Odibo (the servant) and in Yoruba as baba kekere (the small father), baba isale (the father of the underground world), or baba nigbejo (a great help in times of trouble). These were developed to foster the patron-client relationship inherited by the present day political class.
In many states where it is practised, godfatherism is sustained by black magic, occult practices and blood. Initiate godson and godfather enter into the sacristy of black practices, most times reified by human blood. It is not a turf for the faint-hearted.
Those who think Wike’s loquacious revelation of all that transpired in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the last elections was a mere spill will soon know that this is an understatement. Very soon, a clone of the Wike-Fubara grisly drama will come to play in Abuja. Only that this time, I pray there won’t be weeping, wailing and mourning and gnashing of the teeth, apologies to the reggae music group, The Mighty Diamonds.
By the way, why did Fubara fail to pull the trigger last week? It was a tragic mistake that he may live to regret. He had the roaring lion by its ball and a squeeze would have sequestered the king of the jungle. He could have retired the godfather and allowed Karma to pounce on Wike this soon after leaving office!