The Challenge of Godfathers


Across the nation, the battle for the political souls of states is raging hard as the 2019 general election gathers momentum. From Lagos to Benue; Rivers to Sokoto, it has been battles between godfathers and estranged godsons. Samuel Ajayi looks at this development and how it will affect the political fortunes of many a political gladiator

Bola Ahmed Tinubu/Lagos
Tinubu did not become the undisputed godfather of Lagos politics by accident. He planned and executed the plan with ruthless precision. But one can argue that his rise was fortuitous. In 2003, Tinubu was the only governor of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, that returned out of the six in the South West. Others did not win re-election.

Immediately he returned, he set about becoming the undisputed political leader of South-west. With an unusual penchant to dispense patronage, his colleagues who did not win election took no time before they started seeing as their ‘leader’. Consolidating his position, Tinubu went for the jugular of the Afenifere leaders and ensured that he practically neutralised them politically. And by 2006, he had left the AD to form the Action Congress, AC, and successfully pushed for the party to win both Ekiti and Osun States during the 2007 general elections; albeit via judicial pronouncement.

By 2011, Tinubu had led the now ACN to win the governorship elections in Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States while Ekiti and Osun were firmly under his grips, at least politically.
Back home, the near stranglehold of Tinubu over Lagos politics can only be imagined. Not only did he successfully foist Babatunde Fashola on the party as his successor in 2007, he ensured that other better-qualified aspirants queued behind his anointed political godson.

It was after the emergence of Fashola that Tinubu strengthened his hold on the politics of Lagos. Not only did he decide who became the governor, his imprint was also on those who would become senators, House of Representatives members, commissioners, special advisers and even local government chairmen. Even some political watchers opined that this extended to councillorship slots.

In 2010, words had it that Tinubu might be dropping Fashola over seemingly irreconcilable differences. The latter was rumoured to be flirting with the Labour Party but at the end of the day sanity prevailed and Fashola was returned but the relationship between the two had become fractured.

Two years before the 2015 election, the name Akinwunmi Ambode was hardly known in Lagos political circles. But by the beginning of 2014, the name was being mentioned as the anointed successor to Fashola. What started as a rumour gained traction of reality and against even more established political troopers, Ambode won the party’s ticket and the election proper itself. It must be noted that even the candidate Fashola, as the incumbent governor, supported was roundly trounced at the primaries. No thanks to the ruthless efficiency of the Tinubu political machinery.

After Ambode resumed as governor, it was alleged that virtually all political appointees had to get the blessing of the man known as the Lion of Bourdillon before they could be appointed by the sitting governor. Apart from this was the rumour that before any contractor could get any major job in the state, the former governor had to give his blessing. In consolidating the reign of the godfather in Lagos, his wife, Oluremi, effortlessly picked up the senatorial ticket for Lagos Central and won election to the upper chamber in 2011. If she returns in 2019, it would be a third straight term in the Senate.

Now, all was going well until a two until a couple of months ago when words started coming out that the godfather might be planning to drop his godson and the latter might as well kiss his second term ticket a painful goodbye.
While negotiations are on-going, the signs do not favour the incumbent governor. On Wednesday this week, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, and Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, were said to be making last-ditch efforts to thaw the ice. But it remains to be seen if their efforts would yield any success.

“Ironically, Ambode is not being hounded because of performance but for purely political reasons. And Tinubu might have his way which shows the kind of control he has over Lagos politics,” Olusola Ayodeji, a security expert told THISDAY on Thursday.
While Ambode battles for his political life, the godfather’s hold can only get stronger.

Bukola Saraki/Kwara
He himself was a product of godfatherism. But he was smart enough to overthrow the same man who brought him into politics and made him governor. Olusola Saraki, Second Republic Senate Leader, and father to the current Senate President had always had the misfortune of having those who he raised in politics turn against him. Saraki made the late Adamu Attah governor of old Kwara State in 1979. But the duo fell apart and Saraki had to push Cornelius Adebayo as governor in 1983. Adebayo did not spend more than three months in office before the military struck but by 1999, Saraki backed the late Mohammed Lawal, a retired naval officer, who emerged governor of the state.

Lawal and Saraki did not last long as political allies. In fact, in less than 18 months, the two men were at each other’s throats. Saraki decided to look inwards and that was who Bukola was launched into politics and he became governor in 2003. Saraki even left the then All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, and joined PDP.

Saraki became governor but he was to shock his father in 2011 when he vehemently kicked against his sister, Gbemisola, from succeeding him. The older Saraki had planned that Gbemisola would succeed his brother after his two terms, but the younger Saraki said it would be unethical for his sister to succeed him as governor. With party structure firmly in his hands, he forced his father out of the party who got the sister to run on another platform and she was roundly defeated.

It was this episode that retired the older Saraki from politics until his death on November 14, 2012.
Bukola picked Abdulfatah Ahmed and made him governor. In 2013, Bukola decamped to the APC and Ahmed followed suit. And when Saraki again decamped back to the PDP a couple of months back, Ahmed followed again and also Bolaji Abdullahi, one time Minister of Sports and as at then, National Publicity Secretary of the APC.
His hold on Kwara politics remains unshaken. He is truly the new godfather of Kwara politics.

Rotimi Amaechi/Rivers
His political rise was fortuitous. He is generally regarded as the godson of the former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili. But Amaechi seems to have broken free from the tutelage of the medical doctor turned politician. He was a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years where he served as the Speaker. He became governor when the Supreme Court ruled that he, and not Celestine Omehia, should have been the candidate of the PDP during the 207 governorship election in the state. Technically, Amaechi did not contest for governor as his name was not on the ballot but he became a governor by judicial fiat.

Amaechi, according to inside sources, wanted to be to Rivers State what Tinubu is to Lagos State. It was him who nominated Nyesom Wike, the current governor of the state as minister until the duo fell out. Amaechi later moved to the APC and wanted to control the party apparatus in the state, a development that has consistently pitched him against Senator Magnus Abe. Besides, Amaechi also wanted to determine who gets what in the state, especially in the APC.

Presently, there are two factions of the party in the state: one loyal to Amaechi and the one loyal to Abe. On Monday, the Abe faction said it would adopt direct primaries while the Amaechi faction said it would be an indirect model.

While he is pushing and punching, Amaechi does not seem to be having it easy as a godfather in Rivers State with Abe constantly being a pain in his side.
However, even with this, he has shown that he decides who gets what in the state especially, at the federal level. He was that made Dakuku Peterside the managing director of Nigeria Maritime Security and Administration, NIMASA, he successfully won two Senate seats for his party in the state and got another one to defect to APC from the PDP not long ago. Apart from this, he has openly endorsed Sahara Energy, Tonye Cole, as the APC standard bearer for next year’s governorship election in the state.
Despite opposition, the Rivers godfather is pushing on.

George Akume/Benue
The former governor of Benue State, now a senator, has been having a running battle with his political godson and incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom. But they used to be best of pals, politically. While Akume remains close to the powers that be in Abuja, the beginning of the end of the rosy political relationship between the duo started after the killings in the state which pitched the people of the state against the federal government. The belief was that the federal government was giving tacit support to the Fulani herdsmen killing farmers in the state.

Akume was said to have been one of those who did not want the governor to give state burial to those killed by herdsmen in the state late last year as it was believed that would further whip up sentiment against the federal government and the ruling APC. Ortom went ahead and Akume was not happy. Before then, many, especially party leaders at the centre, were not happy because Akume signed the Anti-Grazing Law as passed by the state House of Assembly.

In the same vein, Ortom has accused Akume of asking him to share state money with him running into billions so he could oil his political machine. He even claimed he gave the former governor a road construction contract worth over N5billion. Apart from that, Ortom accused Akume of wanting to determine who gets what in the state. His words:
“He (Akume) felt he should have a hold on the party and then decides who gets what. This is a democracy. We should allow internal democracy and allow people to have inputs,” Akume told Premium Times, an online newspaper during an interview.

Akume was not one to let all these go. He moved against his godson. He was accused as being behind the failed attempt to get the minority of the state House of Assembly to impeach the governor in May. In fact, Akume was accused of bringing the policemen from Abuja to effect the botched impeachment. It must be noted that Ortom has since decamped from the APC to the PDP.
To observers, the move only further strained the relationship between the godson and his godfather.

Ibikunle Amosun/Ogun
Only few can deny that Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the Ogun State governor, is a consummate politician who knows his onions and who understands the game of power. While his state boasts of many political bigwigs, SIA, as he is fondly called by his admirers, seemingly wants to use the 2019 elections to show that he is the new godfather of Ogun State politics.

Reports from the state last week indicated that the state might be going for consensus arrangement in picking candidates for elective positions in the state for the 2019 general elections. On Monday this week, the governor, in consultation with some elders of the state, announced the names of those that would contest for the three senatorial seats in the states and all the House of Reps seats.

In the arrangement, Amosun himself would be returning to the Senate to represent Ogun Central Senatorial District while Lekan Mustapha for Ogun East and Tolu Odebiyi, the Chief of Staff to the governor, for Ogun West respectively. The announcements were made at the Presidential Lodge of the Government House, Abeokuta. At the meeting, names of the APC candidates for the six House of Reps seats were also announced.

In fact, sources told THISDAY that anyone whose name was not on the Governor’s consensus list would not be allowed to obtain a nomination form for any of the elective positions. Earlier, the governor had backed Adekunle Akinlade as the consensus governorship candidate for the ruling APC in the state.
If Amosun succeeds in having his way, even his opponents should be humble enough to hail the new godfather of Ogun politics.

Rochas Okorocha/Imo
He was a product of the rage of Imo State people against former governor Ikedi Ohakim. But with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the people of the state would have thought twice before pitching their tent with Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2011.

For a state that prides itself as the most enlightened in the entire South-east, many are still wondering why Okorocha would be the one to solely determine who succeeds him after his tenure lapses next year. Not only does he want to determine who succeeds him, his choice is also queer enough: his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu.
By the time he finishes his term in 2019, Okorocha would have used and dumped up to four deputy governors. The latest to kiss the dust, politically, was Uche Madumere, who had the effrontery to announce his gubernatorial ambition against the preference of the all-knowing Okorocha.

Okorocha wants to determine who gets what in the state. And he seems to be enjoying the backing of the party leadership in Abuja which handed over back to him, the party structure he lost during the party congress in the state early this year.

The fact is the Okorocha’s ambition actually goes beyond wanting to install a governor for his native Imo State. He actually wants to be the de facto leader of the APC in the entire Igboland. That is ambition.
And with the way things are going, with Abuja firmly supporting him, he may have his way, especially with his son-in-law.

Godswill Akpabio/Akwa Ibom
He recently decamped to the ruling APC from the PDP. Though many were of the opinion that Godswill Obot Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom and erstwhile Senate Minority Leader, actually decamped to stave off the threat of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arresting him and prosecuting him for massive financial misappropriation when he was governor of the state.

Akpabio, since 2015, has been the godfather of Akwa Ibom politics. He singlehandedly pushed for the emergence of the current governor, Emmanuel Udom, and other elective political office holders in the state.
With his decamping to the APC, Akpabio wants to prove that he remains the undisputed godfather of Akwa Ibom politics. The 2019 general elections in the state would prove if he is or he is just another political featherweight.

Aliyu Wammako/Sokoto
Aliyu Wammako, former governor of Sokoto State and now a Senator of the federal republic, has always treated the current state governor, Aminu Tambuwal, as his political godson. When Wammako left for APC from the PDP, Tambuwal, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, followed him. But things have changed. Tambuwal has moved back to the PDP while Wammako has remained in APC. He defected and 18 of the 30 members in the state House of Assembly followed him. Though the APC still has two senators and seven members of the House of Reps from the state. In the same vein, the deputy governor of the state, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, is yet to decamp with Tambuwal. In a show of political strengths, the two organised rallies to show who was on the ground among the two but the man who was in charge of the politics of the state. Though analysts argue that Tambuwal might not have been able to fully build his own political structures having ridden to office on the back of the support given him by Wamakko, it remains to be seen if the former governor would be able to remove his estranged godson from office come 2019.
For now, the godfather is battling the godson for the soul of Sokoto politics.

Usman Ganduje/Rabiu Kwankwaso/Kano
Usman Ganduje, the current governor of Kano State, was the deputy to Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso when the latter was governor of the state. In fact, Kwankwaso was so instrumental to Ganduje becoming governor. But no sooner had Ganduje become governor that he and Kwankwaso become sworn political enemies. In fact, the matter came to a head last year when police “advised” Kwankwaso not to come to Kano for “security reasons”.
The spat between Kwankwaso and Ganduje is unique in the sense that it is the only state where the godson is ‘successfully’ standing up to this godfather.

Kwankwaso recently decamped to PDP where he hopes to contest for the Presidency while Ganduje is rabidly pro-Buhari has he thinks his own re-election is tied to Buhari retaining the votes of Kano in the 2019 presidential elections.
Will Kwankwaso show his estranged godson that he is the godfather of Kano politics? It remains to be seen how this will pan out in the build-up towards 2019.