Admittedly, there are many routes to a forest, but today, I will dwell on the one most frequented by our political leaders, to rip-off the country, thereby plunging it into the present abysmal corruption state. The word corruption has become a household word in the country. Also admitted is the fact that the seeds of electoral frauds were first sown in the pre-Independence and from the Independence eras, a sad negative inheritance from the founding-fathers of this nation, which today, everybody, sadly though hate to mention. Had we inherited free, fair and credible elections from our founding-fathers, this country Nigeria would have become a satellite nation in Africa, bestriding the world and standing in a pedestal, shoulder to shoulder with the world’s developed countries.
The sowing and growing of electoral frauds by our founding fathers is not within the scope of this write up for now. What bothers me is the fact that election frauds have swiftly progressed while the actors have given it a new scientific maneuvering. The nation learnt lessons, negatives ones though, of election rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, throwing of chairs in the house of assemblies, maiming and killing of political opponents, burning down opponent’s houses and other property, and what have you. Bad as these political leaders were in the post independence era there were not that deliberate imposition of political leaders on the people as is today happening in the entire polity. Theirs were done with respect and self-esteem.
Today the gospel according to the ex-president Obansanjo, regarding election as a “do or die affair” has revolutionized electoral frauds which have seen numerous political leaders beings imposed outrightly on the electorate by godfathers. New political vocabularies like “political godfather” have been inserted into the nations’ political system, a very strong issue which has left the common man and indeed Nigerians helpless and hopeless. These political godfathers hold the instrument of decisions and can unleash untold hardships on any political opponent who dares them, or crosses their way. Political godfathers abound everywhere across the nation, from Niger state, Sokoto state, Kwara, Oyo, Lagos, Ananmbra, Awka-ibom to River state. Name the state, you will find political godfathers. These powerful little men who can station electoral registration machines in their houses laid the bases for corruption in this country. They direct and dictate how much their huge returns should be.
On that level, the so-called elected leader will no longer think of how to mange the allocation to his state or council, for enchasing the quality of life of his people but how to carve out the perpetual shares for his political godfather. Happy will that day be when our electoral laws would devise a system completely devoid of political “godfatherism” in this nation. Then the battle against corruption would have been half- won. Nigerians should known that no electoral reform would be complete in this country without devising a means of sealing up permanently the system of political “godfatherism” They suck the country dry, without the people realizing what harm is being perpetrated against them.
As earlier said, the politics of a “do or die affair” and godfatherism brought in political leaders like the Onis, the Osubor’s, the Agagus, the Oyinlolas, other governors, and legislator at every cadre mostly of the PDP membership, who have been shamefully derobbed by competent courts of jurisdiction. These are the people who knowingly rigged themselves into various positions of political leadership of the nation because they have godfathers who even at court levels fight tooth and nail to get them retained. The most painful aspect of sinning, even before the Almighty God, is when one knows that one is committing a sin and one persists on the particular sin. Then, he would be devoid of all moral rectitude, the conscience to call his whole person to order, reposition himself and with all courage say “NO”, “what I am doing has no moral standing, even before GOD and then retract. No, never with the political frauds we have in Nigeria. What obtains in this country is that political godfathers, aided by the political parties would urge him to continue in office, to defraud the Nigerians for as long as three and a half years out of, four-year-term. Would such leader honesty have time for development? Blame him not, for his only stock-in-trade is to seize all the opportunity he has, to grab and grab, until all the public money under his control is carefully stashed in Swiss, British and American banks. Such leader will never stop to ask, “how many British, American or Swiss nationals have such staggering bank accounts in Nigerian banks. The money that they stashed in foreign banks can be used in developing the Nigerian economy. What a shame! How much does an armed robber steal, before his head is “yanked off’ if he is caught? There is no time, in the history of this nation, when an armed robber has stolen at one swoop, eleven billion naira, before he goes to the gallows. Now think of an imposition governor, who sits over the affairs of people and their billions of naira, monthly allocation, doing whatever he likes with it, for almost four years, receiving salaries, allowances and all the penephenalias accompanying his office, which he willing occupied through electoral fraud. The governor, senator, house of reps members, council chairman, councilor, who has so defraud public wealth, will never have good plans for the common man. The commonwealth and political mandate has been stolen by him and shared with his godfathers in politics.
There is no other way of saying it, since the courts of competent jurisdiction have found it so, and consequently removed them. He is an electoral fraud, which in all ramifications, criminalizes him. It can “only happen in Nigeria, that such a fraud, who is more than armed robber can still be watched and hailed by Nigerians while he is parading the street with impunity. What a nation is Nigeria when in other lands, such common criminal would be languishing in jail and all his booty and property confiscated by the state? The question arises. Who is to bell the cat of prosecution? Is it the ruling PDP government which main philosophy is, regarding election as a “do or die affair” or the Attorney General of the Federation who is “His Master’s-Voice” to the ruling PDP government? Can the issue of prosecution of these fraudulent political leaders and their godfathers who superimposed them fraudulently on Nigerians be carried out by the Police or the ICPC /EFCC? Can a goat eat the meat of a goat? Can our activist lawyers have the courage of leading these electoral fraud Governors, Senators, Reps Members and Councilors to law courts, to answer for their electoral frauds, which they have committed against the nation. Or would the masses rise, and demand for justice over the frauds committed by these unpatriotic political rascals and their godfathers against their father land? There are more questions than answers. We watch on, helplessly. Oh, I remember the late Gani Fawehimi. May his gentle soul rest in peace. He would have dragged them to court.
We sit idle to talk of electoral reforms. We sit quietly to glorify the perpetrators of electoral frauds without raising an eye-brow, or raising a finger on them. We talk of “one man one vote”. How do we achieve this in the forthcoming elections, if the issue of political godfatherism, super-imposition of failure candidates on Nigerians and the punishment which should be meted on such candidates if eventually they are found guilty by competent courts of jurisdiction, are not addressed now. These issues should urgently be addressed or legislated on before we can talk of free and fair or credible elections, come 2011. If not, these governorship and legislative positions would be filled up once again by mere political thugs who would go to the various Houses of legislation to engage in thugery, physical combat, political vendetta and unprecedented rigging, in the coming general elections. Nigerians should be united in one voice, and call on the very few good legislators at all levels to criminalize election frauds and godfatherism, then prescribe stiff punishments for anyone found guilty as charged.
The issue of godfatherism is indeed crucial in the Nations’ electoral reforms and should be criminalized. Looking back into the days of NRC-SDP parties and democracy when a group of prominent politicians gathered themselves before a river goddess took a deadly oath, pledged to stick with one of the political parties to sponsor certain political candidates. This they did successfully, until, along the line, those of them who could not reap the envisaged political benefits with their colleagues deviated from their pledges and oaths already taken. At the end of their political misadventures all the members of the political oath-taking group reaped mysterious deaths. To them, it was a cross-road for political godfatherism and oath-taking. Still fresh in the mind is the general elections of 1999 where political candidates including a Governor, were taken before the Okija shrine in Anambra state by political godfathers to swear that they would part with so much amount, out of their ill-gotton booty from the public coffers. Such candidates who, under normal circumstances would not have won an election if such election were free and fair, got elected. Then came their over-bearing godfathers who were so persistent and consistent in their demands for their shares of the stolen state money by these fraudulently super-imposed political leaders. Things fell apart between the godfathers and the imposed political leaders, who standing alone know that they are unpopular. There was a shameful exposition of the leaders who were adopted and eventually sweep out of office by the same powerful tin-gods, known as godfather or political sponsors.
These godfathers are so powerful that they constitute themselves into cliques which decide who would rule and who would not rule in the Nigerian democracy. They have the influence, the money and the wherewithal to install and remove political leaders. It happened in Ibadan when one man could removed a governor and install another puppet governor. In Lagos state, it is also “a one-man show”, a powerful godfather who spends so much ill-gotten wealth, to install political leaders and pursue to logicalconclusions, cases pending in courts against leaders from other political parties. For rendering these unsolicited services, the godfather collects monthly tolls from his political leaders who he hadinstalled in the first place. Yet we grumble daily about corruption in this country. The story is not different in Kwara state where one family has taken up the birthright of producing all the top political leaders, placing on oath, all possible political oppositions. If these are not corruption, tell me what else can be called corruption in this blessed and God-given country of ours.
We are already in 2011, and godfatherism is still very much at play in our political system and the democratic experience. All talk about electoral laws and reforms will come to nothingness without legislating against godfatherism. Godfatherism breeds non-confident, visionless, planless, unfit political nonentities as political leaders. These are the leaders whose eyes are on high political positions where they hope to loot as much of the nations’ wealth to share with their godfathers, caring less, whether the nation is impoverished or not. They go to any length to explore and exploit the influence of godfathers and the loop-holes in their political parties’ guiding laws, even if they know very well that when elections are free, fair and credible, Nigerians will never vote for them, not even in their own wards.
In the same vein these election riggers and mediocres, backed by their godfathers have taken a very negative and illegal step-forward to constitute themselves into the membership of the National Executive Committee of their political parties. They know who they are, and how they got to the various Houses of Legislature. They also know that as political amateurists and mediocres, they will no longer be relevant in the nation’s politics once the term in which they are illegally serving ends or when they are finally thrown out. They want to remain relevant at all times, even when they had left office. To achieve this, they would exploit their positions as law markers to make obnoxious laws meant for their personal benefits to be entrenched in the nation’s Constitution. Will you be surprised to hear tomorrow that Nigeria legislators are making laws to compel housewives to cook a particular soup for their husbands, whether the individual home like it or not? This is a demonstration of gross mediocrity and unthoughtfullness of persons to who the entire nation looks up to, to making intelligent laws which will guide the socio-economic well-being of the people. If they were not imposed on Nigerians by their money- mined godfathers, backed by their political parties which believe only on zoning, many of them would not have been there in the first place. When will the day come when capable Nigerians, who have absolute confidence in themselves like the Obamas of the USA, who believed strongly and said “I can” and “I will”; Nigerians who would not depend on zoning, or godfatherism before they win an election; Nigerians who have the knowledge, the education, the intelligence, the zeal and love to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians; Nigerians who are neither Hausa, Ibo, Kanuri, Yoruba, Calabar, Fulani, Ijaw, Urhobo, Idoma, Lantang, Ibibio and Itsekiri; Nigerians who are neither the south-west, south-south, north-east, north-west, north-east and north-central; Nigerians who are not deceitful, who would say one thing anddo the-same; Nigerians who are not self-centered, not saving for the political raining day where only themselves would be politically relevant; Nigerians who would not constitute themselves into the permanent membership of their various parties’ NEC, and contest without godfathers? When will the country produce such men like Obama who did not depend on the white or the black to vote for him before he wins an election but was judged by his personal confidence, capability and the vision he has for his entire nation.
How would you rate the seriousness and capability of our legislators who, receiving such a
whooping amount of money as security vote, yet the nation pays for police to guide them both at home and in social gatherings, and also, a staggering amount of money as constituency allowance when they are not the Federal Ministry of Works? How would you rate the seriousness of such legislators who to say the least, are not moved by any moral or ethical responsibility to Nigerians who they claimed have voted them into positions of rulership. The fact is that these political impostors were not really elected by the people and therefore do not feel accountable to Nigerians. They can do whatever they like with the peoples’ money and the nations’ commonwealth.
The issue at stake today is credible election of credible leaders. The imposition of political leaders on Nigerians by the godfathers and their political parties in the name of zoning destroys the very essence of democracy and the socio-economic progress of the country in all its ramifications. The ideology of “one man, one vote” and the yearnings for credible elections must be carried to their logical conclusions. It should not be the same familiar sing-song that these political leaders who, in most cases, appear in Gbenga Aruleba’s “FOCUS ON NIGERIA” come to sing daily, which at best, is only on the lips. Time has come for political class to eschew political bitterness, political thugery, political godfatherism, imposition of mediocre candidates, political thugs/and rogues on Nigerians as governors and legislators. According to Plato, only the wise man should rule, and the “wise man” is the philosopher. Therefore, we must allow philosophers (the wise literates) to rule. A blind man cannot lead a blind man right and in the same vein, a stark illiterate or lowly educated persons should not govern or legislate for this country whether as President, Governor, Senator, House of Representative Member, Chairman or Councilor. They are at the borderline of mediocrity and all they can give is nothing but obnoxious laws and governance. Socio-economic development as obtains in civilized world does not really mean anything to them. They commit financial crimes without really realizing that what they are doing is highly criminal.
It is time for Nigerians to track down all persons mentioned in any financial crime and give appropriate punishment, no matter whose horse is gored. Nigerians should take a cue from FIFA which briskly and clinically concluded Amos Adamu’s bribery scandal without looking at the personality behind him. If that case had been in Nigeria it will not only be covered up by the godfathers, but also, the culprit will be the first to rush to the courts of competent jurisdiction to scuttle the case. The next thing is that he would walk on our streets as a free man instead of languishing in jail. That is why all the anti-corruption agents in Nigeria cannot act decisively from all angles while major financial crimes and corruption thrive in all its entirety. All electoral offences and godfatherism which give birth to financial crimes in high places and among political office holders should not be swept under the carpet.
Appropriate punishment should be meted on any political office holder (and his godfather) who assumes officer through elections rigging and drawing salaries and allowances from the nation’s coffers. It is fraudulent, it is treasonable and above all a clear assault on the nations’ commonwealth. If an example of such fraudulent governors or legislators is not made, I assure you that free, fair and credible elections will be a mirage to Nigeria and Nigerians, even in the distant future. There will be no end to the dream of a clean Nigeria devoid of all political toxic wastes.
Pat Asakome, who is a Broadcaster, an analyst in Public Affairs, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.