Jaiyeola Andrews catalogues the various godfather eras that have ended since the current political dispensation began
On Wednesday, the strong man of Kwara politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, passed on at his Lagos home after battling cancer for five years. He died at 79, but many people in Kwara State would surely have wished that he lived longer to continue to shape the politics of the state.
The late politician had played the role of a godfather in the political firmament of Kwara State. Referred to as Oloye by his teeming admirers, Saraki dictated the political pace of the state, and he decided who got what in appointive and elective positions.
Saraki had single-handedly installed those who piloted the affairs of the state. The only time his political dexterity failed him was when his son, Senator Bukola Saraki, while serving out his second term as governor of the state, kicked against his sister, Gbemisola Saraki’s emergence as his successor.
The act of the then governor, no doubt, created a gulf between him and his father, who saw the action of Saraki junior as an affront. Though, the rift was later resolved between father and son, it was not before Bukola had succeeded in ensuring that the incumbent governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, won the election and became his successor.
The exit of Saraki marks the end of yet another godfather era in the country’s politics. For many analysts, it is no longer news that though the godfather of Kwara politics has passed on, the son, who is a serving senator, has already assumed the position of a godfather for the Saraki dynasty.
In 1999, the late Saraki saw in Alhaji Mohammed Lawal a dependable godson and ensured that he became the governor of Kwara State on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party. But after a while the relationship between the duo went awry due to irreconcilable political differences.
Due to the quarrel, Saraki showed his political hold on the state by thwarting the second term bid of Lawal, who is now late. Since then, Saraki established a political lineage that continues to endure.
The late Lamidi Adedibu, also called the strongman of Ibadan politics, was another godfather in Oyo State whose words then were law. While alive, Adedibu dominated the political landscape in the state like a colossus.
He had as a godson in Rasheed Ladoja whom he single-handedly installed as governor of Oyo State. But the relationship between the two men was later strained following the refusal of Ladoja to allow his godfather unfettered access to the state’s resources.
Adedibu was said to have backed Ladoja, providing him all the necessary tools to win the governorship election. But after the election, Ladoja was said to have rejected a long list of commissioner-nominees sent to him by Adedibu.
The face of Oyo politics was, however, altered with Adedibu’s death on June 11, 2008. The then ruling party in the state, Peoples Democratic Party, lost the 2011 governorship election to the Action Congress of Nigeria, marking a deep recession in the popularity of PDP in the state.
Observers are of the opinion that Adedibu’s death marked the end of godfatherism in the state. His political structure has since collapsed.
In Rivers State, Marshal Harry, who was assassinated on March 5, 2003, was the godfather who nearly single-handedly installed Dr. Peter Odili as governor. Harry dictated the pace of politics in the state for a while before relations between him and Odili became strained.
Harry was before his death the South-south deputy vice chairman of ANPP, the party he was virtually forced to defect to owing to increasing frustration in PDP, which had come under the iron grip of Odili.
Late Harry was a powerful godfather in the politics of Rivers State in his time. Though, his influence in the politics of the state had waned seriously before his death, his assassination marked an end to significant era in Rivers politics.
Chief Aminasoari Dikibo was an influential factor, not only in the politics of Rivers State, but also that of the South-south, where he was zonal national vice chairman of PDP, and Nigeria, generally. He was shot and killed at Isheagu, near Ogwashi-Ukwu in Delta Ste on February 7, 2004, on his way to Asaba from Port Harcourt to attend a meeting of the South-south governors.
With the death of Dikibo, Odili was effectively the only remaining godfather in Rivers politics.
Though, the idea of a godfather connotes a guardian, who is prepared to sincerely nurture a younger person, it has been associated with a lot-negative attributes in Nigerian politics. It has, thus, negated the principle of leadership on merit and promoted mediocrity, as those put forward by the godfathers for elective positions are often not in the interest of majority of the people.
The godfathers install their godsons in positions of authority all in a bid to satisfy their own selfish purposes.
So, in most cases, the godsons turn against their godfathers, altering the political structures they built overtime, with the support of the masses, who are always at the receiving end of the bad sides of godfather politics.
As another godfather, late Olusola Saraki, is laid to rest, many are wondering how his demise would affect his political dynasty and, indeed, politics in Kwara State and the country.