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Godfatherism in Nigeria’s politics

‘Godfatherism’ is a form of landlord- tenant relationship between the godfathers and godsons. In this context, the godfathers act as the power broker because he can deploy his political and commercial influence to affect policies and decisions of others. He ensures that the person of his choice wins an election.

A godfather is a kingmaker, boss, mentor, and principal, while a godson is the beneficiary and recipient of the legacy of a godfather. A godfather is someone who has has built unimaginable respect and followers (voters) in the community, and possesses a well organised political platform and general acceptance from electorate that could secure victory for candidates of his choice. Political godfathers are powerful individuals that determine who get what, when and how in the corridors of power.

According to Okoye (2007:1), the godfatherism phenomenon in the electoral process results from the commoditisation of state power, and the struggle to acquire it by the dominant political class. Using Nigeria as a reference, Okoye observes that the non-recognition of independent electoral candidates has made political parties a rare commodity to be bargained for by political aspirants. Olarinmoye (2005:25) described godfatherism as politics of sponsorship to political positions, control of political power, political patronage and the ultimate control of state treasury, personnel and resources. He exposes the characters of political godfathers by identifying then as men who have the power personally to determine both who gets nominated to contest elections and who wins in same elections. When there is harmony of interests among political players, even at the expense of the governed, there is bound to peace, unity and tranquility. However, when interests collide, as inevitable in politics, what follows is personality induced conflict.

Prebendalism seems much prevalent in the political fabric of Nigeria. Apparently, this phenomenon is so stubbornly ingrained in Nigeria that little has been done to address it. Consequently, the extent of prebendalism’s grip on Nigeria’s political life is such that it prevents the nation from being able to practice democracy perfectly. Since the creation of the first Republic, there have been a number of personality-induced political conflict which arose from prebendalism, and seem to have impeded Nigeria’s economic and political development.

The godfathers who usually enjoy the backings of the powers-that-be then dictated the dynamic of political power both at states and national levels. They were worshipped like God by power seekers, and their homes became a Mecca of sort.
Okoye (2007:13) attributed the major reason of godfatherism in Nigeria to the fact that the election scenario and structures have been monetised. He opines that the Nigerian electoral system has become so monetised to the extent that political parties now insist on payment of large sums of money for party tickets.
According to him, political aspirants are compelled to purchase party nomination form and pay other bills duly approved by the political party. Unfortunately, most if the aspirants that are truly competent to step into the leadership positions for which elections are being conducted do not possess the fund to purchase nomination form. Resultantly, aspirants who cannot afford to provide the funds would either withdraw form contesting or seek financial support from others. This in effect, enslave them to their sponsors, who are regarded as political godfathers.
The relationship between political godfathers and their adopted sons is transactional in nature; it is a case of ‘you rub my back, and I rub your back’. Like businessmen, political godfathers invest in their ‘godsons’ and expect returns after elections. Troubles start when what a godson does the least expected or rather something contrary to the expectation of his political godfather.

The conflict that emerges from breach of prebendal and political godfather-son contracts leads to exposition of some of the secret transactions between godfathers and their godsons. The godson becomes rebellious when it becomes obvious to him that the godfather would not allow him to enjoy anything from their relationship. This conflict of interest for superpower is usually the bone of contention between godfathers and godsons on the Nigerian political scene. Although the concepts of prebendal politics and political godfatherism in Nigeria appear as a recent development, they have have gained prominence in Nigeria’s political lexicon.

The phenomena are as old as electoral politics in the country. Right from Nigeria’s independence in 1960, there have been cases of prebendalism and godfatherism.


A glance into the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary define education as a systematic training and introductions (in schools and colleges) where learners receive knowledge and abilities, character development and mental powers. In a simple term, education is living and learning to develop our potentialities so as to enable us live a better life. At this, one can succinctly affirm that education is not a mere schooling. It rather embodies learning and discipline.

Basically speaking; the decay in Nigeria educational system is an ugly scenario which has eaten deep into the fabrics of our national development. In fact, everyone has some share of the blame; the youths, parents, teachers and government alike.

The youth of today no longer place their education as a top priority. A good number of them instead of facing their studies squarely or having their studies as primarily important prefer to engage in “notice me activities” like clubbing, gambling, stage performer of the year, web browser searching for irrelevant things on the net etc. The aftermath of these in most cases is indeed academic failure as no one gives that which he does not have.

More still, some parents do not show serious concern in the education of their wards. Some parents pay all the fees for the moral upbringing of their children but neglect the essential aspect of appraising their performances at school and at home. Some of them don’t even care to cross check their result sheet at the end of the term or semester, nor spare out time to attend the Parents Teachers Associations meeting where vital issues of paramount importance pertaining to the welfare of their children are discussed. Some of them even go as far as opposing the teachers for taking some corrective measures on their children. Tell me with these how can the children learn?

The teachers are however, not left behind as they contributed immensely to the present setback in the education of our youths. Gone are the days when we had educated and dedicates teachers who sacrificed their time for the proper upbringing of their students. A good number of them are money driven who forged certificates or scaled through by examination malpractice. As a result of their love for money, some students pay them in order to pass during examination. There are also cases were some female students sleep with teachers and lecturers all in name of “using what you have to get what you want”.

Furthermore, the government does not seem to help matters as some academic institutions had been nicknamed graveyards. This is occasioned by the low turn out of students. How can students cope when libraries if there is any, are empty or houses cobwebs, when laboratories are ill equipped and form a good assembly hall for rats and cockroaches, class rooms looking so unkept and empty without standard furniture and people seeing it as a mere playground instead of a lecture room, students study under stress. Is this how the future leaders hope of our society are to be formed? What a misplaced heritage to our youths.

Having discussed this, people may ask, is there a hope for a better education for our youths?

Yes there is still a way out as all hope is not yet lost. All that is needed is the collective efforts of the government, parents, teachers and even the youths.

What are the roles of the government?

The government need to provide necessary infrastructures, employ qualified, certified, dedicates and eduacted teachers, come up with good skills acquisition programmes as well as payong their due salaries and entitlements.

The parents

Parents should wake uo to the moral revival of their children, “for charity begins at home”. It is the responsibility of the parents to provide their wards basic needs in school.

The youths

The youths who are the future leadees of our different societies should no longer take education as a mere schooling or routine, passing of examination but an integral development of good morals.


The major problem confronting our nation, Nigeria is the general decline in the level of discipline and morality. Gone are the days when morality and discipline used to be virtues. Today, it is the exact opposite. We now live in a decadent society where morality and discipline are thrown overboard. It is a pity our society which was once upright and which moral values were standard can become decadent.

As a problem, human trafficking is not limited to the secular aspect our society, even the religious circle. Imagine a situation where a church pastor puts a female member of the church in the family way! What about a school teacher who puts his own sixteen-year-old female student in the family way because of undue assistance sought by her in a promotion examination?

Those who fuelled human trafficking are: the youths, parents, teachers and government alike.

Why the youth?

The Nigerian youths of this twenty-first century do not place their education as a top priority. A good number of them want to be rich overnight as such they devote more of their time on net searching places and people on how to get in touch with those at the top in order to gain quick access to fly abroad to make money.

Why parents?

More still, some parents do not show serious concern in the welfare of their wards. They believe education is time and resources consuming and that it is not the quick means of making money because for one to get educated a lot of time and money has to be spent. So all they do is to pay people to get their wards travel abroad for prostitution in exchange for compensation, such as money or other valuable goods in order to earn a living or to survive. Some of these parents most times do not tell their wards the jobs they are to do when they travel overseas, others even lie to their wards saying “they are plenty of jobs out there such as designing clothes, braiding of hair, etc”.

Why teachers?

The teachers are not left behind as they contributed immensely in human trafficking. Gone are the days when we had educated and dedicated teachers who sacrificed their time for the proper upbringing of their students. A good number of them are money conscious, what they do is collect money from students in order to pass them.

Why the government?

The government of today does not seem to help these unhealthy situations as they get people into forced labour and child soldiery.

With the look of things, a major cause of this general problem is poverty. If for instance, a university graduate- teacher earns 5,000 naira monthly, is this enough to take care of his transportation and accommodation? Tell me how such a teacher will not sell off his female children into prostitution if tempted.

Another major cause of human trafficking is the unchecked inflation that has nearly ruined the economy. The prices of most essential things like food, wears, books have gone beyond the reach of an average family. To worsen it all the local currency is silently being devalued. This makes important materials exclusive rights of the rich, as no poor man goes near them. That is why most Nigerians now go for fairly used goods.

There are positive and negative sides to it but in most cases, the negative effects outweighs the positive effects.

To alleviate this criminal activity, all hands must be on deck. The youth must on several occasions be taught the dangers inherent in human trafficking and immorality in our society, investigations should be carried out on the sources of wealth of all rich men and women in our society and those whose handiwork cannot justify their riches should have their properties confiscated. And also, our educational and religious institutions should preach moral values not acquisition of material wealth.